You can't avoid it. Everywhere you turn, everyone is talking about mobile—with the business world abuzz over mobile tools, technologies, and channels.
But even as B2Cs have been diving into mobile at a frenzied pace, B2Bs have been falling behind. Whether because they're skeptical, or they're waiting for others to move first or they're paying attention to other media, B2Bs are missing prime opportunities to reach and engage their business audiences by not integrating mobile into the marketing mix.
The Mobile Revolution & B2B (my recently released mobile-marketing guide) lays out the business case for how emerging mobile media can uniquely engage business audiences, not just consumers. And it outlines a set of recommendations for B2B marketers—chief among them, to elevate mobile to a priority in the marketing mix.
Based on that guide, the following six questions and answers provide B2B mobile insight, examples, and advice.
1. Why is mobile particularly prime for B2B companies and audiences?
The best way to answer this question is with a question. Ask yourself, When was the last time I saw a business executive without a mobile device?
The statistics are nothing short of mind-blowing: There are 5 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, with 72% of the US workforce already mobile and 64% of decision-makers reading their email via mobile devices. Mobile phones aren't merely nice-to-have communications devices; they are must-have business tools to which today's business audiences are always attached.
Mobile is prime for business audiences because it comprises the one set of media most used by business professionals. Therefore, if B2Bs want to be where their audiences are, they should set their sights—and budgets—on mobile.
2. Why refer to mobile as a revolution? Isn't it just a new medium?
The real story on mobile isn't the nifty new devices, such as smartphones and tablet computers. Those are just the screens. What is most important—yet not widely understood—isn't that we're changing our technology, but that this technology is dramatically changing us. More than just an exciting new medium, mobile is driving an entirely "new normal" by revolutionizing the way we communicate, connect, work, and live.
Due to the pervasive and instantaneous nature of anytime-anywhere media, consumer and business audiences now have significantly higher expectations and lower thresholds. And they now expect more control and exhibit much less patience.
So if we're witnessing a sea change in our market's behavior—a revolution in the way our audiences work and live—then we, as marketers, must revolutionize our companies, too.
3. How is mobile different from other media, and why is this important for B2B?
Mobile is the consummate one-to-one medium that marketers have forever sought. After all, what is more personal to you than your mobile device? It's always switched on, always on your person, and it's personally customizable in every way—from the ringtones you choose for each caller, to the apps that you download for work (and play), to the alerts that you set to organize your personal and professional activities.
Moreover, between their impressive processing power and myriad features, today's smartphones have morphed into personal computers that "just happen to also ring."
Mobile's unique one-to-one nature is particularly important for B2B because, unlike B2C, our business environment is punctuated by high-priced offerings, long sales cycles, and complex contracts. And thus, B2B success has always been a function of how adeptly B2B companies build and maintain strong relationships with their buyers.
The key takeaway is that B2Bs can make use of this highly personal medium to build and improve those critical relationships with their buying audiences.
4. What are some good examples of B2B mobile programs?
Companies in various industries have used mobile to reach and resonate with their business audiences. Among them:
- USA Today partnered with location-based check-in service Gowalla to deliver its region-specific travel content to business travelers at the exact time that they need it most, such as when they land at the nation's busiest airports.
- To stand out from competitors at its industry's leading tradeshow, interactive health education company ClearPoint combined high-buzz content (healthcare reform) with high-interest mobile platforms (iPads) to engage event attendees with interactive quizzes that fostered two-way conversations vs. one-way pitches (like the tradeshow's other exhibitors).
- JPMorgan Chase Bank has made banking better, faster, and easier with a transformative app that lets business customers deposit checks from anywhere via "point-shoot-click" quick-photo bank deposits.
- And cloud-based software provider Brainshark has developed a mobile app that enables professionals across Sales, Marketing, and HR to easily search, browse, view, and share media-rich content in real time from their mobile devices, as well as to track the views of their presentations via mobile alerts.
5. How should B2Bs start "going mobile"? What are the priorities and steps?
I advocate several imperatives, but here are three key steps that B2Bs should be taking.
- Marketers need to optimize all their Web content for mobile environments, across their websites, landing pages, e-newsletters, and thought-leadership campaigns. What is paramount to grasp is that B2B audiences are increasingly accessing content through their mobile devices, so all marketing content must be optimized for all the devices that they use—smartphones, tablets, or laptops.
- B2Bs need to review all their current and planned initiatives to identify how they can improve success rates by integrating mobile tools, components, and channels. For example:
- If you're running print advertisements, could you include a call to action for your audience to "text for more information"? The idea is to provide a stream of opt-in SMS alerts to your audience and institute a new channel of communication.
- If you're exhibiting at a tradeshow, why not include mobile barcodes in your signage and collateral? Your audience can scan them with their mobile cameras to get more information on your company, or to save your contact information to their mobile devices.
- If you're publishing in-depth articles as part of your thought-leadership initiatives, how about also turning those into a series of brief pieces that are more easily read over mobile devices?
- Can you take the content that you're delivering in text form (such as the thought-leadership pieces), and produce a set of short videos or audio podcasts that can be much more easily consumed by your audiences in the mobile environment?
- B2B marketers (along with their leadership) need to assess and determine strategies for how mobile can enhance their current set of offerings or advance their overall business, or both. This is where B2Bs can wield mobile technologies to extend the core value proposition of their brands into the mobile environment.
Make no mistake, these mobile strategies work to improve B2B ROI, but, equally important, they ensure B2B's relevance in a newly mobile world.
6. What is your biggest advice for today's B2Bs?
Stop viewing mobile as purely B2C media, and start elevating it to a priority in all of your B2B marketing communications, strategies, and programs.
Remember, mobile is set to trump PCs as the "first-screen" device for all Internet activity by as early as 2013, according to research. And with more mobile subscriptions than PCs, landlines, and TVs combined, mobile already stakes claim to the most sweeping set of media of all time.
Therefore, it's not that business professionals are going mobile, they've already gone mobile—and now, it's B2B's turn.