Mobile Marketing: 12 Tips for Planning Your Media

In “Riding the Perfect Storm of Mobile Marketing,” I made the case that we’re about to enter a new age of mobile marketing. Even though the economy is undergoing some serious spasms, I’d still venture that the mobile market won’t slow down all that much.

Sure, sales of new phones will probably go down. (Unless you’re a serious early adopter, choosing between eating and a new gadget probably isn’t that hard of a choice for most sane folks.) And sure, sales of added services and content will probably decline, but the number of people using mobile devices probably won’t. It’s just too much of a part of our lives now to turn back.

New developments, such as the new WiMax network, probably mean that mobile usage will grow. After all, if you can get wireless Internet access at home and in the city where you work for the same price, why not get it all? Whether Sprint’s XHOM service takes off is irrelevant: affordable broadband wireless is coming and will usher in a whole host of changes.

Look beyond the computer if you want to understand how things will change. It’ll be nice to get wireless access anywhere without having to seek out a hotspot, but ubiquitous wireless access also means Internet connectivity can (and will) be built into a whole host of devices.

Ubiquitous WiFi means that gadgets such as phones based on Skype (imagine being untethered from the restrictions of your wireless provider!), “radios” with wireless chips that can pull in thousands of radio stations from around the globe, PDAs that are constantly synced with your desktop computer, video on demand anywhere and free of the malarkey foisted on us by wireless carriers and phone interfaces. Imagine the possibilities.

So how should a marketer take advantage of the explosion of wireless devices and wireless usage now underway? You’ll find my 12 tips below. But first, you must understand the one rule that underlies all of them: mobile marketing is different. Once you reach people out of their homes in the company of other people, you’ll have to change your thinking.

Here are some tips to help plan your media in the mobile future:

  1. Context matters. Where somebody is and what they’re doing matters. Now that we can tell where people are via GPS and other location-based technologies, the most effective way to market to them is to recognize that their location makes a difference when delivering information that will sway their opinion.
  2. Remember: People, not places. Mobile technology has changed our perception of what “calling” means. We used to call places because phones were tethered to them. Now we call people because their phones are on them no matter where they are. As more people cut the cord, it’s important to understand where they are as well as when.
  3. Situational awareness works. Being aware of the situation where someone receives your mobile ad can make your messages more effective. If you’re sending an ad to a 20-something on a Friday night at 11, recognizing they’re probably out and about on the town will probably make more of an impact than sending them a message more suitable for receipt when they’re at their desks at work. Same goes for 35-year-old moms: if you’re reaching them on a Saturday afternoon, chances are they’re out shopping or running errands. Connect your marketing with your audiences and what they may be doing at the time.
  4. Rethink new delivery of old media. New technologies like WiMax mean it’s possible to deliver “old media” (e.g., radio/audio or video) in new ways to new populations on the go. While mobile video and audio has been relatively slow to catch on, a look at the success of the Pandora iPhone app shows that people want to access music through their phones. Think about advertising that takes advantage of this trend.
  5. Listen to your audiences. Give people the ability to tell you how you’re doing. Listen to their feedback. Consumer response to mobile marketing hasn’t always been positive, so it’s important to tread lightly and use feedback to determine what works.
  6. Use the tools. What tools are available to you? Location-awareness? Video? Built-in cameras? Audio? Engaging consumers and using the tools available to you on mobile platforms will pay off. More engagement means more awareness.
  7. It’s about the social. When people are out and about, they’re also probably out and about with other people…or soon will be. Try to figure out how to use location awareness and people’s ability to contact other people in their phones in your marketing. The Obama campaign’s iPhone app is a brilliant example of this aspect of mobile marketing, tapping into users’ address books in order to create instant “call-center-like” lists of friends to call and spread the word about Obama.
  8. Keep it short. If you think it’s tough to keep someone’s attention on TV, try getting and keeping their attention when they’re on the go. Keep it short and simple.
  9. Keep it sendable. If you’re going to send somebody something cool enough to get their attention while they’re out and about, ensure it’s possible for them to pass it on to their friends.
  10. Lifestyle matters. Mobile phone manufacturers have done a good job realizing that a mobile phone is a tangible symbol of lifestyle and status. What else would explain the iAmRich app that caused a big uproar when it was offered for the iPhone? Exclusive content, special incentives, anything that screams “status” will help your message get noticed.
  11. Think integration. All impressions may be equal, but some are more equal than others. Unfortunately it’s tough to know which impression is going to have the biggest impact on your targets. Integrating your mobile campaign with all the other stuff you’re doing will increase the effectiveness of your message.
  12. Think “free.” People love free stuff. They love coupons, special offers, and anything that can give them an edge. And with the economy going where it seems to be going, people with smaller budgets will love “free” more than ever. Giving people a real financial incentive to pay attention to your messages will make them more effective.

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