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Want to get into mobile marketing? Know your customer

In this book excerpt, author and industry watcher Chuck Martin shows how customers' mobile behaviors should dictate companies' marketing strategies.

Mobile marketing strategies mean nothing if the company executing them knows nothing about how their customers use their phones in the first place. This excerpt from the book, "The Third Screen: The Ultimate Guide to Mobile Marketing," by Chuck Martin highlights key questions companies need to answer about their customers' mobile behaviors. Martin is an author, speaker, industry watcher and columnist who writes about mobile initatives and other marketing issues across the digital landscape. In this excerpt, he examines when creating Mobile apps can be appropriate for companies and how to demonstrate value to the customer when communicating in a mobile setting.

The marketing strategy for interacting with the mobile consumer should align with the goals of the business, and should take advantage of the new opportunities presented by mobile capabilities. The first step in this process is to evaluate the current and future mobile use of current and future customers.

Different demographic groups can be associated with specific mobile phones or platforms, so the first step is to determine what your customers use, that is, the phones they own and the mobile platforms they use, such as Apple, Android, or BlackBerry. One way to determine customer use patterns is to conduct a survey that simply asks customers what kinds of phones they use and whether they have smartphones. Another approach is to launch a mobile website and track the difference in traffic compared with the regular website. It is likely that a percentage of any given audience will have smartphones; the question is whether that percentage represents a small or large slice of your particular customer group.

It is also possible that the best customers of your business use one dominant category of phone, such as a smartphone. You should then research what your customers are actually doing with their mobile phones. Are they texting, emailing, comparison shopping, buying, or watching video? The types of actions they perform can provide an indication of the manner in which they might be most comfortable interacting.

Is a mobile app right for you?

As we speak with businesses regarding their mobile approach, a common thread is the company's initial instinct to create a mobile app. While this may ultimately be a logical approach, it is not always the best place to start, at least in the short term.

Creating an app limits use to smartphones, and while a significant number of people own them, millions of others have non-smartphones. This leads back to the initial question: Which type of phone do most of your customers use? For some businesses, especially well-known brands, it is expected that at a minimum they will have a great and useful smartphone app, and many do.

Over time, the majority of the market will migrate to smartphones, depending on price consideration and various other factors. And it is the smartphone that is driving the mobile revolution. This is because of the value proposition of smartphones: the computing power and sophistication of smartphone technology can provide consumers with unique abilities to gather tailored information on location, helping make their lives better and easier. This improvement can relate to saving time and money, automating processes, or even helping to stay connected with loved ones through real-time video communications.

Providing value to the customer

The most significant aspect of dealing with the mobile consumer is the idea of providing value. Commercials or advertising messages sent to cell phones will quickly be shut out by the customer. Instead, mobile marketers must determine what customers want and find of value.

What does your product or service do for them, and how can you encapsulate that value in a mobile website or a branded app? Is there a logical brand extension that customers can use?

Some well-known brands have launched effective brand extensions that provide services to customers. For example, Jeep created the app Tripcast, which allows a trip to be tracked and that information to be shared with friends so they can monitor your location along a route. "This was a strategic new channel to develop relationships," said Lucas Frank, brand manager at Jeep. "Our core business is developing the world’s best sports utility vehicle and this is another way they can explore that lifestyle."

A call to action

An application has to be of use to a customer; otherwise, [he or she] may download it once and barely use it, or may never download it at all. Businesses may also need to provide different versions of the same utility, such The Weather Channel's different weather-tracking applications, which are tailored to the type of phone being used.

Mobile also provides the opportunity for the mobile consumer to do something: to act, to buy, to seek information [and] to interact. This is where a call to action comes in. After you've established that you have something of value to the customer, you've got to get her to take the next step and act based on her attraction to that value.

How easy are you making it for the customer to act and react? How easy are you making it for her to shop? How easy are you making it for her to buy? What incentives are you including for her to act now? In mobile, including a call to action is key.

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