Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Blockbusters Versus Bombs: Perfecting the Product Pitch

(I temporarily digress from my usual posting about the mobile industry to blog about a topic near and dear to my heart: Product Management.)

Product Managers at technology-driven companies are challenged to evangelize their exciting new product ideas. Effective product managers need to paint the big picture first and foremost - whether to management or to their peers. To this point, there are some amazing parallels between the making of a blockbuster movie and the making of a blockbuster product. I'd like to draw your attention to three of these points: (1) The Pitch, (2) The Storyboard, and (3) The Pilot.

This blog post is all about The Pitch. Future posts will expound upon the other two.

Technology products are ... well ... technical. Technical products require technical explanations. Or maybe not. Psychologists tell us that the human mind needs context before it can grasp detail. To be an effective product manager, you must be a Master Storyteller.

Imagine that you're sitting in the Brown Derby making your pitch to a movie studio exec. You only have ten minutes - fifteen at the most - to get him interested enough in your idea to give the go ahead and proceed to the next step. Are you going to start talking about camera angles and special effects details and who is going to play what part? Of course not. What are you going to do? You're going to tell the big picture story, a summary, an overview. But not just any overview. You're need to present a summary that is so compelling that in fifteen minutes or less, the exec is willing to commit millions of dollars to making it happen. Can't be done? Dude. It's Hollywood. It happens all the time.

How do you tell your story? Movie plots always have three elements: (1) the hero, (2) the villian, (3) the resolution. Here's an example of a movie plot overview. See if you can spot the hero, the villian, and the resolution:
A Mumbai teen who grew up in the slums, becomes a contestant on the Indian version of "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire?" He is arrested under suspicion of cheating, and while being interrogated, events from his life history are shown which explain why he knows the answers.
Recognize the story line? It's Slumdog Millionaire, this year's Academy Awards Best Picture winner.

As a Product Manager, you are the evangelist for new product ideas. Work the three elements of the story plot into your pitch. Naturally, your idea is the hero. What's the villian? Is it an unserved need? Is it a rival company? What's the resolution? What's so gosh-darned exciting about your idea that makes it the perfect solution? It is absolutely essential that you perfect your story in three sentences or less. If people don't get it, or they aren't as excited as you are, then keep working at it.

Can't be done you say? Your products are too technical to get people excited in three sentences or less? Au contraire. Which of these two product descriptions gets you the more excited:
A new portable MP3 player combining a small 5GB hard drive, a FireWire port, and a standard 3.5-mm headphone jack in an ultrasleek white and stainless steel case with a 2-inch white backlit LCD display and an estimated 10 hour battery life.
A thousand songs in your pocket.
Anyone who attended Macworld when Steve Jobs unveiled the iPod will recall that single memorable sentense that brought the house down.

The Pitch is absolutely essential in order to establish crystal clear product vision within your company. Above all, the perfect pitch minimizes scope creep and scope dilution. It helps keeps everyone focused with a clear understanding of WHAT they are all working towards, and WHY they are doing it. There's an old saying, "Without vision, the people wander aimlessly". Likewise, without The Pitch establishing the clear product vision, the product wanders aimlessly in development, in marketing, in sales, and in the marketplace.

Finally, every good product just like any good movie needs a memorable tagline.

"A long, long time ago in a galaxy far, far away." - Star Wars

"Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water..." - Jaws 2

"The Last Man On Earth Is Not Alone" - I Am Legend

"A Thousand Songs in Your Pocket" - iPod

"The World's Thinnest Notebook" - MacBook Air

"Can You Hear Me Now?" - Verizon

What's the tagline to your product? What is the one sentence that sticks in peoples minds and brings instant connection with your idea? Be creative. Be imaginative. Make it memorable.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

I Still Like Julius Genachowski

Last June, I stated my case that FCC Chair Julius Genachowski is good for mobile marketing. Today, I re-iterate my case, though with a bit more guarded enthusiasm due to greater education on my part.

I originally was highly in favor of Network Neutrality which was one influence in my support for Genachowski. Since that time, I've had the opportunity to hear both sides of the story - especially after having a good chat with two representatives of the CTIA when we were all in Los Angeles for the Mobile Marketing Association Forum last November.

How would you feel if a complete stranger moved into your house, ran his business out of your house and make millions every month. Meanwhile, you're stuck with the mortgage payments, the utility bills, the food bills, and oh - by the way - you have to clean up after him. And you don't see a single penny of that money much less even get a thank you. I'm sure that you wouldn't even allow this stranger anywhere near your property. But what if the government said that you had to, and there was nothing you could do about it? That, my friends, is Network Neutrality in a nutshell.

The network infrastructure providers maintain that Google and others like them have made vast fortunes freeloading on their groundwork. Meanwhile companies like Global Crossing, Level 3, and Nortel Networks took a beating in recent years.

The FCC's recent inquiries into competition in the mobile wireless industry is another cause for raised eyebrows. As long as the inquiry remains an inquiry and does not devolve into intervention, then I'm okay with that. I believe in free market principles - not "fair market" principles. There is no such thing as "fair". Only little children and socialists believe that "fairness" is a reality.

So even with this dose of reality, I still am a fan of Julius Genachowski.

Genachowski's recent speech at the Innovation Economy Conference in Washington D.C. gives me reason for hope.

He displayed a fascinating insight when he equated his vision of the impact of universal broadband to the impact of universal electricity - something that we today take for granted (at least until the lights go out).
"Broadband is reshaping our economy and our country more fundamentally than any technology since electricity. Indeed, there are echoes in the current moment of the era when electricity became widely available in America, unleashing a torrent of innovation. Ubiquitous electricity extended the day into the night. It brought us refrigerators and washing machines; radios and televisions; phones, wired and wireless; data processors, then computers. These and other electricity-driven appliances transformed virtually everything about how we live and how we work."

"Ubiquitous high-speed broadband, like other transformative general purpose
technologies, can spark innovation of every kind -- many we can imagine, and even more we can’t. Indeed, broadband offers particularly powerful opportunities for accelerated innovation through the broad and fast collaboration and information-sharing it enables.

Because of its power to propel innovation, broadband can be our platform for economic prosperity and opportunity for all Americans. It can be our engine for enduring job creation and economic growth. Our Internet ecosystem has already created millions of jobs, and universal broadband can accelerate that. Studies show that increases in broadband penetration translate into increases in GDP." (my emphasis added)
"...we see huge opportunities -- and real risks -- around mobile broadband. Much of what we see suggests that mobile broadband can be the preeminent platform for innovation in the next decade. To be the global leader in innovation 10 years from now, we need to lead the world in wireless broadband."
I think Genachowski "gets it." He clearly understands what's happening in the world today and where it is heading tomorrow.

Check out this quote from the closing of this speech:
"While invisible, spectrum is the lifeblood of our wireless networks and a critical part of our innovation infrastructure. In recent years, the FCC has authorized a three-fold increase in commercial spectrum. But experts anticipate a 30-fold increase in wireless traffic. Given that spectrum can take many years to reallocate and build out, if we don't start the process now, we'll pay a steep price in innovation down the road.

To meet this spectrum challenge, the FCC will have to encourage more efficient uses of spectrum and devices through innovative spectrum policies. We’ll look at increasing spectrum flexibility and opening secondary markets for licensed use. And we’ll look to unlicensed spectrum as well, so that entrepreneurs and inventors have some open space in which to dream up the next miracle wireless technology.
I totally love the idea of opening up an unlicensed spectrum to facilitate innovation incubation. By lowering the barrier to broadband spectrum access, the FCC helps to make it easier for entrepreneurs to develop world-changing inventions.

By recognizing the economic value of broadband - including mobile wireless broadband, Genachowski bodes good news for the growth of the mobile marketing industry.

I'm not a starry-eyed follower of Genachowski, but so far so good.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Is THIS the Year of Mobile Marketing?

"Is this the Year of Mobile Marketing?" That was the running gag at the recently concluded Mobile Marketing Assocation Forum in Los Angeles.

I attended the Forum back in 2007 and again this year. Oh, what a difference two years makes. Back then, the iPhone was only a few months old. Android phones weren't even on the market. Carriers controlled the majority of subscriber's web experiences; "on-deck" and "off-deck" were the buzz words of the day. Fast forward to present day and here's what we have now:

  • 100,000 apps in the iPhone app store with a total of 2 billion downloads

  • For the first time in this year, the total number of text messages sent exceeded the number of voice calls placed.

  • The average age of "texters" is 38-years old.

  • Mobile phones outnumber PCs by 4 to 1 worldwide with 6.8B people, 4B mobile phones, 1.4B TVs, and 1B PCs

  • Mobile adoption is no longer the domain of the affluent. Of the 4.1B mobile subscribers, 70% of them live in so-called "developing nations".

  • An extra ten phones per 100 people in a typical developing country boosts GDP growth by 0.8 percentage points. (The Economist, November 2009 issue)

  • There are >4.1B text msg sent in the US every day compared to 304M Google searches in the US every day

  • The mobile phone has become the convergence of many consumer devices. Quick question: who is world's largest manufacturer of digital cameras by total units sold? Who is the world's largest manufacturer of MP3 players by total units sold. Answer: Nokia on both counts.

  • There are seven Mass Media Channels defined as: Print, Recordings, Cinema, Radio, TV, Internet, Mobile. The mobile device has become a single device that can consume all 7 channels of mass media.

  • Thanks to the precedence set by the iPhone, carriers' roles are changing from media empire to ecosystem enablers.

  • Revenue from voice has been consistently falling over the past 7 years while revenue from data has been consistenly rising over the same time period.

  • The Kelsey Group projects that total US spend on mobile search will grow from $162M 2009 to $2.3B by 2013. 50% of US mobile search ad revenue is local search.

  • Monthly searches per user are ~20% greater for mobile local search vs. online local search. Call through rates are 30x greater.

  • For many people across the world, the mobile device is the only way to access the Internet. By 2020, it will become the #1 access point to the Internet worldwide.

So what's still next for mobile marketers?
  • Mobile marketing works best when integrated with other media channels. But how to tie all channels together with integrated consistency? It's still too fragmented; it's difficult to communicate the value of mobile advertising; metrics have to be understandable.

  • As mobile marketing becomes more mature and marketers become more sophisticated, the need to have independently verified measurements becomes greater.

...and it wouldn't be a gathering of mobile marketers without a dig at carriers for continuing to make the SMS campaign provisioning process unnecessarily painful.

So was 2009 the Year of Mobile Marketing? Only time will tell. But from what we discussed this time around at the 2009 Forum, mobile marketing is certainly one of the fastest growing channels worldwide.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Pitching the Mobile Storyline to the Studio Exec

My fellow Product Managers and I recently met to brainstorm ideas on how we could accelerate innovation within ours organization. Over the course of the discussions, we realized that there are amazing parallels between producing a product and producing a movie. In our company, the Product Management Team meets with the Executive Team on a monthly basis to review key product initiatives for the company. The executives are the ones who review and approve the commitment of resources to bring a product to market.

Pitching an idea for a movie is an experience similar to ours. A good movie is all about the story. Whether an idea for a movie gets approval or not depends on how well you can tell that story within the first few minutes to a studio executive. Even if the actual plot is complex with convoluted twists and turns, the story about the story has to be concise and it has to be compelling.

So - in three sentenses or less - what's the story for SMS marketing?

This is what we came up with: You're a marketer and you're already engaged with your customers through your existing marketing mix. Your prospects and customers are holding your brand message and calls to action in their long term memory. An SMS message at the right time brings an instantaneous connection with your brand, pulling your brand and call to action out from memory into the here and now.

Here's a simple plotline: You're a national retailer and it's that time of the year to jumpstart your sagging sales with special promotions to bring traffic to your stores. Your marketing mix includes TV, radio, newspaper, email, direct mail, search, and your web site promoting your call to action. "Sale starts this Saturday at 9AM! Come in for discounts between 30% and 70% on all items." People have seen your TV and newspaper ads, heard your radio ads, and read your email alerts at one point or another during the week. It's now Saturday morning. Peoples' awareness are focused on the here and now, "it's the weekend, "what's for breakfast", "what's a fun thing to do today?" Bing! A reminder about the sale sent via SMS on Saturday morning brings instantaneous recollection and connection with your call to action that you spent the whole week building awareness for.

Every movie has a tag line, too: "A long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away," "Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water."

What's the tagline for SMS marketing?

"Add instant energy to your marketing mix"

What one-word keyword(s) best summarizes SMS marketing?
1. NOW
2. Impulse
3. Anywhere

What's your take on our story? Do you have a better one? How would you tell your version of the story in three sentenses or less? What's your tag line? What one-word keyword do you believe best summarizes SMS marketing? Post your comments!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The State of Mobile Marketing

Here we are getting ready to wind down the year 2009. Or, stated in a reverse way, here we are getting ready to gear up toward the biggest push of the year - Holiday 2009.

The interest in the mobile channel continues to grow, and certainly there will be a big push in mobile marketing in the 7 weeks remaining in this year.

So what have interactive marketers been doing these past several months? If you're an interactive marketer, are you curious to see where you fit with your peers?

According to Forrester Research Analyst Shar VanBoskirk's US Interactive Marketing Forecast, 2009 to 2014, total mobile marketing spend is projected to grow in the U.S. from $391 million in 2009 to $1.3 billion by 2014 for a compound annual growth rate of 27%. This is quite illuminating in light of the fact that the Kelsey Group estimates that the traditional segment (i.e. newspapers, direct mail, television, radio, print Yellow Pages, out of home (non-digital), cable television and magazines) will decrease from $141.3 billion in 2008 to $112.4 billion in 2013 for a compound annual growth (or more accurately "shrinkage") rate of -4.5%, and total ad spend will likewise decrease at a CAGR of -1.4%.

In spite of a 27% CAGR, spend on mobile marketing in the US is still a very small piece of the pie.

Forrester Analyst Neil Strother says in his research report, Best Practices: Mobile Marketing, that 65% of survey respondents either currently use or plan to use the mobile channel in their marketing mix, but that about half will do so with a budget of $1 million or less.

Of the marketers using the mobile channel, only about half increased their 2009 budgets over the previous year.

So it appears that marketers are adopting the mobile channel - but doing so cautiously.

SMS, or text messaging, dominates the mobile tactics being used today.

But, be on the look out for increased spending in search as location-based marketing will get bigger and bigger mindshare thanks to the growth of GPS-enabled mobile devices.

So there you have it. Total marketing spend is shrinking in this tightened economy. Interactive marketing - including the mobile channel - is growing, but only because marketers are shifting their media buy from traditional channels into the interactive.

But though long in the tooth traditional channels may be, they are still the tried and the true. Marketers are tempering their budget shifts with caution.

How do you compare to those that Forrester Research surveyed? Leave me a comment.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Mobile Gives Life to Yet Another Channel: Email

In last week's blog posting, I mentioned how mobile devices are giving new life to a dying industry: printed publications. Wouldn't you know it, but thanks to an article by Wall Street Journal reporter Jessica Vascellaro - or more specifically the firestorm that is caused, it appears to me in a round about way that mobile devices are extending yet another venerable means of communication: email.

In her piece, "Why Email No Longer Rules...And what that means for the way we communicate", Vascellaro makes the argument that "a new generation of services is starting to take hold—services like Twitter and Facebook and countless others vying for a piece of the new world. And just as email did more than a decade ago, this shift promises to profoundly rewrite the way we communicate—in ways we can only begin to imagine". While I agree with that statement to a certain degree, I do disagree on other points. Social media have not displaced email as a communication platform; rather, I submit, it is that social media have replaced email for only a specific classification of communications. Twitter and Facebook (in the U.S., that is) have replaced the email containing the pithy witicism which was then forwarded to a friend which was forwarded to a friend which was forwarded to a friend which was forwarded to a friend which was forwarded to a friend which was finally forwarded to you which you then forwarded to a friend which was forwarded to a friend...

Now, thanks to tweets and retweets, I can get my fill of banality without having to scroll through three quarters of the email content just to get down to the original topic. Also, thanks to mobile apps like Echofon, I can be connected at all times through my iPhone.

Also, thanks to Flickr and other photo sharing sites, you are spared the merciless torture of sitting in your friends' living rooms watching slide after slide of what they did on their summer vacation, stalking the Speckled Greeb in the underbrush of Albuquerque. You can now choose to view or not view them
at the time and place on your terms.

Since SMS, micro-blogging and social sites have become the media choice for quick bits, email is still the channel of choice for all the things that you'd like to say in more than 160 characters.

Thanks to mobile devices, email is enjoying another growth spurt. Email service provider Exact Target recently published its email utilization report for 2009. According to Exact Target's findings as people grow older, they tend to use email more and more for their communications. This is not to say that they don't eschew the other channels. In fact, according to the CTIA, the average age of a "Texter" is 38 years old.

Also mentioned in Exact Target's report are the findings of Professor Mike Handley, director of the Institute for Mobile Media Research at Ball State University. He explains that "as of September 2009, 38% of students at Ball State University said that use a smartphone. And one of the biggest winners is email. Two-thirds of smartphone owners say they use email on their phone. Only 9% of feature phone ownsers use email. The increased use of mobile email is significant because computer email use by college students has declined over the past five years. The ability for students to have email on their smartphones fits their mobile lifestyles perfectly."

The Radicati Group reports in its latest study, "Wireless Email Market, 2009-2013," that "in 2009, the wireless email market will total 139 million users. Over the next four years, we expect this figure to increase at an average annual rate of 68%, totaling over 1 billion mailboxes by year-end 2013."

So there you have it. The mobile platform is on one hand a platform killer (think PDAs, low-cost digital cameras and GPS devices). On the other hand, it is a platform extender: (printed media and email).

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Mobile Breathes New Life into a Dying Industry

Printed media is dying. There I said it.

In case you've missed the news, publishing giant Conde Nast recently announced that Gourmet magazine, which has celebrated cooking and travel in its lavish pages since 1941, will cease publication with the November issue. Also chopped by the falling axe are the parenting magazine Cookie and the wedding publications Elegant Bride and Modern Bride.

We, the people, do still know how to read. It's just that our preferences for the medium over which we consume our printed content has changed. Reading words printed on a piece of paper just isn't as popular as it once was.

We prefer to read our content on computer screens - whether they are desktop computers, smartphones or eReaders.

There is one chance for print publishers to save the future of their industry. That one chance is called "mobile".

I highly recommmend that you download and read the executive summary of a recent study, "Going Mobile: How Publishers Are Preparing for the Burgeoning Digital Market." I am encouraged to see that print publishing execs have recognized that the mobile platform presents a new opportunity for their industry.

Here are some of the survey highlights:
  • More than 80% of newspaper and magazine respondents believe people will rely more heavily on mobile devices as a primary information source in the next three years

  • Nearly 70% of respondents agree that mobile is receiving more attention at their publication this year than last. More than a third believe their publication already has a well-developed plan for attacking and conquering the mobile market

  • 44% of respondents who track mobile's impact on their Web site traffic said the devices increased visits by up to 10% today. Half believe mobile traffic to their Web sites will increase by five to 25% in the next two years

  • Among senior executive respondents, 56 percent said their publication has plans to develop a smartphone application in the next 24 months, in addition to the 17 percent of respondents who already have an app in production.

  • Regardless of mobile’s anticipated rise, survey respondents do not plan to abandon their print publications in favor of a digital-only product in the near term.

  • While 55 percent believe that digital delivery of their publication is important to their strategic future, three-fourths believe that their publication will be available in a print form five years from now.

  • More than half of the survey respondents believe the future business model of mobile content will be supported by both advertising and subscriptions.

  • Nearly a third believe that mobile will have a significant impact on their publication's revenue in just three years.

  • More than half of respondents believe that smartphones (e.g., the iPhone and BlackBerry) will become a vital way to distribute their publication within three years, while nearly 42 percent said the same about e-reader devices.

Here's one reason why I believe that the mobile platform just might be the salvation for print publisher: Android.

Android is the operating system behind a number of popular smartphones. As a mobile device operating system, it's really starting to gain momentum. The recently announced partnership between Verizon and Google matches an open source mobile operating system with the United States' "most reliable and largest wireless voice and data network," (as Verizon claims).

But wait! There's more!! Android is also starting to appear in the hottest new class of computers: netbooks. Ultra-portable computers powered by a mobile operating system introduces a new class of eReaders beyond the overpriced and underpowered dedicated eReaders in the market today.

With smartphone and netbooks, "mobile" takes on a new, much more expanded meaning. All this news is good news for print publishers.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Getting Mobile Marketing Strategy On the Right Path

Mobile marketing is one of the hottest topics right now. Following the trade journals and newsletters, it seems that if you're not doing anything mobile right now, then your business is doomed to collapse within the next six months.

While there is a lot of excitement about mobile, just remember how journalists get paid and how all those conference speakers get paid.

The natural human response to the generated hype is "We need an iPhone application" or "We need to do SMS right now."

Marketing is a strategic activity. All successful strategies are built upon successful processes. In this article, I submit Forrester Research's POST Methodology that Josh Bernoff, Charlene Li, Cynthia N. Pflaum, and Scott Wright originally introduced in October 2007 as one process you can apply as you develop your successful mobile marketing strategy.

Forrester's POST Methodology builds upon the following tenets:
(1) People: Get to know your people - not the average person, not your competitor's people; your people.

(2) Objectives: Decide upon your goals. Is it to increase brand awareness? Is it to cut your support costs? Is it to move your customers through the lifetime value cycle? Is it to do damage control (think millions of downloads of flaming laptop battery movies)?

(3) Strategy: Determine your approach to meet your objectives.

(4) Technology: Choose the right technology that best enables you to implement your strategy.

I've seen a lot of different strategic processes before, but I like Forrester's POST methodology because quite frankly, it keeps it all simple. It's easy to remember and it's easy to keep straight. When you're talking about marketing strategies that could run into the millions of dollars, the more simple the process, the better the chances of a favorable ROI.

Forrester Research Analysts Julie Ask, Charles Golvin, Michelle De Lussanet, and Laura Wiramihardja recently published their research article on applying the POST methodology to developing a mobile marketing strategy.

Step One of understanding who your customers are is to take a look at the Mobile Technographics Profile they've developed.

The ladder shows progressive mobile interaction and "sophistication" as you go up higher in the rungs.

Inactives, Talkers, and Communicators tend to be mutually exclusive categories. On the other hand, there is overlap between Connectors, Entertainers, and SuperConnecteds.

So now that you have a breakdown of mobile technographic profiles, the key question you need to ask yourself is "where do my customers fit", and more importantly, "where do my customers that I want to target with my marketing strategy fit?"

There are many different ways that you can answer these questions; time and money are your two resources. The first way to learn the mobile technographics profile of your customers is the most obvious but most often overlooked: ask them. If you have an online presence, how easy would it be to put up a simple survey? Give people a simple incentive to fill out the survey. Keep the questions short and simple - no more than 10 questions and make sure the questionnaire can be answered within 2 - 5 minutes.

Another way is to compare the demographics of your customers (based on your marketing objective, remember?) against the mobile adoption "national average" by age breakdown that Forrester Research Analyst Julie Ask presents in her research, Mobile Technographics.

While gender is no longer a differentiator for mobile technology adoption, age is still one - though rapidly disappearing. So just to get things started, do a test campaign matching your targeted audience by age to the type of mobile campaign you should do. Test your assumptions. Do your customers line up with the average? They may or may not.

If you've been reading about the social media space, you'll also know by now that this is a wealth of information that people are divulging about themselves via their tweets, Facebook posts, etc. Social media data aggregators (like Unbound Technologies, and Rapleaf) are building social profile data on individuals based on this public divulging of information. You can certainly take advantage of these services to build mobile technographic profiles of your customers.

And finally, I suppose you can always contract Forrester Research to construct the mobile technographic profile of your customers (no, this is not a paid endorsement, just a suggestion).

The key takeaway is that while mobile marketing is hot right now, you need to find out whether its hot right now for your customers. Follow the POST methodology. Don't start with the technical solution without first understanding your customers, your objectives and your strategy. Remember: if there is a mis-match between your customers, your objective, and your strategy, then no technology in the world can save you - it will only cost you...BIG TIME!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Where is the Growth in Location-Based Mobile Marketing?

Technologists are experimenting with ways of leveraging a mobile device's geo-spatial awareness to provide money-making opportunities for marketers. Some propose solutions which send text messages on behalf of physical storefronts to individuals who happen to be passing by. Others propose solutions which display Internet search results containing physical storefronts that are within a proximity to the individuals. The former solutions are push-oriented and the latter are pull-oriented. The former solutions involve SMS (a.k.a. text messaging); the latter solutions involve location-aware search engines. Two different solutions using two different technologies with the same objective: to make money leveraging where a individual happens to be at any moment in time. In my opinion, there is more growth in pull-oriented location-based marketing services than there are in push-based. The reason is less about the technology and more about good ol' human nature.

Push-oriented location-based text messaging is all about impulse buying. When we are out and about, we are typically going from Point A to Point B and on to Point C after that. We have specific places in mind that we are going to, and typically we have more on our itinerary of Places To Go than we have allotted time. We are rushing along at 30 to 40 miles per hour. Pushing a text message clear out of the blue to a person who is whizzing by at that speed assumes that the marketer's message/offer is compelling enough and that the individual is impulsive enough to (a) tolerate the interruption, and (b) to immediately act upon that interruption - not an easy thing to succeed at given the normal human reaction time and the speed the person is moving at. Meandering slowly down the Champs Elysees is just not a reality for the most of us. We simply don't have time for interruptions and that's exactly what push-oriented location-based messaging is all about.

There's only one place where impulse shopping is effective - the grocery store. Merchandisers have it down to an exact science knowing precisely what product to put at what height on each aisle, and also what items to place at the check out counter. Department stores implement the same exact science too. All this to get us to buy things that we didn't originally come into the store to buy. So logically, the only real growth that I see for push-oriented location-based marketing is within the grocery store, its cousin the department store, and its distant mega-cousin the shopping mall.

Research shows that grocery stores are the places where coupon redemption is highest. Grocery stores are also places where people do slow down and mill about the aisles - enough to have both the time and the tendency to react to interruptions. It is within these confines that push-oriented location-based messaging works best. Consumer Packaged Goods brands can send mobile coupons to their opt-in subscribers. CPGs know which outlets carry their brands. It's easy to match up a subscriber's geo-spatial positioning with those of their outlets. Is there a match at any moment in time? Trigger the send!

Shopping malls are other places that are experimenting with push-oriented location-based text messaging. Now, the malls are REALLY places where people do mill around. So naturally preliminary results of their experiments are proving to be encouraging.

As I said before, I believe that the real growth is in pull-oriented location-based mobile marketing. We want to be in control of our shopping experience - that's what the social computing revolution is all about. We want to be in control of our information - what we want and when we want it. We prefer to walk into a store and select our perfumes and colognes ourselves rather than to run the gauntlet of reps shoving scented sample cards in our faces. When we are out and about, it's because we have a specific purpose in mind. We are either heading toward a specific destination, or we are looking for a specific product or service. We're going to whip out our mobile devices and do an Internet search for sushi, gas stations, banks, theaters, etc.

The barrier to entry for pull-oriented location-based marketing is much lower for marketers than it is for push-oriented marketing. The reason is that search engine marketing is a heck of a lot easier to set up than is SMS messsaging. There are already a number of services that provide location-based search not the least of which includes Google, Microsoft, Yahoo, Jumptap, and others.

Regardless of approaches, geo-spatial positioning of people facilitated through their mobile devices presents intriguing new opportunities for technologists, sociologists, and marketers.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Twitter: RSS For The Rest of Us

I don't normally comment about items taking place in social media, but an interesting article forwarded to me by a colleague has really intrigued me. (Not to say that I don't find social media interesting. I know that social media is one of the hottest topics in popular culture today. However, I just choose to focus on the hottest topics taking place in the mobile world.)

But I digress...

The well-publicized race to a million Twitter followers between CNN and Ashton Kutcher as well as reports of Twitter's meteoric growth rate seem to give the impression that "everyone's doin' it!"

But as Sysomos' In-Depth Look Inside the Twitter World shows us, there is a yawning chasm wider than the Grand Canyon between perception and reality. Sysomos analyzed data from over 11.5 million Twitter accounts and discovered some interesting highlights:

- 93.6% of users have less than 100 followers, while 92.4% follow less than 100 people

- 0.94% of Twitter users follow more than 1,000 people and only 0.68% have more than 1,000 followers

- 85.3% of all Twitter users post less than one update/day

- 1.13% Twitter users update more than average of 10 times a day

- 5% of users account for 75% of all activity

- 50.4% of Twitter users haven't updated their status in the last seven days

So what are all these 11.5 million people doing on Twitter? Apparently not much. Most people probably signed up just because they were curious but haven't thought much about it since. There are others too, perhaps that are active on Twitter, but in a passive way.

Twitter in many respects is like RSS for the rest of us. RSS has been around for a long time, but it's adoption has been minimal - mainly because the need to use RSS feed readers discourages the average person. On the other hand, Twitter automatically provides rivers of feeds. True, RSS provides a richer experience than does the 140 characters of Twitter. But let's face it. Most of us use RSS just to scan headlines and click links through to a web page. Isn't that what Twitter is too?

What about these 5% of hyperactive users? Sysomos did a follow-up analysis of these folks.

- Of the most active Twitter users updating more than 150 times/day, nearly all of them are bots operated by sources such as hotels, regional and national news services, regional weather services, the top news within Digg, games, anim services, tags within del.icio.us and financial aggregators.

- Who tweets the most, and why ?!

- Who is @moooris and can anyone who reads Japanese tell me what the heck is so compelling in this individual's life that he feels compelled to tweet an average of 108.64 tweets a day, or one tweet every 10 minutes of his waking life (assuming he gets by on 7 hours of sleep).

- ReTweets among the most active users accounted for 5.06% of their activity - about 20% higher than overall users which is 4.02%.

This latter point is very interesting, however. It confirms two of my suspicions:
(1) Hyperactive tweeters remain as impervious to anything anybody else is saying as the rest of us, and
(2) There really isn't a whole lot of stuff people are saying that's worth repeating.

So there you have it: an insight look at the world of Twitter. I look forward for Sysomos' next report on Twitter.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mobile Marketing Checklist

Marketing campaigns via text messaging (a.k.a. "mobile marketing") presents new opportunities to engage with your customers. One benefit of certain types of mobile marketing is that it allows the customer to initiate the engagement by texting in a keyword to receive a coupon, more info, directions, or to opt-in to a subscription-based campaign. But know this: there is a lot of up-front work that you need to budget for both in terms of time and money. Here's a simple checklist to help you get all your ducks in a row.

Step One: Decide where in the world you want to focus your mobile marketing campaign
There is a logistical nuance to this point - mainly because it impacts your decision for Step Two.

Step Two: Procure a common short code ... or a long code
If the decision from Step One is the United States, then you'll be getting one type of common short code. If the decision is Canada, then you'll need to get another type of code. If the decision is Europe, and/or Asia-Pacific, then you'll need yet a different code. Each of the codes are managed by different registrars and each have their own pricing structure. You'll be leasing the use of a 5-digit or 6-digit code - kinda like leasing domain names in the web world. But unlike domain names, you'll only be leasing it for 3, 6, or 12 months at a time. The cost will be also be much higher - anywhere between $250 to $1000 per month.

For example, if you are going to run your mobile marketing campaign in the United States, then whether you get it yourself or the agency you've contracted gets it for you, it will still be Neustar that will be allocating the code to you. If your focus is Canada, then you'll need to go through the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA). If you want to focus on Europe or perhaps Asia-Pacific, then there are other 3rd parties that you'll need to work with.

If you are just starting off with mobile messaging, may I recommend that you start off with a single short code. There is still a lot of work to do, so keeping it simple in the beginning will help you from getting too overwhelmed.

When you request your short code, you'll now be required to provide an overview of your campaign. The registrars will be loading this information into a searchable database that carriers can access. The intent is to speed up the campaign approval process by requiring more information up front.

Some registrars (like Neustar) will let you request your short code before you submit the campaign summary. This lets you know what your short code is so that you can incorporate it into any print, broadcast or other media while in parallel you work out the details of the campaign.

Step Three: Watch your legalese
Make sure that you have worked out your privacy policy and your terms and conditions. You'll need to have this information ready to present to the carriers when they review your campaign brief. Your agency that you are working with will have its own privacy policy and T&C that could cover your marketing program. But you'll still need to make sure that you have one of your own - even if you are a sandwich shop that lets your customers text in their orders.

Step Four: Speaking of campaign briefs...
Yup. Once you've procured your short (or long) code, you'll now need to get it provisioned on the carriers' networks. You'll need to explain to the carriers what your campaign is all about. If you've ever been a teenager before, it will sound all too familiar. "Where are you going? Who are you going out with? Who else will be with you? How can I reach you? Are you going out dressed like that?!"

Here's typically the information that you'll need to provide to the carriers:
  1. Your contact info and your technical person's contact info
  2. The short code (or long code if in Europe or Asia-Pac) that you'll be using. You'll need to provide proof that you have the right to use the short code in the form of a purchase receipt.
  3. Will you be charging your message recipients anything to receive the message or to download anything? If so, how much?
  4. When do you intend to start your campaign and when do you intend to finish it
  5. The URL to your terms and conditions
  6. The URL to your web-hosted opt-in page (if you are allowing people to opt-in from the web)
  7. A summary of your program
  8. The name of your program
  9. Whether you'll be sending transactional (triggered alerts) or subscription (regularly-sent) messages
  10. Keywords that you'll be using to enable people to opt-in to your program.
  11. A step-by-step user experience for your program. The carriers will follow the steps that you detail to test your campaign prior to launch and while it is in process.

    WARNING: any discrepancy between what you say should happen and what actually happens could result in the carrier delaying or suspending your campaign on its network.

    Define how the customer will interact with your campaign for opt-ins, obtaining help, opt-outs, and examples of messaging from your campaign.
Whew! That's a heck of a lot of information, isn't it? Fortunately, you don't have to go to each carrier yourself. Your agency (or SMS aggregator, if you are directly working with one) will be submitting it to the carriers on your behalf.

Step Five: Refine, Revise
Don't be discouraged if your campaign is rejected. Sometimes carriers reject a campaign due to insufficient information. Make sure that you allocate time to rework your campaign brief after its been submitted.

Step Six: Lock and Load
Once the carriers have approved your campaign, let 'er rip. Have fun and enjoy the benefits of this emerging and engaging channel.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Creative Destruction: Killer Apps and Killer Devices

The term "killer app" typically refers to the software application that is regarded as the sole driver for mass adoption of a particular hardware device. In the early days of personal computing, that killer app was VisiCalc. This software program is widely regarded as the spark that ignited the personal computing explosion.

In more recent history we are experiencing a complete reversal of the order in which the smart phone - in particular the iPhone - would seem to be the "killer device" that is regarded as the sole driver for mass adoption of an entire class of software applications. In the process, whole categories of products and services are falling by the wayside.

Back in the fall of 2006, I was sitting on the commuter train taking me to my job in Portland, Oregon and reading my daily edition of the Wall Street Journal. Somewhere in the middle pages of the Tech section was a mention of Apple's intention to introduce their cell phone to the market "sometime in the spring of '07." (If you recall, back then Apple was riding high due to the success of its "killer device", the iPod.) The article went on to say that Apple's version of the mobile device would include a fully functional web browser and an email client that fully supports HTML-formatted email. By the conclusion of that article I immediately knew that history would be in the making for two reasons: (1) this was the very first smart phone targeted directly to the consumer, and (2) Apple's core competence is Useability - with a capital "U".

Here we are three years later and the iPhone has proven to be the killer device and is now the Gold Standard of requirements for all mobile devices. The smart phone is truly the killer device because it has actually killed entire categories of hardware devices. First went digital cameras and then PDAs. More recently it appears that dedicated GPS devices are becoming extinct. Some people have suggested to me that perhaps satellite radio may be the next casualty. And now this just in: B of A is shutting 600 of their banking branches. Reason: online and mobile banking trends reduces needs for physical presence.

We are truly experiencing what Joseph Schumpeter called "Creative Destruction".

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Privacy vs. Publicity

Mobile devices present unique opportunities in marketing because they identify the owner's geospatial position at all times. Location-based Services (LBS) is the buzz word these days as marketers are scrambling to find was to reach people with relevant advertising based upon where a person's mobile device is at any moment in time. The reasoning is that mobile devices have become so ingrained into people's lives that the devices are virtually inseparable from the owner. Ergo, if you know where the device is, you know where the owner is.

There is a debate going on in the wired world regarding online privacy whose outcome may have an impact upon location-based marketing in the wireless world. Earlier in July, a federal judge in Seattle upheld an earlier ruling that an IP address is not personally identifiable information. Says US District Court Judge Richard Jones, "In order for 'personally identifiable information' to be personally identifiable, it must identify a person. [um...yeah...] But an IP address identifies a computer."

Now his ruling was in a different context - in which the defendant in the class-action lawsuit is none other than everyone's favorite Big Brother. Apparently back in 2006 there was a software update that automatically installed anti-piracy software. The pain point is that the company violated its own end user agreement by harvesting IP addresses in the process.

But on the other side of the pond, the European Union in its arcane wisdom ruled quite the opposite. In their opinion, an IP address is personally identifiable information. In the same light, the New Jersey Supreme Court ruled that ISPs cannot disclose a subscriber's IP address to the police without a grand jury subpoena.Though this ruling was in the context of a criminal matter but it does set the legal precedence to be extended to the seamy (Under)world of Marketing.

If people are uptight about somehow being traced by an IP address on the wired Internet to the degree of possible legislative intervention, then it stands to reason that these same people's uptightness will extend to the wireless world - specifically with impact to location-based services. Are legislative restrictions on mobile marketing opportunities using LBS looming as a dark cloud in the horizon? True there are smartphones that have settings enabling one to disable the location-broadcasting capability of their devices. But there are enough people who don't want to take control of their own lives and prefer instead to dictate the lives of everyone else around them. Ya just never know what could happen.

So now I'm just scratching my head. How can a person be concerned about his whereabouts being tracked from his computer's IP address when at the same time, he's telling the whole world where he is and what he's doing at every moment of the day?!

Here's a fer instance: Twitter. It is so easy for me to know in real time exactly what city people are in, what restaurant they are dining in, what conference they are attending, and what room they are currently in within their own home. How do I know? 'Cause they are tweeting about it and telling the whole world, that's how.

And Facebookers? Heck! Not only do they tell the world where they are at and what they are doing, but they post pictures of themselves doing it too!

My point is this: technology is not the villain. Facebook and MySpace are not the villains either. It really doesn't matter what information we enter into our social site profiles or whether the information is accessible via API. We already broadcast so much about ourselves by what we say with our own fingers - on Twitter, in our blogs, and on our Facebook/MySpace/Bebo/etc. pages.

Companies like Zeta Interactive and Unbound Technologies build profiles of people based on publicly available information and make that intelligence available to marketers to build targeted, timely, and relevant messaging. So my advice is, if you're worried about what a marketer might know about you, then at the very least make sure you are selective about what you say about yourself on your social page and in your tweets.

And to the lady sitting three rows back from me on the bus: if you don't want me to know everything about what's going on in your life, your brothers's life, your pastor's wife's life, and your dog's life, then either lower your voice or hang up your cellphone and shut up!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Why Mobile Email Marketing Does Matter

People are using their mobile devices to talk to their friends and family, browse the Internet, to watch video and live TV, to take pictures and movies, to communicate with their peeps on social networks, to find out where the heck they are and where they are going, to play games, to buy things online, to broadcast the banalities of their lives in 160 characters or less, and much more. If people are using their mobile devices for so many things integral to their lifestyle, then how could it be possible that they would *NOT* be using their mobile devices to read and send email? I'm just asking a rhetorical question, actually. The truth is that email is the Number One data activity that people use their mobile devices for.

Why, then, are mobile marketers ignoring mobile email? Why are email marketers ignoring mobile email?

I subscribe to six of seven email newletters all tracking the mobile marketing industry. I have my Tweetdeck configured to display all tweets relating to mobile marketing and email marketing. No discussion at all about mobile email marketing. Nothing. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Bupkis.

Mobile email marketing has as much to do with traditional email marketing as mobile web sites have with traditional web sites. Savvy interactive marketers know that mobile web sites are not simply traditional web sites shrunk down to a teeny tiny screen. Likewise email marketers should regard mobile email as a totally different animal complete with a totally different strategy and totally different call to action. Mobile marketers need to realize that SMS and ad banners are not the be all and end all for the mobile channel.

Email marketers need to understand something about the medium that their message exists within. Computers are used to display the emails that they send by the billions to their subscribers. (I'm talking about legitimate retention email marketers; I'm purposely ignoring all those spammers out there.) Computers are not portable. They are tethered to either a phone line or an ethernet cable. Because of the immobility of computers, people are reading emails only at certain times of any given day. Laptops and netbooks? Wifi and Wimax? Oh puh-lease! Try using your laptop while standing in the subway. You get my drift...

People use their mobile devices to read their email anytime and anywhere; and I do mean anywhere. As an email marketer, I should know this. And further more, I should craft messaging specific to these on-the-go people. What message should I have for them? Perhaps an email displaying pictures of products at my retail outlets that -oh by the way, since they are out and about, why not drop by for an exclusive time-limited discount? Perhaps a news article with pictures and link to online video for late-breaking events? Perhaps pictures of my late night menu with driving (or staggering) directions to the nearest diner?

Mobile marketers likewise need to understand the medium that their messaging exists within. Text messaging enjoys the immediacy of response because people are more likely to quickly respond to a text message than check their email. But this advantage is short lived. I spoke with someone from Spain recently who said that he receives so many text messages that he ignores them now. Also, just how rich of a customer experience can you have in just 160 characters? Text-to-vote, text-for-coupon, etc. is nice, but it's not enough.

As a mobile marketer, I should think beyond 160 text characters. Have I really counted the cost of SMS messaging? How much to provision a short code? Do I really have $500 to $1000 to blow each month just on the short code alone? How spontaneous can my campaigns be with 6 to 8 weeks for every single wireless carrier to review my campaign brief and approve it to run on their network? How much longer can I keep paying for the cost of sending and receiving text messages? How much longer can I afford to ignore the fact that text messaging costs me 10 times per message compared to email messaging? Also, not every one has an all-you-can-eat text messaging plan. In fact, 45% of mobile device owners don't. This means that more than 4 out of every 10 persons I send a text message to actually pays to receive that message when at the same time, email is free. How about triggering the sending of an SMS message based on the response or non-response of an email message? That will greatly cut down on my costs and add some smarts to my SMS messaging program. What about mobile email to add to my mobile marketing mix?

Mobile email marketing does matter. It's time to break down the barriers between these two channels in the minds of the marketers. It's time for creative thought. Both text and email messaging can be highly complimentary on the mobile device. Enterprise marketing platforms should enable marketers to construct effective integrated cross-channel campaigns in which subscriber data is available for targeting, personalization, and reporting across both communication channels. Responses or non-responses to messages in one channel should be used to trigger follow-ups in the other channel. Give your customers options in how they want to receive communications from you, and what types of communications they want to receive depending upon each channel.

Have you experienced any effective campaigns combining email and SMS? Leave me your comments. I'd like to hear from you.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Beware of Co-Reg in Mobile Marketing

MediaPost yesterday reported that a new organization, Mobile Advocacy Coalition, was formed. It intends to ask the Federal Communications Commission to specify that technology companies that act as "mere conduits" aren't liable for wireless ads that violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, according to the group's attorney, Scott Delacourt, a lawyer at Wiley Rein.

The main reason why this lobbying group was formed was response to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal's recent decision in a lawsuit against Simon & Schuster and mobile marketing company ipsh!.

In a nutshell, Simon & Schuster are the defendants in a $90M class action lawsuit stemming from a 2006 incident. Laci Satterfield filed the suit after her young son is said to have received a text message in the middle of the night warning him that the "next call you take may be your last." The text was a promotion for Mr. King’s book, "The Cell." Though the text message was sent in the middle of the night, I'm not aware of whether the child woke up in the middle of the night to read said text message.

First of all, you should get to know a bit more about the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Headquartered in San Francisco, this is the same group of enlightend individuals that ruled in 2002 that it was not legal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance because it contains the words "under God".

At the heart of the matter is the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) that makes it unlawful to generate automated calls to mobile phones without the "prior express consent of the called party." The Ninth District Court of Appeals holds that text messages sent to mobile phones is the same thing as voice calls. The TCPA applies to automatic telephone dialing systems (ATDS), equipment that has "the capacity to store or produce telephone numbers to be called, using a random or sequential number generator and to dial such numbers."

But here's where the hair splitting begins. The appellate court wasn't concerned with whether the system used to the send the text messages was an actual ATDS. They felt that the proper question to ask is whether system had the capacity to be used as an ATDS. With no evidence presented during the original trial to the contrary, the court overruled the original judgment and ordered the case back to trial.

The sequence of events that lead to that fateful text message being sent on that fateful night is commonly known as "co-registration". Ms. Satterfield did not directly opt-in to receive text messages from Simon & Schuster. She became a registered user of Nextones in order to receive a free ringtone. During the registration process, she checked a box which read, in part: "I would like to receive promotions from Nextones affiliates and brands" - boilerplate verbiage used in co-registration. The appellate court rules that Simon & Schuster is neither an affiliate of Nextones nor is it a brand of Nextone. Therefore, the text messages they sent in this campaign were unsolicited - a violation of the TCPA.

Co-Reg is a widespread tactic used for lead generation especially in email marketing. It is one means of generating new leads and customers. But it's also one source of messages that recipients classify as spam. Irritating as it is, email spam is nevertheless tolerated a lot more than SMS spam - partly because mobile phones are considered much more personally than the so-called personal computer, and also partly because people originally paid for each text message while email is free.

Mobile marketers should continue to follow this case because it has direct bearing on our industry. While co-registration may be an acceptable lead generation tactic used in email marketing, the case of Satterfield v. Simon & Schuster, Inc. indicates that mobile marketers should proceed with extreme caution if not avoid it altogether.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Why Genachowki is Good for Mobile Marketing

The news of the day is that Julius Genachowski is getter closer to becoming the new chairman of the FCC. Mobile marketers should take special note to this nomination proceeding because the beliefs and the decisions of the FCC chairman have a direct result upon this nascent industry. Why? Because mobile phones at their most basic definition are radio transmitters and receivers. As such, governmental regulations regarding mobile phones fall under the broad umbrella of the FCC. This agency was created by the Communications Act of 1934 which called for the creation of a governmental agency to regulate communications by radio and wire. Since the government considers all cellphones to be radio receivers and transmitters, their usage is controlled by the same arcane rules and regulations that apply to AM and FM radios. Therefore any ruling that the FCC makes will have an impact upon the mobile marketing industry.

To get some idea of what's in store, take a quick look at Genachowski's background. He's a former legal counsel of the FCC, having served for former chairman Reed Hundt. He also served as a high-level executive at IAC/InterActiveCorp for a number of years. IAC is the entity behind a number of well-known Internet brands including Ask.com, Match.com, Evite, Citysearch and Urbanspoon. So one would hope that during his time there, he's developed a keen understanding of how real the Internet is as a facilitator of commerce. One would equally hope that he will carry into the FCC this same understanding. Already he's given some indication that "he gets it" as he said last Tuesday that he is in favor of the Obama tech plan which calls for the U.S. to increase its development of broadband Internet and reform a $7 billion federal phone-subsidy program to help cover the costs of offering broadband in rural areas. This means that Internet TV and radio have an opportunity to develop further under the Genachowski administration.

Genachowski also supports network neutrality. This is a good thing because it promote a free market underhindered by restrictive practices of ISPs and telecom providers. In 2005, during the Bush administration, the FCC supported network neutrality and declared that consumers are entitled to access the lawful Internet content of their choice, run applications and services of their choice, and plug in and run legal devices of their choice. The FCC also said consumers have a right to competition among network providers, application and service and content providers. With another supporter of network neutrality in the FCC under the Obama administration, expect to have more rulings in favor of the consumer.

As reported in the LA Times, the FCC is expected to begin formal investigation as to whether consumers are harmed by exclusive deals between handset makers and wireless telephone companies. All you Palm Pre and Apple iPhone owners should take note of this. When asked by the Senate Commerce Committee, Genachowski said that he would "ensure that the full record on the issue is reviewed and act accordingly to promote competition and consumer choice."

What does this all mean to consumers though? For one, it does not necessarily mean that breaking AT&T's monopoly on the iPhone with its subsidy automatically leads to higher prices. The subsidy of the device can easily be spread out over more wireless carriers.

Mobile marketing needs mobile devices and it needs mobile broadband. What's happening at the FCC will play a huge role in how this industry shapes out over the long term. Keep your eyes and ears open! Stay informed!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Are Marketers REALLY Ready for Cross-Channel?

I recently purchased a couple of items last weekend at Sears. The checkout lady asked me if I wanted to sign up for Sears' email marketing newsletter. Huh? Usually I'm asked if I want to sign up for a Sears credit card and receive a 10% discount on the spot. Turns out Sears is really pushing their employees to sign up customers for the email newsletters - in fact, giving them incentives for doing so. Maybe this isn't a nation-wide drive, but it's certainly happening in my neck of the woods.

Acting on a tip, I went to the Sears.com web site to opt-in for text alerts on deals.

The text response was something that I'd expect following mobile messaging best practices. Good summary of what I opt-ed in for. Good explanation of how to opt-out.

But wait! What about an invitation to opt-in for email newsletters? Sure, sears2go.com is a nice mobile-optimized site. But what about using this text alert opt-in event as an opportunity to invite me to opt-in for email marketing?

To be fair, the web site features both email opt-in and mobile opt-in side by side on the same page. But why not use mobile messaging as a lead source for email messaging, and vice-versa? I also opt-ed in to Sears' email marketing campaigns and received the standard welcome email.

And, as I suspected, no mention of opting in for mobile events. A missed opportunity for cross-channel marketing!

I've been monitoring a lot of what marketers are talking about - both in their blog posts, their Tweets and so forth - looking to see if anyone is making the connection between mobile and email marketing. One thing is becoming clear to me: very very few mobile marketers are talking about email marketing and equally rare are email marketers talking about mobile marketing. For example, in her 200-plus page book, "Mobile Marketing Handbook", Dushinski devotes a mere 5 sentences to the subject of mobile email. In their almost 300-page book, "Email Marketing an Hour a Day", Mullen and Daniels are likewise a tad light on ideas for cross-channel marketing. But to their credit at least they do mention US Airways' tactic of combining Print and SMS as channels for generating opt-ins to email marketing.

So what's the deal? Could it be that agencies and corporate marketing departments have constructed walls of separation between mobile and email? Both are interactive online channels. Why aren't there more real-life examples of cross-channel marketing campaigns combining the best of SMS and email? Could it just be that marketers themselves aren't yet ready for cross-channel marketing? Are mobile marketers coming from backgrounds other than email marketing? Are email marketers keeping their feet firmly entrenched in their channel? Or perhaps the answer is the most simple: it's all still new and we're all still trying to figure it all out.

If you're a marketer in the interactive space, what's your forte? Mobile? Email? Both? Is your organizational alignment preventing you from implementing effective cross-channel campaigns? Do you have any real-life examples of effective cross-channel campaigns? Let me hear from you!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Life In Between the Spaces - Mobile Marketing Opportunities

I have just completed my analysis of a simple survey I ran in early May. I sent out a series of tweets inviting anyone to take my Mobile Usage survey. Some of my tweets were focused to attendees of various marketing conferences that were taking place at the time. Considering that I wasn't giving anything away to reward survey responses, I'm pretty happy with the 42 that I got. Here's a summary of what I found. Compare my survey respondents with your personal observations to see how much they line up.

As expected from the audience that I targeted with my survey, the majority (74%) of respondents said that their mobile device was a smartphone - with Blackberries and the iPhone combining for 68% of all devices.

If this percentage is indicative of the whole population, then I would say that these results seem to support the consensus opinion that WAP is going away as more and more people are purchasing smartphones for their personal use along with the rich Internet browsing experience that they provide.

I asked what people use their mobile devices for, giving them a list of 11 different tasks, with an additional 12th option to fill in. Talking on the device was the #1 usage (it is after all a phone), followed by text messaging, reading email, surfing the web, and using the built-in GPS. The high percentage of people texting on their devices certainly is consistent with what we all know.

But, while the people use their mobile devices for a wide variety of different activities, they primarily use them for talking and for reading email. This finding supports other surveys similarly reporting reading of email being a highly common usage of mobile devices.

Mobile devices are truly personal - it is perhaps the most personal device ever. People interact with their mobile devices at all times during the day and night, using it to both fill in downtime between activities, and also as a defined scheduled activity itself. I especially love the 12% of the people who were honest enough to 'fess that they use their mobile devices while in the bathroom. (Yes, my hand is raised too.)

Which brings me back to the subject of email. People are interacting with their mobile devices "in between the spaces" of their lives. So when they are reading their emails, they are typically doing so less than 5 minutes each time. So just as people do snack in between meals, people are snacking on mobile Internet content in between times of consuming rich Internet content.

Some of the data seems to debunk a bit of posturing going on in the blogosphere lately regarding email and social media. There remains a strong correlation between people who surf the Internet (including social sites) and those who read email. Consider this:
- Of the people who don't use their mobile devices to read email none of them use their devices to surf the Net either.
- Of the people who do use their mobile devices to read email, almost all use them to surf the Net (91%). Of the people whose primary usage of their mobile devices includes reading emails, almost all also use their devices to surf the Net (86%).

- Of the people who don't use their mobile devices to surf the Net, some still use them to read email (25%).
- Of the people who do use their mobile devices to surf the Net, every single one of them uses their devices to read email.

So it would appear that all the talk about social sites replacing email is just that - talk. I believe that social sites and email are complementary communication channels, not competitive.

There is also a strong correlation between using the mobile device for reading email and for text messaging.
- Of the people who don't use their mobile devices for texting, half still use them to read email.
- Of the people who do use their mobile devices for texting, the majority also use them to read email (83%).

- Of the people who use their mobile devices to read email almost all also use them for text messaging (91%).

So what conclusions can I draw from my informal mobile usage survey?
(1) People use their mobile devices to snack on mobile Internet content in between the spaces of their lives
(2) Email reading is a BIG part of daily mobile usage activities.
(3) There is a strong correlation of usage between email reading, web surfing, and text messaging.

The final takeaway is that people are highly engaged with their mobile devices. Savvy interactive marketers must NOT treat SMS marketing as a vertical, stove-piped, siloed (call it what you will) marketing channel. Neither should these marketers treat email marketing as a stand-alone channel. Successful interactive marketers MUST recognize that owners of smartphones are a target rich group of people (I'm including myself in that mix as an iPhone owner) and that mobile cross-channel campaigns are going to be the big winners.

Email me if you'd like a copy of my survey results. I'll send you the results in a pivot table that you can slice and dice for your analytical needs. No personally identifiable information was collected in this survey.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Search Revenue Underreported?

I attended the Forrester Marketing Forum in Orlando at the end of April. This year's Forum was vastly superior to last year's in that all topics were extremely relevant with specific case studies and highly actionable ideas.

One of the absolute best sessions was presented by Gian Fulgoni, Chairman of comScore, Inc. Based on a study they published in 2007, over 30% of Internet users delete their cookies one average 4 times a month. This is true for both 1st party cookies and 3rd party ad serving cookies. This concept becomes especially interesting in light of measuring ROI of Search Engine Marketing. According to the Search Engine Marketing Professional Organization, over the course of last year, a total of $13.5 billion dollars was spent on search marketing with nearly 90% of that total spent on paid search ads. Given the amount of money at stake, comScore's findings should be seriously considered.

ComScore partnered with Google in a 2006 study based on holiday-related purchases across 11 product categories for a period of 60 days post-search. The latter point means that they counted any purchase related to an online search that was completed within 60 days of the search. Their findings: 16% of the purchases were immediately completed online at time of search, 21% of purchases were made online within 60 days of the search (latent online purchase), and 63% of purchases were made offline within 60 days of the search (latent offline purchase).

Now if you're a pure online play like Hotwire, Amazon or Zappos, then the latent offline effect doesn't exist. It probably does, however, still hold true that the percentage of latent online purchases still exceeds that of direct online purchases.

So here's where your revenue from online search is being underreported:

(1) If you have an offline purchase channel, then the majority of your purchases directly from your customer's search are NOT being tracked nor being attributed to your search program's keywords.

(2) You are definitely not tracking the purchases of those people that delete their cookies on a regular basis therefore you're missing out on revenue from latent online purchases from these Cookie Deleters.

And speaking of cookies, not all mobile browsers support cookies. If they do, chances are high that they are not enabled to accept cookies or they are only set to accept 1st party cookies. Given that Search is the Numero-Uno mobile Internet activity, and that mobile on-line purchases are gaining traction, (a) it's a darned good safe bet that you are underreporting search revenue from your mobile channel, and (b) yes, you should be concerned about it.

What can you do about it? May I recommend that in your Search campaign ROI analysis, you include a new "pro-forma" metric which adjusts your purchases for missed latent online purchases (the deleted cookied effect), and for latent offline purchases. Since comScore's panel includes 2 million participating members, you can use their percentages in your pro-forma calculations since the sample size is large enough to statistically represent the entire population.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Making Money from Mobile TLAs

Many of you tracking the mobile marketing space are familiar with the 3-letter acronym LBS which stands for "location-based services". For those of you not fully familiar with this term, it basically boils down to the fact that your mobile device inherently knows where you are (or more accurately where it is) because that's all at the heart of the cellular communication system. Marketers and mobile app developers are feverishly capitalizing on this capability. Indeed, my most favorite iPhone widget is developed by UrbanSpoon. At the shake of my iPhone, I can get a nice suggestion of nearby places to eat.

There's a lot of great ideas around LBS and a lot of new companies springing up based on this concept. The only problem is that no one has figured out how to make much money on it. Social networking sites are the ones that have the best traction on LBS but again, none of these sites are profitable. Yes, they have lofty valuations, but unless you were asleep during the dot-com bust or still in grade school, the lesson learned is that valuations mean nothing except to the investment bankers taking their percentage cut and to the founders taking their pot of gold to the bank.

I'd like to mention another TLA (3-letter acronym)for your consideration: NFC which stands for Near Field Communication. I wrote a while back on this topic and why I believe that this technology is definitely the one to watch in the coming years. The only reason why I'm bringing it up again is that earlier this month, Visa launched the world’s first commercial mobile payments service for point-of-sale transactions using Near Field Communications technology. Citibank Singapore and Visa have announced the Citi M1 mobile Visa payWave payment pilot, the first program in Singapore where a mobile phone will double as a credit card.

The Citi Visa pilot, supported by mobile operator M1, will enable cardholders to pay for purchases using a Nokia 6212 Classic handset at more than 750 merchant locations across Singapore. Participating merchants include cafes, restaurants, book stores and retail and music shops.

Not to be outdone, MasterCard Worldwide partnering with Blaze Mobile have introduced the Blaze Mobile MasterCard PayPass, a mobile payment sticker that can be used at any of the 141,000 merchant locations that are currently equipped to accept PayPass contactless transactions. Though this program uses NFC technology, it's still "close-but-no-cigar" since its all about the sticker and not really the mobile device.

As quoted in the Mobile Marketer earlier this week, Pam Zuercher, head of product innovation for Visa, Foster City, CA says, "With 4 billion mobile devices worldwide and 80 percent of the world's population living within range of a cellular network, Visa has a significant opportunity to offer its products and services to geographies where they don't exist today, and enhance the consumer payment experience."

Having financial heavyweights such as Visa and MasterCard rolling out their pilot programs is a huge step in the right direction. What this really translates to is an acceleration of the development of the worldwide infrastructure required to support touchless commerce transactions using the mobile device as the medium of the transaction.

While smart people continue to struggle with how to monetize Location Based Services, monetizing Near Field Communication is an absolute no-brainer. How? By taking a cut off each transaction - a practice that is already happening. And it's not just banks making a bundle off skimming off the top of each transaction. Payment escrow services like Paypal (which made a whopping $2.4 billion in revenue last year) take a cut off each commerce transaction also.

California-based Vivotech is one major force leading the way in many of the NFC payment pilot programs. Their web site says that they are looking to 2010 when full commercial rollout will begin. Certainly a topic and a company to keep your eye on!