Mobile devices and mobile marketing are surging; but, when it comes to b-to-b marketing, no one seems exactly sure where that's heading.
According to figures presented by keynote speaker Karsten Weide, VP-research, digital media and entertainment at market data and analytics company IDC, at the BtoB Forum: Mobile Marketing conference, in just a few years, more people will access the Internet through mobile devices than desktop computers.
The result, marketers say, will be a vastly different Internet. It will be mobile-optimized, designed to be read on a small screen and deliver vital information rapidly. Best of all from a marketer's point of view, it will be omnipresent—busy executives often carry smartphones with them from the time they wake up until they turn off their bedroom lights at night.
But b-to-b marketers have yet to figure out how to cash in on this vast mobile audience.
“It's kind of new,” said Anna Bager, VP-general manager of the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence. “It hasn't really taken off.”
Part of the issue may be not knowing where to begin. On the consumer side, mobile apps allowing people to remote-deposit checks with a simple scan or receive coupons after checking in to a location are taking off. But there is no simple analog on the b-to-b side, which is often characterized by longer, more complex and higher-ticket sales cycles that don't lend themselves easily to 160-character texts or simplistic apps.
Still, Christina “CK” Kerley, a b-to-b marketing specialist, suggested an easy place to start: Optimize Web content for mobile users.
“It's common sense, but sometimes common sense isn't so common,” she said. “Some companies are making a mistake by advertising on mobile devices, then sending people to a website they can't read. Many times, you can't scale to fit, or the website is using Flash technology. It's enough to make a marketer tear her hair out.”
Once a site is optimized, the challenge is to design mobile marketing campaigns that reach your customers where they are in a way that makes sense. Ultimately, Kerley said, mobile campaigns should make life “better, faster and easier.”
So far, no mobile marketing technique has emerged as the leading avenue for b-to-b marketers, IAB's Bager said. Mobile marketing channels include display advertising, outbound opt-in text messaging programs, custom apps and in-app advertising, and SEO-optimized mobile websites.
“There are several different platforms and problems around measurement and tracking,” Bager said. “Like everything else in mobile, you need to be really creative.”
In terms of development, Kerley said that display advertising and text messaging are probably the easiest, while custom app development is the most expensive and time consuming.
“SMS alerts work beautifully as long you don't overload the channel,” she said. “Apps are wonderful, but it's very important to have a firm strategy behind them. They are the hardest thing to develop. It can take six months to design and fully test an app in every mobile environment.”