Great mobile marketing campaign. But it’s going to fail.

A friend recently asked for my advice on marketing their product on mobile. We dove headfirst into a 30-minute conversation about how they could capitalize on and subsequently drive revenue from the smartphone audience.

My friend typed feverishly into their black iPhone 6 as I supplied them with mobile-specific tactics that made sense for their product. It was a fun, creative exercise.

“Where are you sending these consumers to from the campaigns,” I asked.

They handed me their phone, which featured the marketing landing page on the screen. It wasn’t a bad mobile experience, but it certainly wasn’t a great one either. So I offered up a few mobile-specific UX tips.

When I tapped my thumb on the checkout button, my stomach sank.

“Throw out all of those ideas I just gave you,” I said, perhaps overly passionate since pocketing the ideas was probably a better solution. “Your top priority right now needs to be to fix this.”

“This” was the checkout flow, the conversion funnel, the portion of the website marketers live and die by, yet most don’t even think about it. For me, not one day goes by without me thinking how we can improve the entire experience.

The best marketing in the world can’t overcome a bad conversion funnel. It’s a statement I use often, but it’s perhaps one of the most important, and truthful statements, for marketers.

This statement applies to both mobile and desktop, but I believe is more applicable in today’s world of smaller screens — it is where people are spending a majority of digital time. Mobile web is an unforgiving, friction-filled channel. The process to navigate it is getting better, but the process to pay for something on it remains as bad as any recent Adam Sandler movie.

Marketers often think about how they’re going to use an external or owned campaign to get people to buy their product. They don’t think about the experience the user will need to endure if they captured the user’s attention and interest with that campaign.

Simply put, if one million people click on your ad, that is great success. But if not one of those people buy your product, the campaign is a great failure.

The campaign design and channel distribution the marketing takes place (i.e. the top of the funnel) often takes precedence over the experience that closes the deal (i.e. the bottom of the funnel). Yet, spending a dollar needs to bring in two-plus dollars, which happens at the bottom and not the top.

As someone who has been responsible for revenue generated through mobile for two major brands — car rental and newspapers aren’t the easiest industries either — I’ve had the luxury of a massive audience shift to the medium but conversion hasn’t kept pace with that audience shift. Change is coming, though, as I wrote last week regarding Apple and Google’s mobile web payment solutions.

What I told my friend was great marketing is just great marketing. The path to making great marketing successful on mobile is difficult. So next time you come up with a digital campaign, think about the user and what they’re going to have to go through to truly make that campaign successful.

The message might be the right one. The design of the campaign might be breathtaking. The path to conversion, however, needs to be just as impactful.

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