Circulation executives embrace mobile

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Many audience marketers and circulation directors across the industry have been busy gathering names, phone numbers and e-mail addresses in hopes of finding a new way to reach their audiences—through mobile marketing.

Since a person's handheld mobile device is such a highly personal item, marketers are very cautious about plans to use mobile marketing. Reed Business Information is playing the waiting game as technology matures to a point where mobile devices can also function as transactional devices. This "is critical for driving subscriptions," said Karthik Krishnan, director of interactive products at Reed Business.

While Reed Business optimizes its e-newsletters and transactional e-mails for mobile devices and is exploring ways to make its Web sites handheld-friendly, more energy is spent on targeting mobile marketing for trade shows. At these face-to-face events, the company has the potential to gain new prospects when attendees sign up for messaging at its booth.

One trade show tactic Reed Business employed to draw foot traffic was to make Bluetooth alerts, detailing various show-related events, available via signup at its booth.

"From our perspective, mobile marketing is at a very nascent stage and is great for consumer product branding" such as Motorola's campaigns at House of Blues where people can send pictures from mobile phones to a giant screen for display, Krishnan said. However, in the b-to-b world, Reed Business more often uses mobile marketing to send information to current subscribers rather than using it strategically to gain new subscribers.

According to Kathy Henry, group director of strategic community and audience development at CMP Electronics and the company's Game, Dobb's and International Customer Management Institute groups, audience marketers should avoid "cold marketing" in the mobile world. "Our audiences would really bristle at that kind of touch point" without initially being asked to opt in, she said.

The biggest potential upside, Henry said, is at events where mobile can be employed to report time and venue changes as well as other meeting changes to attendees. "This could extend to sponsored events or offerings [such as] `Don't forget the mixer at 6 p.m. in the great hall sponsored by Company A,' " she said. Or, she suggested, a company could sponsor traffic or weather reports on the day people would be flying to an event.

Henry also said that information sent to mobile devices needs to be very service-oriented and very much requested. "[Mobile communication] needs to be useful as opposed to promotional," she said. "So you could sell a mobile touch point to an advertiser, but it is best if the advertiser were sponsoring some piece of information."

CMP, which has tested various mobile strategies, said it has high expectations for mobile marketing. Stephen Wellman, editorial director of CMP's BTG E-mail Newsletters, noted that "mobile marketing is rapidly moving beyond text messaging to include other types of campaigns, including text message-based coupons, more graphic-based marketing messages and free downloadable content."

And while it's still an emerging market, Wellman said he has seen b-to-b marketers experiment with mobile Web sites, text messaging and some limited trials with mobile campaigns for live events. "I think we'll see more mobile efforts targeted at b-to-b audiences in 2008, with several of these trials moving into more full-blown campaigns," he said.

Krishnan pointed out that advances in technology will greatly help subscription-acquisition efforts. "Once mobile devices gain cachet as a payment instrument, one can envision a complete cycle—from prospecting to transacting," he said.

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