In this cost driven society, we are constantly looking for barometers by which to easily measure the products and services we buy and buying these products at the best price possible. Regardless of whether it’s for personal or business applications- as we might be considering hiring an appliance repairman and comparing the cost of in-home service calls, or perhaps a media buyer evaluating cost-per-points of television show to advertise on, or even a business looking for rental space by calculating price per square foot; all have standard gages by which to easily measure comparative efficiencies.
In those engagements, do those responsible for contracting or purchasing really ask the right questions? For instance, while the repairman might charge less than his competitors, how much experience does he have with your brand of appliance? In the case of the media buyer looking for the lowest cost per point programming, do those television shows have the appropriate demographic and psychographic composition for the product you’re advertising? And if it’s a business looking for the least expensive cost per square foot, wouldn’t it be important to know about any potential maintenance issues tenants have experienced?
However, if we choose to neglect our responsibilities, to ourselves or to our companies, and rely too heavily on rudimentary one-dimensional metrics, are we truly getting the best price, are we getting the best value?
The answer is an unequivocal ‘no’.
Mobile marketing, still a relatively new frontier, frequently struggles to fight against having antiquated, commodity based metrics assigned to it, as if it were a traditional (also read “fledgling”) media outlet. So, as print is evaluated by circulation, radio and television by cost per thousand/point and outdoor by daily effective circulation (DEC’s)- mobile application service providers (SMS companies) are more often rivaled by cost per text by the un-savvy majority.
For those looking for a SMS technology partner, the cost-per-text is merely one small component- it’s the platform and people that really count if you want a successful program. However, knowing what to ask, beyond cost-per-text, in order to discern between mobile providers is seemingly the greatest challenge for entering the space; perhaps we can offer some assistance to make sure you are getting the best value for the price.
Ask your prospective partners the following ten questions:
- Is the solution developed in-house or white labeled? If the company is white-labeling (rebranding) an SMS platform and reselling to you, it’s a huge red flag and you should immediately dismiss them from the vetting process. Mobile marketing is both a technical and marketing solution with special nuances that require area expertise. Your risks for being sued are exponentially greater the further you’re removed from the platform and its experts that are there to keep you safe.
- How long have they been in the mobile business? If it is a number less than 5 years, there are so many experienced players, no reason to suffer through the growing pains of a small company, or be victim to their freshman mistakes.
- Do they self-aggregate and/or use Tier 1 aggregators? If they are not capable of self-aggregation, keep looking, their know-how is limited and connectivity to carriers will not cast a wide enough net. Those small regional carriers are important as customers look at that lack of ability to engage a brand as a function of your company, not the device or carrier they’ve chosen- connectivity is key.
- What is their message throughput? If they can’t deliver messaging in excess of 400 per second, your messages are likely to get severely delayed the larger your database becomes; since SMS is all about targeted timeliness, long delays is not a negotiable you can compromise on.
- What is the company’s guaranteed uptime? Anything short of 98.5% is wholly unacceptable with 99.5%+ being the basic benchmark. Small mobile marketing companies will probably be unable to share any reporting figures, while larger one could likely provide you with formal internal audits. If the platform is not operating, either is your mobile solution – meaning you’re not paying anything for a text as they aren’t being sent.
- Are they using an SMPP or SMTP solution? If they use an SMTP protocol, well, that’s not shortcode text messaging, its just email to a phone number and provides none of the benefits of a true SMS service- its like using an abacus for a calculus problem- hang up and call the next vendor on the list.
- How many local, regional and national clients does the company support? Many of the smaller companies will use national logos while it may just be a single franchisee in a small market for which they are providing solutions. Don’t be fooled by the marketing. If a company does not provide services to several companies on a national basis, they probably don’t have a solution that has been fully tested and is truly viable.
- Does the company have additional mobile technology assets it can help your business leverage? Indeed SMS is just one part of the mobile ecosystem, however, integrating mobile websites, applications and other nifty overlays to include MMS, coupon redemption, location based services and QR codes also play a role. Mobile marketing providers who do not have these capabilities are too one-dimensional and you’ll most certainly out grow them before your contract ends.
- For those businesses looking to use mobile coupons, does the mobile provider have the ability to integrate with Point-of-Sale (POS) systems? Few companies would consider ‘show-your-phone’ as an adequate way to track and redeem mobile coupons. But single-use, dynamically generated codes that can be entered and tracked in a POS system is a closed-loop solution vital to any organization. If the mobile provider can’t do this, they shouldn’t have your business.
- What kind of account support does the company provide? Mobile marketing has several unique components relative to compliance (with serious legal ramifications) and best practices to keep your users engaged- being provided a user name and password into an SMS software suite will not suffice, you need ongoing training, support and concepting to keep your business lawsuit free and make your mobile program a valuable part of the overall marketing mix.
So, as one can see, mobile marketing has a number of critical layers that go well beyond just the cost of a text message. Assigning the appropriate worth to each of these ten important components will help arm the mobile decision maker with the tools to choose the best value partner. Indeed, the path of least initial resistance is to take a commodity stance, but there isn’t an educated mobile marketing expert that would tell you this is the course you should choose for either a short-term program or a long-term solution. Of course, if you need assistance navigating the mobile marketing waters and helping determine what the best value proposition is for your business, please contact Cellit and we’ll gladly assist.
In the Beginning
With nearly 15 years of experience in the local television broadcast world, my transition to mobile marketing two years ago was bitter sweet. In an industry that appears to be glamorous and cutting edge to the average viewer, for the insider, local broadcast television is, more often than not, a parochial existence based out of run-down offices hot-wired to a few satellites and a distant transmitter tower. Oh, yes, I was happy to leave the daily management grind of NSI’s and Zip reports, but as they say, ‘just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in’.
Breaking from the standard sales mantra of peddling a schedule, ratings trends, estimating new programming (remember Shasta McNasty?) and perhaps a pushing through a retread sponsorship opportunity for a local charity, anything else remains virtual blasphemy to most broadcast managers. Local broadcasting is a sanctuary where out-of-the box opportunities presented themselves as web-banners, customized jingles, weather tickers and the ever so rare non-traditional revenue that comes through good corporate citizenry initiatives…with about the same frequency of success that one sees Haley’s Comet on a sunny day. And so it goes, television, radio, and for that matter print, continue to function as they always have, like a hamster on wheel, doing the same thing over and over and never gaining traction. Admittedly, I too ran on the wheel, faster, slower, backwards and upside down, whatever was needed to make the sale or get my share of business in an increasingly cluttered and competitive marketplace. That is, until my revelation!
Touched by a Text
I had the good fortune to be working for a visionary while at Sinclair (Ticker: SBGI), the one I deem as the local broadcasting equivalent of Nostradamus. In my role managing national sales for numerous stations within the group, Rob Weisbord served as one of my many executive masters and provided me the first glimpse inside the Crystal Ball of Mobile-Media Convergence. In 2006, he was among the first to beta a mobile marketing solution that enabled local sales reps to integrate SMS alerts and coupons by leveraging the power of television and incorporating mobile call-to-actions in all aspects of the advertiser’s efforts. While its initial success is a matter of perspective, there is no doubt that my appetite was whetted and my destiny determined- it was time to break from the bondage of traditional media and begin interfacing like a true digital evangelist. And there it begins, from an illustrious career with several respected broadcast companies, to VP of Sales for one of the most esteemed mobile marketing leaders, the course of events was set in motion; I was at this point, ‘being pulled back in’.
Coupling my experience with that of Rob’s mentorship, dissecting the opportunities in the local broadcast world seemed boundless. Those stations that have already crossed the threshold still typically see mobile, more specifically ‘texting’ as an exciting way to execute a contest; 15 second sponsored promotion spot, followed by the user texting in and completed with a SMS message notifying the winner. Does it work, sure, is it compelling, maybe, does it solve an issue, absolutely not! The long tail of mobile is in developing a strategy, and not a standard broadcast ‘strategy’ of how are we going to increase share on the same 25 accounts we go to every year. This is real strategy with on-going, easily executable tactics that have long-term and exponentially increasing rewards that can survive market swings.
Join the Club
So where to begin? It starts with building a ‘mobile club’ for the station, incentivizing viewers or listeners to join the station’s mobile community via a contest and asking them to remain opted-in to receive on-going alerts, discounts, offers and insider information on an continuing basis. Think of how often a station runs a sponsored contest, receives entries that include names, addresses and perhaps an email, but doesn’t entertain a plan to reach back out for future engagements.
Yes, all that effort and expense to collect valuable information generally gets expunged once the winner is picked. Take a moment to consider that database marketing is a multi-billion dollar industry that thrives on verifiable psycho-graphic and demographic data points; what better way to facilitate its collection en masse than through the use of a broadcast property? How does this translate for the benefit of the station? Do stations not live and die by Neilsen or Arbitron ratings, and would it not be beneficial to send your viewers or listeners targeted messages designed to get them to tune in as a stunting tool. What about leveraging the database to go up against direct mail; with mobile coupons typically seeing double digit redemption levels, a station’s ability to have a critical mass of several thousand subscribers is more than enough to drive sales for a local advertiser.
Beyond just creating a mobile club for the station, by partnering with a best-in-class mobile provider, it is quite easy to develop client specific mobile solutions, whereby every advertiser can have its own unique mobile loyalty solution. Is it not compelling to go to market telling the local furniture, automotive or quick serve restaurant client that they too can incorporate a text call-to-action in their commercial spot? Viewers are not merely seeing or hearing the commercial, but they are able to interact with it, potentially receiving a mobile coupon specific to them and driving the viewer or listener in the door and thus, proving the value of your station beyond the monthly post analysis. To round out the offering, a mobile coupon redemption service that can track the use of mobile offers specific to the individual user, can be integrated for the advertiser, giving the station never before insights into the impact of their station on a client’s business, otherwise known as Return on Investment (ROI).
Indeed, the best part of having a comprehensive mobile program is that the data (cell phone numbers and other individual data points) collected are housed at the station and never shared with the client. If the client wishes to send on-going alerts, coupons and other traffic driving initiatives via text, they will need to do so through the station. Many broadcast executives may start hyperventilating as they now consider the possibilities; seeing the sky opening up and a glowing hand (with phone clutched in the other) reaching down to take them into broadcast salvation. Fantastic, as this is the truth, the indisputable stone tablets of mobile marketing. Finally, a broadcast station has leverage like it never had. Between maintaining ownership of the client’s mobile database along with point-of-sale mobile coupon redemption technology, stations not only know who the advertiser’s customers are, but can connect with them anytime, in the way they most prefer, and understand the value of their patronage to the client- which is, the real value of the station to the client!
The Million Text March
However, if you thought the story ended there, you would be sadly mistaken. There are opportunity costs, revenue makers, being missed every day. Just as an unsold spot is lost income which can never be made-up, so it goes for mobile inventory. In the course of doing what every station does, news or entertainment, providing valuable services to its viewing or listening community, there are stations that have chosen to allow its audience to opt-in for critical mobile alerts and daily updates for a variety of informational tidbits such as news, school closings, weather, traffic, horoscopes, gossip and more. Each of those text alerts is inventory, sponsor-able messages delivered directly to the consumer; people who have requested the information and have significantly greater propensity to act than virtually any other medium. In fact, in a small mid-west market, a 100+ DMA, a station built a mobile subscriber list that exceeded 35,000 users that sought to receive breaking weather and school closing text alerts. For those who recall the winter of 2010, there was plenty of snow, some hellacious storms and lots of kids stranded at home to make their parents bonkers. In the course of thirty-some-odd days between December and January, this station sent out over one-million messages; for any media buyers out there, that’s 1,000,000 sponsor-able impressions! There were more impressions generated on a phone, delivering the most important information a consumer could seek, in a totally uncluttered environment than there are people in the entire DMA; this folks, makes for a compelling ‘one-sheet’!
The TXT of Revelations
Of course, the non-believers will line up and venomously spew that this is heresy; well we all know where they are going and I’ll probably see them there for some other things I’ve done in life, damn that month in Thailand! But for those potential converts who may argue that sales people just have too much on their plate to be effective at selling ‘another third party project’, I submit the following; Mobile needs to be viewed through the lens where it is seen as a layer, not a silo. All too often broadcasters team up with independent companies in some sort of convoluted revenue share agreement; it’s the temporary hot topic, reps go wild making appointments, cram a few deals through to hit their personal budget and then, once the heat is off, retreat to their comfort zone of selling spots and dots. Seem familiar, it should, as it happens at nearly every television and radio station across the country day after day. Mobile, done right, is a component in a holistic media package, extending the opportunities a sales staff has to offer by bringing solutions that integrate and enhance the proven effectiveness of the screen or dial. With the legacy relationships most stations have with its market’s core advertising clients, mobile is surprisingly easy to introduce and incorporate; elevating the station from being merely one of many stations on the buy to the only station providing a comprehensive mobile marketing solution to them for that market and beyond. In the end, mobile ties clients to stations, in a way that has never been done before.
So, as we come to an end, I imagine myself on the scene of the Exorcist, with the head of an ‘old school’ General Manager spinning around as he’s tied to the bed vulgarly cursing every word within these pages. With the calmness of Father Karras, all I can do is simply wave my iPhone above his head and repeatedly utter the words, ‘may the power of mobile compel you.’