Being in mobile for a decade, I have heard it all, especially from those who think mobile marketing is stupid. There is a common theme among companies that believe mobile marketing is intrusive. I speak with prospects all the time that have either tried mobile and said it was not successful or won’t try it because they feel their customers will get upset. After asking a number of questions about what went wrong or drilling down to what their fears are, I almost always come to the same conclusion:  there is a big misconception about how mobile should be managed and, guess what, it all starts with email.

SMS costs money, and 95% of SMS messages are read within four minutes–two facts that can bring together a horrible user experience if not executed properly. Almost every company looking at mobile is an email marketer, and I know email marketers are jaded because of their experience with email and realizations about spam. 72% of the 320 billion emails sent on a daily basis are spam, so who could blame them? Most companies don’t understand email best practices and, as a result, they have felt the burn of user complaints, poor open rates, getting blocked, and ending up on blacklists. Legitimate companies are not spammers; they are generally just ignorant. They don’t realize that you should not upload a list that has not been sent to in two years or fail to confirm an email address upon opt in.

So back to those who think mobile marketing is stupid. Mobile is very different from email and it has to be done right. I like to help people understand that if your strategy was to build the largest email database possible, then mobile needs to be about building a database of your best and most loyal customers. Mobile is about loyalty–period. Those who are willing to have their day interrupted as their pockets buzz are going to be your best customers. If you have the email marketer mentality of “batch and blast,” mobile is going to be a disaster for you. However, if you learn to treat mobile as a totally different type of channel, it can be truly successful. With mobile, there is a new set of best practices and they are different from email.

Your first approach to a mobile strategy should be to offer something only available via the mobile phone. The incentive should be good and be the only place your customer can take you up on your offer. I am sure most of you have been to a nightclub before. Ever been in line when someone walks right past you up to the front of the velvet ropes and right into the club? He or she is what is known as a VIP. This is how you should treat your mobile club. They are VIPs that can get exclusive updates, offers, and content only available in the mobile channel. Make it exclusive and make it appealing. Make sure when you are opting people into your database, you not only get them to respond “YES” to join, but you manage their expectations with the types of messages they will get, how often they will get them, and how they can opt out.

If I was to tell you that by sticking to this very basic strategy you could build a solid database of loyal customers who will not only not be mad at you but will look forward to your messages, would you still be afraid?

Of course, your mobile database is not going to be as big as your email database, but is that important? Answer this:   which is a bigger return –a call-to-action that sees a 20% take on a mobile database of 3,000, or a 5% take on an email database of 10,000 people?   If you guessed the mobile database made you more money, you guessed correctly.  Time and time again mobile has a higher response rate.  Let’s take a look at the reasons why:

  1. 95% of cell phones have SMS capabilities and 87% of the population has a cell phone.
  2. You can reach someone no matter where they are.
  3. 95% of text messages are read within 15 minutes.
  4. There are virtually no delivery issues with SMS. If you send it, they will get it, and right into their inbox.
  5. All mobile clubs should have a double opt in so you cannot sign up anyone but yourself. The subscriber takes the action of responding with a “YES.”
  6. 33% of email addresses change on a yearly basis, but with number portability (the ability to take a number from carrier to carrier), people are ditching their home phones and keeping their cell phone number for life.

Shall I continue?

These six stats alone should perk up the ears of any marketer who doubts the power of mobile. Think about the value of a phone number; it’s like having your customer\’s IP address. What other channel can you say that about? People move, people get fired, people leave their email account for another because of spam, people are getting rid of their home numbers. But what stays consistent? If you said mobile, put a little gold star on the fridge. It goes with your customer for life wherever he decides to go. Deep, huh?

Those who think mobile marketing is stupid only do so because they treat it like email and don’t understand that mobile is about loyalty. They think that if they cannot have a database of half a million people, it’s not worth it. They don’t have email best practices down so, of course, they are going to screw up mobile best practices. If you want to make it work you can–you just need a plan and someone to help shine the light on the path ahead.

Mobile marketing is stupid, but only for people who make it stupid.