Mobile: The Intelligent Channel

David Murphy

Ray Welsh, Sales & Marketing Director at digital marketing company Mailtrack, argues that in times of economic downturn, highly accountable marketing channels like mobile come into their own

There has been much speculation over recent months about the possible threat of recession and the subsequent effect this will have on UK business. During times of economic downturn, past experience shows us that marketing budgets are normally the first casualty. This puts marketers under increasing pressure to prove their worth. But far from being nervous, the current climate presents mobile marketers with an ideal opportunity to finally cement the mediums position within the wider marketing mix.
When there is a general atmosphere of caution towards marketing expenditure, one could argue that as your competitors cut back on their marketing spend, there are greater benefits to be had by actually choosing to fight even harder for your customers attention, to remain at the forefront of their minds. This certainly doesnt mean doubling marketing spend on a whim, but rather, making more intelligent use of your existing budgets to ensure that what you do spend is actually working. Its here where mobile marketings biggest opportunity lies.

Quantifiable results
With new media channels such as mobiles, email and the web widely available, it is possible to move spend away from the expensive channels like print and TV, to an increased level of digital activity. Indeed, digital marketings ability to provide quantifiable results leaves decision makers under no illusion as to where their money is being spent and what they are getting back in return - as we all know the Holy Grail for marketers is the achievement of total measurability.
During a recession, consumers also become considerably more cost conscious. Indeed, when the customer starts feeling jittery, the biggest fear for brands is that the consumer decides its their brand they can live without. Since retaining customers is considerably cheaper than acquiring them, cost effective customer retention becomes a primary focus.
With retention campaigns, you want to increase sales and the length of your relationship with customers, so timely, relevant and informative messages delivered directly to an opted-in customer should form part of your strategy. Creating value for your brand by delivering service messages to mobiles is straightforward and can greatly enhance the customer service experience. For example, contact details of the hotel, shop or business destination, or details of a travel insurance policy, are great to have in your pocket, and take full advantage of the uniqueness of the medium. 
What is important is that the marketing messages being sent are informative rather than speculative. Only when the consumer values the information they are being sent will they become receptive to your message arriving on their mobile.
There have of course been vast improvements in the technology available for marketing to mobiles; they have better screens, mobile web access, increasing interactivity and an increasing ability to quickly download rich content like brochures and video. This can and should be used to create impact in your campaigns. However, the adoption of the latest handsets by your target market is by no means guaranteed. Consequently, the type and amount of information that you wish to convey may be limited in some cases. As a result, the most effective campaigns often utilise mobile in conjunction with other media.

Building trust
Building trust is vital when using mobile phones as a channel for marketing activity. More often than not customer acquisition-led messages sent to mobiles are deemed highly intrusive when used as a first point of contact with a prospective customer. This is not to say that with clear opt-in and opt-out processes, targeting of highly relevant messages, and a clear call to action - typically a link to a web site - mobile marketing cant be well received and highly effective. Rather, the medium is more effectively utilised when used in conjunction with other channels for acquisition and retention activities. With acquisition, an initial email to create brand awareness,  followed by a second email with the call to action of an opt-in to receive further communications direct to mobile, is a particularly effective contact strategy. 
Mobiles provide a wealth of options in your contact strategy for increasing sales, whether used as a standalone communications channel, or integrated with other digital and offline channels. Informing customers about new product launches and special promotions to their mobiles provides an effective, low-cost and traceable campaign option. And using the mobile to reinforce messages on other channels, for example driving the recipient to a website, call centre or directly to a store to increase footfall, makes good use of the technology. 
With the basics of good marketing practice taken as read, such as straightforward opt-in and opt-out; aligning the type and style of communication with your business objectives; and tailoring the message to the delivery characteristics, the options and benefits available to marketers for using mobile marketing in these uncertain times makes the case for investigating the channel even more compelling. 
This is a great opportunity for mobile marketers to shake off any lingering doubts about its effectiveness and to start seeing mobile as the exciting, dynamic medium that it really is.