6 Tips for Building a Robust Mobile Marketing Strategy

As mobile becomes an increasingly used device, marketers need to find the best ways to leverage this channel to interact with customers, making mobile an integral part of their overall marketing strategies.

Mobile has become an essential device for customers across the world. Millions of people have come to depend on their mobile phones for almost everything, starting with the alarm that wakes them up in the morning to the device they use to search for the nearest restaurant and read reviews left by other diners.

A survey carried out by TIME Magazine last year describes the dependence on mobile. In the United States alone, almost 90 percent of adults carry a mobile phone. A quarter of respondents check their phones every 30 minutes and a fifth cannot spend 10 minutes without checking their mobile devices. Further, a third of respondents admitted that being without their mobile phones for even a short time leaves them feeling anxious. "It is a form of sustenance, that constant feed of news and notes and nonsense, to the point that twice as many people would pick their phone over their lunch if forced to choose," the magazine stated.

This huge dependence on mobile is an opportunity for marketers to engage customers and prospects on a device that's rarely out of arm's reach. Eric Feinberg, senior director for mobile, media, and entertainment at Foresee, stresses that organizations must rethink the mobile marketing strategy and make it relevant to how we see mobile today as opposed to when it came on the scene. "We're no longer catering for on-the-go customers who might only have a second to engage with content," he notes. Instead, Foresee found that two-thirds of people are consuming mobile content while they're at home. "There's been a tectonic shift in mobile phone usage." In fact, Jessica Thorpe, vice president of marketing at EXPO, notes when companies integrate video on both their desktops and mobile phones, a notable 10 percent of traffic is coming from mobile.

Publishing house Cond?ast has seen an increase in readers accessing content over mobile. Chris Reynolds, vice president for marketing analytics in the company's consumer marketing department, says some publications see more than 50 percent of traffic coming from mobile. But while the majority of business leaders have recognized the importance of having a mobile marketing strategy, many companies are still facing a challenge when it comes to integrating mobile within the overall marketing mix, creating a seamless multichannel marketing experience. "You need to make your mobile experience part of a comprehensive marketing campaign," stresses Adam Fingerman, CEO of AppGlu. "The best way to get your brand into the hands and pockets of your customers is to build a long-term mobile strategy based on what your customer thinks is valuable," says James Citron, CEO and co-founder of Mogreet. Craig Davis, CEO of Relevvant, agrees. "Mobile is not a standalone marketing strategy," he notes, adding that mobile marketing can be a great traffic driver but can also be used as a mechanism to mobilize customers to action, for example drive them into a store. Experts share six tips for a robust mobile marketing strategy.

  1. Understand how your customers are using mobile: Different customers are using mobile for various reasons, for example purely for research or preparing for a store visit. "The brands which are more successful at using mobile as a marketing tool often seek customer feedback to help define and refine their mobile marketing strategy, tactics, and tools," notes Michael Della Penna, senior vice president of emerging markets at Responsys. According to Deborah Powsner, senior director of marketing at SessionM, the brands which succeed in embedding their mobile strategy within their overall marketing mix are the ones which really understand how and when their audience is using their devices and then work to capture their attention and provide value in these moments. "Simply showing up isn't enough," she says. "Brands must think about the context in which they're providing the message." Kelly Weinhold, product strategist at Angel, says analytics need to be used to have a 360-degree view of customers across different channels. This data then needs to be used to determine how the mobile experience is contributing to the total business, including the buying journey that doesn't take place on a mobile device, Foresee's Feinberg says. Mathieu Hannouz, senior product marketing manager at Neolane, stresses the importance of breaking down data silos and bringing data gathered from mobile together with that collected from other channels. Cond?ast's Reynolds notes that certain magazines catering for a tech-savvy or younger audience, like Wired and Teen Vogue, are more likely to have a larger mobile audience.
  2. It's not enough to create a mobile-optimized site or an app: "Mobile-optimized websites should no longer be part of a mobile strategy because it's simply an obvious necessity that all businesses that want to grow must have a website that can be properly viewed and easily used via a mobile device," says Mogreet's Citron. Similarly, apps are just part of the journey towards a robust mobile marketing strategy and organizations shouldn't insist on developing an app just because everyone else is doing so. There are almost one billion apps and half of them are only used up to twice. "In order to cut through the app clutter, a brand needs a strong, mobile functional purpose or valuable proposition," he notes. Weinhold notes that if an organization goes ahead and develops an app, this needs to have the same feel as other channels, allowing for a seamless experience. Further, Neolane's Hannouz says a mobile website should be treated as a regular site, but should address the specific needs that customers have when using their mobile phones, for example looking for directions or operating hours.
  3. Create an engaging experience across all marketing channels: The key to an effective marketing strategy is creating a "sticky" experience that engages customers. Many organizations find it difficult to do this because their different channels operate in silos and are disconnected from one another. Experts stress that business leaders need to work to connect the different channels, making sure that the company is delivering a seamless experience across all touchpoints. "The days where mobile delivers a different customer experience are numbered because customers are expecting an integrated experience," Feinberg says. Session M's Powsner highlights the importance of ensuring that customers are engaged whenever they're communicating with a brand, whether on a mobile site, app, or when seeing an ad campaign. "In a world where our mobile devices are a personal extension of who we are, consumers must feel like they're getting value from their interaction with your brand," she notes.
  4. Acknowledge that mobile is a very personal device: While customers tend to always carry their mobile phones with them, this doesn't mean that they want to receive messages from brands all the time. "The biggest mistake that companies make is not realizing how personal the mobile platform is," notes Mogreet's Citron. "It's an honor to be granted access to this medium, so once you are there, you must think like the customer." Powsner agrees. "For many consumers, their mobile devices are the first thing they see in the morning and the last thing they check before they go to sleep at night," she notes. "Given this personal relationship, we, as marketers, have a tremendous opportunity to create deeper relationships with consumers, but this comes with increased opportunity to create a better ad experience."
  5. Provide value: Powsner says business leaders must make sure they're giving customers value, whether through physical rewards like gift cards, exclusive features, or interesting content. "Value-exchange advertising isn't just about supplying a reward, it's about delivering the right content, to the right audience, at the right moment," she notes. Responsys' Della Penna says organizations need to carefully analyze the customer journey and consider how mobile may be used to create additional value and enhance the customer experience during every stage of that journey.
  6. Be ready when customers respond to a call-to-action: Mobile can be a very powerful marketing device, but as Relevvant's Davis puts it, getting the message across is just the beginning. Once the message has been delivered, organizations need to be prepared for the next step that a customer takes, whether going into a brick-and-mortar store or visiting the company's website. "It's a mistake to use mobile solely to reach people, without thinking about the next step," Davis says.

Finally, organizations need to have a mobile-first strategy within their own companies. "Organizations that do mobile marketing and customer service best live the mobile life themselves, including in their work lives," notes J.D. Peterson, vice president of product marketing at Zendesk. Savvy companies will make sure their marketing teams are using mobile technology so that they can better understand what customers are experiencing when interacting with the brand over such devices.