I had an interesting discussion about mobile marketing this week with Brad Wright, an investor in a company my agency is working with in the mobility space. Disclosure: The company is Zuldē, offering on-demand mobile apps to businesses that are delivered through a customer-facing app called Tribefind Pro.
The opportunity for mobile marketing is exploding. Portio Research predicts mobile subscribers worldwide will reach 7.0 billion by the end of 2013, 7.5 billion by the end of 2014 and 8.5 billion by the end of 2016 according to web resource mobiThinking.com.
According to data shared by Forbes editor Lewis Dvorkin, of 49 million Forbes.com visitors in July, 40 percent of views of the most popular post came from smartphones, and an additional 6 percent came from tablets. Overall, Forbes’ monthly visitors have now surpassed 50 million, and I will personally be surprised if within the next year mobile readership doesn’t comprise at least half of the total readership sum.
Mobile is increasingly becoming the primary point of engagement between consumers and brands. However, when it comes to marketing through (and to) mobile devices, the Wild West still prevails. Most businesses are still struggling to find their footing in this brave new arena in a way that serves their unique brand and style. Where should you begin?
In my conversation with Wright, he presented the idea of five fundamental pillars. Ideally, these pillars should be integrated together into a common program and platform to address your company’s marketing to customers who use a mobile device. While each of the pillars are important, in Wright’s estimation, none of these functions are sufficient in and of themselves to serve as a complete mobile marketing strategy. In other words, a business loses golden opportunity if they simply patch their mobility ideas together in a way that offers one company’s loyalty program, for example, while using a separate strategy and provider for location and customer preference based deals. To maximize the benefits of the mobility wave, the five pillars should work together, he says. The five priorities are as follows:
- A unique, branded mobile app
- Redeemable Deals
- Event Notification
- Customer Referrals
Pillar One: A Unique, Branded Mobile App
The first pillar of mobile marketing is to have a mobile app. Mobile apps should combine consistent branding for the company with native features of the device, and should strive to make the app sufficiently compelling to ensure its regular use once it’s there. Although mobile enabled web sites provide businesses with at least an entry point into mobile marketing, they are not sufficient as a true mobile marketing platform. One of the most important reasons for this is that mobile enabled sites, by their nature, are entirely passive. They rely on the customer remembering to go and visit the site. However, the promise and the very nature of “mobile” is the ability to be proactive, vibrant, and personal—characteristics you can only achieve through a true mobile app. In addition, a good marketing app is working to build a personal relationship with the customer at all times.
Pillar Two: Redeemable Deals
Customers love a good deal. They love a deal even more when it is personalized, relevant and available from their mobile phone, at the ready to use any time. One of the most important features of a mobile marketing strategy is the ability to identify targeted customers and to provide them with unique and personalized mobile deals. In the mobile arena, it is also important that deals contain both graphical elements and text. In addition, deals should be redeemable directly from the device (the equivalent of an electronic, single use coupon). When you accomplish this, you achieve the holy grail of marketing: the ability to track exactly how effective each deal is, with data from the moment of delivery to its actual redemption.
Pillar Three: Event Notification
Events are a marketing mainstay of many businesses. They include grand openings, re-openings, product demonstrations, manufacturer days, birthdays and special sale days, to name just a few. The mobile marketing strategy you choose should support the ability to target the right audience for the event and to “sell” the event effectively through graphics and text. In addition to notifying the right prospects, the mobile platform should allow the customer to signify whether or not they are going to attend directly from the phone (as well as provide them with appropriate calendar events and reminders).
Pillar Four: Loyalty
A strong loyalty program is vital for building a strong repeat customer base. Because most people have their phones with them most of the time, mobility is an ideal vehicle for a loyalty program. Not only does the mobile platform eliminate the hassle of losing the loyalty card (which is ironically the equivalent of “anti-loyalty” because the customer who lost the card will likely now be frustrated when they contemplate the fact they have lost the additional benefit every time they return to your store) using mobile devices for a loyalty program also protects you from the cost and risk of theft through counterfeiting. In fact, the benefits of running a loyalty program through your mobile phone may make it one of the most important pillars in a mobile marketing strategy.
Pillar Five: Customer Referrals
One of the most important reasons for marketing at all is to attract more customers to a business. What better place to install a referral program than a mobile device? Loyalty and customer referral programs are close cousins, and both are natural fits for the mobile device. A mobile customer referral program builds naturally upon the strengths of the mobile platform–it is personal, readily available, and takes advantage of the contact information that is already stored on the phone. All mobile marketing strategies should include a customer referral program as one of the most ready ways to dramatically increase their new customer traffic in 2014 and beyond.
By now it should be clear that mobility and marketing are made for each other. Where do you currently stand in your plans to incorporate mobility into your marketing for 2014? With thanks to Brad Wright for his contributions, these five arenas should serve as your core. In future columns, I will examine each if these pillars in further detail.