Christmas 2010 will have seen yet more smartphones and iPads gifted and purchased. This will mean that the number of people accessing the Net on pads, tablets and phones will continue to rise. And hence, you will need to consider reaching these people through mobile marketing.

Originally, the term meant simply sending a text message to a mobile phone, but that was before convergence became rife and a mobile device could mean anything that accessed the Net and could fit in your pocket or briefcase! It no longer means purely connecting over the GSM mobile network,  but also through wi-fi and 3G, and on the move. Obviously, the major difference between a mobile device and your average desktop is screen size, but there are other differences too that affect how mobile marketing and internet marketing messages differ.

Bandwidth is generally restricted when on the move, so any content must be reduced in file size and easier to download than over a wired connection. Many networks charge for access so all content must be as light a burden on your user’s pocket as possible. No-one will thank you for files that take eons to download and then carry a hidden cost.

Also, people accessing the mobile internet are often even more pushed for time than previously. Perhaps sitting on a railway station, drinking a coffee, waiting to board a plane, or just checking emails briefly before a meeting. Your content needs to be in much smaller snippets, literally byte size chunks.

Knowing how each of these devices work, and is used by your potential audience, is a must, so get yourself down to your nearest electrical retailer for an hour and play. Try out an iPad, an iPhone, an Android smartphone, a tablet, and any and all toys you can lay your hands on.  Ask for feedback from your customers and staff about their experiences on mobile devices. Ask about everything that these devices are used for and listen carefully.

Look at how your website works on a mobile device. For instance, it’s amazing how quickly you will replace all your vital PDF files for readers of your newsletter, Twitter feed, RSS etc, when you realise just how long they take to become accessible!

Check your web site analytics to see how many people are already accessing your site via mobiles. You may find it is far lower than you would wish, or far higher than you expected. Discover why, and work to keep improving the stats. Mobile internet is NOT going away – the sooner you engage the better.

Work with your search marketing agency to target the mobile audience if you believe this is a core target for you to reach. Mobile marketing has a slightly different bent than standard internet marketing. Many more links come from interactive apps than search engines, so you will need to work on your presence within the social networking arena, as well as building relationships with those who are active in this space.

SEO is still important with mobile marketing, but if your site is already well optimised for the search engines, then you should shift your focus to creating mobile-friendly content, engaging in the social networks, and being found via the most suitable apps for your business.

Creating apps that offer the user a valuable service (which may not be a direct revenue generator, but can grow audience share) is to be considered as it will ensure you have a presence on the user’s device. However, take note of the privacy concerns we highlighted in a recent article when designing apps.

This “device presence” is a very different approach to a website, as it highlights the paradigm shift that mobiles have brought to the world – businesses now come to the user, rather than the user coming to the business. It is vital that you adopt the mindset which accompanies this shift.

Personalisation is now paramount to user experience and however your user chooses to include you on their personalised device, you are at their mercy!  If your app is not to their liking, it will be deleted – Puff! Gone! And it is unlikely that it will be re-installed in a hurry. With a website, whether a visitor likes it or not, it will still be there on the Net for you to change, redesign, update. It will still be listed on the search engines for them to find and visit, should they choose.

Apps and mobile content should be far more easily customisable than your website. Whilst putting a different skin on a regularly visited website is a cute option for a visitor, a very small minority will choose to do so. However, with an app, it is now in their pocket, on their device; it belongs to them, and personalisation is ever more important.

Revenue from mobile apps and content should not be your top priority, but it is possible to cash in on mobile content. Consider adopting the freemium model – some paid and some free content. It is clear from a quick tour of any of the app stores that many companies offer a free version of an app as well as a premium, paid version. Ditto the services that are offered when using an app.

In order to benefit to the max from mobile marketing, you need to understand it. Ask your internet marketing agency to demonstrate how the different devices work, and the types of strategies you will be able to deploy within your own marketing. Even if all you do is create a mobile friendly website (a slimmed down version more suited to low bandwidth and smaller screensize), learning about mobile marketing in 2011 is a must.

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of Silicon.com's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology