Thursday, August 2, 2007

To Mobile or Not to Mobile

20 years ago the idea of using a multimedia marketing campaign over the wireless network would have been difficult to grasp. For a number of reasons, marketing to mobile phones, especially for a business to business campaign, has been a non-starter. Le Grand Roadblock has always been that unlike the phone or email at work, mobile phones are personal domain. You wouldn’t want to market to someone’s mobile phone for the same reason you wouldn’t want to call them at night at home: it’s their personal space and they’re more likely to resent you for the intrusion than thank you for the valuable information or idea you’re marketing.

But more than that, mobile phones up until now haven’t been universally adopted as web clients, and using them as such requires a pretty big leap of faith from a demographic and adoption standpoint. Take the case of mobile email for example. In my social network they’re ubiquitous, but Gartner Group tells us that only 2% of email accounts are wireless and even by 2010, a light year in Web2.0 time, only 20% of email accounts will be accessed on mobile devices.

Although the multi-billion dollar B2C revenue projections for mobile devices seem impressive, most of that is what could be considered “mobile accessories” like wallpapers, music, graphics, ring tones, etc. That’s not going to convince me to dump ad dollars into a campaign for a non-wireless product.

In the US, where 85% of the people have cellphones, Telephia and comScore claim that 30 million people in the US are using the mobile web. If that’s true, that’s a pretty significant adoption rate – especially if it’s growing as quickly as they claim.

I’m excited for the prospects of Mobikade and will be tracking its progress as it tries to get a foothold in a market where PCs are more prevalent than in its native Japan. Also Mozes seems like an interesting test for the tolerance of frequent and unsolicited text messages, but even when explaining those concepts people are careful to point out that they’d be less receptive to the same interaction with corporations.

Even with all these questions about market size and adoption, I still think there are opportunities that corporate marketers can take advantage of to accommodate the mobile workforce.

According to Gartner Group, there will be three billion mobile subscribers in the world by 2010 – that’s just under half of well, everybody.

My mobile strategy will consider those with smart phone functionality as well as those still getting by with just dial tone. After doing some homework, I think this strategy will be broken down into three areas of focus:

1. Mobile Campaigns - This is a one-off approach that involves creating a way for mobile users to participate in your marketing campaign efforts. Here are a few examples:

Audio Entries - The "My WebEx Moment" campaign is a good example of focusing on mobile users. The 'My WebEx Moment' campaign is a way for users to submit interesting stories of ways that WebEx transforms their lives. Mobile users can call in and submit an audio entry.

Text Entries- Although this is not a B2B example, American Idol (and most other reality shows that require user participation) does this well by allowing voters to text their votes - this same process can be used for surveys.

Mobile Ads/Videos - I don't plan on spending too much time here if any since only a small percentage of phones are web and video-enabled but for the right campaign it might make sense.

Mobile Coupons - Although this is more for a B2C marketer, B2B marketers can still use mobile coupons as incentives for mobile participants in their campaigns.

Mobile Extras - Other fun stuff to consider is offering mobile wall paper,
downloadable ring tones or mobile games.

2. Mobilize Your Content: Voice publish your content with audio casts - and I'm not just talking podcasts. Unwired Nation allows you to turn your web content into an audio file. I always wondered why more companies don't convert their white papers into audio casts - it seems like a natural transition from audio books. I haven't tried it myself but it's on my 'to-do-list' for FY08.

3. Mobile Web: This is the biggest commitment. This involves optimizing your website (or a subset of your website) for smart phones. Cisco was nominated for the Webby Awards for it's mobile web which involved recreating a subset of for mobile devices.

The mobile marketing space is uncharted grounds for me so I would love to hear about any good or bad experiences any of you have had when trying to tap into this market.

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