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July 19, 2014

From Zero to Hero: How Mobile Revolutionized Planet Marketing

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Mobile marketing has gone stratospheric since the advent of the smartphone, but it’s been around in some form or another for more than 20 years. SMS messaging gave marketers a whole new channel to pursue during the 90s, when cell phone ownership first became widespread. Now, with text messages the most commonly read form of communication, advertisers are cautiously rediscovering the possibilities of SMS marketing.

But mobile marketing is about much more than SMS. The smartphone age has seen to that by putting the power and connectivity of a desktop computer into the palms, pockets and handbags of almost everyone in the western world. Some inroads were made into serious, non-SMS mobile marketing tactics during BlackBerry’s first flush of success in the early noughties, but when the first iPhone hit stores in 2007, marketing execs really sat up and began to take notice. 

As developers clamored to create apps to go along with Apple’s devices, the first wave of modern mobile marketing tactics began to take shape. The focus was very much on volume, and publishers relied largely on getting high app store chart rankings in order to gain visibility. Marketing efforts were all about short-term gains, with the main objective to generate as many downloads as early as possible in order to climb the charts. Quantity reigned supreme over quality.

These early years of app/mobile marketing were dominated by incentivized downloads – something Apple continued to allow until April 2011, despite the obvious credibility problems. Tracking performance was problematic. Platform regulations were loose, and developers took full advantage; it was essentially a land grab, the Old West of app and mobile marketing. 

By 2012, developers began thinking about the possibilities of quality and performance tracking. CPI-based campaigns gathered steam and, and better quality tracking was sought. For their part, Apple tightened its rules, clamping down on people accused of gaming the chart system by using bot farms to generate inauthentic downloads.

Around the same time, publishers became more data-focused, integrating in-app analytics software to collect metrics like usage, engagement, retention and monetization potential. There was a growing focus on high-quality user experience – but mostly with the objective of retaining customers for the medium-term.

That all began to change over the last 18 months, as a new climate took hold in the tech world. The shift is now overwhelmingly moving in the direction of stellar quality, as mobile marketing campaign managers realize that acquiring new users, even for a pittance, is not sensible unless they are retained, engaged, and monetized. Against that backdrop, some unlikely transactions have taken place – such as the $19 billion acquisition of WhatsApp by Facebook – but there is no doubt that the app world has raised it’s game. With GPS technology and other location-based tools fast improving, the future of mobile marketing is unpredictable, but undeniably exciting.

 

 

June 24, 2014

Smartphone Use at Work on the Rise

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Whether at home or work – or even while on the commute between the two places – people carry their mobile devices with most of the time. In 2013, 132 million people around the world used their smartphones while at work, with that number expected to grow by nearly one third to 174 million people by the end of 2014. According to recent figures, as many as 328 million workers will be bringing their smartphones to work by 2017. The fact that people use these devices while on the job presents rich opportunity when it comes to SMS marketing. 

While B2C retailers have taken advantage of such widespread smartphone use in recent years, what may come as a surprise in the B2B arena is just how many workers today use their devices to complete work-related tasks. Therefore, the rise in smartphone use at work spells enormous opportunity for B2B SMS marketing as well. Thanks to the release of the 5S, a rise in iPhone use on the job has accounted for 54 percent of newly activated workplace mobile use. And more people are also, of course, using Androids at work.

Mobile Gains Popularity as a Business Tool

Companies have been increasingly adopting mobile apps for business use. The days when employers discouraged workers from using mobile devices at their desks have been on the decline. Enterprise app activations have been up 54 percent since 2013, which is an acceleration from the 42 percent growth rate from earlier that same year. VMware’s recent announcement that it would be spending $1.5 billion to acquire AirWatch, a rival mobile device management enterprise, says a lot about the many business opportunities a mobile presence at work has to offer.

Currently, the most popular business use of mobile devices is document editing, with business intelligence apps and cloud storage also rising. More and more enterprises today are even building their own business apps. However, the fact that people are already using their mobile devices while at work now means they are more likely to respond to B2B SMS text marketing while on the job.

Smartphone Use Means Convenience and Efficiency

Until recently, the widespread presence of mobile devices at the office only meant marketing to consumers as they scrambled to fit personal online shopping and other errands into the hectic work day. Now that more and more of the workforce uses mobile devices for business purposes, however, B2B SMS mobile marketing will experience enormous growth opportunities as well. 

SMS texting is an invaluable tool for communicating with B2B clients partly because SMS texting costs only a small fraction of what phone calls do. SMS also saves money, increasing efficiency through features like mass texting and automation.

At the end of the day, more than half of workers making business-to-business purchasing decisions for their companies now use their smartphones to gather product and service information before placing orders. That number is only growing. Therefore, B2B SMS marketing has become an absolutely essential part of any B2B marketing campaign.

June 10, 2014

How to Get More Leads with Mobile Marketing

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Lead generation on the web may seem straightforward enough: businesses simply promote offers on their landing pages and through social media, email, etc., and a lead is generated every time a potential customer fills out the lead generation form. However, mobile visitors do not behave the same as those who surf the web on a desktop computer. Therefore, the online experience needs to be adjusted accordingly in order for mobile marketing to result in optimal lead generation.

Following is a list of mobile marketing optimization strategies for better lead generation:

Using Progressive Profiling Forms. Online forms must be short and easy to fill out, or mobile users won't bother with them. Instead of using long form fills, asking for a plethora of information, progressive profiling forms can be used. With progressive profiling forms, fields that were filled out the previous time by the same visitor can be replaced with new fields, thus making each form shorter and ultimately creating easier navigation and more return visits.

Making Calls-to-Action Simple. The CTA text must be action-oriented, short, readable, and clear. Avoid distracting images that are too visually heavy. The CTA must also be easy to click on a small screen. Think: large buttons!

Advertising Mobile-Friendly Specials. Promotions and discounts that may be redeemed through mobile devices, such as on-location promo codes, are a great way to appeal to mobile users. For example, as customers enter a store, geo-location technology can offer them a specific discount for texting a keyword to the company’s shortcode. The result? An increased sense of customer loyalty as well as a longer list of leads for future business. 

Optimizing Content for the Mobile Screen. People often look at their smartphones when they only have a few extra minutes to “kill.” For this reason, many users may not reach the bottom of an article. Therefore, content should be frontloaded with lead generation links. The content should also be easily digestible, and the purpose of the article should be clear from the start. The writing must be concise and include bold, short, “tweetable” headlines. It's a good idea to test out different types of material to see what mobile visitors are most likely to read, whether it's “how-to” articles or lists – and then create more of that type of content.

Enabling Measurable Action With Just a Few Clicks. People pick up their mobile phones with the intention of taking action, whether that means sending a text message, making a call, or opening an app. Making it easy for users to complete an action in as few clicks as possible greatly increases the chance of bringing them to the point of conversion. When potential customers may simply click on a phone number to place a call, for instance, instead of having to copy and paste it, the odds that they will complete that call are greater. Hence, offer clickable phone numbers and hyperlinks.

Creating a Text Message Campaign.  A mass texting campaign is an easy to get new leads to “opt in.” As mentioned above, for instance, when customers walk into a store and see a sign advertising an automatic discount just for sending a text message, that's a difficult deal to refuse. In exchange, the store may choose to alert the customer once a month about future sales, making him/her a return customer.

The fact that consumers may now access the web so quickly and often means that mobile marketing has a lot to offer when it comes to lead generation. Smart business owners and brand managers know they will create even more leads if they actually make the mobile experience enjoyable for potential customers. Doing so requires making small adjustments to an existing web presence, and those small adjustments can lead to a big payoff in the end.

June 09, 2014

Acquisitions: What They Mean for Your Mobile Marketing Strategy

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Mobile platforms present companies with enormous opportunities to deliver the right marketing message to exactly the right person at the right time. However, many businesses' marketing strategies have not necessarily evolved to keep up with the pace of technology. Mobile technology, when fully harnessed, allows marketers to increase customer acquisitions and acquire useful consumer data in exchange for something the customer values. Companies today need not simply guess what potential customers want, bombarding them with advertisements and hoping people will stop what they're doing and listen. However, most marketing, even mobile marketing, continues to do just that. 

Utility Marketing Versus Interruption Tactics

The traditional customer acquisition strategy for most companies has been what is known as interruption marketing, which in essence means blasting out as much advertising as possible – through commercials, telemarketing, etc. – and hoping someone will pay attention. Unfortunately, because so relatively little is usually known about the message's audience, this strategy is ineffective. A good mobile app, by contrast, costs much less than producing even one television commercial and can deliver extremely relevant content to the exact consumers most likely to become loyal customers.

Proctor & Gamble's Iams Vet 24/7 app is an excellent example of this type of strategy, known as utility marketing. At a very low cost, the company has greatly increased its brand recognition by offering consumers something that makes their lives better: advice. Pet owners are delighted when a company gives them something they actually need – and for free. P&G, in return, is perfectly situated for customer acquisition because its app is on the home screens of devices that never leave consumers' sides.

Data Acquisition and Behavior/Intent Targeting

Another benefit of mobile marketing is that it gives companies enormous data acquisition capabilities. Consumer data obtained with permission may then be monetized through behavior/intent targeting. When a business offers consumers something that improves their lives, they are happy to share information with that company. Those businesses may then use that information, monetizing its leads in more intelligent ways. 

To understand the behavior/intent targeting that mobile data acquisition makes possible, one might compare Expedia's app, for instance, to TripIt's. Consumers may download Expedia on their mobile devices, but not much else happens afterward unless the user takes action. TripIt, on the other hand, offers consumers an itinerary-creation service, allowing them to access air, hotel, and car rental information together in one place on their smartphones.

Customers simply email all confirmations to TripIt, and the app arranges everything into one cohesive itinerary accessible via mobile device. The app even alerts travelers when an essential service such as a hotel reservation is missing from the itinerary. Instead of sending consumers an overwhelming list of options, the app detects hotel preferences from previous trips, along with information indicating which part of town might be most convenient, and prompts travelers to click to accept the suggested reservations.

This app essentially saves the traveler not only the headache of having nowhere to stay; it also spares her from wading through an enormous list of options when the app already has the information needed to target her probable intent, based on past behavior.

Companies may measure customer behavior through standard web or mobile app analytics solutions and then use that data to read consumer intent signals. Thus, in return for the value that utility marketing offers, companies are rewarded with increased customer acquisition, as well as the acquisition of valuable data that consumers readily share. The result is hyper-relevant, hyper-targeted marketing and ultimately increased sales.

May 29, 2014

SEO Strategies to Avoid

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Three letters represent the primary focus of any mobile marketing campaign, and have done for around a decade now. SEO. It’s come a long way since then, adapting to an increasingly complex array of strictures and barriers imposed by search engines in order to prevent people gaming the system, but the objective is the same: improve visibility for relevant industry keywords.

The fast pace of change in SEO best practices means that well-intentioned tips published a year ago may actually harm your rankings today. This is not a dilettantes game. To do it right, you need to stay on top of the latest effective strategies and, even more importantly, those tactics that have fallen afoul of Bot Logic. Smart mobile marketing tactics – or ‘white hat’ techniques – will be rewarded for creativity in the shape of increased clicks, impressions and conversions. The ‘black hat’ SEOs that still haunt our online world are fighting a losing battle. When was the last time you saw a link farm on page one for a popular keyword? I’m guessing some time around the turn of the decade.

Trouble is, the misinformed or naïve SEO strategist will be punished as fully as the cynical black hatter. Even if you adopt a mobile marketing strategy in good faith, if Google frowns upon it, you’re done for. It could set your business back months. With that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of ‘must-avoid’ SEO tactics so you know what not to do…

 

Reciprocal Links

There is much confusion surrounding the value of reciprocal links. Of course, links from friends, family and business associates are a natural part of entrepreneurship. This is where the ‘link as vote’ analogy is helpful. Think of your business as an election campaign. You can and should reach out to potential ‘voters’ and ask them to support your campaign for success. But if you receive an unsolicited email from someone you’ve never heard of, and they request a link exchange, accepting it would be like associating your ‘candidate’ with the wrong sort of voter. In most cases, such emails will come from sites weighed down by links already, and the greater the link:valuable content is, the lower the value of each additional link becomes. Chances are, if they’ve contacted you (usually via automated software) they stand to benefit from your link much more than you from theirs. Don’t be tempted by offers of dodgy links. Bide your time, and grow your backlinks in a more organic way, and Google will love you forever. 

Peak Keyword

Back in Web 1.0, you could happily stuff a page with keywords, safe in the knowledge that this unsophisticated metric was given credence by search engines. Those days are gone. Now, when Google bots crawl a page crammed with keywords, they will consign that page to the bottom of the results.

Link Overload

Placing relevant links in your article is a key part of creating useful content – but overdo it with extraneous links and you will be stung by the search engines.

Comments

Just as link building needs to be done slowly and with great care, commenting on others’ blogs as a way of boosting your online profile can be a positive organic approach. But as with all good SEO practices, you need a rich mixture of tactics to get real results. Even if you’re only leaving comments of value, blog commenting for the sole purpose of building links is nothing less than spam.

May 28, 2014

Mobile Tech Saving Small Businesses Billions

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A compelling survey commissioned by AT & T claims small and medium sized businesses in the US have saved $67.5 billion a year by adopting mobile marketing tactics like SMS messaging and mobile coupons. Smartphone targeting has almost achieved full market penetration, with 94% of small businesses using them, up from 85% last year. Smartphones are saving companies 1.24 billion hours and $32.3 billion annually, according to the report.

Other mobile devices are having a similar impact on commerce. Tablets purportedly save $19.6 billion, and a staggering 754.2 million hours annually. Mobile apps have given back close to 600 man hours to small businesses, and saved them $15.6 billion per year.

Clearly, these figures spell fantastic news for budget-conscious startups. Entrepreneurs can now pump that surplus time and cash back into their business to increase productivity and improve customer engagement. Cost-cutting measures are welcomed by any business, of whatever size – but it’s the time saving possibilities that are relished most by survey respondents: 9 out of 10 small businesses who use mobile applications said the principal benefit was reducing man hours, and most of those estimate annual savings of up to $6000. 

Cathy Martine, AT & T’s president of enterprise business solutions said in an accompanying statement:

"In the current economy, mobile technologies are critical to enabling small businesses to save tremendous amounts of time and money by helping them do more with less. As a result, we're seeing more and more small business owners and employees turning to mobile technologies to not only keep them connected but to put them ahead of the curve." 

As a mobile marketing strategy, well-designed apps put brand recognition and awareness firmly in the hands of business owners, allowing them to offer a proprietary tool capable of boosting ROIs without absorbing the long-term costs usually associated with traditional marketing campaigns. The use of mobile apps has increased by 65% in the last two years alone. Some 77% are using multiple apps, and a significant 5% uses 20 or more apps, with GPS and mapping programs comprising the lion’s share.

One of the most striking benefits of mobile apps is the ‘open all hours’ appeal. According to the survey, the average number of days on which business is conducted via smartphone exceeds the average number of days the company is open for business. While small and medium sized businesses are open for an average of 5.7 days per week, close to half of all respondents with smartphones are making deals seven days a week.

The lessons are clear: if you are a small business and you still don’t have a mobile marketing strategy, now is the time to join the party. The results are proven to be fast and affordable, so get with mobile marketing now, and you will feel the benefit before the year is out. 

May 02, 2014

Using Emojis in Text Marketing

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Remember the early days of Web 1.0? Every site had a garish color scheme. Pioneering html coders took a fast and loose approach to formatting. Most of all, those early developers were extremely limited in terms of the type of content they could provide. It was all huge blocks of text, presented in one of the seven or so fonts available at the time (none of them attractive).

 

Look how far we’ve come in twenty years. The inexorable rise of video and photo sharing apps like Instagram, Hulu, YouTube and SnapChat indicate an audience that overwhelmingly prefers visual content over plain text.

 

The evolution of an increasingly passive, content-hungry audience has thrown up some major challenges for mobile marketing campaign strategists. How do you keep visual content fresh? This is a particular challenge for small businesses who lack the budget to keep generating exciting new content.

 

Emojis are a fantastic method of adding some color and vim to your campaign without spending too much cash. Originally from Japan, these tiny pictographs represent emotions, objects, ideas and much more. In 2011, after Apple added them as a language option, their popularity had exploded.

 

Why are they so useful for mobile marketing campaigns? Well, even the very best writers can have their text misconstrued; not everything can be communicated through words. Emojis can convey certain emotions and tones of voice in a way that mere words cannot.

 

Emojis have been used with great success by a number of mobile marketing campaigns, including PETA’s Cruelty Beyond Words initiative. The target demographic was principally a young audience who tend to engage less with charitable causes. Realistic, vivid emojis have been used to encourage young people to share information about the initiative, with PETA supporters able to text a red heart emoji to 73822.

 

Branded emojis are helping companies and organizations of all stripes reach more of the 80%+ of US mobile users who send text messages. The ubiquity of texting makes it the perfect platform for mobile marketing managers to engage with audiences – especially younger people. And for important social movements, where images are often more powerful than words, emojis are becoming an essential part of the fabric of mobile communication.

 

April 30, 2014

Google Glass Adds Text

 

The official release date for Google's consumer version of their infamous wearable device, Google Glass, is expected to be announced just about any second now. One intriguing feature that's extremely promising in the world of SMS text message marketing is that Google Glass will enable such messaging via the iPhone, as it does on Android devices. Thanks to this update, iPhone users will be able to use the iOS Bluetooth settings' “show notifications” option to view SMS text messages through this high-tech eyewear.

SMS texting has already proven to be a flexible, far-reaching, and cost-effective marketing tool with a high conversion rate; the fact that text messaging notifications will now also appear in the immediate view of consumers wearing Google Glass is an incredible boon to companies that employ SMS text messaging as part of their marketing campaigns.

The Convenience of SMS Text Messaging

It is almost impossible to imagine a more immediate, more convenient, and more certain way of reaching a consumer base than through SMS texts, but it looks like Google Glass may have just found that way. The overwhelming majority of consumers today have mobile phones, and that percentage is only growing. Needless to say, consumers tend to keep those devices nearby – although not directly in front of their eyes, necessarily – at all times, and they check them frequently. Mobile users are wary of answering phone calls from strange or blocked numbers, so text has become a solid alternative for getting messages in front of consumers.

Considering that texts take only take a few seconds to read, and that the receiver controls when and where he or she opens it. SMS text messaging is far less intrusive than a phone call. As a result, studies show that 97% of texts received are actually opened and read, most within just minutes of their receipt. The fact that text messages are concise, that they reach consumers on their own terms, and that they are one of the most intimate ways to engage users likely explains why the conversion rates for text marketing campaigns are, in turn, so high. Now, with Google Glass, the open rate may reach even further! 

The Answer is Right Before Our Eyes

The time it takes a company to send out automated marketing messages to the instant receivers actually view the message is already extremely quick. After all, the only marketing message that's faster and more likely to be seen than one sent to a mobile device would be a message that literally appears right before our eyes. That's exactly what the Google Glass SMS text messaging update for the iPhone does. The only caveat is that iOS users will not be able to send text messages with Glass, only receive and read them. This is due to a “limitation with iOS” according to Google.

Nonetheless, this update and the imminent launch of Google Glass will spell worlds of difference when it comes to marketing and communication in general. What will Google come up with next?! Give us your ideas below!

 

 

April 28, 2014

How SMS Messaging is Cutting Patient Wait Times in the UK

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We’ve heard a lot about the health industry’s slowness in catching on to the benefits of SMS messaging and other useful technology. In part, this hesitance is down to entrenched ideas about patient security, but it’s also about restricted budgets and old-fashioned reluctance to change.

In Great Britain, healthcare professionals are slowly coming around to the potential benefits of using SMS messaging between staff and patients. Patient waiting times is one of the hottest issues for the NHS – and one of the most easily solved through the power of text.

An automated SMS messaging system is being trialed across the UK. It gives patients the option to change, accept or receive alternative appointment dates. Did-not-attend rates (DNA) – one of the biggest causes of waiting times – dropped 20% in two hospitals after the rollout.

The NHS made the move in response to a survey that indicated 91% of patients would accept last-minute appointments if a cancellation freed up time – even with only a day or two’s notice. The pilot scheme shows some 50% of cancelled appointments could be refilled using SMS messaging.

Such clear, indisputable successes bode well for the future of SMS in the healthcare setting, which is beholden to tight budget targets. Using extant technology capable of communicating with patients smartphones is the logical answer decreasing the burden on hospital infrastructure.

There’s also an indication that the ease of communication is transformative for the patient experience. Combining SMS with online services, hospitals can engage the difficult younger demographic who make up the majority of DNAs – and most of whom own a smartphone.

Such creative use of existing technology is contributing significantly to the fight to reduce missed appointments, late cancellations, and the failures to meet 18 week deadlines on waiting times. SMS messaging won't solve everything, but it’s freeing up time and resources that can focus on fixing other problems in the NHS.

And there’s no shortage of problems for a health system under increasing threat from spending cuts. Government figures from earlier this year show 2.9 million people were waiting for treatment in the first month of 2014 – up by 362,000 from January 2013. The number of patients who were not treated within 18 weeks also rose.

If these trends are to be reversed, SMS messaging could hold the key. If the pilot is expanded into a systemic policy implemented across all NHS hospitals, the British public will find out...

 

 

April 27, 2014

New Payment Platform Could Revolutionize Mobile Marketing

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As businesses shift focus towards the mobile wallet, developers have raced to meet their needs, but there hasn’t been a truly comprehensive payment system that also tackles customer service issues before, during and after purchase. Until now.

This week saw the launch of Retailer iQ, an analytics and targeting platform developed by Coupons.com. According to the press release, it aims to change the shopping experience for consumers and retailers by making it ‘digital, mobile and personalized.’

Retailer iQ combines a number of innovations in one:

  • Personalized recommendations for products
  • Personalized coupons
  • Integrated shopping lists
  • Targeting capabilities
  • Real time analytics
  • Digital receipt via SMS messaging

None of these capabilities are new in themselves, but this is the first time they’ve been successfully combined – and the implications for mobile marketing campaigns are significant. Retailers can use the platform to reach consumers when they’re about to head out, during their shopping experience, and after they’ve gone home. The analytics capabilities allow brands to identify relevant, personalized offers which they can issue to consumers on the move via mobile marketing coupons.

Retailer iQ has already been used to great effect by Walgreens, who trialed the platform in more than 8,000 stores nationwide. Users can redeem mobile marketing coupons at point-of-sale, and receive follow-up offers according to their tastes and preferences.

But Retailer iQ’s star player (from most retailers’ perspective) is the paperless receipt and promotion function that keeps brand and buyer connected well beyond the cash register in store. At checkout, consumers have the option of receiving an e-receipt, delivered via text message or email.

For consumers, one of the key attractions is the shopping list capability. As well as storing and managing items, it incorporates personalized offers based on purchasing history. All managed via a dashboard, the experience is digitized from start to finish.

As more consumers switch to the convenience of online purchasing, mobile marketing tactics like geo-targeting and coupons are meeting their needs, and platforms like Retailer iQ are helping drive a new type of shopping experience.