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Five mobile touch-points for customer relationship marketing

By Stephan Dietrich

While any nascent marketing medium – think of email in the late 1990s, or even television in the 1950s – is as much about the journey as it is about reaching a destination, it is safe to say that in 2010, mobile marketing will reach that highly anticipated tipping point.

SMS campaigns can now reach a potential 240 million consumers nationwide. More than 54 million users regularly access the mobile Web and branded applications such as the Zippo Lighter application have been downloaded from Apple’s iTunes by more than 5 million users.

Each one of these examples touts impressive numbers, but they do not tell the whole story.

Journey, not destination
To date, mobile marketing has been highly focused on mass campaigns: each campaign has been a discrete element of the marketing mix, rather than a tool for knowing more about customers and prospects.

Email marketing was the same way when it first appeared, often operating in a silo and single touch point with little personalization.

While email has evolved, mobile marketing must similarly change. It is not a destination – it is part of the journey marketers need to take to reach an engaged, satisfied customer.

Successfully executing marketing campaigns across communications channels can be challenging, and bringing mobile into the mix certainly adds another layer of complexity.

While the mobile channel has matured in the past several years, for many it remains an experimental channel where marketing theory and execution often part ways.

Most marketers understand that to be truly effective, mobile campaigns cannot exist alone.

To maximize effectiveness, mobile messaging and offers must be highly personalized and tightly coordinated across all communications channels, including direct mail, email and social media.

Mobile touch-points
Mobile presents an opportunity to develop an ever-increasing, positive customer relationship experience and encourage loyalty. Let us take a look at some of the touch-points on this journey:

• For those new to mobile, a good first step is to use the channel to deploy service messages, such as providing useful information – alerts, notifications, events and product recall/updates – about recently purchased products.

For example, a major financial institution is using such technology to push alerts to its customers when their checking account balance is below a user-defined limit.

• Next, organizations can evolve to executing marketing or promotional messages, including managing personalized communications with a user community, including loyalty programs, as well as initiate cross-sell and up-sell opportunities.

One daily newspaper is using technology to send mobile alerts to customers when their classified ads are about to expire, in order to renew them. Some customers could receive emails, others SMS, and yet others could receive both, depending on how they opt into the process.

• To evolve the channel even further, mobile can also be used as a call to action, using the WAP push functionality.

For example, WAP push messages can embed a personalized URL enabling the consumer to shift directly from the mobile channel to a personalized Web or WAP site.

A global electronics company, for example, is using WAP push campaigns to support “fan clubs” where customers with special interests, such as soccer, can access relevant, targeted information about new products, services and downloads, while also gaining access to online activities including sports-themed music, games and videos.

Another marketer is using WAP push messages to send to prospects after cart abandonment, with a link back to its WAP site to complete their purchases, often with a special, customized incentive.

• Mature marketers are now offering the mobile channel as a “preference” choice, which is a natural way to extend the channel as part of the marketing mix.

For example, a smartphone developer can provide a Web page where users can choose which channel should be used for specific communications purposes, offering mobile as a choice along with email, Twitter and Facebook for product updates, service notifications and other important news.

At every touch-point along the way, marketers are using mobile as a means to further engage their customers, from sending product information updates all the way to using mobile as the main communications conduit.

Each one of these efforts goes beyond simple campaigns and coupons. This, in turn, is creating greater customer acceptance and trust for the channel as it continues to become an increasingly valuable, effective component of the overall cross-channel mix.

Stephan Dietrich is president for North America of enterprise marketing software vendor Neolane, Newton, MA. Reach him at [email protected].