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.

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