Consumer marketers are naturally drawn to tactics that offer the greatest reach. Brand marketers, in particular, are reliant on distribution channels. As a result, the largest audience of possible buyers usually dictates where marketing dollars flow.

Yet a universal truth has emerged: The best return on investment (ROI) comes from targeted, personalized, and (often) one-to-one marketing methods.

It's been relatively easy to classify available marketing tactics according to how much reach or targeting is afforded by each, but mobile is different. Communication between a brand and consumer via text messaging can be an effective way to engage, share offers, and send/receive alerts, but the ROI is difficult to measure, and little is learned about consumers (aside from their mobile phone numbers).

So, what can be done to make the most of your mobile marketing dollar?

Overcome Mobile Fragmentation

The limitations of most technologies that run and track mobile SMS texting campaigns cause mobile marketing to have a "one and done" reputation. Campaigns are also underwhelming, considering that consumers expect marketing efforts to be targeted and relevant, especially when delivered via a digital channel.

Although branded mobile applications can be engaging and can also have public relations value, they're not always the most effective use of your mobile marketing dollar.

The fact remains that fragmentation persists in the smartphone market: As a marketer, do you blast messages via text in an untargeted fashion in an effort to reach every type of mobile phone? Or do you create an application that may be usable by only a fraction of possible customers (smartphone users)?

Such dilemmas have frustrated marketers and caused them pause when allocating marketing budgets to mobile activities.

Mobile Device as Business/Consumer Interface

Where there is frustration there is also opportunity: Consumers today are able to use mobile devices for all types of communication, including text messaging, email, and social media interactions.

Armed with the right technology, marketers can target and reach virtually any consumer on a handset via those different digital marketing channels (text, email, social media). No longer is reach possible at the expense of targeting.

1. Activate Your Mobile Customer

"Activation" involves obtaining the consumer's permission to communicate with them and learning their digital channel preferences. Activation is the first step toward a unified customer profile that grows over time to include attributes and other information about the customer relationship and enables more-targeted, relevant, and higher-response campaigns.

Progressive marketers employ various tactics to activate their mobile customers:

  • Point-of-sale calls to action. You can, for instance, promote an offer to join a loyalty program or opt in to receive "special" offers. You can also obtain email addresses and opt-in permission, along with other details (basic demographics, social media identities, etc.).
  • The Web form. Website inquiry forms are the perfect place to request permissions and data from consumers. These forms should hook directly into your marketing system so that no manual intervention is required to append form details to the customer profile.
  • Out-of-home calls to action. Billboards, magazines, and radio and television advisements are all places where calls to action to opt in to a mobile marketing relationship can be posted.

2: Cultivate Your Mobile Customer

Cultivation is similar to retention. Many mobile marketing programs have fallen apart at the cultivation step because there was no plan in place to engage consumers following activation. Without cultivation, consumers end up opting out of the program—either because they forget about the brand altogether or because they forget they opted in to begin with.

To cultivate your mobile customers, you must maintain an ongoing program designed to engage them with relevant, timely, and personalized communications. The program should include other offers and calls to action.

Cultivation not only helps maintain the base of activated mobile customers but also builds on the knowledge you have about those customers.

The following are some examples of how marketers could use that knowledge for segmentation and more targeted messaging:

  • Targeted offers. Having simple demographic information and product preference data can set the stage for offers that can map into loyalty programs, product release or promotion schedules, and other marketing plans.
  • Promotional sweepstakes. These can also be used over time to drive floor traffic and increase purchase frequency, at the same time helping to build the unified customer profile by requiring customers to answer new questions.
  • Cross-channel engagement. Interactions via text message, Web forms, and email can all be driven through a single system based on a unified customer profile, which will facilitate the flow of interaction across digital channels and deliver a one-to-one marketing experience.

Setting the Stage for Cross-Channel Marketing

Amid a sea of marketing messages bombarding consumers every day, thoughtful and integrated marketing campaigns can cut through the noise and give marketers confidence that their marketing dollars are being used wisely.

Mobile-optimized marketing campaign systems that help marketers orchestrate campaigns across digital channels are leading the way toward a future where handheld devices become the primary means by which businesses engage customers.

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Mobile Marketing: No Longer a Tradeoff Between Reach and Targeting

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Gib Bassett is director of marketing at Signal, a provider of software-as-a-service (SaaS) mobile solutions that help marketers develop, execute, and analyze cross-channel mobile, Web, email, social media campaigns. Reach him via email, LinkedIn, and Twitter.