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July 11, 2007

Integrating Mobile in the Marketing Mix

How will the evolution and acceptance of mobile communication impact the bottom line of your marketing program? The answer depends largely on your ability to effectively integrate mobile into the marketing mix by leveraging the correct mobile channel and offering a compelling mobile marketing message.

You must begin by establishing whether or not mobile is appropriate for your marketing campaign. Mobile marketing is a great way to connect with your customers, and allow them to interact with your brand in a very personal way, but it is not right for all marketing campaigns. You should evaluate how your target market is using mobile technology and how mobile marketing will uniquely allow you to reach your marketing goals.

Mobile marketing is still in its infancy, so it is best used to promote special offers and create ‘buzz’ but it can also be effectively used for brand awareness and reinforcement. With more tech savvy customers, mobile marketing can be used to introduce new brands and expand your customer base, but that is usually a riskier venture. Despite popular belief, mobile marketing is not just relevant to the younger demographics. In-fact, the most active population group using mobile phones is 25-45 years old, so don’t limit your mobile marketing initiatives to the younger demographics. It is important to make sure you have a good idea of how your clients are using mobile technology, and if you don’t know, it will be valuable to do some market research or perform a survey of your clients’ mobile habits.

Once these questions have been addressed, and you have established that it makes sense to include mobile in your marketing mix, you can get started planning the mobile campaign. You must begin by establishing which mobile channel best suits your marketing goals and your target market. Once all these things have been accomplished you should determine what your mobile marketing message will be and how you will integrate your mobile marketing campaign into the rest of your marketing efforts.

Mobile Channels & Messages

Mobile Web: One of the simplest ways to begin mobile marketing is to ensure that your website is usable on mobile devices. There is no need to go out and purchase a new domain or create a mobile-specific website. In most cases, you can make minor changes to your existing site to ensure that it will work on a mobile device. In general, websites translate best on mobile if they are primarily built in html or xhtml. Anything that takes a long time to load on your traditional computer will take even longer to load on a mobile device, so avoid excessive use of flash, action script and large images. Other than that, the best advice is to test your site on a variety of different mobile devices to see how it looks, then make updates accordingly.

Tip: Integrate your mobile marketing with your mass media and outdoors marketing by placing banners and ads that reference your mobile friendly site in places where people might have idle time with their phone, like at bus stops, in subway stations and on billboards.

Mobile E-mail: Many people are accessing their e-mail on mobile devices, so it is also important that you optimize your e-mail campaigns so that the e-mails can be read on mobile devices. Be sure to test your e-mail messages on a couple different mobile devices before you send it out. Make sure that you are using compelling subject lines (that won’t be sent to peoples SPAM folders), with the important information in the first 30 characters. Some Mobile devices don’t display a ‘From’ line so if there is room, include your brand name in your ‘Subject’ line. Always send a text alternative to html e-mails, and include a link to an online version of the e-mail that people can click if they are having trouble viewing the e-mail.

Tip: Integrate your e-mail campaign with your website by mentioning any promotion you are sending in e-mails on your home page, and include a link to the online version e-mail.

Text Messaging (SMS): Text messaging is a great way to reach customers with promotions, whether you have their phone number or not. Rather than coming through as a call, a text message will show up on the mobile phone as a small note on the phone, similar to a short e-mail. Text messages can only include 160 characters of text, but many phones will activate text to make it clickable, if the phone recognizes the text as a phone number, web link or short code.

If you don’t have access to your customers’ phone numbers you can use your other marketing channels to encourage customers to interact with your brand by sending text messages to a 6 digit number called a short code. This type of mobile marketing is frequently location based and can have a very short life cycle. A good example would be a coffee shop with a sign in the window that says “Text the word ‘coffee’ to 123456 to receive $1 off your purchase today.” When users send the text message a computer replies with a code or password they can give the cashier to receive the discount. This is a great way to build up a list of mobile phone numbers that you can use later with other more targeted text messaging campaigns.

If you already have access to a list of mobile phone numbers, you can send them a text message directly. If you are using a list of mobile phone numbers that you have received from a previous text messaging campaign, like the coffee shop example, you can send a follow up text message. For instance, a week after participants got the $1 off of their coffee purchase, you can send them a text message directly, that says “We have missed you. Come back this week and get a free coffee and $2 off the purchase of any 12 oz bag of ground coffee.” Participants may be charged for the text message by their mobile carrier, so be sure to make the offer attractive enough to get their attention.

Tip: If you are working with a pre-existing list of mobile phone numbers it is best to let people opt in to your marketing messages by sending the recipients a text message that says something like this: “Our customer database lists this as your mobile phone number. Reply with ‘OK’ to receive coupons & other marketing messages at this number.”

You can also encourage people to respond to the text message with their e-mail address to have coupons e-mailed to their mobile phone or personal computer. You must refer them to a website for full terms and conditions, but that can be part of an acknowledgment message, sent after the e-mail address is collected. You should also allow people to opt out of your text messages by including something that says “Text message ‘STOP’ to 123456 to stop receiving our messages.”

Picture Messaging (MMS): Picture messaging is more versatile than text messaging and can be used in much the same way. It is less widely used, and can cause users to incur higher charges from the carrier, so it is important to ensure that your marketing message is well thought out and valuable to the recipients. Picture messages can include pictures, graphics, animations, text and sound. Picture messages are traditionally sent from a mobile phone number to an e-mail account. Picture messages can be received on traditional computer e-mail accounts, but are best viewed on a mobile device, because of the size of the images that are sent. Like in text messages, most phones will recognize and activate text to make it clickable if it is a phone number, web link or short code.

Tip: Use your website to encourage users to sign up and receive new product notifications or birthday e-mails on their cell phone. Be sure to include links to the website in the picture message that encourage the recipients to view the site from their mobile phone.

Location Based Marketing: Many smart phones are equipped with technology that allows messages to be sent to the phone via Infrared technology beams (IR) or Bluetooth. These two communication technologies have limited range, which allows you to set your marketing message to constantly send from a physical store location, but it will only be received when the customer is within range. This is another great way to take in-store promotions one-step further and remind customers of advertised deals or create special incentives for mobile users.

Marketers are also using GPS enabled cell phones to send users targeted e-mails or text messages based on your location. These types of communications can be considered very intrusive and personal, so it is important to tread lightly and best to reserve this type of marketing for customers who interact very frequently with your brand.

Mobile Pay-Per-Click: As on the traditional internet, search engines offer paid listings that display along side the regular search results. These advertisements only cost money when users click through to get to your site, hence the name ‘Pay-per-Click.’ You bid on keyword terms that are related to your product offering, and when users search for those terms, your ad is displayed. You are given a certain number of characters to describe your products and you can link the advertisement to any page on your site. Mobile Pay-per-Click is new, so there is less competition on keyword phrases and prices are still very reasonable. In most cases the search engines and third party providers are still testing different means of displaying these ads, so now is a good time to begin learning the ropes and building up history with the Pay-per-Click providers.

Tip: Be sure to update your Pay-per-Click advertisements when ever you run a special promotion or marketing campaign. Sometimes you will need to change the text of the advertisement to reflect the new marketing message or promotion. Other times you will need to bid on different keywords that are associated with the promotion.

Mobile Banner Ads: Mobile banners are small graphical advertisements that that link to your site, and are shown on other sites as a means of generating revenue. They are purchased from a third party provider on a ‘cost per million’ basis. The number of times your ad is shown is called its ‘impressions,’ and you pay weather your ad is clicked on or not. The third party provider will allow you to select different filters that affect how, when and to whom your ad is displayed. The number of filters you set will also effect your cost per million (CPM).

Some mobile sites have begun to sell banner ads much in the same way banner ads are bought and sold on the traditional internet. Frequently, traditional banner ads will not display correctly on mobile phones, so some companies have systems in place that identify whether you are on a traditional computer or a mobile device. This way they can serve ads that are specifically formatted for your screen. In other cases, mobile banners are put on websites that are specifically designed for mobile access. In either case, mobile banners are a good way to generate brand recognition, and let people know that your site is accessible on mobile.

Tip: Since you are paying by the impression it is important that banners do a good job of re-enforcing your brand without users having to click through to your site. Banners should always have the most updated marketing message that is being used in your other marketing channels.

Evaluating Mobile Success:

The final aspect of any marketing campaign is the evaluation and tracking of success – and mobile marketing is no exception. It is important to let your efforts run for enough time to get a true read of the success of the campaign because mobile marketing is new to consumers, and ‘buzz’ is frequently a large part of any mobile marketing campaign. It is also best to do a couple different one-time promotions before you do a full assessment of the success of the campaign, because that gives consumers time to catch on and create buzz.

When you are evaluating your mobile campaign it is also important to remember that your mobile marketing efforts can affect the success of other aspects of your marketing campaign. Pay attention to how mobile could be creating indirect benefits to your sales volume both online and in stores. There are a variety of methods of tracking and measuring the success of your mobile marketing campaign, and there are even web analytics tools that can track the online portions of your mobile campaign. It is best to use a combination of what is available to ensure you are getting the most accurate results possible.

When done correctly, mobile marketing can do a lot to affect the bottom line of your marketing campaigns, but it is crucial that you use an integrated marketing strategy, effectively leverage the correct mobile channel, and use an appropriate marketing message.

Author:  Cindy Krum is Senior SEO Analyst with BlueMoon Works and a regular speaker on social and mobile marketing at search and online advertsing conventions.