At last week’s Mobile Insider Summit in Key Largo, Fla., Yelp, Google Maps, Alfred, Where, and all the other usual suspects I consult for nearby resources were not going to be of much help here. We were in another world. The private, deliberately removed, enclosed, remote, painfully exclusive Ocean Reef Club wasn’t the kind of place where you will find quick takeout, a 7-Eleven or a chain of any sort. “We need another cheap suitcase for the trip back,” my wife insisted. We were way overweight on the one consolidated half-trunk we had brought down. “See if there is a Goodwill around here,” she teased.
“We are encircled by multimillion-dollar yachts,” I protested. “They have dress codes here for every function…including croquet. There are more golf carts than people here. What makes you think you will find a Goodwill?”
“Yeah but you have to figure that these people must throw away some really cool stuff. That would be a helluva Goodwill."
No -- if we wanted to hear directly from local merchants using mobile marketing, we were going to have to airlift them in. Which we did. For a superb panel on how real local businesses are using the medium, we had from Miami Mike Broder, a comics shop owner and President of the Florida SuperCon event, and Field Harrison, the owner of Dallas-based Mint Dentistry. Both Mike and Field were emphatic about something that many agencies large and small may well forget about when activating the local channel: these small business owners are using their own personal funds to underwrite the marketing plan. Mike said that every marketing decision he makes comes out of his pocket. This isn’t someone else’s line item.
I spoke with Field later about this and he reiterated that a small business like his is always fighting the temptation to pull back on marketing because it can too easily feel like you are saving money. “One of the worst things I ever did was not stick to my marketing plan,” he says. “The minute you think you can skim the marketing and still grow, you are going to lose money. But it is such a temptation."
For his dental practice, Field has tried just about every local marketing platform, from radio to cable TV and print. But he was shocked by the response his local campaign on Pandora experienced. “I never felt like a bigger celebrity,” he says. People were coming up to him left and right to tell him they had heard the ad. Better still, he heard the ad. “With radio and TV, they tell you the ad ran four times and you have to take their word. But when you hear your ad three or four times while you are jogging, you feel more confident,” he says
Mint Dentistry ran an audio and display campaign via Pandora at a hyper-local level for three months. The 30-seciond audio ad fed into the stream. It was accompanied by a full screen takeover during the spot, which shrank to a banner until the next promo. With its zip code registration, Pandora was able to target the ad to a ten-mile radius of Field’s practice. It ran between mid-August and mid-November and delivered 2.36 million impressions that resulted in over 10,700 clicks. Most of the traffic was coming from mobile-connected devices, and Field says on the next campaign he won’t even bother advertising on desktops.
For an SMB, measuring success is often more impressionistic than precise. In addition to the obvious thrill of having patients new and old mention they had heard his ad on Pandora, Field says that the bottom line is always determined by his bottom line. Being a dentist who is already making appointments for his patients six months down the road, CRM is not the point. It is about acquisition. “The main thing I am looking at is ROI – am I growing? Will I do better this month than last year on this month?”
Field became a quick believer in the power of mobile. It helped him target the immediate vicinity but also was good at finding his own demographic. Like many people in their 30s, Field actually listens to Pandora himself, as do the patients who would tend to feel most comfortable with him. One of the little peculiarities of marketing dentistry is that “it is easier for any dentist to market to their own generation,” he tells me. I didn’t know that, and I wonder how many marketers truly understand the specifics of the small local businesses they are trying to help.
As Mike Broder said on the panel last week, he knows his own clientele intimately. The guys who will come to a comics convention tend to be eager but relatively broke. Moreover, he related how a much larger comics conference came into the Miami market recommending that he just give up his list and let them take over. As he tells it, their lack of understanding of the local clientele and where and how to market in Miami led them to a failed event. Mike’s SuperCon remained triumphant, he argues, because things like mobile marketing tied to a deep knowledge of the neighborhoods and prospects made his efforts more effective.
And the smart SMBs understand the need for marketing. But getting the solutions to them is another thing altogether. Not only does their marketing budget come from their own pockets, but those pockets get filled by working long hours, not by reading columns like these about mobile marketing ideas. Pandora, while it worked well for Field, was the mobile platform with which he was familiar and the first one put before him. He hasn’t tried another channel like SMS because it hasn’t been offered.
As much as the technology has evolved and local ad budgets have started to go digital, the same old problem remains: How do new platforms get in front of, help and genuinely listen to the needs and knowledge of real world business owners? No doubt there are countless SMS providers in Dallas who could get Field up to speed on messaging, but they aren’t where a busy dentist can see and evaluate them. “I would love to know how I could text messages to a million people,” he says, “but I don’t know who can do it.”