There is no absolutely right way to successfully gain access to customers through their mobile devices, according to Sarah Hollins, head of marketing operations for Beyond Analysis, who here explains how and why so many companies are getting the very basics of mobile marketing wrong.
Just as mobile marketing is not tied to a single technology platform, it isn't even a single concept. So it is perhaps not surprising that so many organisations are getting the basics wrong in their rush to adopt mobile marketing.
The principal advantage of mobile marketing is also its biggest challenge: users could be anywhere and doing anything when they receive your message. They could be watching TV, at work, in a restaurant or even in one of your stores or offices. Mobile marketing needs to be 24/7 - always there, always at the right time.
The downside is that this also means there is less control over the context in which users receive your message. Then there's the medium of your message itself: text, email, tweet, social-media post, app, mobile-optimised website, full website on a small screen, to name a few. All will have an impact on how users feel about receiving your message.
There is therefore no single entity called "mobile marketing". Rather, there are many ways of marketing via a mobile device. The methods you choose to use will depend entirely on knowing your customers and prospects, their behaviours and preferences. And if you don't have this level of insight into your customer base, it's easy to get even the basics of mobile marketing wrong.
A mobile device is deemed a very personal space by its user. It's not just a phone; it's a link to social networks, a mobile wallet, a shopping tool, a photo album, a personalised entertainment device, a TV screen, a business device, an address book and much more. There are huge risks in invading that space if mobile marketing is not executed well. The 'beep' of a text message, email or social-media notification carries the excitement of news from a friend, colleague or loved one. The disappointment factor when it turns out to be 'just' a marketing message can be palpable. But it doesn't have to be.
The key is to know where your customers draw the line between interrupting (with something they like) and interfering (i.e. invading their personal space).Anticipate that expectations are high when the beep sounds. Know your customers well enough to ensure you then don't disappoint. Segment groups by what they value: money off certain products? A free voucher as a reward? Temporary access to a free service?
You also need to know how and why your targets and prospects use your various platforms by gathering, analysing and using insight gained from customer data. For example, a bank with a mobile app could find that, while it is popular for the actual banking function, no-one (or nearly no-one) is using the app to check for special offers; however the click-through rate for such offers from an email is, in contrast, very high.
Many marketers seem to forget the immediacy of mobile marketing; recent research found that 90% of text messages are read within three minutes of being delivered. You must be ready to respond quickly. Check the technical details - users must be able to contact you directly from the message, not via a series of click-throughs or, worse, having to type your number or email address manually. Marketers are unlikely to compose the message itself on a mobile device so check the character limit too.
The same applies to emails, which must be optimised for reading on a mobile device. Several marketing packages include software with guidance on composing emails specifically for mobile devices. (Sadly, lots of consumers know that too, due to the abundance of emails appearing in mobile inboxes with the preview pane still reading "Many people reading your email on a mobile device see this area in their inbox so write a summary of your message here"!)
Even apps that attempt to inject fun into interactions between businesses and their customers aren't immune to failure. Gamification, i.e. using game design or mechanics in a non-game environment, is a major business trend but its success relies on creating a 'game' that users actually want. Analyst house Gartner agrees and predicts that 80% of gamified applications will fail by 2014 due to poor design - and this directly relates to marketers needing to understand their customers better.
It doesn't have to be difficult; plenty of businesses get it right. Consider the immediacy of augmented reality, both through apps and the much lauded Google Glass, which lays text information over an image of what the device owner is viewing there and then. Halifax, for example, has created a great app that shows users which houses on a given street are for sale and provides information on its mortgages available to them.
As a subcategory of the broader marketing effort, mobile marketing has the same aims and is simply a different means to the same end. The technology platforms that make it mobile are simply enablers of the broader marketing strategy and tactics, rather than a strategy or solution in themselves. They will only work for you if they are used intelligently, just as you would in any other kind of marketing.
The overall marketing effort has two principal factors: marketing availability (messages through any medium) and physical availability (e.g. stock in physical stores, service availability, etc). Its goal should be to aspirationally track customers - on any platform - to reveal their habits, wants and needs. That is, the good marketing efforts have a clear data strategy. This then drives the tactics for putting the strategy into practice.
Marketing organisations are in a constantly evolving cycle. First, they test the idea based on what their customer data tells them. Second, they learn from the test and, finally, optimise the original idea. So we see that even one single idea - on any platform - through such evolution, does not remain a single concept. Any marketing strategy, not least mobile marketing, is ongoing, iterative and, crucially, agile.
Fundamentally, mobile marketing follows the same principles of any marketing: it must address a real customer need that can only be established by analysing customer data.