This article was published in Franchising World Magazine in August 2009. http://www.franchise.org/Franchise-Industry-News-Detail.aspx?id=47280
In a world where technology has infiltrated the very fabric of our social culture, consumers have evolved to be human spam filters, adept at tuning out the constant messaging coming in from TV and banner ads, billboards, email newsletters and the like. With marketers now realizing that the age-old premise, “if you display it, they will see it,” may no longer be viable, the current buzz throughout board rooms, marketing forums and coffee houses is whether or not Mobile Internet Marketing is the next effective and practical progression in the marketing mix.
As companies question the effectiveness of traditional “outbound” marketing initiatives like broadcast and billboard advertisements, which push a message out far and wide, hoping that it resonates with a few individuals, they’re putting more emphasis on “inbound” marketing strategies that organically attract potential and already interested customers through search engines, blogs and social media. This has spurred franchises to take a closer look at making their messaging more local. Franchisors have moved from national level marketing, to regional, and local, by way of localizing online presence for every franchisee, and are now faced with Mobile Internet Marketing and wondering where it fits and what benefits it offers.
The shift from traditional marketing efforts to inbound, permission-based initiatives has also created the requirement that communication with potential customers become more personal. Addressing people by their first names and narrowing the message to focus specifically on what a potential customer has “signed up for” is replacing more impersonal, mass messages.
Mobile Internet Marketing offers the next wave of inbound, localized, personalized marketing by providing a more intimate, targeted, and increasingly proximity-aware method of reaching consumers.
And Mobile Internet Marketing is here now.
Are you ready for the burgeoning mobile world?
The mobile phone is unique in that it’s a convergent device that brings together voice, Internet and technology all in one place. Its very nature is that it’s always on, always with you, intimately aware of your favorite content and music, and always connected to your network of friends. Marketers will soon be able to leverage its location-based technology, as well.
According to Nielson Mobile, we’ve reached “critical mass” in the mobile world, with 40 million people in the United States categorized as ‘”active” mobile users. Even more, 144 million of the total 254 million mobile subscribers have data on their mobile phone, which allows them to use text messaging and access the Web.
This mobile phone penetration can be startling when you realize that in the U.S., there are more mobile devices than TVs and personal computers (PCs) combined.
And even more interesting is the information on who’s using them. Despite the belief that the mobile world is made up primarily of young people, Nielson’s data shows that 11.8% of mobile users are between the ages of 18-24; 27.4% are 25-34; and a staggering 37% are 35-54.
In addition, recent data compiled by M:Metrics shows that the world has surpassed the 3 billion mark on mobile phones, making brand marketers now fixated on this “third screen” (PC, TV and now phone) and curious about the marketing opportunities best suited for this new medium.
Before delving into opportunities available to franchise marketers for appealing to new markets, crossing cultural barriers and satisfying current customers through the mobile phone, let’s explore exactly what Mobile Internet Marketing is.
What is Mobile Internet Marketing?
Mobile marketing begins with the mobile web, which refers to browser-based web services such as the World Wide Web or Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) using a mobile device such as a cell phone, PDA, or other portable gadget connected to a public network.
Although newer mobile devices use standard browsers (one you would use on a PC), a WAP browser on a mobile device provides all of the basic services of a PC-based browser, only simplified to operate within the restrictions – such as the smaller view screen – of a mobile phone. WAP web sites are also written in a special language so that a WAP browser can access it. Both of these browsers are being used by people surfing the Net on their phones.
In addition to browsing the Internet, people are also text messaging. According to the CTIA – the International Association for the Wireless Telecommunications Industry, more than 110 billion texts were sent every month in 2008, for a total of over 1 trillion text messages for the year.
Also known as a Short Message Service (SMS), text messaging can be used in several ways by marketers. When you “push” a text message out, you are sending a marketing message, such as a coupon or a client communiqué, directly to a potential customer, much like Expedia sends flight status updates via SMS. You can also create a “pull” message by communicating with someone who has actively engaged with a traditional marketing message. TV programs like American Idol have made this a popular marketing approach by running contests that require voting via a mobile phone. In this model, the initial message is conveyed through TV, radio or billboard advertisements and creates a call to action to text a code to a certain number.
When discussing Mobile Internet Marketing, one cannot leave out the almighty iPhone. The iPhone has revolutionized downloadable applications – software programs you can choose to download to your iPhone that perform some action, similar to a program on your PC. The “App Store” for iPhone applications touts 50,000 programs, which have been downloaded one billion times. Applications include everything from games like Tetris to productivity tools to Loopt, which allows users to connect with friends by seeing where they are at all times.
Palm and Blackberry have also come out with respective application stores for their mobile devices.
The key factors of Mobile Internet Marketing
Some fear that Mobile Internet Marketing will result in the mobile inbox becoming just as cluttered as the email inbox. However, the highly permission-based quality of mobile marketing makes it more relevant and targeted than any other marketing method, including email. It’s also believed that psychologically, consumers are more apt to “trust” mobile marketing because of the intimate nature and connectedness one has with their phone.
In addition to the relevance mobile marketing offers to potential consumers, immediacy based on location, or presence-based marketing, adds to its effectiveness. If the Holy Grail of marketing is reaching the “right customer with the right message at the right time,” then mobile marketing may have found it.
The ability for marketers to provide timely messages has already arrived. Take a pizza franchise, for example, that can text you a coupon code to order a Pizza at 5 p.m., just as you’re driving home from work. And for franchises that target the college audience, services such as eCampusCash may be appropriate, as they offer a multitude of coupons that they will text to potential customers’ phones. Customers then simply show the text to the business to use the coupon. And although it’s not here quite yet, text messages based on a customer’s location that pop up regarding a business they’re interested in when they’re in proximity, are indeed coming.
Another key factor to Mobile Internet Marketing is how social media ties in. Social media sites like Facebook and MySpace can now be updated on the go with mobile devices. And considering the mobile phone is one’s “constant companion,” it has become as integral to social media marketing as the Web itself.
How to use Mobile Internet Marketing
First, make sure your website is “viewable” to the mobile world. Your current website may not be as user-friendly on a mobile phone as it is on a PC. You should speak to your web developer to make sure your website is properly optimized for viewing on mobile phones. Some Content Management Software (CMS), like ElementsLocal™, allows you to update your own company and local franchisee websites, making it easy to revise for both the PC and mobile phone. Further, software like ElementsLocal even offers features that allow users to send text messages to their mobile phones from a company website, making it easier for a potential customer to continue browsing your business’ website, even as they move from their PC to their mobile phone.
You should also consider whether your company even shows up in the mobile world. Having a presence in Google and Yahoo on a PC does not necessarily mean you’ll show up on a mobile device. For starters, people can access your business’ location in a multitude of ways on a mobile phone, from browsing the Internet and texting Google your business name to using an iPhone application that is designed for a specific use. The common element is ensuring you’re listed not only in search engines like Google and Yahoo, but also local search engines like Google Maps and online directories like the local online Yellow pages. These directories are used by major companies to attain your address and contact information.
Once your company is “in” the mobile revolution, customer service can be dramatically improved. Again, using the example of Expedia texting you your flight status, take into account the possibilities of updating a potential customer with timely details about your company that they may find critical while they’re on the go. Always Best Care, an in-home senior care service franchise, is working on sending text message updates to clients’ loved ones with pertinent information about appointments. In the future, this service will also allow family members to pinpoint a client’s location via GPS using mobile technology.
Messages like this can go beyond just customer notifications and into marketing messages. The immediacy of Mobile Marketing can greatly benefit customer loyalty and VIP programs. Think about a hair salon franchise that during slow periods sends out a text message offering a discount for customers who show up in the next hour.
Advertising dollars continue to move to mobile phones, as well. EMarketer forecasts that advertisers will spend $3.3 billion on mobile advertising in 2013, up from $648 million in 2008, while Experian Marketing Services predicts that mobile advertising, including mobile search, social networks and location-specific services, will become a more viable marketing strategy as consumers continue to adopt smart phone technology.
If nothing else, consider this. Think about the web firm that convinced you almost a decade ago to start building your email lists to stay ahead of the game. Call it déjà-vu or just good planning, but it’s critical to start building your text message list now. As a consumer initially responds to a campaign by sending a text message, a marketer also captures his or her cell phone number. This valuable information, given by the consumer with permission, can then be used for future marketing campaigns.
The Conclusion on Mobile Internet Marketing
As franchises continue to strive to improve communications with customers and create brand awareness in an increasingly technological world, it’s hard to ignore the benefits of mobile marketing. Any brand that ignores mobile technology could be losing potential customers to competitors who are leveraging the technology and, more importantly, missing an opportunity to take the next step in creating a local marketing presence both on the Web and the mobile phone.
In conclusion, Mobile Internet Marketing does need to be a part of your brand’s overall marketing plan, and it should rank in priority with your corporate website, local websites, social networking and email messaging strategies.
Mobile Internet Marketing can’t be ignored as a viable solution to keep your company on the forefront of leveraging technology to improve brand awareness, extend product and/or service offerings and, most importantly, provide greater value and service to your customers.
Jeremy LaDuque is the President and CEO of Elements Inc., developers of ElementsLocal™, a software solution for localized websites designed specifically for franchises. He can be reached at (805) 547-1160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.