Smartphone use is exploding, providing new opportunities for marketers to connect and engage with target audiences.

According to ComScore, 69.5 million Americans owned a smartphone as of Dec. 31, 2010—up 13% from the three months prior. Of those users, 68.8% used their devices to send texts, 38.4% accessed the Internet via their smartphones, and 36.6% used mobile applications on them.

Moreover, more than one-half (55%) of US consumers who purchased a new handset in the three-month period ended May 2011 bought a smartphone instead of a feature phone, up from the 34% who did so during the same period a year earlier, according to Nielsen.

And according to Prosper Mobile Insights, some 53% of smartphone owners say they use all of the functions of their smartphone, so much so that "it's their life."

Those mobile adoption and use rates open the door for marketers to reach targeted audiences in a variety of new ways, including branded apps, online coupons, quick response (QR) codes, text messages, advertising, location-based services, and mobile websites.

But how can marketers optimize their mobile marketing campaigns, and track and record mobile conversions?

Below are three steps for boosting mobile marketing conversions.

1. Optimize your website for mobile

The current interface on most mobile phones can make it difficult for users to navigate, type text into search bars or form fields, and engage in prolonged data-driven interactions with standard websites.

For those reasons, your mobile site should align with standard best-practices—having a simple design and layout, using limited graphics, and requiring minimal navigation.

A user-friendly mobile site will serve as the foundation of your mobile marketing campaign and help you convert visitors into leads—especially when you consider that some 56% of smartphone owners say they prefer using a smartphone to a computer when accessing the Internet, according to Prosper Mobile Insights.

2. Align calls to action with search behavior

To convert mobile site visitors, you must first understand a mobile user's mentality.

Mobile users are "likely to have more immediate and goal-directed intentions than desktop Web users. Their intentions are often to find out specific pieces of information that are relevant to their context," according to the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C).

Therefore, the key to increasing conversions is to align your calls to action with the user's need for actionable information and quick communication.

Instead of featuring Web forms as the main call to action, consider placing your phone number in prominent positions throughout your mobile site. Phones' click-to-call feature will allow mobile browser visitors to easily call you, rather than having to complete a lead form.

If you do include contact forms, keep them short and simple to limit the amount a visitor has to type.

3. Track both online and offline conversions

To fully understand the effectiveness of mobile marketing campaigns, marketers must have both online and offline conversion tracking capabilities in place. Similar to tracking on your main website, tracking on a mobile site can be achieved by integrating Web analytics and call-tracking solutions.

Web Analytics

The simplest way to understand mobile Web engagement is to integrate Web analytics, such as Google Analytics (free), Omniture SiteCatalyst, WebTrends, or Unica. Web analytics provides valuable insight about site interaction, including traffic source, pageviews, time on site, navigation paths, and online conversions—as well as mobile device type (e.g., iPhone, BlackBerry, and Android), and carrier.

Call Tracking

Because of the ease of launching phone calls from mobile devices, simply tracking online conversions would likely tell only a fraction of the campaign conversion story. By pairing Web analytics with call tracking, you can get a complete picture of your mobile lead conversions.

Call-tracking technology can connect mobile website activity with resulting phone calls. That means you can easily trace offline phone conversions back to your online mobile-marketing efforts. In addition, you gain insight into call details, such as call length and time of day—and a recording of the conversation.

* * *

Marketers can fully understand the effectiveness of mobile-marketing campaigns, identify opportunities to improve performance, and determine how to allocate their budgets to maximize return on investment—if their mobile campaigns drive traffic to a mobile-friendly site, align calls to action with visitor needs, and integrate offline call intelligence with online conversion data.

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Opportunity Calls: How to Effectively Capture Mobile Marketing Conversions

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Kathleen Colan is director of marketing and content for Mongoose Metrics, a call-tracking solution provider based in Cleveland, Ohio.