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Until recently, the mobile marketing industry was too embryonic to be noticed. Its explosive growth in Europe over the past nine months has now shown SMS-based marketers that they have a fantastic opportunity to talk to their prospects and bases on a one-to-one basis.

Perfect, some might say. But as with anything new, there are inherently new rules of engagement where old methodologies aren't necessarily applicable. The mobile Internet has the potential to become the media channel of the future. According to IDC, revenue from mobile applications was set to rise from $3.3 billion in 2001 to $44.8 billion in 2005; this includes revenue from mobile advertising.

However, as fantastic as it sounds, it's also one of the most fragile ingredients of the new marketing mix. If you thought direct mail was pervasive, you have another thing coming. Mobile marketers are starting out on very icy grounds. That's the only downside. The channel is as narrow as you can get it - one to one! SMS is perhaps the most pervasive communication channel known to the marketing industry. It's direct to the eyes of the person your message is intended for. But it's also the most restrictive creatively.

This is potentially a volatile combination of factors. Imagine this worst-case, though common, scenario. You have your segmentation and profiling analysis, and a mobile number of an individual who scores within the top 10 of your targeting model. He or she has opted in. You now have only one SMS message to fulfill your objectives, and it can be only 160 characters. Is it worth it?

Executed correctly, the answer is most definitely, yes. Done poorly, you just negatively impacted your brand perception with your high-scoring prospect. The outcome? You either helped your conversion chances at the cost of 10¢ or you just lost your prospect for the same price.

Cheap either way, isn't it? That's the danger. Mobile marketing, as with other elements of the marketing mix, should rarely be used on its own; it isn't designed to be by nature. A holistic communications strategy needs to be written to integrate mobile marketing successfully. At the core of this is the permission to be communicated with by the channel.

It may sound obvious, but I've seen companies fail too many times on the fundamental basis that mobile marketing campaigns need to be permission based. This forms the basis for any effective mobile efforts. Also, as with traditional direct-mail list rentals, you don't send to a list that you don't have the demographics for or know how it was collated. Use the same principles with your mobile numbers. Find out everything you can about how the list was put together.

If it's a portal, for example, do they assume they can provide you with mobile numbers, collated, when there hasn't been a separate check box for mobile marketing or other opt-in mechanisms? All too often, people assume that a database record means you can communicate via any channel you wish, if not suppressed. All records should have a field for their communication preferences. Don't combine e-mail and mobile phones.

Like e-mail marketing, if you play the game fairly, you tell someone why he or she has received the e-mail (e.g., they opted-in at site "x" and you follow on giving them unsubscribe options. You have the luxury of textual space in an e-mail). Try putting that into 160 characters or less. Tough one isn't it.

You could use the message itself telling them why and who and that's it! Yet, by sending someone a text message on an acquisition campaign, this is all you have to rely on. This is why one-time campaigns are (1) pointless in the main and (2) run the risk of damaging your brand values.

Look at mobile marketing as more than a one-off. Consider adopting a longer-term strategy for acquisition campaigns with SMS as part of the communication mix used. Perhaps you should look at sponsoring a content "pipeline" on a portal or MNO portal if they operate one. Mobile Internet portals benefit from a consumer base that uses the services more often than not on a daily basis.

This provides them with an up-to-date picture on the user and reflects changes on a daily basis. They also benefit from the fact that their user base is both wired and wireless savvy, giving a low wastage amount. If your company isn't that wireless savvy, look for firms that operate both a consumer front end and the mechanisms to market to them. They can often be your mobile marketing agency and list partner in one.

Some final words to the wise - creativity wins, channel interaction wins, and dialogue wins.

The Mobile Marketing Association

The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) is the premier global industry trade association devoted to handheld device manufacturers, carriers and operators, software providers, agencies, marketers and retailers, advertisers, and service providers of mobile wireless marketing and advertising.

It was formed as the Wireless Advertising Association in Spring 2000, and operates to address the challenges facing the mobile marketing industry. In January 2002 the organization merged with the UK-based WMA, to create a unified forum on setting standards and to promote the mobile marketing industry globally.

The newly formed MMA brings together the global members of the WAA, such as Unilever, AOL, Ogilvy Interactive, DoubleClick, and Nokia, with the WMA's strong UK membership, which includes network operators Orange, BT Cellnet, and Vodafone; media owners and content providers News International, Freeserve, and Lycos; and consumer-brand owners like drinks manufacturer Diageo. The MMA's activities include evaluating and recommending standards and practices, fielding research to document the effectiveness of the wireless medium, and educating the mobile industry about the effective, responsible use of mobile marketing.

For further information on the MMA, please visit

About Tom Dibble
Tom Dibble , a wireless entrepreneur, is a cofounder of
Global Wireless Forum, a forum dedicated to dealing with commercial, strategic,
technical issues on the evaluation of the wireless age in Europe and
the U.S.

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