Times are tough in agency land.
There are hundreds of thousands of agencies out there, from the multi-national behemoths to the one-person consultancies. And at the end of the day, all of them have the same challenge: delivering value to their clients, and demonstrating that value.
But while that requirement isn’t changing, everything else is.
Certainly when it comes to the technologies through which we can talk to the consumer, the advent of the smartphone represents the ultimate threat and opportunity: on the one hand it is fast making old reliables like TV irrelevant, on the other it offers a more direct and personal connection than ever before.
Rise of Mobile
It seems hard to believe, but it’s only eight years since the launch of the iPhone.
To today’s user who compulsively uses their phone for, well, everything, it seems almost inconceivable to be without it. No wonder mobile commerce was last seen heading past the $100 billion mark and off into the distance.
So it’s no longer a case of predicting when the smartphone will take over the world; it already has. Our mobile is with us all day, used in a way we’ve never used any device before, and, perhaps most importantly, it’s at the center of our decision making processes.
As we noted above, that means opportunities. And as an agency, success depends on communicating that opportunity to your clients, and delivering a compelling strategy to make the most of it.
Let’s be clear, if you ever hear “so what about mobile?” coming from across the table, you’ve lost already. It’s your job to understand the challenge, and prepare your client - not the other way around!
Becoming “Mobile First”
At Swrve we’ve worked with many agencies (plus many more mobile app businesses) and we’ve come to identify certain common traits that a ‘mobile first’ organisation has.
The first, of course, is the understanding we’ve discussed above. But beyond that - what next? Here’s a few pointers:
Multiple approaches to Mobile
Ask any marketing professional to define ‘mobile marketing’ and you’ll hear a variety of answers that might include:
- Sending SMS messages to advertise specific products or services.
- Creating location-based ‘experiences’ on the smartphone.
- Building acquisition campaigns to drive mobile app adoption.
- Managing customer engagement and retention within a mobile business channel.
And that’s just some of the options!
So it helps to clarify exactly what you want to offer clients, and how it can impact their business. Perhaps the simplest distinction is that between what could be called ‘brand’ campaigns - that deliver mobile experiences designed to boost brand equity, and ‘commercial’ campaigns aimed directly at driving mobile revenue. The two require very different approaches.
Most businesses big enough to cut a monthly check for an agency operate in more than one channel. But chances are their marketing doesn’t. At best, the now ubiquitous 360° campaign involves delivering similar content across multiple channels, but really successful campaigns require a truly integrated experience for the end-user.
Strategically integrated campaigns, the ones that deliver measurable ROI and really excite clients will involve organic links across multiple channels - both online and offline - and enable information collected in one to be used in another.
This organic integration is particularly effective with mobile campaigns. The smartphone stays with the user all day, so there’s no better way to communicate with them at exactly the right time and in exactly the right place.
Leverage what’s great about Mobile
The key to delivering great campaigns is making use of the unique benefits each channel offers. This is particularly true of mobile. By now you’re probably aware that the smartphone is a hell of a lot more than ‘just a smaller screen’. It represents something of much greater significance.
The real way in which mobile changes the game is in terms of ubiquity and interactivity. On that basis, these are the aspects of the device that campaigns should leverage.
The flip-side of that argument concerns what you shouldn’t be doing on mobile, and that is - you guessed it - pitching ideas that belong on the desktop. Although it isn’t just a smaller screen, it is a small screen. And while consumer habits are changing fast, you should still bear this in mind when considering what campaigns to pitch.
Build long-term conversations
What all brands want is customers who become advocates. But to make that happen, agencies and brands have to work together to build campaigns and experiences that deepen relationships and move beyond the merely commercial.
Mobile offers an unrivalled opportunity to do just that.
All good conversations start with data. When we talk in real life, in addition to listening to the words, we are constantly reading body language. We’re also constantly accessing prior ‘data points’ relating to the person we’re talking - things we remember about what they’ve said or done in the past that add context to the current conversation. And it’s only after processing all this information that we then open our mouths, which in turn means we say something smart, relevant and interesting.
The same principle applies to marketing. To date, however, we’ve only had limited data and, as a result, we’ve made some pretty generic and uninteresting conversational gambits. Think every HTML email you’ve ever received!
Mobile changes that. Always with us, and pretty much always on, the quantity and variety of data we now have access to makes marketers incredibly fortunate. So it is incumbent on us to use that data, and use it wisely - building conversations that really mean something
Deliver outstanding experiences
Aren’t we always committed to delivering outstanding experiences? In fact, isn’t one of the primary roles of an agency to provide the creativity and skill that makes those experiences possible?
Of course it is, but it is more important on the smartphone than ever before.
Put simply, there are an almost infinite number of distractions on the phone itself, in addition to the distractions of the real world. The average user now has somewhere in the region of 100 apps on their phone or tablet, so getting and holding attention on mobile can be difficult. Hence the need for a tireless focus on the quality of experience within any campaign.
When it’s vitally important to hold the attention of the consumer, A/B testing can come to the rescue. As agencies, we’re used to thinking in terms of testing, but usually in a more qualitative sense - using focus groups and panels to assess the impact of campaigns. A/B testing, in the digital space, is different - a more scientific way of letting real user data tell us if we’re on the right track.
A real commitment to testing can ensure your work is more effective and compelling than ever before - even in the competitive mobile environment.
Tom Farrell is Director of Marketing at Swrve.
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Last updated 04/06/2015