An Open Letter to Marketers

This is an open letter to marketers across all industries. It’s not meant to undermine the valuable skills you already bring to the table but is a recommendation of where you need to pivot if you want to continue to succeed. Keep in mind that need and want are both powerful words in this context.

This is about knowing where audiences are today and where they’ll continue to migrate, resulting in even more significant growth. It’s about the what’s now, and what’s next, and building an expertise in something not only extraordinary but also extraordinarily complex.

This is about mobile.

Blame Game

Today, when I hear about marketers’ spending habits on smartphones not matching up with consumer behavior, immediately a lack of cross-device attribution gets the blame.

When I hear about companies failing to connect with consumers on mobile, the blame gets tied to their attention or lack thereof.

When I hear about ads failing to drive any meaningful return on mobile, the blame is put on the small device size.

Sure, some small fault can be connected there but those are obstacles, not impossibles.

One of the primary reasons these roadblocks exist is not enough companies talking about mobile understand it well enough. These are the companies that have an app to cross it off some internal checklist but don’t know how to build value out of it. These are companies that have a web-first marketing mentality because there’s familiarity in that space.

To achieve maximum ROI from mobile, both from an app and mobile web perspective, the strategy can’t be owned by someone with 20 other desktop-web-focused job responsibilities. (This excludes executives, who should have specialists below them with the expertise.) Mobile must be managed through an investment in specific talent, expertise and leadership. Everyone should know it. Someone needs to own it.

Those who truly understand how to optimize mobile marketing, conversion and products are the ones who view those aforementioned scenarios as only obstacles.

The Stats

65 percent of digital time spent is on mobile — that’s two out of every three minutes.*

Seven out of eight minutes spent on a mobile device is in an app.*

97% of millennials in the United States are mobile users — 20% never touch a desktop.*

*2016 Comscore Cross-Platform in Focus Report

Your Pivot

Do you know what an SDK is? What are the Top 3 App Store optimization tactics? How much pricing flexibility do you have using Google Play billing? What’s the difference between Apple Pay and iTunes billing? Does an email design that shrinks to fit a smartphone constitute as mobile optimized? What’s the difference between push, in-app and email messaging? Why should your customers not have to enter their city and state when completing a checkout form on mobile web?

Do you know the answers to any of those questions? If not, your first task is to find them. Mobile is a different beast than desktop, using unique technologies, requiring specific platform guideline expertise and featuring varied audience behaviors. Marketing on the web only partially translates to mobile.

Mobile marketing needs to be much more personal and relevant to make a serious impact. The user experience needs to be minimized and conversion funnel frictionless. Don’t worry though. Your web marketing background isn’t useless, it is a nice cement foundation but not the full house. 

My Pivot

I’ve always been a marketer. When I was covering professional sports for a 30k-circulation newspaper with no online presence in 2000, I built a website to grow readership reach. When I had my own college TV show, I put flyers on every student’s car — and also got in lots of trouble. In both instances, I was focused on building a brand.

While at the NBA, I had helped out with the NBA Game Time app. That was when the app stores had only a few thousand apps — now there are 3m+ across iTunes and Google Play. When I left to lead content marketing at Avis Budget Group, I had forged this connection with mobile and knew that’s where the digital media industry was headed — I was hooked. So I invested my leisure time in reading and learning as much as I could about developing, marketing and designing apps.

I can remember the moment in 2014 when my wife and I first had our son, and she was up at night feeding him his bottle in one hand and her phone in the other. She was bored, outside of Golden Girl reruns. It was then I decided to take all this newfound mobile app knowledge and build her a game to play. That game, LetterSlider, went on to become a Top 100 word game in 100 countries.

From there, I developed the popular Winery Passport and Brewery Passport apps. Where this experience really paid off was when a role to lead mobile strategy (marketing & product) at Avis opened up. I had built an expertise in mobile that landed me the role. Getting my hands dirty taught me how apps worked and what was possible. I did this all on my own time, away from the company I worked. I didn’t let my day job dictate my future. I took control and created new opportunities, not only personally but professionally.

Success at Avis led me to my current role, where I’ve been for the last two-plus years. This all a result of the pivot I decided to make in 2014.

What's Next

If your position doesn’t have a mobile component, make it have one. If no one at your company owns it, find a way to own it. It may be one of your 20 responsibilities now, but you’ll become more valuable as the audience continues to migrate to mobile-only experiences.

Remember the statement that 20 percent of millennials don’t even touch a computer. There are millions of millennials out there. That means there are companies who will never even reach this audience because they aren’t considering mobile.

Don’t wait to be told you need to tackle marketing on mobile. You will fail. Mobile, and especially the apps, are a completely different medium than any other platform. Be proactive, not reactive, to the changing digital landscape.

To better understand mobile, go to conferences, read books and blogs, sign up for the Mobile Marketer newsletter and follow experts on Twitter.

If you don’t fully comprehend the power of mobile, the technology, platforms and opportunities, you will start to get uncomfortable. Uneasiness will make you resort back to what you know best: the desktop web. There is still mega money to be made there, but the larger upside is in mobile (remember the stats?), for both your career and company.

The Merge

Hypothetically, let’s say I’m a CMO looking to hire someone to lead my digital marketing and find two great candidates: One spent the last 10 years in web marketing and the other the last four years on mobile marketing with some web experience. Both have savvy business and relationship skills and a track record of success. I know I’m biased, but if I’m the CMO, I’m taking the mobile candidate.

While consumer spending habits directly on mobile aren’t on par with desktop, experts in this space know how to connect the dots. Experts know how to leverage mobile to increase revenue and audience for the web business, while also monetizing the medium itself.

There’s also the nuisance factor in mobile, especially with apps. Because you’re so reliant on product, engineering and platforms (i.e. Apple), you have to build a deep knowledge in these areas, and strong internal relationships. It’s why I’ve tried to learn just as much about mobile product, development and design as I do marketing.

Returning to where we started, when I hear about marketer spending habits not matching up with consumer behavior, I think building a mobile-focused registration strategy to tie more conversions on desktop back.

When I hear about companies failing to connect with consumers on mobile, I think how data is being used to target contextual, personalized messages at the right moment, time and place.

When I hear about ads failing to drive any meaningful return on mobile, I think about the next generation of ads like reward-moment-based Kiip, native or virtual reality.

Mobile and the web are converging. Digital marketers will be a hybrid mobile and web marketer. Get the mobile knowledge now.

Are you ready to make the pivot?

This is the first of my writings on this new blog. I’ve written about mobile on BakBurner.com for years but haven’t been as consistent as I’d like. This space is a clean slate, a canvas for me to take a look at mobile, digital and emerging media platforms at a higher level, and hopefully provide some insight from my perspective. Feel free to reach out if you’d like to connect or sign up for my email newsletter. I also post a lot on Twitter.

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