How to build a killer mobile database


iMedia Connection

Mobile opportunities

Every year is the “year of mobile.” There have been expectations from the outset for this advertising platform to revolutionize the industry, and if mastered, marketers could tag along with consumers everywhere. While mobile marketing has not had a breakthrough yet, there are enough statistics and predictions circulating within the industry to keep experts forecasting its probable success — year after year. The most appetizing is the continued increase of usage and penetration rates. If mobile advertising has its big break within the next two years, as many predictions forecast, it is time for marketers to begin bulking up their mobile databases right now.

What are the opportunities with SMS messaging?
The most obvious advantage of SMS messaging is the immediate access to users. With email, there is an inconsistent lag between when marketers reach out to consumers and when those consumers actually get the message. Mobile advertising allows marketers to reach users wherever they are during the day, not just when they are at a computer, in front of a TV set or in the car listening to the radio. This timeliness can be a crucial element for advertising campaigns such as sweepstakes, time-sensitive promotions or other incentive campaigns.

An advantage for mobile advertisers is the accessibility of the user — consumers are attached to their cellphones. Marketers can factor this into their messaging strategy, making their communications particularly timely. The mobile platform also has tie-in opportunities with other advertising forums like social networking to help promote multiplatform campaigns. For example, a beer company that advertises during the Super Bowl can give users the opportunity to express play-by-play reactions as a part of an advertising campaign.

How do you build your database?

Building a mobile database is not going to be unlike converting other types of contact data — either online or offline — to other formats. It is important to understand that users will be extremely reluctant to give away their mobile phone numbers. In my experience, the advertising opportunity needs to present a unique value to users or have clearly defined boundaries. Marketers also need to lay out their access up front and give users the ability to control it.

The incorporation of “American Idol” into a mobile platform serves as a leading example of how marketers can encourage users to volunteer their private information. By engaging in text messaging outreach, “American Idol” was one of the first to get consumers to get out their cellphones and interact with advertising efforts.

The best way to get consumers to accept text messages from an advertiser is to give them all the facts up front when they are opting in. When they sign up, ask them their preferred frequency rate of communication. Ask them which mobile device they have; this is essential as the industry is still running on such a wide array of platforms. This information can also work to an advertiser’s advantage. Knowing if a phone has the ability to access the web, marketers can make sure their advertisements include links or alternatively include other contact information when users have phones without internet capabilities. Cellphone users also need to be aware of involved costs, how long they will be receiving advertisements and how they can go about opting out of the text messaging service.

What should marketers be wary of?

Personnel: If advertisers decide to use mobile messaging, they should contemplate having staff members dedicated to answer users’ text message inquires. Some users might try to reply to marketers using this platform. For a successful campaign, advertisers need to coordinate with other sales teams to make sure there is adequate support to handle inbound calls. Since mobile advertisements are very personal, consumers might want to follow-up with a one-on-one conversation. It would also be advantageous to train this staff to be able to convert callers. Additionally, as with other advertising media, it is important to monitor the origin of a sale; capitalizing on a follow-up phone call is a great outlet to do this and further gauge the success of a mobile campaign.

Tracking: When mobile marketing is widely adopted, advertisers are going to have access to consumer segments like never before. As with all marketing initiatives, uniform metrics are necessary to analyze campaigns and allow for continual optimization. Dabbling with mobile marketing will be entertaining for interactive marketers regardless, but clients want ROI, and without proper tracking techniques, this advertising platform might not ever get off the ground.

SPAM comparisons: Mobile marketers need to be careful not to enter the SPAM arena. I think it is a safe assumption that users will equate mobile advertising with the likes of SPAM emails because they are distributed to the masses, they can clog inboxes and run the risk of being irrelevant. Calming consumers’ privacy issues is going to be a large hurdle that marketers are going to have to overcome before mobile messaging will be widespread. That said, mobile advertising does have inherent targeting capabilities that can be far superior to other advertising media. Marketers need to be proactive and prove to users that the messages are pertinent and serve a purpose.

Unsubscribing procedures: It is extremely important for marketers to earn a consumer’s trust and provide a clearly defined approach around distribution and unsubscribing procedures. As we have seen with other new marketing platforms, users do not take kindly to being automatically enrolled to receive advertisements especially when there is no easy way to opt out. With the inherent privacy issues with mobile marketing, it will be even more important for advertisers to give users a straightforward process to unsubscribe.


Mobile marketing is still in its infancy, and marketers should not expect this new platform to change their business dramatically or anytime soon. This is, however, a viable advertising opportunity that has the potential to connect advertisers with a valuable consumer segment and give them the ability to serve users advertisements innovatively and directly.

As we all wait for mobile messaging to actually take off, advertisers should start preparing for the impending mobile mayhem. Once the technology and reporting has been worked out and marketers are armed with their ads, it is going to be a mad dash for users’ mobile inboxes. By building a database in the meantime, advertisers can earn a competitive edge over the rest of the field and get the kinks worked out before the medium is adopted by the mainstream.


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