I'm immensely excited about how completely mobile platforms impact our lives.
Not just the hyper-fast access information and being able to call whomever you want wherever you are, but also in more fundamental ways around the globe by empowering farmers to get better rates for their crops, or helping children to learn in new ways, or making revolutions ever more efficient.
I'm a lot less excited when I think about the imagination that we've brought to bear on mobile platforms and business/marketing. Legions of companies (large and extra large) still don't fundamentally grok the sweet power that this platform brings with it. They are slow to grasp new opportunities to rethink customer relationships, to revolutionize products and services, marketing, advertising, acquisition, and to deliver delight and make people happy. They are still stuck, for the most part, in 1980s thinking.
I want to try and fix a little bit of that in this post.
I'll share two examples of companies that are doing something non-normal when it comes to mobile marketing. Specifically they are re-thinking four key success factors that make will make any business successful in the future:
1. Customer acquisition
2. Moving from shouting to providing value
3. Re-imagining what it means to get access to customer data and
4. Behavior/intent targeting (this one is so cool!)
Two companies, Skullcandy and TripIt, delivering on four amazing outcomes that inspire us to set the bar significantly higher for our mobile efforts in 2015 (or sooner!).
Reality Check / Don't Stink Today, If Possible.
It is hard to talk about AMAZING, INCREDIBLE, LET'S AIM TO REINVENT THE FUTURE marketing when the current state of affairs is so poor. And it is.
Here's a representative example.
I'm on the road a lot and to book an upcoming flight, I take out my Samsung Galaxy S3 (my review + tips) and type in the name of my favorite website, Travelocity. I see a link to Cheap Flights under their search results, I click on it, the page loads, and I start crying…
How it is possible that in 2012 an organization as successful, as profitable, and as full of intelligent people as Travelocity has still not figured out how to configure their CMS to detect a mobile browser user agent id and serve me a mobile-friendly webpage?
I pinch and zoom and I try to use the page. But my tears are in the way. I give up.
Heartbreaking but Travelocity is not the exception to the rule.
I go back to Google and try Kayak, :(, and then Hotwire, :(. Finally, just when my tears are almost exhausted I type in "cheapflights" and I smile…
Now was that really hard?
An astonishing percent of travel-related queries now happen on mobile platforms. If you are in the travel business, please consider meeting the lowest bar God could have created: Deliver a smart phone – and tablet friendly – website.
And travel is by no means unique; try any of your normal brands. You'll cry most of the time.
2009 was the year of mobile. It is time to fix your website. Please. Let's not wait and see if this mobile thing is really a fad. It is not too late to be early.
While you are at it, consider having a non-stinky mobile app. This is the lowest bar there is: The simplest, most intuitive way to complete the core tasks of your digital existence.
Remember, at least for now, fingers on these devices belong to a highly prized & desirable demographic. You want to be BFFs with them!
If your company has a non-stinky mobile website and mobile app then congratulations: you have successfully solved the problem of 2009! Celebrate a little.
But then ponder this: Is this the best we can do with mobile?
Re-think Customer Acquisition, Brand Engagement.
Why should we rely on shouting on TV or Radio to acquire new customers? Why should we persistently pimp our products and services on Facebook or Twitter hoping someone will read our feed? Why should we wait for the Bing/Google/Yandex auction to work in our favor to ensure our ad shows up in front of the right people?
Why not rethink acquisition?
Why should we spend our marketing budget on the "99 guaranteed ways to make your video go viral" to deliver a great brand ad? Why should we wait for someone to walk into our store to be wow-ed by our new paint/furniture/experience? Why should we hope and pray that you love our latest ad with the cute baby and get a positive brand impression?
Why not rethink branding? Why not rethink brand value?
Mobile presents a unique opportunity to shift from interruption to becoming a persistent part of someone's life. I'm very excited about this possibility for all of us.
Let me give you an example.
Like everyone in California, I surf. ^)
To fit surfing into my three concurrent jobs, two small kids, and one magnificent spouse lifestyle I need a surf reports app that will give me precise information about the waves.
I do what everyone does: I type that query into Google on my mobile phone. I'm surprised to see an AdWords ad for a Skullcandy app.
Wait. Don't they make headphones? And is it not true that you can't wear headphones while you surf?
The ad description is for an app that sounds exactly like what I need, so I click on it. Rather than going to a lame webpage with links to iTunes or Google Play, the ad recognizes the platform I'm on and takes me directly to the app download page on the Google Play store. How unexpectedly delightful!
Two clicks and ten seconds later, I'm in the app!
You will notice very quickly, as I did, that this is not a "let's pimp headphones aggressively" app. In fact, on the main menu there is everything except pimping. TV and music to deliver a great brand experience. Snow, skate, surf and motox reports are perfectly targeted to the potential audience's tastes.
It takes just one click to find surf reports (auto location detection via GPS is so cool!). I pick the beach with the best waves and place a call to my boss to let her know I'll be working from home for the rest of the day. Data-driven decision making! :)
The Skullcandy app includes other micro-conversions, such as news about the company and its sponsored athletes. If you work hard enough, you can find a link to sign up for a mailing list or the macro-conversion of buying some headphones.
But the app overwhelmingly exists to do just two things: 1. Selflessly deliver an incredible amount of value to Skullcandy's target audience and 2. Do so in a beautiful (for their audience :) and immersive brand experience.
For that, Skullcandy gets the greatest gift any company can get from me: Attention. It is manifested as an icon on the home screen of a device that never leaves my side. All because they made my life a little bit better.
I see that icon every day. They've never asked me to buy their headphones (who likes a nag?), but since I've had their app, I've purchased six pairs of Skullcandy headphones for my family and to give away.
I call this phenomenon utility marketing.
In normal marketing, we do research and bidding and guessing and demographic / psychographic / behavior targeting and so much more just to guess when to interrupt people with a message about our brand.
Utility marketing is about delivering such incredible value that you simply become part of your audience's life!
Completely coincidently, I received the below tweet just as I was drafting this post. It took me a second to get it, and then a few more seconds to locate the icon (can you find it faster?)…
But I was thrilled to see my utility marketing strategy in action!
It made my day. Thank you Paul !!
One other quick favorite example of a company that does utility marketing really well on mobile platforms: Procter & Gamble. My Beauty Adviser, Iams Vet 24/7, Stain Brain , the uber-famous SitOrSquat and the fun Crunch Band are just some examples of apps that allow P&G, at a very low cost, to become part of our lives by helping us look beautiful, solve pet problems, remove stains and find a clean public restroom in a hurry.
So, what is your company's mobile strategy? Interruption or utility marketing? Is there anything compelling and of value that you deliver, selflessely, to your current and potential audiences?
If you don't, it is time to future-proof your marketing strategy, because the world is most definitely moving to utility marketing.
And for now it is pretty cheap. A decent mobile app costs infinitely less than producing a single TV commercial, , and — done right — delivers a hyper-relevant audience with whom you can build a relationship unlike what is possible via any other channel on the planet. And you'll never have to remember to interrupt them, because you'll be part of their life already!
Get off the sidelines. Re-think customer acquisition and brand engagement.
You'll notice that along with the other two benefits above you are also collecting data about your customers (with permission). That brings me to my second in the future when we all do this it is so cool example.
Re-think Customer Data Acquisition, Intent Targeting/Monetization.
Skullcandy and P&G are (with permission) collecting anonymous data about user behavior in their apps. They can learn a lot about what customers do in the apps and improve them to make them even more delightful. [Google Analytics Mobile Application Analytics Suite]
But what if we make data collection the primary purpose of our mobile app and then use that data (with permission) to create hyper-targeted, right moment, right time monetization strategies?
In lay terms: Why not deliver such incredible value to our customers that they are willing to share their data with us, which in turn (with permission) we can use to become smarter about how we money?
Sounds incredible, does it not?
Here's a great example of such a marketing strategy in action, and it is only possible in any robust sense on a mobile platform.
One of my favorite apps is TripIt. I simply email the air, hotel, car rental confirmation to TripIt and they organize it beautifully into a cohesive itinerary for my trip. I can access it on the web, but more importantly, I can have it all on my phone in an app.
As you can see I have the Pro version of the app (note: this is method No. 1 of how TripIt makes money). Here's what a complete itinerary looks like for a recent trip:
I also get flight delay alerts, maps, directions and so much more. I'm also a Pro member of TripIt (method No. 2 for who they make money — $49 per year).
The app is really good. And TripIt could stop there.
But why do that?
I'm already giving them so much of my data. Why not use that data to find new monetization strategies?
So TripIt does something very smart. It monitors my trips, and it notices that for my trip to Orlando I've only sent in email confirmation for the flights. The hotel is missing…
Consider what an incredible gift this is! I'm not randomly searching Google. I'm not upper or lower funnel. I'm not watching the Broncos on TV (Go Manning!) and maybe on the lookout for a relevant TV ad. I'm telling them where I'm going to be, and that I don't have a hotel! No guessing! And time to move into action.
So here's what they do … within 24 hours I get this sweet email from TripIt…
What are the chances that I booked this hotel?
Super duper high!
I'm sure you are impressed at the data mining and intent targeting efforts of TripIt.
But I don't think you fully appreciate them. Let me explain.
Unlike every other travel company that might attempt this, TripIt did not send me a dumb list of 50 hotels in Orlando. That would have been an easy thing to do based on data mining (lame data mining!).
They actually went through my history, noticed that I usually stay at a Hilton, and they have my Hilton Honors program ID number (scraped from the confirmation emails!).
They use that information to send me an email with one hotel in it. Just one.
When I got this email, as a Marketer and Data Mining connoisseur, I had to smile. It was just so smart.
And when I clicked on Book Now, I was taken to a web page with hotel details and a reservation box (with my Hilton Honors number already filled out!). #omg
Another example, for my upcoming stay in NYC, TripIt noticed I've not booked a hotel yet. Last night I got an email from them to book a hotel. It was not any random Hilton in NYC (there are at least 25 just in Manhattan). It was the Hilton close to the Google office where I stay most of the time! #omg #omg
People don't mind behavior/intent targeting. What people mind is lame unintelligent behavior targeting. Remember that.
TripIt offers a free service as well, but it has managed to create value for itself in three ways: Pay for the pro version of the service, the app, and intent targeted reservations. That is what all marketing in 2015 will look like.
Back to your business. Are you using the mobile platform to exchange data for value? Have you thought of innovative ways you can use that data to create hyper-relevant targeting opportunities based on strong intent signals?
If no, why not?
There is an additional question I ask myself.
Why hasn't Expedia created an app like this? Why is their app, just like every other one, just a "I'll remember to look for your app out of 20 I have and proactively search for a hotel/airline ticket and make a reservation but that is all it will do" app?
Surely it can't be the tiny amount of money it costs — it is small. Surely it can't be the resources required — they have a ton. Surely it can't be that they don't want my intent data — what better way for Expedia to target me with relevant products? Surely it can't be because they don't have the data mining chops — they do.
So, why not? Why not add to their existing strategies of guessing if I need travel services and bombarding me with TV ads or those on Bing, why not create a proposition where they deliver something of value to me, I exchange that for data, and they do smart targeting tied me my already declared needs? Why have marketing only be in the business of interrupting people and praying that it works? Why can't marketing be in the business of creating insane initial value for consumers?
I don't know.
But I hope that people at Expedia, Priceline, United and every other company in the world will pause from the traditional shouting on TV and unleashing a tsunami of digital display ads long enough to consider these amazing new opportunities that bring customers closer to them, give incredible insights into customer intent, and create high converting monetization opportunities.
If you were looking for another incredible example, from a different industry of (with permission) exchanging data for value that is then gets converted into monetization opportunities for a company, look no further than another one of my other favorite apps: Pageonce – Money & Bills.
Pageonce provides single point access to all my finances that would put any bank/financial institution (along with the Quickens/Mints of the world to shame). Banking, brokerages, investments, credit cards, 100% of my bills, and of course allow me to pay said bills – along with real time access to my entire everything financial on every platform I want it!
I can't believe every financial institution in the world is not falling all over themselves to do this. Why not be like Pageonce and exchange value for data (with permission)? Make money on the primary services, but ALSO make money on the data (in case of Pageonce using hyper-targeted relevant card offers or other services – not the annoying kind, rather based on actual consumer behavior and smart data mining)
Chase bank, Fidelity investments, Vanguard, utility companies, (and even Intuit)… why not?
It would not be my blog if there was not at least a word about measurement.
Everything described above is measureable.
Mobile application analytics solutions provide a very robust set of data about your apps. I'm particularly excited about collecting not just the normal "page view" data for apps, but also behavior data from the app stores (acquisition metrics), unique user tracking, and ecommerce (micro and macro conversion) happening inside the app.
Mobile platforms present an opportunity to achieve every marketer's dream: right message at the right time to the right person.
But they do demand that we forget traditional unimaginative ways of creating experiences and delivering value like relying on shouting/guessing. The opportunity has not exploded yet, but we are approaching that moment.
In 2015, marketing will look like a turbo-charged version of what Skullcandy, P&G, TripIt and Pageonce are doing. I hope you find inspiration in their work today to start your company's evolution to execute on the possibilities of utility marketing.
As always it's your turn now.
What are your favorite examples of utility marketing? Which companies have you honored with icons on your phone/tablet's home screen? Has your company tried innovative data mining off mobile customer or application behavior data? What are your management's excuses for not creating incredible mobile experience (site or app)?
Please share your tips, stories, feedback and critique via comments.