Five Tips for Mobile Marketers in 2011...and One Thing I'll Never Say Again

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Last week, I was lucky enough to escape the frozen tundra of New York for a few days to moderate a panel with a group of members of the IAB Mobile Committee (folks from CBS Interactive, Millennial Media, Pandora, and TargetSpot) at the Online Marketing Summit in San Diego. I thought (though as moderator I may be biased) it was a great conversation, looking at the year ahead in mobile advertising.

iStock_000007887592XSmall.jpgWe kicked off by tackling one of the great industry clichés, namely that this is “the year of mobile.” This phrase has been a constant at every mobile meeting, event, summit, and panel since at least 1999, and onstage at OMS the panel agreed that we need to move beyond it. “Year of mobile” is irrelevant, because we’re living in the era of mobile, and it’s something that publishers, agencies, and marketers alike need to understand and internalize. With that in mind, I committed to never utter the phrase “year of mobile” at a conference again. If you catch me doing it, call me on it.

Someone did raise the question of whether this is the “year of the tablet,” which I reserve the right to repeat ad nauseum.

The best takeaways from the panel were some great pieces of advice for marketers, including the following:

  • You can’t just cram a full website down onto a mobile device and expect success. Even if the network and smartphone can display your content, the screen real estate and more importantly the consumer mindset are different in the mobile world, so sites optimized for mobile will always do better than repurposed Web pages as mobile destinations/landing pages.
  • Don’t create a mobile silo. Mobile works best when it’s integrated into a broader marketing strategy. Simply throwing the $30K left over after the rest of the campaign is planned out at mobile is not a path to success. In fact as mobile increasingly becomes the glue that binds all the other media in a campaign together, it’s going to be ever more important to consider mobile at the outset of any campaign planning process.
  • Let someone else do the heavy lifting. Let’s face it, mobile is a complex landscape. With upwards of 5,000 devices and 15 operating systems, making sure that a campaign, site, or app works across devices and networks is hard. But there are tons of companies that can help manage that complex landscape.
  • Focus on people, not devices. While it’s tempting to plan a campaign tailored to the new, hot device on the market, marketers should approach mobile like they do any other medium, and start with the goal of the campaign and who they want to reach. The device(s) to target should follow from that. In some cases it’ll be a specific device or operating system, but usually it’ll be a combination of several. Mobile’s evolved beyond targeting solely based on sites or devices; explore opportunities to target demographic, psychographic, and behavioral segments.
  • Plan success metrics early to focus on the right ones. Mobile is a chance to grow an interactive advertising business with the hindsight of what we did right, and wrong, on the Web. Avoiding click-throughs becoming a dominant success metric would be a great win for Web hindsight. Clicks to mobile landing pages are just the tip of the iceberg of what you can do (and measure) with mobile ad campaigns. Interactions, shares, texts, calls, stores located, apps downloaded, views, coupon redemptions, and impressions, are all possible success metrics—and nearly everything is measurable. Just like the web, think about the goals of the campaign first, figure out what success metrics will matter, and go from there.

It’s an exciting year for the industry (even if I can’t call it the year of you-know-what), and an exciting time for the IAB as we ramp up our resources devoted to helping the mobile advertising industry grow. The IAB published a Mobile Buyer’s Guide in 2009. That was a long time ago in mobile terms, but the advice in it is actually pretty consistent with the points the panel discussed: details may change, but good strategy is good strategy. Marketers who want to learn more can start by looking there, and feel free to get in touch with the IAB Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence. We’re eager to help!

Joe Laszlo is Deputy Director of the Mobile Marketing Center of Excellence, at the IAB

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