06 Mar 2012

14 Tips for Success in Marketing to Mobile Users

As Ninja Karina recently noted in her mobile website blog post, mobile users now constitute 20% of the search market, and that figure is only likely to grow. So how can you take advantage of all of those potential customers walking about all around you with mini-sized but full-blown computers in their pockets? I’ve put together my favorite ideas for mobile marketing success. Let’s explore those in detail.

Get users there (to your website or place of business)

  1. Be Siri-friendly. As discussed in my earlier post about Apple’s Siri technology and its effect on SEO, to be found today by queries to Siri, you need to have profiles for your brick-and-mortar business listed in both Yelp and in Google Places (which automatically puts you in Google Maps). (BTW, this is a great starting place for a larger, local search SEO campaign. For more info on that, check out my recent blog post on local search strategies.)
  2. Get listed in mobile (location-based) social media venues. Many mobile users depend on a variety of mobile-oriented social media services for recommendations and shopping advice. To help these potential customers more easily find you, you must be listed in these sites. In addition to Yelp and Google mentioned above, create complete and interesting business profiles in sites such as Foursquare, Gowalla, MechantCircle, & Where.
  3. Design email campaigns with mobile in mind. When you develop your email marketing campaigns, be mobile-friendly with a light-weight design, limited images, concise text (with descriptive subject lines and clear calls to action), and for more information, include links to a mobile-optimized landing webpage on your site or your company Facebook Fan page.
  4. Use a shortened URL. Many webmasters are creating shortened URLs to simplify web browsing on a mobile device. The tiny keyboard on mobile devices is fine for entering short bits of text, but for long URLs, it can be frustrating. Websites like Facebook allow users to use shortened, redirected URLs (in this case, fb.com). Some webmasters are using newer, short top-level domains (such as .CO) to create very short variants of their canonical domain names and using 301 permanent redirects (at least I hope they are 301s!) to push to their mobile users.While there are URL shortener services, such as Bit.ly and Goo.gl , these are best left for length-limited Twitter posts, as these services obscure any sort of branding, not to mention employ a cryptic mix of upper and lower-case letters and numbers that is the opposite of memorable! That’s not a good thing for any marketing effort!
  5. Use Quick Response (QR) codes. For items you manufacturer that are sold in retail environments, you can add QR codes to your product packaging. This new-style, matrix barcode technology, read by apps available on virtually all smart mobile devices, typically decode into website URLs, which once scanned and read, open up the mobile browser and resolve to the targeted webpage. QR codes are used to instantly take mobile device-equipped users to the specific product webpage containing more information. Since so many people now do comparison shopping while inside retail stores using their mobile devices, providing a mobile-optimized landing page with additional information about the product can help translate shoppers into brick-and-mortar conversions. You’ll find numerous QR code generator websites in search.
  6. Create a custom mobile app. If you have the funds and/or the development resources in-house, creating a custom app for Apple IOS, Google Android, and Microsoft Windows Phone 7 devices can set your business apart from the competition. You can control what the user sees and experiences within the app experience, which can be a powerful marketing tool.Note, however, that the development costs can be an expensive investment. On top of that, with the ubiquity of professionally designed mobile apps today, an app done on the cheap will likely result in poor user ratings, very few downloads, and ultimately wasted marketing resources that might have been better spent elsewhere in your mobile marketing campaign. If you go this route, do it right, or don’t do it at all.

Keep them there

  1. Create a mobile-optimized website. Once you get the mobile user to visit your website or a targeted landing page, ensure the experience is optimized for mobile users. Surfing the web on a tiny mobile device can be a frustrating experience in any case, but posting pages targeted to mobile users that are not optimized for mobile browsers will only earn you bounces rather than conversions. Before you publish mobile-targeted pages, you can test your work at the Google-sponsored GoMo. The site helps you see how it renders and learn more about developing pages for mobile devices. It may be a bit Android-centric, but it’s at least a place to start.
  2. Don’t use Flash, Silverlight, large images or PDFs on mobile pages. Rich Internet applications such as Flash and Silverlight are often resource hogs, increase download times, and in some cases, simply don’t work (Apple refuses to support Flash content on IOS). Again, think light-weight design, text-oriented content using at most a few small images with clearly identifiable and easily clickable links.
  3. Optimize the site for mobile conversions. Mobile users are not just shoppers; they are buyers as well. Optimize your shopping conversion funnel for simplicity with mobile. Don’t skimp on security, but also don’t make your conversion process links hard to find or use. Frankly, this is good advice for any online shopping experience, but it’s especially important for mobile users.

Reward them for coming

  1. Offer discounts and deals to repeat mobile customers. Use mobile (location-based) social media marketing services such as Foursquare to generate interest in return visitors by offering discounts to regular mobile customers. Offer special deals (such as a free drink with a sandwich and bag of chips) on your slowest days to generate more walk-in business. For high-repeat visitors (such as Mayors or other badge earners on Foursquare), offer special discounts over and above any other deals. Even Facebook offers a Places feature for mobile users. Incentivizing your mobile patrons to come back encourages repeat business and develops customer goodwill. And if the user is an active Foursquare user, they are likely also actively using Twitter, Facebook, and other social media channels, so do something special for these influential users to make them active advocates of your business.
  2. Offer free WiFi. Many users will opt to use WiFi instead of their phone service’s data plan if it’s available at no cost (note that some mobile devices, such as iPod Touch and some iPads, are WiFi only), so this service is greatly appreciated. While you may have a few squatters from time to time, most users will happily buy something from you (especially tasty food items) to pass the time as they chat on social media about how they like your store. If you wish to control the access to the network, you can always give away the “free” WiFi logon credentials with product sales. (Tip: change the credentials periodically to help this work, but also be flexible when the credentials are shared with friends. Always remember that the goal is never to antagonize your socially influential customers!) Besides, WPA2-secured connections should be the norm today with WiFi access.
  3. Consider running an opt-in SMS campaign. SMS or text messaging is a powerful communications tool with mobile users. The 160-character limit allows for the quick exchange of messages that mobile users enjoy receiving and sending. To tie in a mobile marketing campaign with your customers’ use of SMS, you can offer a contest where they can text a specific message to your business text address to be entered in a contest for a weekly or monthly prize (perhaps a one-time discount or even a low-cost product free of charge). Alternatively, you can text your regular mobile customers about special, limited-time deals and discounts available just for them. In either case, since sending and receiving texts is a paid service from the phone companies, and not everyone pays for a texting plan, be sure your SMS mobile campaign is an opt-in campaign. Again, you never want to antagonize your customer-base.
  4. Take advantage of cameras on mobile devices. Consider running a contest where your mobile users send in a photo taken using your product or shot in/at your store. The process of participating in a brand loyalty campaign often generates the very loyalty you seek to promote, so give away many smaller prizes (instead of one large prize) in weekly or monthly contests to have lots of winners (why do you think McDonald’s Monopoly contests are so popular?). People love to win something, and they remember who made them a winner.

Ask for their feedback

  1. Ask for reviews. Actively ask for customer feedback comments on sites such as Yelp, Citysearch, Google Places, TripAdvisor, UrbanSpoon, Zagat and elsewhere (important sites relevant to your business, of course) while the customers are at your place of business. Provide signs or table placards offering QR codes linking to your business profile on these review site. Assuming your product or service is typically excellent, asking for reviews can be a real boon to your business’ online rankings in search. Of course, that also means you’ll have to already have well-developed business profiles in each of these locations. And don’t forget to ask for Likes and comments on your business Facebook Fan page as well.

To think like a mobile user, it’s really helpful to become a mobile user. You’ll start to see how your customers (and potential customers) interact with businesses and each other in mobile. Of course, you can always just ask questions of your mobile customers: Which social media sites do they use most? Which reviews sites are the most trusted? Ask them how they use mobile to find things to do or places to go. Perhaps you do this as an informal poll as they visit your business, or you can make it into a quick comment card survey. Just be sure to reward them for their helpful feedback (perhaps they become entered in a weekly contest, but have the latitude of rewarding really helpful responses as “instant winners!”). Any helpful feedback they give you is the equivalent of spoon-feeding you the ambrosia of online success. By focusing on what mobile users what, when they want it, and how they want it, you can be ready for them when they come calling on you!

How have you been successful in marketing to mobile device users? Let’s talk!


  1. Sohel Parvez March 12, 2012 at 4:11 PM

    Thanks Rick for your great effort, especially thanks for mention about facebook Places feature. will try it..

    1. Rick DeJarnette March 13, 2012 at 2:17 PM

      Sohel, I’m glad you found this post to be helpful! That’s what it’s all about for me!

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