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Mobile Marketing: How to be Everywhere for Everyone

In 1960, The New York Times printed a story about advertising conventions held in the city. At one of the meetings, the Times reported, there was mention of a “mobile marketing” company that would deploy researchers to thousands of shopping malls. Those researchers would study consumer behaviors, from engagement through action. The mobile marketing company would use their research to inform its clients’ outreach efforts.

At a different meeting, one advertising executive unwittingly defined the ethos for mobile marketers. “What people think of us is shaped largely by what we do,” he said. “The dull commercial, the uninteresting moment between two interesting acts… all of these contribute to a bad image of our business.”

A half-century later, mobile marketing still strives to meet people where they are, at any time of day. And the challenge of mobile marketing remains the same: How should you insinuate your work into the lives of other people without mistreating them?

In 2016, “mobile” still refers to your devices, but it also reminds us that marketing is fluid. A nonprofit or purpose-driven organization can choose to be in close contact with its audience at any and every imaginable moment of the day. For an organization to distinguish itself, it needs to develop tools and strategies for turning that constant contact into meaningful connection, and avoid a few common and costly mistakes. Here are a few pointers.

Don’t get in the way

In September 2015, one of Tumblr’s founders launched an ad-blocking app for mobile browsers that he named “Peace.”

“Web advertising and behavioral tracking are out of control,” he wrote on his blog when Peace launched. “They’re unacceptably creepy, bloated, annoying, and insecure, and they’re getting worse at an alarming pace.” Within two days, Peace was “the number one paid app in the U.S.,” according to its creator, who then announced that Peace would be discontinued and its buyers refunded.

“Achieving this much success with Peace just doesn’t feel good, which I didn’t anticipate, but probably should have,” he wrote. “Ad blockers come with an important asterisk: while they do benefit a ton of people in major ways, they also hurt some, including many who don’t deserve the hit.”

The hubbub over Peace was a critical reminder of how many people feel about their private lives and personal space. Perhaps not all advertising or outreach is creepy or annoying, but some may be more frustrating than others. Nonprofits and purpose-driven organizations have a leg-up here, because they tend to invite their audience members to help them effect change, but they should also take care not to overstep the comforts of their supporters.

Optimize, optimize, optimize

Your content should be crafted for mobile devices, tailored to your social media presence, and finessed so that search engines can gather information with ease. Smartphone and tablet ownership has gone up during the past several years; one PEW report described many Americans as being “smartphone dependent,” and described the mobile device as “a key entry point to the online world” for many different communities. (That growth isn’t specific to the U.S., according to another study.)

Mobile device users represent a greater percentage of Facebook users and Google searchers. And as more people connect via mobile devices, they rely on content optimized for those devices to shape their engagement with the online world.

“Honor permissions. Period.”

This bears saying simply, and we think MarketingCloud did exactly that. Atop their list of “25 Mobile Best Practices to Drive User Engagement” was this direct and exact reminder: “Honor permissions. Period. Stay true to the opt-in agreement.”

Your supporters offer their attention and resources according to your organization’s guidelines. Do them the courtesy of being clear in your agreements and transparent in your motives.

Use - but don’t overuse - SMS

According to Salesforce, “90% of SMS texts are opened within three minutes of being received.” SalesForce offered a few instances of for-profit businesses that took advantage of SMS to carefully target their audiences (an auto repair chain reminded customers of upcoming appointments), and recommended that businesses make opt-in options clear for customers.

Take those notions and ideas of “immediacy” and apply them to nonprofits and purpose-driven organizations. Such organizations can use segmented SMS alerts to direct a national audience to local events, or raise funds, or solicit feedback to improve their messaging.  WholeWhale has a rundown of SMS ideas for nonprofits, all of which are helpfully categorized based on how each might assist your organization. (“Alert text,” “Concierge text,” etc.)

Appropriately, WholeWhale offers another explicit reminder: Push notifications shouldn’t be, er, pushy.

“‘Hey everyone here is what I have to say. No need to reply just click this.’” Does that message look tragically familiar? WholeWhale says, “Try to avoid these dead-end messages.” We concur.

Think flexibly

Reserve time to refine and revise your strategy - often.

“Some marketers forget that they have to segment their audiences,” according to Forbes. “You have to be able to effectively separate different groups so you can keep your relevancy score high.”

Remember that relevancy is not a trick or a product of design alone. MarketingWeek cautioned readers that many organizations “put apps before strategy,” which can muddle your message. Articulate your purpose as simply and clearly as you can, and then let that purpose inform how you reach out to your audience. Your outreach may change - it should change - but your message should be consistent.

This post first appeared on the Ignite Digital blog.

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