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I’ll admit not being much of a texter — that is someone who uses text messaging on his mobile phone. Granted, I send a few from time-to-time, mostly responding to other text messages or trying to find someone when I’m at a conference, but I’m not a hyper user. My text savviness is so amateur, in fact, that I often get confused as to whether or not I’m responding to a text or a Twitter message which leads to a good laugh for my friends. But as someone who helps clients find innovative ways to reach their target audiences using the latest and greatest technology I would be remiss if not bringing to the table mobile marketing, which to date is dominated my short message service (SMS or only text messages) and multi-media message service (MMS or image/audio/video enabled messages) text messaging.

Keep in mind that while innovation does change the game and web-enabled smart phones will continue to diminish text as the most important feature people look for in a phone (73% say it is according to Amplitude Research), the simple fact of the matter is that texting has 84 percent market penetration and there are 75 billion (with a “B”) text messages sent monthly in the U.S. according to CTIA-The Wireless Association.

Here’s what I like telling clients about mobile marketing:

  • It’s the ultimate portable marketing platform since the user has it in the pocket or hand at all times.
  • The wireless providers have done an outstanding job of regulating marketer’s usage of the medium, forcing double opt-ins and ensuring those you talk to want to hear from you. (Wouldn’t it be nice if our ISP or email providers did that?)
  • Compared to most other mediums, it’s much more cost effective.
  • The pass-along or viral content has a much higher return rate since people will only forward really good offers via text.

I recently spoke with Basil Kanno, the Chief Technical Officer at PowerNet Global, which, in addition to being a long-standing and reputable integrated communications provider (Telecom services, VOIP, etc.), has a mobile marketing platform as robust and powerful as any I’ve seen. We talked about some interesting advancements in mobile marketing (all of which his firm offers or is developing) including true pull mobile activity (texting “DEALS” to, say, Applebee’s, as you walk in the door to see if there are any mobile coupons you can download before ordering) and user-set thresholds for the number of messages they can receive in a given time period. PowerNet even has a mobile shopping portal set up with Amazon.com which allows you to shop for book titles via text message, add them to your cart and even check out by simply using keyword commands and passing no sensitive information through PowerNet.

So smart companies, particularly in the retail environment, are using mobile marketing to reach consumers. But what can really smart companies do? Start tying their mobile marketing offers to search.

Imagine you’re driving down the highway and pull out your mobile device to search for the nearest Subway. The results come up with a list of locations. You find the one nearest you and see a link that says, “Text For Deals.” You’re searching for the restaurant then discover you can not only get directions, but $2.00 off a footlong meatball sub at that location.

Cool, right?

What would be even more cool is if you could “Text for Directions” and the service would capture your GPS location, then send you step-by-step directions from where you are to get to the store. But Americans are creeped out by GPS tracking with their fear of Big Brother, so the mobile providers and marketers are, for now, steering clear of that can of worms.

Which brings to mind one problem with mobile marketing.

A major selling point for brands using mobile campaigns is the individual consumer behavior data that can be collected once you opt in. If Foot Locker knows you’ve cashed in that mobile rewards coupon for new sneakers every three months, but have yet to bite on their ball cap offers, they can better customize both the content and the timing of their messages to you. It gets even more granular and intelligent with Subway or Blockbuster or even BP — retailers you would visit more frequently than a shoe store.

So what’s the problem?

Brands and companies collect this data — this individual data — to produce segmented lists of target consumers. They categorize and segment for convenience, enabling them to reach out to thousands of “Thursday Video Renters” as opposed to you, the guy or gal who does rent videos on Thursdays a lot, but feels best when Blockbuster is talking to you, not a big list of people like you.

They’re using a personal relationship to develop impersonal outreach efforts. Yes, segmenting and fine-tuning your targeting is a good practice. No, it’s not feasible for most companies to use that individual data to reach out to each individual. But the opportunity to do so is there and you are un-refining the data, lumping people back into buckets and turning humans back into targets.

No one likes being shot at.

This doesn’t mean mobile marketing isn’t wise. It doesn’t mean companies shouldn’t spend time and energy cultivating opt-in customers via the almost ubiquitous mobile platform. Consumers will be compelled to participate and will appreciate the seemingly personal touch without really noticing what companies are up to.

But in our quest for more and now, the world of marketing may just take a golden opportunity to have a one-on-one relationship with our customers and muck it all up.

My questions for you include:

  1. How thinly sliced does consumer information have to be for the average person to feel like they’re getting a personal touch?
  2. Does the double-opt-in rule of mobile marketing mean consumers won’t care what brands learn, or forget, about them?
  3. What makes the opt-in for mobile marketing contact compelling enough for someone to volunteer to essentially be on an email blast list for sales materials?
  4. How do I get the upside down exclamation point on my Blackberry keyboard so when I feel the need I can text, “¡Yo quiero Taco Bell!”

The comments are yours.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is the founder and chief instigator for Social Media Explorer's blog. He is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for CafePress, one of the world's largest online retailers. His opinions are his, not necessarily theirs. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments & Reactions

Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://www.budgetpulse.com CraigK

    I don't know if consumers necessarily need to feel like they are receiving the “personal” touch from a companies marketing efforts, but they just don't want to be bombarded with spam. The same way with email, it can get annoying very quickly to check my email and have all of it be advertisements. Even when a lot of them are initially opt-ins I have recently found myself opting-out just so I don't have to deal with it further.

    Clearly mobile marketing is the future for advertising, but at what cost? I feel that GPS related advertising will be helpful. If I am in an area, I would like to know about the updated coupons/discounts I could receive at a store in that area. What would bother me is if I'm being bombarded left and right with text messages and useless advertising popups on my phone. If there is a way to control the advertising on the user end, I feel this will be very successful and can be integrated into people's everyday lives and they. If not it will cause an additonal annoyance and information overload that people can't stand/.

    Craig
    http://www.budgetpulse.com

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks again for the great comments, Craig. I would agree that consumers don't neccessarily need companies to be personal, but I think it greatly enhances the connection with the company – hence why social media marketing has emerged. Also agree that opt-out and user-controlled environments are going to be key to success in any kind of marketing in the future. The mobile carriers already provide a good deal of fail safes for this and their model could be one other medium providers (ISPs, email providers, etc.) could follow to improve.

      The one part of your comment I would offer some contention with is the notion of geo-targeted advertising. As long as it's opt-in, I see it as potentially very successful, but I still think most U.S. consumers are going to be hesitant to think geo-targeting messaging isn't a bit too big-brother-ish. Even if it's just blue tooth enabled, limited range executions, they'll resist because they don't understand the technology has more to do with what they're close to as opposed to where they are.

      But you're right. If the American consumer can clear some hurdles with regards to mobile technology, it's certainly the most promising of all mediums available.

      Thanks again for helping make us all think.

    • http://www.saysomobile.com Drew

      Craig — You mention the idea of consumer-control of mobile advertising and I wanted to call your attention to my new company — Sayso (http://www.saysomobile.com) — that is seeking to do exactly that.

      Sayso subscribers are paid to receive targeted mobile advertising on their phone. And by letting each subscriber set and adjust their own price (and by allowing marketers to control how much they're willing to pay), subscribers can control the frequency at which they receive messages (lower your price and the frequency goes up, raise it and the frequency goes down).

      Learn more at http://www.saysomobile.com and use the invitation code SMEXPLORER if you'd like to check it out.

      Drew

  • http://www.budgetpulse.com CraigK

    I don't know if consumers necessarily need to feel like they are receiving the “personal” touch from a companies marketing efforts, but they just don't want to be bombarded with spam. The same way with email, it can get annoying very quickly to check my email and have all of it be advertisements. Even when a lot of them are initially opt-ins I have recently found myself opting-out just so I don't have to deal with it further.

    Clearly mobile marketing is the future for advertising, but at what cost? I feel that GPS related advertising will be helpful. If I am in an area, I would like to know about the updated coupons/discounts I could receive at a store in that area. What would bother me is if I'm being bombarded left and right with text messages and useless advertising popups on my phone. If there is a way to control the advertising on the user end, I feel this will be very successful and can be integrated into people's everyday lives and they. If not it will cause an additonal annoyance and information overload that people can't stand/.

    Craig
    http://www.budgetpulse.com

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks again for the great comments, Craig. I would agree that consumers don't neccessarily need companies to be personal, but I think it greatly enhances the connection with the company – hence why social media marketing has emerged. Also agree that opt-out and user-controlled environments are going to be key to success in any kind of marketing in the future. The mobile carriers already provide a good deal of fail safes for this and their model could be one other medium providers (ISPs, email providers, etc.) could follow to improve.

    The one part of your comment I would offer some contention with is the notion of geo-targeted advertising. As long as it's opt-in, I see it as potentially very successful, but I still think most U.S. consumers are going to be hesitant to think geo-targeting messaging isn't a bit too big-brother-ish. Even if it's just blue tooth enabled, limited range executions, they'll resist because they don't understand the technology has more to do with what they're close to as opposed to where they are.

    But you're right. If the American consumer can clear some hurdles with regards to mobile technology, it's certainly the most promising of all mediums available.

    Thanks again for helping make us all think.

  • http://blog.davincivirtual.com @jeanannvk

    I am always a bit afraid that marketing via text will become absolutely hated…I mean, even though it is opt in, there is still plenty of room for complaints. I think of all of the newsletters i subscribe to and I sometimes wince when I look at my mailbox. Any research done on the “I am too apathetic to unsubscribe, but I will complain anyway” syndrome?

    thanks for the really well written article.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Those are valid fears. I hate filtering through my inbox as well. I certainly don't need my cell phone going off with text messages all the time to boot. And I hear you on the too apathetic to unsubscribe thing. I like to keep an eye on the programs I opt-in to for work, rather than personal needs. About every three months or so, though, I get crazy and opt-out of most of them.

      Thanks for the comment!

  • http://blog.davincivirtual.com @jeanannvk

    I am always a bit afraid that marketing via text will become absolutely hated…I mean, even though it is opt in, there is still plenty of room for complaints. I think of all of the newsletters i subscribe to and I sometimes wince when I look at my mailbox. Any research done on the “I am too apathetic to unsubscribe, but I will complain anyway” syndrome?

    thanks for the really well written article.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Those are valid fears. I hate filtering through my inbox as well. I certainly don't need my cell phone going off with text messages all the time to boot. And I hear you on the too apathetic to unsubscribe thing. I like to keep an eye on the programs I opt-in to for work, rather than personal needs. About every three months or so, though, I get crazy and opt-out of most of them.

    Thanks for the comment!

  • http://www.socialsquared.com Jess

    Great point. It's a basic shift in menality that's needed. One from the “Hey you guys! Listen to me” to ” Hey Jason, have we got a special offer just for you” Broadcast vs. Relationships.

    Great breakdown.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      I love great comments, especially ones that sum things up so neatly. Thanks Jess.

  • http://www.socialsquared.com Jess

    Great point. It's a basic shift in menality that's needed. One from the “Hey you guys! Listen to me” to ” Hey Jason, have we got a special offer just for you” Broadcast vs. Relationships.

    Great breakdown.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    I love great comments, especially ones that sum things up so neatly. Thanks Jess.

  • http://www.saysomobile.com Drew

    Jason — Great post about the possibilities (and limitations) of mobile marketing. I want to specifically address your third question (“What makes the opt-in for mobile marketing contact compelling enough for someone to volunteer to essentially be on an email blast list for sales materials?”) and call your attention to my new company that addresses that question in what we think is an interesting and consumer-friendly way.

    The current crop of SMS direct marketers rely on a “relevancy-as-compensation” model to drive opt-ins. The idea being that the value of the offers and information I receive by opting-in outweigh the interruption of my phone ringing. But this model has some limitations. 1) The marketer usually has no control and little knowledge of who is opting in, meaning they can't target outgoing messages. 2) This model makes it virtually impossible to target new customers (no existing affinity, no opt in). 3) Marketers must invest time, effort and dollars into building and maintaining their list.

    My company, Sayso (http://www.saysomobile.com) was created to address these issues and to provide a channel through which advertisers can honor the time and attention of their audience. We offer marketers the ability to rent a targeted, permission-ready list of mobile phone owners and deliver SMS messages to them. In exchange for receiving these targeted messages, Sayso subscribers are compensated with cash they can either keep themselves or donate to a charity.

    **And because everyone places a different value on their time and attention, Sayso let's subscribers set the price they're paid for each message they receive. What is your time and attention worth?**

    Visit http://www.saysomobile.com and use the invitation code SMEXPLORER to learn more.

    Drew

    Drew Jones, Founder and Partner
    Sayso
    http://www.saysomobile.com

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks for the input Drew. I think what SaySoMobile is doing is interesting, but it still feels very list buying and consumers making an extra buck by doing it, to me. No disrespect intended, but as a brand, I don't want to reach a list of people who have said, “Yes, I'll tolerate a marketers message if you'll pay me a little money to do it.” I want to reach my target audience. What you're offering is focus group-ish, which has its merits, but it's not something the brands I work with would likely find appealing.

      Two cents. I would certainly encourage my readers to check it out. I'm sure it make sense for some folks.

  • http://www.saysomobile.com Drew

    Jason — Great post about the possibilities (and limitations) of mobile marketing. I want to specifically address your third question (“What makes the opt-in for mobile marketing contact compelling enough for someone to volunteer to essentially be on an email blast list for sales materials?”) and call your attention to my new company that addresses that question in what we think is an interesting and consumer-friendly way.

    The current crop of SMS direct marketers rely on a “relevancy-as-compensation” model to drive opt-ins. The idea being that the value of the offers and information I receive by opting-in outweigh the interruption of my phone ringing. But this model has some limitations. 1) The marketer usually has no control and little knowledge of who is opting in, meaning they can't target outgoing messages. 2) This model makes it virtually impossible to target new customers (no existing affinity, no opt in). 3) Marketers must invest time, effort and dollars into building and maintaining their list.

    My company, Sayso (http://www.saysomobile.com) was created to address these issues and to provide a channel through which advertisers can honor the time and attention of their audience. We offer marketers the ability to rent a targeted, permission-ready list of mobile phone owners and deliver SMS messages to them. In exchange for receiving these targeted messages, Sayso subscribers are compensated with cash they can either keep themselves or donate to a charity.

    **And because everyone places a different value on their time and attention, Sayso let's subscribers set the price they're paid for each message they receive. What is your time and attention worth?**

    Visit http://www.saysomobile.com and use the invitation code SMEXPLORER to learn more.

    Drew

    Drew Jones, Founder and Partner
    Sayso
    http://www.saysomobile.com

  • http://www.saysomobile.com Drew

    Craig — You mention the idea of consumer-control of mobile advertising and I wanted to call your attention to my new company — Sayso (http://www.saysomobile.com) — that is seeking to do exactly that.

    Sayso subscribers are paid to receive targeted mobile advertising on their phone. And by letting each subscriber set and adjust their own price (and by allowing marketers to control how much they're willing to pay), subscribers can control the frequency at which they receive messages (lower your price and the frequency goes up, raise it and the frequency goes down).

    Learn more at http://www.saysomobile.com and use the invitation code SMEXPLORER if you'd like to check it out.

    Drew

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks for the input Drew. I think what SaySoMobile is doing is interesting, but it still feels very list buying and consumers making an extra buck by doing it, to me. No disrespect intended, but as a brand, I don't want to reach a list of people who have said, “Yes, I'll tolerate a marketers message if you'll pay me a little money to do it.” I want to reach my target audience. What you're offering is focus group-ish, which has its merits, but it's not something the brands I work with would likely find appealing.

    Two cents. I would certainly encourage my readers to check it out. I'm sure it make sense for some folks.

  • http://www.gomemedia.com/ Sam

    If you're struggling to effectively market your new brand or business then I must recommend GetMeMedia.com.

    Getmemedia.com is the place to search for marketing communications ideas online. Designed to make access to great marketing ideas easy for brand teams and agencies, it is unique in providing visibility and access to hundreds of marketing opportunities from across the entire market place.

    Use http://www.getmemedia.com/ to kickstart your new business ideas.

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  • jeffcree

    I took an Internet marketing class my senior year of college and the main thing that I took from that class on the topic of mobile marketing, which you somewhat touch on, is that the phone has possibilities to be a vehicle for promotions at the POS. As you said, people always have it with them in their pockets. I foresee in the future a situation in which someone may be walking by the entrance of their favorite clothing store (they've already opted in to promotions for the store) and they receive a text or email promotion to encourage them to come in. We may not have the technology yet, but it would be a great opportunity to reach out to potential customers when their brand is top of mind.

    • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

      Thanks, Jeff. Bluetooth technology and location-based services already offer
      similar execution to what you're saying. The caution is intrusiveness which
      fortunately has warded marketers away from too much experimentation in this.
      But it's coming and probably will be widely accepted. Thanks for the
      comment.

  • jeffcree

    I took an Internet marketing class my senior year of college and the main thing that I took from that class on the topic of mobile marketing, which you somewhat touch on, is that the phone has possibilities to be a vehicle for promotions at the POS. As you said, people always have it with them in their pockets. I foresee in the future a situation in which someone may be walking by the entrance of their favorite clothing store (they've already opted in to promotions for the store) and they receive a text or email promotion to encourage them to come in. We may not have the technology yet, but it would be a great opportunity to reach out to potential customers when their brand is top of mind.

  • http://socialmediaexplorer.com JasonFalls

    Thanks, Jeff. Bluetooth technology and location-based services already offer
    similar execution to what you're saying. The caution is intrusiveness which
    fortunately has warded marketers away from too much experimentation in this.
    But it's coming and probably will be widely accepted. Thanks for the
    comment.

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