American Marketer


Changing role of the mobile marketer in cross-channel world

December 29, 2010

Gib Bassett


By Gib Bassett

Mobile marketing as a profession is a fairly recent phenomenon. It reflects the reality that mobile is becoming an important part of the marketing and fulfillment mixes for businesses of all stripes. You could say the same about social media pros.

As mobile and social media functions establish themselves, they join others such as email in today’s multichannel marketing world.

The fact all these channels are digital means marketers have a lot of flexibility with respect to the frequency and timing of campaigns and other types of communications.

It is because of this that an alternative view of multichannel marketing is emerging quickly – cross channel marketing.

Cross-channel marketing – whereby marketers execute campaigns in a more unified fashion across channels in consideration of consumer preferences and permissions – is such a new idea that it often requires clarification.

The most-simple explanation is that it is the inverse of a multichannel, siloed approach where plans and actions occur in relative isolation. I have seen this situation first-hand in many businesses, where separate teams are aligned to mobile, social media and email and they collaborate little, if at all.

And so the problem is?

On the surface, there is nothing inherently wrong with this approach.

The pace of change and innovation in digital marketing has been such that quickly adding capabilities trumps potentially time-consuming integration considerations.

Think about how many brand marketers jump to the conclusion that they need an iPhone application or marketing leaders prioritize having a presence on Twitter or Facebook because the competition does.

Being late to the party simply is not an option, lest you fall behind the curve.

Before disconnected efforts become too entrenched, marketing leaders should recognize some challenging byproducts of marketing silos:

1. Separate people, products, databases and processes, all essentially working to drive desirous consumer behavior effectively compete with one another, to say nothing of inefficiencies.

2. Consumers are exposed to some 3,000 marketing messages every day from various sources and different channels, per Symphony/IRI research. This message quagmire drags down the performance of everyone’s marketing efforts.

3. Consumer adoption of smartphones increases daily and the devices are used for all manner of activities, at any time or place.

The inefficiencies implied in the first point begets perceived and real redundancies in consumer touches, which in turn fight for attention with marketing messages from other sources and from multiple channels (the second point).

It follows that response rates and campaign ROI suffer over time, begging for a cross-channel approach.

The third point speaks to the opportunity that mobile marketing professionals have to steer their companies toward better outcomes.

Hard choices ahead

Marketing leaders will soon have little choice but to reconcile disconnected marketing efforts.

Some tough choices will have to be made regarding where to place their bets.

While they could elect to pick a channel to base all other activities around as much as possible – simplification through subtraction – I propose that this is a false choice. There are no channels to choose among.

Instead, I suggest the mobile device is becoming the de facto interface between consumers and business. It is on smartphones that digital channels such as text messaging, email, Web and social media come together.

The emphasis thus shifts to targeting and calling to action mobilized consumers most effectively, given the strengths and limitations inherent in mobile devices.

It is conceptually like what Motorola’s “Moto Blur” attempted to offer consumers, but for marketers it requires a new generation of marketing technology optimized for the type of campaigns that work best on mobile devices.

With expertise in how consumers use mobile devices, mobile marketers have a chance to lead their companies in the right direction.

Soon every business will need a conductor of sorts to orchestrate customer relationship strategies targeting the mobilized consumer. The mobile marketer could be that person.

Just like any legitimate technology-enabled process, cross-channel marketing is neither an esoteric business-school concept or a rip-and-replace technology solution. It simply makes sense, but getting started requires a step-wise approach that begins to unwind siloed digital marketing efforts.

Fortunately, there are a number of ways that mobile marketers can demonstrate the value of cross-channel marketing as a step toward broader adoption.

Lead with customer experience

The point of cross-channel marketing is to create better experiences for customers based on channel preferences. Key to that end is recognizing that different channels bring strengths and weaknesses to the task.

Leading with this goal is a proven way of addressing objections from internal stakeholders aligned to channels other than mobile.

Two examples of easy-to-implement cross-channel approaches include leveraging the email subscription list to build the mobile subscriber base.

The other takes advantage of the reach offered by text messaging in line with the viral qualities of social media.

Although easy to execute conceptually, marketers require specialized software optimized for mobile interactions and that have logical ties to other channels.

Leverage the email list: Most companies have long-established and large lists of opted-in email subscribers. These customers deserve an opportunity to opt into mobile communications, offers and other calls to action.

Adding a link to an opt-in form is often all that is necessary, along with an incentive such as registering for mobile alerts or offers. This form should be tied directly to the mobile marketer’s system to automatically build up the mobile opt-in list.

What is in it for the email team? Email communications are challenged by competition with other messages in jammed-up email in boxes, and a tie to mobile can alert subscribers to look out for the message.

Later, the email and mobile teams can work together to develop higher response marketing campaigns that take advantage of the best attributes of each channel – email as visual/explanatory, mobile and text as timely, portable and universal.

Create a hybrid mobile/social campaign: Cross-channel campaign management systems optimized for mobile interactions take advantage of the massive reach afforded by text message communications as well as the viral qualities inherent in social media such as Twitter.

Promotions such as sweepstakes are a popular SMS campaign-type that today can be deployed to Twitter followers in such a way that contest posts may be forwarded (“retweeted”).

In the process, followers broadcast the promotion to many consumers outside the marketer’s social network who may be influenced to follow the marketer’s brand and also participate in the promotion. The incentive to the social media team to work with the mobile marketer is apparent.

Both of these examples yield a richer and more complete digital customer profile that informs better decisions within and across channels.

Cross-channel marketing efforts can add value to and co-exist with marketing silos.

Over time the lines may blur, but the mobile experience will increasingly become the primary interface between business and consumer. That is why mobile marketers are so well positioned to bring cross-channel value to their businesses.

Gib Bassett is director of marketing at Signal, Chicago. Reach him at