10 Relationship-First Mobile Marketing Best Practices

There is little doubt that mobile marketing has become the dream channel for marketers. Not only is it ubiquitous – there are five times as many mobile phones in the world today as PCs – but its real-time nature and commercial power have elevated its importance in the marketing mix.

In fact, not a week goes by where mobile isn’t grabbing headlines – like last week’s announcement by Orbitz highlighting the fact that smartphones now account for one in five of all its bookings. But those headlines aren’t always positive – like when news came out that Papa John’s is facing a $250 million spam lawsuit related to blasting customers with illegal text messages. The suit once again reminds us that mobile is a highly personal channel and marketers interested in leveraging mobile to build a community must now, more than ever, take a relationships-first approach. So how do you build a relationship and community around SMS? Here are some tips.

  1. Design and build a mobile experience. Every great marketing program starts with building a strategy that not only considers the customer, but her experience. Map out how mobile or SMS messaging can plug into the customer journey. Consider your various personas and segments and plan your strategy accordingly.
  2. Ask for permission and confirm. Leverage key traditional, as well as digital, touch points to build your addressable audience and to communicate the value of a subscription. Use industry best practices and implement a double opt-in process to assure consumers who receive your messages are bought in.
  3. Access and authorization. If you are an organization thinking about distributing access to your SMS platform to divisions, franchise outlets, or salespeople, don’t forget to establish a review and approval process. Implementing a strict set of internal controls can go a long way and if it’s supported/integrated into your SMS platform, even better.
  4. Grow engagement and conversion. Gather preferences and critical information during the opt-in process and leverage your CRM data. Combine those preferences with segmentation data and customer insights to create high-value messages that target users based on their preferences, needs, and interests.
  5. Timing is everything. The “when” in mobile is essential not only to be relevant, but to avoid a potential issue or complaint. Implement triggers based on key consumer behaviors, but also take care to avoid sending SMS promotional messages on off hours. Nothing is more annoying than be awakened by a company sending you a promotion in the middle of the night. Analyze and leverage data such as mobile site/app usage to better understand consumer engagement.
  6. Make technology your friend and build a dialogue/create loyalty. Select the right platform and partner. Look for technology that can support programs and use-cases throughout the marketing funnel and consumer journey. It’s about building a great experience, after all. Be sure your provider includes support for multiple-use cases including:
    • Awareness: Text alerts
    • Consideration: Text for response
    • Intent: Text for location
    • Purchase: Purchase and shipping notifications (triggers)
    • Experience: Polls, surveys, and text to speak to a customer representative
    • Loyalty: Loyalty statement

    In addition, the platform partner should also support multi-step program creation and API integrations to create an ongoing dialogue and to trigger relevant messaging based on an individual’s specific behavior. Finally, also think about the experience post-click. Optimize corresponding landing pages to create the complete mobile experience from start to finish.

  7. Socialize mobile experiences and build community. Leverage key events and involve the community and/or participants. Have attendees vote for the player of the game, or MVP or shoppers determine the deal of the week. Share the results in real time via social channels, the web, or even the Jumbotron or ticker place in-store or via another medium (e.g., TV). Create recurring programs to build a sense of community and involve the audience to enhance their experience.
  8. Tag, monitor, and opt out. Gauge reaction to text messaging by tagging landing pages to understand response and conversion to individual messaging. Monitor and process opt-out and use surveys and polls to further optimize key messaging streams. Use dedicated keywords to assure opt-out “Stop” texts are tied to individual messages and not all messaging is tied to a short code.
  9. Orchestrate cross-channel programs and optimize. Great marketing is all about sending the right message, to the right person, at the right time. But it also takes understanding a consumer’s channel preference. Use your preference center and customer insights to understand the preferred channel of choice for key messaging including mobile, and orchestrate and optimize accordingly.
  10. Test and learn. Like all marketing, dedicate a portion of your budget to test-and-learn activities. At a recent MMA conference, Coca-Cola shared the fact that it dedicates 10 percent of its mobile budget to new tactical programs to test and learn. Furthermore, it has built a center of excellence for mobile to make sure those learnings are then shared with others across the organization.

It’s clear the world has gone mobile and case studies highlighting the success of leading brands like Orbitz showcase the enormous opportunity this burgeoning channel offers marketers across all industries. But doing mobile right requires a focused, relationships-first approach that includes adhering to best practices (check out the MMA guidelines), creating great user experiences by thinking through the customer journey, and supporting that strategy with great technology, capabilities, and marketing know-how.

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