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Why YOU are what's holding mobile back

Why YOU are what's holding mobile back Jordan Greene


The chasm of understanding between buyers and sellers in the U.S. mobile marketing and advertising domain still remains at a significant distance, and may actually be growing. Vendors of services and products continue to address their audience assuming that they are much further up the learning curve. They use philosophical approaches, nouveau jargon and fancy animated presentations.


However, these sales pitches go way over the heads of buyers at many companies in the U.S. who have yet to create a mobile campaign of any kind. These buyers, interestingly, continue to hear how powerful the mobile channel can be, and due to a seeming unending flood of mobile options and disparate information, they do not know what is real or best. They are left with a very basic and common dilemma: How do I get started, today?


Why isn't mobile here already?
As we are currently in the third consecutive "year of mobile," it would seem as if mobile marketing is widely understood and utilized effectively. The audience is there, with over 250 million users in the U.S. The usage is there, with shocking numbers of text messages being sent at over 50 billion per month, and continued growth in the number of consumers accessing a version of the web through their phones. This should be an opportunity that any marketer could not pass up. But by observing the number of brand campaigns that are visible in everyday life, it is clear that mobile investment continues to be a very small fraction of overall media spending. Just as with the internet a decade ago, buyers need to understand the basics of this medium before they can extrapolate concepts and advanced engagements. This is where many vendors and agencies fail their perspective clients.


Ironically, companies in and around mobile advertising fight each other blindly for the existing crumbs of potential revenue. Instead of meeting the needs of clients today and pushing the growth of the overall medium, many look and plan for tomorrow. Inside the mobile industry, companies continue to jockey for position in offering the next generation of advertising platform. "The next way to access the consumer." "The future of targeted engagements." As the language and conversations continue to evolve inside, these companies have overlooked those outside their realm. These sellers have forgotten how to speak in the fundamentals of mobile marketing and address for potential clients what can be executed effectively right now. This misstep prevents many companies from joining the mobile evolution and stagnates the overall industry.


Throughout this process, the technology and service suppliers continue to collectively gripe about the lack of revenue growth, despite all the hoopla and promise of mobile. They continue to miss their contrived financial projections, and turn the blame to other parties in the marketing chain. These companies seem to miss the simplest conclusion: they themselves are not addressing their audience appropriately. Ad agencies play their role in the confusion as well, acting as a middleman translator. Since the underlying brands have interest in mobile, agencies are pressured to include it in their pitches. They do so even if they do not understand how to use mobile effectively and do not know where to find the best return for clients' investments in the current marketplace. The result is that they often mystify their clients -- and frequently themselves -- during the planning and execution, and deliver lackluster results.


On the other side of the equation, buyers are getting flooded with many mobile advertising options, each claiming to be the key avenue to the end consumer. With companies offering mobile marketing, mobile advertising, mobile banner ads, mobile websites, direct-text campaigns, in-call media, mobile search placements, pre-roll mobile video, on-deck promotions and interactive television options, to name only 10 subsets, it is easy to understand why a first time buyer gets lost. But even listing out these possibilities gives a fuller view of the overall market landscape. From even a very basic economic point of view, there is clearly a great deal of supply and not nearly as much demand. In short, it is a buyer's market for mobile, and an ideal time for brands to try out the medium.


Now back to the question of how a brand can get started in mobile to take advantage of the current opportunities.



Most importantly, ask questions. If your agency team can only answer one question deep and then follows with a, "We'll get back to you on that," then be concerned that they are not the right match for your mobile campaign. That is the first tip-off that the agency is beyond its own understanding of mobile and really is only repackaging another company's offerings.


If you find this issue, or just want greater control and transparency, hire a mobile marketing agency yourself that reports back to you. In this relationship, as well, you can add pressure to gain a better understanding of the overall medium, the agency's background and how its proposed campaigns will truly impact your business. However, in this approach, you will have to manage two agencies to play nice together to meet your collective goals. Then again, it is your money, and you are ultimately accountable for it.


Get good advice
You know your business, but your expertise on mobile ends with two New York Times articles and your kids' involvement with "American Idol." You are not alone. To combat this, buy the capabilities you are missing. By adding reliable counsel on mobile strategy, planning and implementation to your team, you have a component to keep your interests first and leverage your overall ad spending. It is not surprising that this advice may not come from a contracted vendor, as their primary goal is to make a sale or grow the relationship. Hiring your own expert, either internally or on contract, can give years of real experience and a strong asset to effectively navigate and negotiate in the current market. The small investment will keep your agencies "honest" and give you a foundation for the inevitable growth in this medium.


Try a text messaging campaign
Start with the basics of mobile before you get fancy. Any mobile campaign should be an extension of your overall brand and business goals, and not a stand-alone entity. So weave mobile calls-to-action into your website and traditional media.


For example, let a consumer send directions to your restaurant from your website to their phone, along with some clever advertising. Enable a consumer to enter your sweepstakes off of the $50,000 out-of-home billboard you just bought, and then respond back to them with your branding message. Develop an opportunity that lets a consumer join your membership club with the touch of a few buttons after hearing your radio commercial. Text messaging is not boring if it is used creatively. It can be a highly impactful avenue to communicate with the consumer.


Marketers should not feel alone or ashamed that they have not tried mobile yet. The vendors continue to make this a hard market to understand, and they expect the buyers to close the gap. In reality, though, the brands hold the power and can force the market to come to them.


There is no need to sit through 32-slide presentations on how Google Android will someday soon revolutionize your company's daily operations. Understand how mobile can enhance your marketing with today's vast consumer usage. Control the conversations, and get what you need from mobile now.


Jordan Greene is a mobile media consultant.

Jordan Greene has been on the forefront of the mobile industry for over a decade. At Mella Media, he brings hands-on mobile expertise and vast experience to his clients, enabling them to gain a significant advantage in the current global...

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