Rather than recommend that marketers undergo dreaded technical training, some of the most experienced in mobile marketing suggest a common-sense approach to the channel.
Here are four practical tips from four marketers in the trenches of mobile marketing.
1. Walk a mile in your customer's shoes
"Do what feels right," Mario Schulzke, IdeaMensch founder and senior director, digital strategy, WDCW, told me in research for my book, Mobilized Marketing: How to Drive Sales, Engagement, and Loyalty Through Mobile Devices.
"Build a marketing program around tactics that make sense for you," Schulzke said. "I have many clients who are overwhelmed by Twitter, Facebook, Foursquare, and the like. But when we talk about creating content that provides value to existing and potential customers, they get that. Having a roundtable discussion on Twitter is no different than going to a networking meeting. Crafting a webinar and capturing leads via email is no different than speaking at your local Lion's Club."
Specifically for mobile, Schulzke recommends that marketers walk in the shoes of their customers and prospects.
"Do what makes sense to you, and always think about the value you provide to your audience," Schulzke advised. "Focus on the fundamentals. Respectfully communicate with your customers via all channels. Don't pretend to be something you're not, and do the right thing."
2. Think beyond a generic digital playbook
"What most people have," according to Steve Mura, director of digital marketing, MillerCoors, "is what I call a generic digital playbook, meaning trying digital is important so, 'We're going to use digital. We're going to use Foursquare and Facebook and Google and all these folks.'"
"What happens is every technology is fair game," Mura continued. "What happens when you get a clear strategy is you say, 'Here are my goals in digital. This is what I need digital to do to help me sell more beer.' There are other people who built really cool businesses and have really good technology, but they won't help you get to where you need to go."
Mura strongly advises marketers to fully understand and apply only those technologies that will positively affect their company's bottom line.
"That's the fundamental place we are in as an industry," Mura continued. "There are those who get digital and know how to use it to help their business, and those who know digital is important and just go out there and flounder in the space for the next couple of years because they're going to say 'Facebook is just as fair game as Google search or as Foursquare.' What they're going to find is half of those things weren't intended to build their businesses. That's a costly and long lesson to learn."
3. Take a walk on the mobile side
Barbara Williams, who serves as global SEM and digital advertising lead for Xbox at Microsoft, says it's time to get away from your desk—whether you are in Columbus or in Copenhagen.
"This is something really simple," Williams said. "If you're not sure if you should be doing mobile, take a page out of a classic consumer research model and do ethnographic research. You can do it on your own. Go to the store, go to the mall, go out to dinner, and sit back and watch people. Just watch. Old school. And you see everyone is on their devices and they are spending quite a bit of time on their devices and they're not making phone calls necessarily and they are not just doing SMS. They are doing a lot of things."
Beyond observing, Williams advised that marketers start applying what they've learned to their own business.
"When you see that happening around you everywhere you go, think about, 'How can I insert my product or my brand or my message into these experiences?'" Williams advised. "Just look at the world around you. And listen to young people who grew up in the digital age. Their behaviors are completely different. You'll see this is definitely the route to take. Invest the time to learn it and understand it. Explore it yourself."
4. Dive in with transparency and thick skin
Terence Reis, a former Mobile Marketing Association managing director and the current director of operations and partner at Pontomobi Interactive, sees mobile as the vehicle to a value exchange between brands and their prospects and customers.
If you're not doing mobile, "you're losing an opportunity to start a unique conversation with your customers," said Reis. "You'll find customers on mobile will start a conversation only if they trust you and they expect transparency and good services. You'll be forced to learn how to talk to people again. And your company will find that it's not only a matter of talking. The negative points of your products will be thrown mercilessly at your inbox."
"But if you have the guts," Reis continued, "you'll be in control and will have the chance to improve your product and your relationship with your audience."
Of course, understanding the technology behind mobile can make you a better marketer. That's common sense.
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