Demystifying Mobile Marketing–Your Tough Questions Answered

Mobile Marketing—C’mon Ride the Train

Mobile marketing is the fastest growing media of our time; more than the Internet and even social media. There are currently more mobile subscribers than there are Internet subscribers; 263M vs. 191M (source: Informa). Penetration of mobile phones and subscriptions are expected to surpass 100% in the US in the coming years. Mobile phones are used for a variety of functions including texting, email, browsing the mobile web, photography, videos, social media access and, let’s not forget… calling. In a current marketing world that’s all about “engagement” and “ROI,” smart marketers have never been more excited about the opportunity to communicate with and influence customers’ response where and when they are, 24/7 a day! So it’s no wonder you’ve considered marketing to customers and stakeholders using mobile as an important part of your marketing mix.

Unlike the Internet which simply yet inadvertently dictated to businesses that they create a website early on and then suggested banner advertising, SEO, etc. to drive qualified traffic and response, there are many choices to consider, and challenges to overcome, when embarking on a mobile marketing strategy for brands of all sizes. Some of the more common ones include:

  • What kind of phones do my customers have?
  • If I choose a text messaging (SMS) strategy, how can I effectively communicate with constituents beyond 140 characters?
  • If I choose to develop apps, do I develop an iPhone or Droid only app vs. apps for several platforms or cross-platform?
  • What about mobile web as an alternative or supplement to an app strategy?
  • How can I control and leverage advertising inventory with my mobile strategy?
  • How can I control and manage wireless user (subscriber) data?
  • How will I distribute my mobile content? (App store, SMS, Email, QR codes, other)
  • How can I leverage my existing integrated marketing (i.e. print, email, social) with mobile?
  • How do I monetize my mobile marketing efforts and show an ROI?

Mobile Marketing Uncovered

Following are a few myths, questions and challenges addressed to minimize risk and help you make the best decision regarding mobile marketing for your business.

Everyone has or will have a smartphone!
It is estimated that today that only about 25% of all phone users (63.2M of 263M; source comScore 2010 Mobile Lens and Informa) in the US have smartphones, or phones that offer advanced PC-like capabilities. Experts say that number is expected to reach 40 – 50% penetration by the end of 2011. Even with this tremendous growth and sea-change in types of phones and relative functionality, it leaves a large percentage of the market (your customers) with feature phones, or those that have less sophisticated capabilities but may still include Internet, texting and other marketing-ready functions. It is important when developing your mobile strategy to estimate what kinds of phones your customers have and not exclude any users based on this. By providing reach and access to your content by as many customers as possible, you will have the greatest results.

Mobile is just for the youth and younger generations and/or strictly for affluent audiences.
According to the 2010 Digital Marketer Benchmark and Trend Report, adults under the age of 50 are most likely to be mobile users with 93% owning a mobile phone today. However, 78% of adults over the age of 60 are now mobile. This shows a growing trend of customers of all ages warming up to the benefits of mobile phone usage. As for response, as an example, those aged 35-54 are the most rabid mobile coupon users representing 50% of all demographics 18+.. Furthermore, the highly wealthy do not score as high with mobile coupon usage as those that earn $50 – $100K/year, all according to a Scanlife Mobile Barcode Trend, conducted in 2010 (see images that follow). In other words, mobile marketing is suited for all ages and income levels.

If I post my app on iTunes (or another popular app store), it is like marketing to a global marketplace and will get downloaded.
This is a common misunderstanding by those that create iPhone only or other platform specific apps. I recently spoke with a harmonica manufacturer (of all companies) who shifted valuable marketing dollars from their traditional marketing execution reaching targeted qualified prospects, in order to create an iPhone app. Their reasoning was simple, “If the app is posted on iTunes, it will be exposed to a global market. When someone comes across our app, we are likely to sell more harmonicas.” Where it’s true that apps on iTunes (and other apps stores such as Droid Marketplace, GetJar, Nokia Ovi store, Blackberry, Verizon Open Catalog, etc.) are accessible to a global marketplace, it’s important to note that there are other apps to compete with in those stores, most notably the 300K+ on iTunes, 130K+ on Nokia Ovi, 18K+ on Blackberry and 25K+ on Droid Marketplace. More simply put, “discovery” is and should be an important part of marketing your mobile content. That content, like your products or services, needs to be promoted and supported with a strong and compelling call to action on all of your marketing to help drive downloads and frequent access/response.

We recently launched an app for The Salvation Army on GetJar that in just 8 weeks generated 200,000 downloads with 6.2% click through on “Donate $10 Now” and 3.9% submission to volunteer form. This success could not have done achieved without premium marketing on the GetJar website, mobile home pages and as a recommended app by GetJar. Marketing of your apps works and is essential to success!

Every phone has access to the mobile web, therefore I should focus my mobile marketing on building mobile web sites only.
Where it’s true most mobile phones come equipped with access to the mobile web, it’s important to note that not all phones have high speed connectivity or unlimited data plans. Specifically, only about 18% of all phones have high speed connectivity (you don’t have to go much farther than the nearest Blackberry user to learn of frustrations with accessing the mobile web due to slow connection speeds). Also, keep in mind that most carriers no longer provide unlimited data plans either (i.e. AT&T and Verizon) so accessing the Internet and downloading heavy (data file size) images, video and other content that comes along with it, will be charged at a premium in the coming months. In other words, not everyone will be able to afford the data that is required to have a truly continuous, unlimited and interactive experience on their mobile devices. This means Internet access could be severely suppressed which in turn suggests that marketing using apps and/or very efficient mobile web sites with minimal images and/or interactive content, will be preferred by your customers.

Creating apps for all platforms is expensive and requires a specialized skillset, therefore I need to hire a developer or mobile agency to do this.
Hiring a developer or mobile agency to create apps and develop mobile strategies can be expensive. Some developers charge anywhere from $5K – $50K+ for a single iPhone app. It can also be time intensive with the work taking months. On the other side of the fence there are DIY solutions that range from free (with ads) or $99 without ads like DIDMO’s Magmito ( that require no technology skillset and are cross-platform. So, you can create an app within minutes and start promoting and distributing content to all phones easily.

I only need to create an app for the most popular phones like iPhone and/or Droid; the other phones (and customers that own them) will go away or don’t matter.
The smartphone marketplace is made up of many key players, each with evolving and changing shares announcing new handsets, technology mergers and strategies all the time. Of smartphone subscribers only (roughly 25% of all phones (see point #1), the breakout of leading manufactures, according to comScore MobiLens 2010 for December, 2010 (compared to September, 2010 change) is: RIM 31.6% (-5.7%), Google 28.7% (7.3%), Apple 25.0% (0.7%), Microsoft 8.4% (-1.5%) and Palm 3.7% (-0.5%). It makes great sense, therefore to employ an “inclusive” mobile strategy knowing what kinds of smartphones your customers have and how quickly usage can shift to other brands and handsets.

QR codes are best used driving customers to my web site, mobile web site or a YouTube video.
I see a lot of companies floating a QR code in their print ad, on their direct mail pieces and even on trade show booth walls with no call to action and driving users to either a web site that’s not optimized for mobile, a mobile web site with no clear indication what the user is to do next, or a YouTube video. QR codes, those black and white squares you see popping up all over the place, short for “Quick Response” are easy ways to drives mobile users, with a camera and QR reader on their phone, directly to a mobile url. Important questions to consider if you employ or plan on using QR codes in your marketing:

Why would a mobile user want to scan yours? What’s in it for them?

What if they don’t have a QR reader?

How can you get the most value out of your QR code leading to a mobile url?

Best practice indicates including a call to action along with your QR code letting users know that, if they scan the QR code the experience and benefits of what happens next will be worth it. Using calls to action like “Scan the QR code NOW and download our free app that includes information on this product, a mobile exclusive offer to buy it today, never seen before videos, and a chance to win a trip to ABC!” If your audience doesn’t have a QR reader be sure to post the mobile url so they can input it into their browser, or post a text keyword/shortcode (like in the case of “Text RUSH to 247365 OR scan the QR code to download the free Neil Peart app”).

Lastly, as mobile marketing has such potential for Lifetime Engagement Value (LEV) or extending mindshare, potential frequency of engagements, purchase response and/or viral referrals, to name a few, beyond the point of initial response, consider driving users to a downloadable app via your QR code. Once embedded on their phones, you and your brand have the opportunity to be accessed, and responded to, multiple times for as long as it resides undeleted on their phone. On the contrary driving users to a website, mobile website or YouTube video, unless bookmarked, are likely to never be returned to again, past the point of initial scan and experience.

Mobile users do not access most of the apps on their phone after they download them.
According to a study by Localytics (January, 2010), one in four mobile apps once downloaded is never used again contributing to a high churn rate. Sure, downloads are a great success indicator but how much and how often are those apps accessed and responded to beyond the point of download? It is vital to create dynamic, compelling content whereby the user has an affinity for so they will download/bookmark, keep on their phone and access often with your text, app and/or mobile web strategies. This is not that dissimilar to the early days of driving unique and repeat Internet traffic: Why would they want to visit in the first place? Why should they register once they visit? Why should they return? Why should they return often and frequently? Why will they respond to your content?

What about Text Messaging (SMS) as a viable mobile marketing strategy?
With over 6.1 trillion messages sent worldwide in 2010 (according to ITU), or 200,000 messages every second, and nearly every phone with the ability to send/receive texts, it is still the killer app (oxy moronic pun intended) for mobile marketing. I have to take my hat off to the Mobile Marketing Association who has done a tremendous job at keeping SMS/text marketing legitimate. As you may know, to secure your own short code (i.e. 999999), it is expensive (~$10 – $30K). Therefore, most mobile marketing agencies provide shared short codes so you can execute SMS campaigns efficiently (i.e. “Text RUSH (your keyword) to 247365 (a shared shortcode). In addition, managing a mobile database and campaigns complete with opt-out functionality, auto-generated responses, etc. requires a specific toolset (much like broadcast email marketing). This does not bode well for independent mobile marketing aficionados yet offers a way to support mobile customer acquisition, communications and retention objectives seamlessly. Keep in mind, text campaigns are usually limited to 140 characters or less. Like email, they are usually pushed out unless a call to action to opt in is promoted, making it difficult to communicate frequently and often with customers who have a threshold for how often they want to hear from you.

It’s nearly impossible to monetize an app or a mobile strategy.
There are several ways to monetize an app and/or a mobile strategy that you should consider if you are interested in generating revenues from your mobile content. Mobile couponing and/or mobile exclusive offers via text messaging, mobile web and/or apps are pretty obvious for driving mobile, online and in-store purchase behavior and lead generation. Barnes & Noble, for example, has a mobile exclusive loyalty club where they frequently communicate special offers and discounts once the coupon is displayed on a mobile device at the cash register. If you are pursuing apps, download fees can help monetize your efforts. Keep in mind that most app stores that allow you to post an app for a fee to the end user keep some percentage of revenues generated. Apple, for example, keeps 30% as well as the credit card information of your purchasing customers. In app advertising is another way to monetize your app or mobile strategy. Consider including banners, splash page advertising and sponsored content inside your app and/or mobile website as you would on your Internet website as a way to offset costs while reaching a targeted and attractive audience to sponsor/advertisers.

I have a Facebook page/site and I Tweet (and I have a blog) which are accessible via mobile, therefore I don’t need a mobile strategy to communicate and/or influence customers.
Where Facebook and most other forms of social media are accessible via mobile devices (Facebook has an app, of all things), there are limitations to what you can and cannot do to support a more targeted and/or comprehensive mobile strategy. Most Facebook posts, like Twitter tweets and text messages, for example, are limited to 140 characters or less, making it difficult to get across the features, benefits, offer and reason why they should respond. Being able to package a lot of content like videos, offers, viral elements, etc. by product, campaign, messaging or otherwise is more targeted and can therefore lead to more response and better results.

Commerce is just “not there yet” with mobile so I shouldn’t consider driving purchases with my mobile strategy.

“In the last twelve months, customers around the world have ordered more than US $1 billion of products from Amazon using a mobile device,”

–Jeff Bezos, founder and CEO of (July 2010)

 “And, that was just last year…”

– Angelo Biasi, SMART Marketing Solutions (March, 2011)

(in response to Jeff Bezos quote above)

ABI Research (January 2009) forecasts that in 2013, there will be nearly half a billion customers of MFS, including m-banking, mobile domestic person-to-person payments (i.e. money transfers) and international person-to-person payments.According to Juniper Research (March 2010), Mobile retail will exceed US$12 billion by 2014 (mobile retail is defined as m-coupon redemption values, smart poster fees and advertising expenditure).

In summary, commerce via mobile devices has arrived and it’s growing. Weather you’re driving users to a “Buy Now” via your app, including mCommerce on your mobile website and/or soliciting brick & mortar foot traffic with your mobile tactics (i.e. mobile couponing, offers and/or announcements), there is a great opportunity to see immediate commerce revenues with little effort. In the next 6 – 18 months be on the lookout for more purchasing using your mobile device instead of credit cards. Starbucks for example is creating in app QR codes for Starbucks cards and there’s a new service/accessory for the iPhone called “Square” ( that allows you to pay/accept credit card payments with iPhones.

  1. Mobile is a stand-alone marketing tactic that should have a strategy independent of my brand strategy and other integrated marketing mix.

Mobile is a powerful medium and will continue to evolve rapidly, just like the Internet, email and social media have. If used intelligently, it will support your sales and marketing objectives like never before imagined. However, like most forms of marketing, when integrated with other tactics (i.e. including a QR code on your direct mail piece or print ad, promoting your app for download via web banner ads, text call to action at the point of sale, etc.) along with your overall brand and corporate strategy, it is likely to have the highest lift in response and success.

From the experts’ expectations and existing user statistics, mobile marketing is here to stay and will continue to provide new opportunities. Getting in the game now and developing initial strategies efficiently could pay tremendous dividends in the future for you and your business.


About the Author

Angelo Biasi is General Manager of SMART Marketing Solutions, LLC, a leading full-service integrated marketing company in Naples, FL since 2001. He has helped create and execute marketing plans and integrated marketing solutions for companies such as Playtex, Bic, Rogaine, Tauck, and over 35 colleges and universities, to name a few. Angelo has an MBA in Marketing from the University of Connecticut and has taught Marketing at New York University for over five years. For more information or to learn more, email him at abiasiatsmartmarketingllcdotcom, visit or call 239.963.9396.

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