Getting Started with Mobile Marketing – A look at where to begin

Mobile marketing, the practice of communicating, delving and exchanging value with and through the mobile channel with one’s audience, is transforming the practice of marketing and our relationship with consumers.  Brands, in-house marketers, and enterprises of all sizes across numerous verticals have integrated mobile marketing practices into their business with great success.  One simply needs to read the daily headlines from Mobile Marketer ( to get a sense of all the new and exciting programs being launched.  Just in the last few days of late April ’09 numerous campaign stories were highlighted in Mobile Marketers:

  • Starbucks runs mobile coupon loyalty program
  • Monopoly at McDonald’s Game wins Best Mobile Campaign
  • Kraft Foods uses mobile for new instant coffee brand
  • Amstel Light rolls out multichannel campaign
  • Carl’s Jr. runs trivia game via SMS
  • Comedian Dane Cook launches iPhone app
  • WhitePages adds mobile site to app presence
  • Coldwell Banker real estate franchise goes mobile
  • Mobile commerce trial works with Jack in the Box and First Data

Mobile Marketing works.  It is successfully used by marketers to generate brand awareness, convert prospects to customers, maintain customer relationships, enhance customer care, stimulate viral marketing and produce tangible, measureable, contributions to a firm’s bottom line.   Not convinced?  On a national scale Papa John’s reported in December 2008 that they’d generated over a million dollars in sales in less than 6 months via their mobile web site ( and on the local scale in March 2009 The Cold Stone Creamery reported they used mobile marketing to promote a store opening to drive store traffic and awareness–26 percent of the program participants redeemed their coupon for a free ice cream at the store.  The Cold Stone Creamery and Papa John’s are just two of the many examples that demonstrate the effectiveness of mobile marketing; they’re the tip of the iceberg.

The many pieces of mobile marketing

At first glance, mobile marketing can appear to be complex, overly so in fact.   There are many paths through the mobile channel to choose from (SMS, MMS, email, voice, Internet, mobile Internet, Bluetooth, and applications) and a plethora of tactical programs that can be launched through and with these paths to engage one’s audience; such as, voting, polling, standard and premium branded content, user generated content, trivia and quizzes, sweepstakes, charitable donations, applications (for the iPhone, Android, Blackberry Palm, etc.), mobile Internet sites, broadband Internet sites, alert services, mobile rebates, product fulfillment via mobile, couponing (text, 2D, 3D), mobile commerce etc.  You can even advertising within and around all these mobile marketing methods.  The list goes on.  In fact, you’re really only limited by your imagination. 

All the possibility of mobile can be overwhelming, in fact, many marketers do not know where to start; that is, how to begin embracing the possibility of mobile marketing and begin integrating it into their marketing operations in order to generate positive results for their firm.

Considerations for getting started

This may not be obvious, but when thinking about getting started and using mobile in your marketing you should not start with mobile.  Rather, you should start by asking yourself 1) who is my audience, 2) what value do I deliver to members of my audience and 3) what objectives am I trying to achieve with my marketing and how will I measure my programs so I know when I’ve achieved by objectives.

  • Your audience:  Before you even think mobile, you need to understand the needs, concerns, and desires of your audience? Who is listening, watching, and engaging your brand? Who do you want to be engaging you? Who are your existing customers, prospects, evangelizers, supporters, and detractors? Where do they reside and congregate, both physically and virtually (we can no longer ignore the convergence between the real-world and virtual-social media realms)?  What physical and virtual media do they use, e.g. TV, magazines, Facebook, Twitter? When they look to fulfill their needs, where do they go, where do they start their search?   The more you know about members of your audience, your community, the better chance you have at fulfilling their needs and having success with your mobile marketing program(s).
  • Your value proposition:  What value are you offering?  What value do your consumers get from your products and services? How might mobile be an appropriate medium to communicate and deliver this value? What other channels can you use to deliver this value?  Where do they all intersect? Can you use them to facilitate the exchange of value?  It is important that you consider these questions and work with your partner (see partnering below) to answer them.
  • Your objectives: You need to know what you want to accomplish and by when?  Are you trialing a program? Running a campaign to build awareness or to generate ad hoc transactional business?  Or, maybe you’re looking to mobilize your community and build a permission-based list that you can remarket too in a precise and targetable fashion in the future?  Keep in mind with this last objective; once you open the lines of communication between you and individual members of your audience, you need to understand how you’ll maintain them. Who will maintain and grow the conversation with individual members of your audience? Finally, in addition to knowing what you want to accomplish, you should also know by when do you want to accomplish it? Set a date when you look to accomplish your goals and consider what you need to measure so that you’ll know when you’re done.

Once you’ve considered the three areas above, customer, value and objectives you’re now ready to consider mobile and how it can be used to help you address the needs of your customer, deliver them value and meet your objectives.  

As noted above, mobile has infinite possibility; in order to get started (this is assume you have not already) you need to consider ways of bounding this possibility.  You can do this by learning the channel, focusing on a primary objective, putting together a phased approach and picking the right partners. 

  • Learn the language of mobile marketing: The best place to start is to first learn the tools and the language of mobile marketing. You need to understand the language of the different paths of mobile, their capabilities and the mechanics of launching and running programs and how to integrate and measure the impact of adding mobile into your marketing mix.   Take a look at the reach numbers, for instance.  You need to know how many people are using SMS (50~90% depending on demographics) versus those that have and use an iPhone (less than 2%).  To get this information and build your knowledge base you can attend events, like the DMA Mobile Marketing for Agencies and Media Buyers day that was recently held in New York, or the Mobile Marketing Association Forum, which will be held in New York on June 2 and 3.   If you can’t make these events, try viewing the introduction to marketing videos by iLoop Mobile on YouTube, or purchase a copy of the Mobile Marketing Association Mobile Marketing Forum DVD set.  You may also consider getting a copy of Web Marketing for Dummies, which has a mini book on mobile marketing, or the Mobile Marketing Handbook.  Finally, reach out to your partners (like iLoop Mobile), members of the Mobile Marketing Association, The Direct Marketing Association Mobile Marketing Council, your local Mobile Monday’s chapter, etc.  The information on understanding the mobile channel is out there, it is plentiful, you just have to go and get it or have a partner handle it for you.
  • Start now, simplify and focus: Once you have a good understanding of the various pieces of mobile, you need to start; that is, get out there and launch a program.  If you’re on the sidelines you’ll never get anywhere.  When starting, start simply.  Pick a simple program, one with the broadest reach and ease of use for all concerned; moreover, first focus on accomplishing just one of your objectives; don’t try to do everything at once. For instance, you might consider building a permission-based SMS audience (a.k.a. an alert group).  You can accomplish this by promoting an invitation to join your alert group via your web site or other traditional media channel.  Once people have joined, just like with an email blast, Facebook status update or Twitter Tweet, you can message to the group, interact with members of your audience; that is, share value with them, such as news alert, coupons, product samples, store locators, etc.  Just, refer to The Code Stone Creamery example above.  They mobile enhanced a radio spot to build their community and sent an event announcement to invite members of their audience to their store opening.  Keep it simple.  Mandee, a retail apparel chain, does this really well, see    

    If you’re not ready to build a text alert channel, then you may consider building a mobile web site, or mobile enhance your voice channel (IVR) programs.  Again, the key to getting started is to focus on the mass-market channels of mobile: Voice, SMS, and mobile Internet, this will have the broadest reach with the most general audience.

    Remember: Mobile need not be a one-way street. You should encourage an interactive dialog with members of your audience.  You can invite members of your audience to respond back to you and give you input on your programs, to detail their needs and let you know if you’re hitting the mark on value delivery.
  • Phased approach: Once you’ve launched your first program, as in the example above, you can then begin rolling out other elements to the program in a methodical and phased approach.   For example, maybe you experiment with other methods of generating awareness for the program, e.g. in-store point of sale displays, radio spots, local events sponsorships, or perhaps you’ll consider adding a mobile Internet component to the mix to enhance and enrich the communication with the audience.   The key to the phased approach is to always balance the customer need, your value, and objectives.  Make sure that each piece you add to your program is helping address customer need, is delivering your value and helping you meet your objectives.   Don’t lose your focus.
  • Pick the right partner:  There are six core elements to any mobile marketing program: 1) Knowledge of the customer and your business, 2) Strategy, 3) Tactics, 4) Creative, 5) Technology & Partnerships, 6) Measurement.  Look at your business, determine which of these six areas you want to develop an expertise in and then find a partner and/or partners to help you with the rest.  For instance, you may consider working with an agency, i.e. ePrize–, to help you with the strategy, tactics and creative, a solutions provider to like iLoop Mobile to help you with the Technology & Partnerships (who by the way can also help you with strategy, tactics, and measurement), etc.  If you’re interested in receiving a checklist for evaluating mobile marketing partnerships, contact me at


The practice of mobile marketing is here and here to stay.  There is no time like the present to get started, you simply to know your customer, yourself, what it is you want to achieve and develop a plan of attack.  That’s it.   You’ll find that once you get going and engaging your audience through the very personal channel that is mobile there are many meaningful and rich rewards awaiting you.