Marketing: How to Reach Your Mobile Customers

Marketing in a World Gone Mobile by Chuck Martin, author of "THE THIRD SCREEN: Marketing to Your Customers in a World Gone Mobile."

Welcome to the mobile revolution.


The first screen—television—made it possible for brands like Procter & Gamble and Coca-Cola to reach millions of consumers. The second screen—the PC—allowed interactivity between companies and customers. But the third screen—the smartphone—takes marketing into a new dimension.

Mobile is in the process of revolutionizing the way companies big and small interact with consumers. Rather than the broadcast model of television and to some extent the internet, marketing to the untethered, mobile consumer is different in many ways.

First, the mobile phenomenon is massive and global, with roughly 5 billion cellphones in use, or 73 percent of the entire world population. In the US, the percentages are even higher, with about 297 million people owning a cell phone, or 94 percent of the population.

But the massive installed base of mobile phones is only a part of the story. The real key is what these devices can and will do, in terms of enabling and encouraging new consumer behaviors.

The untethered consumer seeks information or service based on what they’re doing, when and where they’re doing it. For the first time, marketers can link supply and demand with time and location in relation to current and potential and customers.

With location-based technologies built into smartphones, businesses can determine customer location in relation to their products or services and have the potential to reach out to those customers with relevant and valuable messages.

Of course, customers will be invited in and must agree to participate in such opportunities. This means companies must devise offers that are of high-enough value to incent customers to opt in. Offers could include special, unpublicized deals, on-the-spot discounts or added rewards.

For example, AT&T is using the location-based mobile marketing platform Placecast to create ShopAlerts to tap into mobile customers. By creating geo-fences around retailers’ locations, highly targeted messages can be delivered to consumers as they get within the perimeter of the particular store or near the point of sale.

Advertising partners of AT&T, including Kmart, JetBlue, HP, Kibbles ‘n Bits and SC Johnson are participating. To incent customers to join in, S.C. Johnson will have a geo-fence around its Target stores offering discounts to mobile shoppers. JetBlue uses the geo-fences around airports to give award points when travelers in its frequent flyer program check in with JetBlue’s mobile app.

Mobile marketing is highly personal, since the mobile phone is an individual’s device, personalized and pulled forward to be used by each person. Companies need to be allowed in by the mobile consumer and they can just as easily be invited out at any time. This makes the mobile relationship between company and customer delicate. The company can stay as long as they provide value to the individual.

In return, the best and most engaged customers can be highly connected to a company or brand. In a world gone mobile, the customer is in the driver’s seat. Everything starts there, with the phone.

To stay relevant in the mobile revolution, companies should consider these concrete steps:

  • Benchmark current customers’ mobile usage and patterns. Do most of your customers have smartphones? Are they all texting? Do they watch mobile video?
  • Test and Learn. See what works and what doesn’t and go from there. Don’t do nothing.
  • Measure and analyze. Determine your metrics for success and closely monitor how your customers use your mobile offerings.
  • Leverage geo-location. Determine where and when your customers interact with your offerings and leverage that information.
  • Add value to the consumer experience. It’s not about the phone, it’s about the value a company provides.
  • Think service. Create mobile offerings that make life or work cheaper, easier or fun. These are the keys to making a successful mobile app.
  • Avoid the bright shiny object syndrome. Just because a new mobile feature appears to be the latest and greatest, don’t jump onboard immediately. First, measure its potential relevance within your overall mobile strategy .

Mobile is a game changer. Those companies that do not get this – and soon – will find themselves left on the sidelines.

Chuck Martin is CEO of Mobile Future Institute and Director of The Center for Media Research at MediaPost Communications. He is the author of THE THIRD SCREEN: Marketing to Your Customers in a World Gone Mobile (Nicholas Brealey, May 2011).


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