July 31, 2013
In the not too distant past, B2B marketing efforts revolved mostly around direct mail campaigns and carefully crafted ads in trade publications and the Yellow Pages. Then came the Internet and a slew of new marketing methods, including banner ads, social media posts, and native advertising techniques such as promotional videos or images on social media sites or ads that appear next to search results. It’s safe to say that today’s marketing environment requires more knowledge and insight than only a few years ago.
Yet, for many executives who are just beginning to get a handle on digital marketing, things have recently become a lot more challenging, with smartphones, tablets, and other handheld devices creating a new layer of complexity. While they provide improved opportunities to interact with clients and potential clients—often in a more personalized way through messages and ads—it’s no simple task to use the medium effectively and send out the right message.
“Consumers are becoming much smarter and savvier about marketing in general and more demanding about receiving messages in the right context,” explains Cindy Krum, founder and CEO for MobileMoxie LLC, a Denver firm specializing in mobile marketing. “Mobility represents a more specialized—and far more personalized—channel. It is changing marketing and will heavily influence the field in the future.”
For channel pros, the question isn’t whether to adopt mobile marketing techniques, but how best to approach the task. About half the activity on the Internet now involves mobile devices, and the numbers will continue to climb over the next several years. What’s more, “when you look at professional demographics, the numbers are actually a lot higher,” points out Trip Kucera, senior research analyst for marketing effectiveness and strategy at consulting firm Aberdeen Group.
And while much of the action takes place in the B2C space—large companies are looking to connect to consumers via ads and messages sent to mobile devices—the opportunities in the B2B space are enormous, Kucera says. “Not only are people carrying phones and tablets with them, they are often receptive to targeted and relevant marketing messages. In many cases, the relationship and trust already exist. It’s simply a matter of providing the right message or content.”
Not surprisingly, mobile content can come in a number of forms: text messages, emails, mobile ads, contextual ads that align to editorial content, and promoted content at social media sites, aka native ads. In some cases, companies, including channel firms, are building mobile apps that provide specific functionality as well as the ability to deliver targeted marketing materials. Although mobile phones don’t offer site-tracking capabilities available on the Web, they do provide location-based services that can deliver a message or alert a user under the right circumstances.
In addition, mobile devices create a more dynamic way to attract new customers. “More than 50 percent of local searches are now conducted on smartphones. Increasingly, people go to their phone first to find a business or service,” says Cherie Collins, president of Stellaractive, a Portland, Ore., mobile strategy and development firm. As a result, she says, “It’s important for any business to pop up in search engines and have a well-defined mobile presence. Companies that overlook digital marketing, including search engine optimization and mobile marketing, put themselves at risk.”
Finally, the highly interactive nature of mobile devices enables businesses to connect with existing and potential customers in innovative ways. For example, it’s possible to send out a text or email preview of content or a promotion and allow the user to click for more information, including a white paper or YouTube video. Like native advertising, this method is less aggressive and obtrusive than banner and pop-up ads. “The user views additional content on a voluntary basis,” Kucera says.
PUTTING MOBILE MARKETING TO WORK
A starting point for developing a mobile marketing strategy, Kucera says, is to introduce a mobile website that renders correctly on different devices and browsers. Aberdeen found that 55 percent of mobile “leaders” have mobile-optimized sites versus only 26 percent of “followers.” What’s more, a site that dynamically adapts to a smartphone, tablet, or standard browser must display videos and other content that appears at the site—without lagging and latency. “Otherwise, it’s smart to scale the site down and add the content in later,” he says.
Krum says it’s also important to build an effective email strategy. The goal isn’t to inundate recipients with messages—in fact, too many messages will likely undermine a marketing effort—but instead provide an occasional e-newsletter and announcements about discounts, promotions, or hot new products and services. It’s critical to format the message so that it displays correctly for mobile devices, and offer an option to receive the message in plain text. And, with a growing number of people reading email primarily or exclusively on their phone or tablet, it’s best to let customers choose the content and frequency of communications.
Texting can prove trickier, Krum says. First, have customers and others opt in. Second, ensure that the message is concise and targeted. With more and more companies sending text messages, many recipients are beginning to ignore or stop them from coming. However, “SMS messages are ideal for alerts,” she explains. “A text message sent at the right time with a reorder reminder or relevant actionable step can benefit everyone, without the recipient feeling as though the message is invasive.”
Collins says that dedicated mobile apps can prove effective for maintaining or improving customer relationships, and they are particularly effective for rewards and loyalty programs. But they can also miss the mark. “If customers need to be connected on a regular basis, a mobile app makes sense. If they are connecting only occasionally, it’s usually better to put the development efforts into a mobile website,” she says. In addition, “It’s important to understand what you are trying to achieve with a mobile app—and how it can help your marketing effort—before devoting time and resources to building it and managing all the necessary updates.”
In the end, Collins says, a business must tie together conventional forms of marketing with digital tools, including a mobile approach, to create a cohesive, comprehensive strategy. Quick Response Codes and tools such as Stellaractive’s mCard, which serves as a digital online business card, can also help professionals marry traditional approaches with digital marketing to better build a brand. “Mobile marketing is an increasingly important part of the overall marketing picture,” she says. “It’s something a business cannot ignore.”