How To: Develop a Mobile Marketing Strategy

Lately, Mo and I seem to receive a lot of questions about mobile marketing.

Twitter was so last year, what do you know about mobile?

In fact, at the Illinois Governor’s Conference on Tourism, I had an interesting conversation with Zach Morrison at the Hancock Observatory regarding the need for iPhone Apps, mobile sites, text messaging and where to start.  That immediately spurred several thoughts and I felt the need to share my thoughts with Zach…and while we are at it…the whole Travel 2.0 Blog audience.

So, let’s get started and figure out how to develop a mobile marketing strategy.

A little background, Zach’s first question, like most peers I encounter, was a basic ‘where to start’ or ‘what do I need (in terms of mobile)?’  What seems like a rudimentary question is actually the ideal place to start the conversation within your organization.

Step 1: Determine Your Customer’s Need

Using the Hancock Observatory as an example, the first step in the process is to determine where you and your mobile offering fit into the consumer’s mobile lifecycle and the overall mobile landscape.

Let’s ask ourselves a few questions, and better yet, follow these questions with some actual in-market (go stand in the building lobby and ask questions) research:

  • Where will consumers (most likely) be accessing our information?
  • What type of visitor is likely to use a mobile device for information gathering?  Domestic or international, etc.?
  • Are they making a decision about visiting or have they already decided to visit?
  • What type of information are they looking for?
  • What other mobile site or application is the consumer using? Who is our competition?
  • What are we experts at?

At this point, it is important to determine the real need of the consumer.  Sure, you could squeeze your entire site into a mobile site, but does the average consumer need information about ‘Corporate Events’ or ‘Media Relations.’

Secondly, don’t reinvent the wheel.  If there is another application or site that has strong market penetration, discuss why and how your application would provide greater value to the consumer.  If the answer is ‘it doesn’t’ then you should probably reevaluate your strategy.

Lastly, examine the marketplace to determine if you can leverage existing applications to carve out a place for your mobile presence.  For example, make sure your listing on Google Maps (dare we say the most utilized application on any phone) is updated and contains relevant information.

Step 2: Determine Your Goals

Assuming you have determined a consumer need for a mobile application or site, what are your goals for this campaign?

  • Marketing?
  • Informational?
  • Self Guided Tours?
  • Customer Service?
  • Alerts?
  • Crisis Communications?
  • Happy hour announcements?

As you can see, a mobile strategy could follow several paths.  For this post, let’s assume that the Hancock Observatory has two goals:  self guided tours and information.

Step 3: Determine the Platform

Mobile takes many shapes and forms:  iPhone / Blackberry / Android applications, mobile sites, text messaging, audio tours, Twitter, etc, etc.  But which one is right for you and your audience?  Start this step by looking at your consumer and the research you have completed.

While iPhone applications are certainly the soup de jour, like all things interactive, what is right for one CVB, DMO or airline may not be right for your attraction, cruise line or tour company.

  • What type of mobile device is your demographic using?  Business travelers or techie hipsters?
  • Is cell service / WiFi available? (Important if you are running a rafting company versus a downtown attraction.)
  • What type of interactivity / functionality is required by the consumer?
  • What are the costs associated with each platform?
  • How will the product be updated / maintained?

Once you have completed this step, you can determine how the site or application will be built.  Vendor or in-house?

Plus, you now have the background needed to speak intelligently about your goals for this project to a potential vendor…rather than feeling overwhelmed by the apparent expertise from a sales rep.

Step 4: Determine Your Marketing Strategy

You can probably take it from here.  How are you going to promote this new found fountain of mobile marketing bliss?

Think about all of your consumer touch points and where it makes sense to promote your mobile offerings.  And please, for us, don’t just slap a phone icon on the bottom of a print ad.

I mean, how would you ever fit that in with the giant Facebook and Twitter logos you already have on there?

Hancock Observatory Mobile Marketing Strategy

Using the Hancock as our example, let’s make some assumptions about their consumer, assets and goals to finish off their mobile marketing strategy:

  • The average visitor to the Observatory has a mobile phone…60% have smart phones, 8% have iPhones and 32% have non-Smart phones.
  • The most popular information requested by visitors (from the survey and web analytics) is hours of operation.
  • The Observatory experience starts once visitors arrive at the viewing platform.
  • The Observatory has a wealth of information about the building…history, facts, stories…but few video assets that could be converted for a mobile device.

With that information, our (imaginary) mobile marketing strategy would look something like:

  • A basic mobile site to display important, day of travel information:  Hours of operation, tickets, location, transit stops, etc.  Not an app, just a simple mobile site…refer to for a great example.
  • A review of our listings on Google Maps to ensure that correct information is available.  Include any day of travel information (from the mobile site) that is not present.
  • The addition of daily Twitter updates on the status of the attraction:  Hours of operation updates daily at 8:00am; Wait times and visiting suggestions (“Visit us on Tuesday, crowds are thin from 1-3pm”) to keep our consumers informed.
  • Creation of a cell phone audio tour for the attraction.  We know the majority of our audience has a cell phone (most with unlimited minutes), but not all visitors have smart phones…the answer is a cell phone audio tour of the tower.  Personally, we like the solution from Guide By Cell…you can even change the recordings in real-time.

Could we have used an iPhone application?  Sure.  But this example should highlight the fact that you do not necessarily need one to have a mobile marketing strategy.

Your strategy will (and should) look different, which is the point.

So, to recap:

Step 1: Determine Your Customer’s Need

Step 2: Determine Your Goals

Step 3: Determine the Platform

Step 4: Determine Your Marketing Strategy

We would love to hear thoughts and suggestions from our readers, many of which have already implemented a mobile marketing strategy.  Tips, recommendations, additions, thoughts?

Let us and your peers know in the comments section.

Comment? @travel2dot0 or email.