Mobile Marketing 101

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Andy Crestodina

Although we’re trend watchers, we’re not bandwagon jumpers. We don’t seek to build things just because they’re popular.  We build things that make sense for our clients.  Still, when a tidal wave is coming (or arguably already here) we have to chime in.

So here’s a pocket guide to marketing to your pocket.

Mobile Websites

Same but smaller?

You might be surprised to find that your website may already be viewable on many phones.  Phone browsers are pretty much like regular browsers and if your site doesn’t have a lot of Flash, it may work just fine.  It’s a small thrill the first time you see your site on a small screen if you can wait for it to load.  But then, look how small it looks….zoom…scroll…zoom…click…

If you really want your site to fit in their pocket, it should be tailored to fit properly. Unfortunately, it’s basically impossible to make your site work well on both a full-size browser and a mobile device. However, if you build one site for full-size users and a separate mobile website design (the preferred approach), the site can automatically detect which medium your visitor is using and send them to the correct pages.

Building a mobile version of your site means adapting the design, content and the features.

  • Design – Simplify the design.  Consider a one-column layout.  Use few graphics both to save space and load time.
  • Content – If writing for websites is about being brief, writing for mobile sites is even more so.  Remember, you’ve got about one tenth as many screen pixels.  Turn your sections into single pages and your paragraphs into sentences.
  • Features – Some features fit nicely with smart phones, such as Google maps, blog and Twitter feed integration, galleries and video. But keep in mind that download times on smart phones are a lot slower than most full-sized browsers

Example: visit on your cell phone – notice how you’re redirected to the mobile site ( Compare it to the regular site.  You may get some ideas on how a mobile website design is a bit different.

Mobile Applications

Make an app for that…

Unlike mobile sites, these are downloaded and installed from the marketplace on your phone (such as the iTunes store).  We’re talking about small, self-contained programs that don’t use a browser.  So what are you thinking?

I want to get rich quick by making the coolest new iPhone application.

Selling apps is big business.  By 2012, more money will be spent on mobile apps than on music CDs. Keep in mind that the most popular applications are games, followed by mobile shopping and social networking apps.  The best apps have great usability, integrate with other systems and often take advantage of sensors on the phone.  The best apps are made by masters of both design and technology. Its also important to note the app users have a low attention span in that 95% of apps aren’t used a month after download and or that only 20% get touched the day after downloading.

I want to promote my existing business.

You need to think about your audience (What would they like? How can we help them?) and your marketing plan (How can this help us?).  Unless your app answers both these questions beautifully, go back to the drawing board.

Either way, you need a great idea. Remember that great ideas are usually simple.  You also need a marketing plan.  Don’t assume that it will catch on like mobile wildfire.

SMS Marketing

txt msgs

The original way for marketers to appear on someone’s phone is to text them.  Like any outbound marketing, the results will be based on the how receptive the recipient is.  In other words, it’s about the quality of the list.

If you want to try, you have to build a list of mobile phone numbers carefully, making sure that everyone is interested in what you’re going to send them. As you may already know, an unwanted text message is a real annoyance.  Beyond that, it’s illegal.  The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 tells recipients complain to the FCC if they receive “any autodialed text message on your wireless device, or an unwanted commercial message to a non-wireless device from a telecommunications company or advertising a telecommunications company’s products or services.”

I’ve seen SMS marketing work for a few kinds of companies:

  • Non-profits with dedicated supporters
  • Entertainment venues with young, loyal followings.

Do you know other groups finding success with SMS?  Comment below.

Ready to try? A word of caution: Sending text messages will cost you (you’ll need to work with an SMS marketing company) and may also cost your recipients.  Ever heard the phrase “standard text messaging rates apply”?

Before you jump in, ask yourself if you’re getting all the results you can with Twitter, which is similar but easier to use and measure.  It’s also free.

Bottom Line

There are more ways to reach your audience today.  We have more inboxes than ever before and mobile marketing is connected to most of them.  Of the seven inboxes shown in Figure 1, six of them could be in your customer’s pocket!  Stay open to new ideas, consider your audience, and keep one eye on the small screen.

Figure 1:
Proliferation of Inboxes

inbox proliferation

This timeline shows how the number and types of inboxes have grown over time. It also shows the approximate dates for mass adoption.

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