How to use mobile effectively

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Dave Whetstone is CEO of Clonefone, a company that allows consumers to manage their mobile phones online. He previously worked for Virgin Mobile, Verizon Wireless, MobiTV and Publicis, and is a former board member of the Mobile Marketing Association. BtoB spoke with the 14-year-veteran of the wireless industry about the use of mobile as a direct marketing tool.

BtoB: What role do you think mobile phones can play in direct marketing?

Whetstone: Mobile phones are the ideal for direct response. Whether people are listening to the radio, seeing an outdoor billboard or standing in line at the checkout counter, consumers can respond to marketing messages, request and receive information or, of course, make a phone call. The best mobile marketing campaigns tend to be part of broader cross-media campaigns, and mobile helps increase response rates from other forms of media. Text messaging and mobile Web pages are common elements of mobile marketing campaigns. In terms of direct marketing, people can opt in for various reminders or information delivered on their cell phone, sponsored by a brand.

BtoB: How should a company begin the process of mobile marketing?

Whetstone: I usually recommend that companies start with their existing customers. For example, Southwest created a mobile Web site that provides customers with the ability to check in from their mobile phones. That may sound simple, but for Southwest customers, it may mean the difference between getting an “A” boarding pass and getting stuck in a middle seat. Every company should be thinking about how they can interact and create loyalty with their customers through mobile devices. A mobile Web site is a good place to start. There are companies like iLoop Mobile and Crisp Wireless that make it easy for companies to get started. Advertising is fairly well-established on mobile Web pages, and companies like Third Screen Media allow companies to buy a network of mobile Web placements.

BtoB: What are some of the biggest challenges with mobile marketing?

Whetstone: In mobile, brands have to deal with a wide range of technologies and the protective nature of the wireless operators, who are very cautious about letting people send text messages and other information to their customers. The operators have some cumbersome procedures that must be followed to initiate most mobile marketing programs. It can be done. It just means that brands should partner with companies like MBlox, Mobile365 or similar companies that know how to navigate this process. When it comes to video advertising on mobile devices, keep in mind that many customers with older devices will not be able to view video. But for those who can, video and mobile TV can provide a much more robust advertising experience. Companies like Rhythm New Media and MobiTV are enabling cell phone video advertising.

BtoB: What is on the horizon that you think direct marketers should know about?

Whetstone: There are three key developments that I think will have a dramatic impact on growing mobile marketing in the next year: mobile search, dialed domains and on-device portals. Today, you can text a search term to the short code 4664353 (GOOGLE) and receive results via text messaging. Soon, search will be available with one click of a button on your phone. Dialed domains from companies such as Zoove will allow you to dial things like **COKE from your phone and to receive back promotional information, launch a video, or connect people to an IVR/live operator. While many consumers don’t understand short codes, everyone knows how to dial their phone. On-device portals are now enabling a much more robust mobile Web experience by fetching content in the background and providing a much more intuitive way to navigate. Companies such as Action Engine, Mobio and Zenzui can help brands sponsor certain sections or provide greater interactivity with customers.

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