The Unasked Questions

by , Dec 18, 2007, 12:30 PM
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What are publishers and advertisers forgetting to ask of their mobile marketing partners? So many newcomers to the mobile scene ask me about the first steps to take in getting into mobile, I decided to call upon some of my own most trusted contacts in the industry. My simple question was, as new clients come into your door, what would you have them ask of you and your competitors? In the rush to "go mobile," what are the questions that typically go unasked?

Mobile marketers may know mobile but they may not know your business and product, warns Jeff Hasen, CMO of HipCricket. There are a lot of mobile marketing firms out there with different experience with certain business segments, so don't presume a partner can mobilize anything effectively. "It is very different to launch a CPG or retail coupon promotion vs. a radio or broadcast campaign," Hasen warns. Look for examples of a partner executing in your product or service category.

Many clients want to "get into this mobile thing" without much sense of why or what they want to do with their customer once they do contact them on a handheld. Millennial Media CEO Paul Palmieri suggests that clients consider what comes next once you do get that customer on the line. "Maximize the value of that reach," he argues, and "make yours one of their preferred brands." Paul echoes a mantra I hear ever more in this industry: Advertising is not the strongest use of mobile. "Implementing post-click, value-add mobile solutions such as interactive rich-media experiences, mobile video, contests, games and more helps to build brand loyalty and ongoing consumer engagement," he says. "Beyond the banner" used to be a rallying cry for new ad formats on the Web circa 1999. On mobile, perhaps "after the banner" is the better marching order.

More than one mobile marketer suggests that clients grill partners on the full range of their capabilities, and to do so for a number of tactical reasons. For instance, Hyperfactory CEO Derek Handley suggests that "one-note" companies may have strong SMS skills but little mobile Web experience, and so their marketing plans for a client will favor their in-house expertise over the best strategy for the client. "Their thinking and abilities are ‘boxed-in' and limited entirely to what they are capable of doing in-house, which in turn limits the creative and execution options they can offer," he says. Make a partner show you campaigns that demonstrate cross-platform expertise or at least an ability to partner effectively so that a full range of possible solutions is on the table (downloads, WAP, games, alerts, etc.)

Dan Flanegan, CEO of Brand Anywhere, has related advice about vetting the real technical capabilities of a firm. Is it all in-house, and how much of the plan is outsourced and so contingent on a chain of people working in synch? "Put on the table that you know, for a fact, they can't do everything, no matter what they say.  So what do they do well, and what are the examples of that work, and who do they partner with for the things they can't do or have never done?" All of this matters when it comes to executing a mobile marketing mix that is by its very nature complex. "There is no passing the buck, and the pressure can be put on the provider to meet deadlines and goals if they own and manage their own infrastructure and/or platform," he contends.

Another important point on which both Dan and Derek agree is the need for clients to understand the real essence of their mobile marketing firm. Is the emphasis on mobile or marketing? Like the carriers themselves, many of the wireless startups in this platform are really technology companies straining to become media and marketing engines, and knowing their real pedigree can make all the difference. As Handley asks, "Are they a technology-led, product company? Or are they a brand-led, marketing enabler?" Flanegan suggests you look at the people. "Do their management and teams understand not only the technology that powers the campaigns, but have specific marketing and advertising experience?" And more to the point, who will be handling the account, a brand-aware veteran or one of the warm bodies just hired in the last staff-up? Technology companies may help your in-house marketing group assemble the platforms they need to execute strategies on their own, but they aren't necessarily going to offer creative and campaign insights.

Which brings us to the ultimate question of support in follow-through. Understand up front what the mid-campaign and back-end experience really will be like, advises HipCricket's Hasen. "Will the firm devise a strategy and [then] exit, or do they partner with you throughout the campaign's duration?" he asks. "It's also important to understand how easily and often your staff can access information on a campaign or make changes. Likewise, know what you're getting in terms of measurability - is every interaction with customers tracked? Can you customize reports? All of these pieces are critical if an ROI is to be calculated."

We're not done yet, however. I would like to turn the table on this one and ask content providers, agencies and brand marketers to reflect on the same topic and contact me with suggestions for a follow-up piece. In your own experiences executing partnerships or campaigns with mobile marketing companies, what are the questions you wish you had asked?

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