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January 2014

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Contact Ken Custer at 303-277-9840.

Mobile Marketing – We've Come a Long Way

From the editor:
There is no question that mobile marketing is growing at a tremendous rate. The smartphone and tablet have provided everyone with a mobile computer to keep in touch wherever they go. To explore this marketing opportunity we asked two experts on the subject to give us their thoughts. Greg Olson, The Growl Agency, ( and Mark Mitton, Carbon8, ( have been deeply involved with mobile marketing and advising customers how best to use the medium. The Review Publisher, Ken Custer, asked the questions. A thank you to Christine Cook, Bret Agre and Brandon Miller at Ingather Research for providing the facility and recording of the session.

Ken -Why would any client want to be involved with mobile?

Greg - You have to be in that space right now. Over the years we have seen everyone get engaged in social, websites and so on. Even in B2B, which has been slower to adopt, you have to be there — 70% of emails are on mobile devices, especially with the adoption of mobile tablets. If you walk into an airport or Starbucks you see how many people are there with their mobile devices. This is where the customers are, reading their email, looking things up. If you are not mobile you are losing a lot of opportunities.

Mark – I agree, the degree of mobile penetration, the usage, is phenomenal; the smartphones have become an extension of us, our brains. I can’t think of a device that has the intimacy of our phones. People take them everywhere with them. They are rarely without them once they have adopted a smartphone.

One of my roles is President of the Board of the Parkinson Association of the Rockies and our constituents tend to be older, 50-70 years old. When I started working with the association two years ago our base had very little smartphone usage. Now we estimate that our smart phone usage went from about 20% to 60-70% usage. They are not going Apple, they are going Android — that age group, the baby boomers — and they are replacing their flip phone. We are seeing across all demographics, not just the kids but the older segments of the population, that the smartphone is dominating and once it is in their pockets they are doing everything, email, browsing, etc.

Greg – I think that is interesting about the demographic. My father is 70 now and has an iPad mini, a phone model between the flip phone and smartphone. It’s an early smartphone where he can text and get email. I was at a community center and the folks had tablets, looking at pictures and so on. They won’t go iPad because of cost but they are using the Android devices and keeping in touch.

Ken - Do you have to be different on each of the mobile devices?

Mark – One thing that has bothered me about the move to mobile is the bandwagon mentality where you have to be on mobile. The reality for some of our clients is that we recommend they don’t go mobile. We always have a mobile discussion, asking who their constituents are. We want to turn the momentum around from “you want to go mobile” to identifying what actually makes sense based on your customers, their activities, what they are doing and the competition. Our customers are B2B, so you are going to see a lot less usage on the B2B website for mobile than on a B2C website.

We have a large number of clients for whom we handle analytics. We went into the analytics on a number of industries and looked at the stats to see how much of their traffic comes from mobile. We found that only 11% of traffic comes from mobile devices. It is evenly split between tablets and smartphones. Also interesting is what they are doing. If they come in on a mobile device, we look at what their behavior is as compared to someone coming in on a desktop PC. What we found is that they are predominantly looking for three things: contact us, about us, and the leadership team. They aren’t researching services, nor doing deep dives on the website.

It is important to be very smart about what you are providing visitors on your mobile device. We follow a group called Nielson Norman Group Usability and they did a study on success rate for completing tasks on mobile specific websites vs. completing tasks on a full website, both on mobile devices. What they found was that there was virtually no difference — the users were able to complete the task whether the site was optimized for mobile or not. Users are pretty good about dealing with a normal website. I am not arguing that you shouldn’t think about mobile or adjust your strategy. I really think you should, but the reality is you shouldn’t rush headlong into it. It can be a lot of work and it can be expensive to invest in mobile, so I think you need to invest in ways that make most sense.

What do you optimize for? You look at your base, where they coming from, who the users are, and what tasks they are completing. Then look at what the mobile users are trying to do. A good example is, we have a company that sells automotive parts locally and they determined that mobile users are doing one thing: parts look-up. So for the next phase of their website, the strategy is to make a mobile landing page that will have a parts look-up. This is very different than landing on the corporate home page.

So we like to look at the statistics, what people are actually doing on mobile, then design a strategy that might include doing nothing — just being mobile-aware and designing a standard website that is optimized for anyone’s experience without doing a specific design for mobile. You can almost think about designing a website now for users no matter where they come from. Is that perfect? Absolutely not. If you want a perfect experience for mobile users, then design something specific for mobile users.

Ken - Does it take a different design for tablet vs. a smartphone vs. a laptop?

Definition - Responsive refers to the websites ability to determine what mobile devise is making the inquiry and, to a point, being able to adapt the page and type size to fit the devise.

Greg – I think it depends on the end user. If you design something that is responsive to the same website it can have a little bit different look to it. It used to be you had to know what the device was but now you go more by screen size. Web sites have become somewhat smarter. The larger the company and larger the website the more difficult it becomes and more expensive. If it is an older website and not mobile friendly, a company may have to go back in and spend tens of thousands of dollars to make it mobile-friendly. You may want to create an app experience to solve their problem for that type of market.

Mark - To answer your question about screen size, there is this idea that you make your website responsive and it magically adjusts for any screen size. That’s not really happening. Responsive has what we call a breaking-point, so the website is programmed to make a decision as to what version of your website to show. When we have a conversation with our customers about what are we going to design for, at minimum, we recommend that they create a version for smartphones and then you can probably get away with having the same version for a tablet or desktop. The screen size for a mini or large tablet will pretty well accommodate any website from that standpoint. For those looking to provide a good experience we recommend that they have a specific responsive design for smartphone and then make a decision if they need one for a tablet size. Going back to what I said about misconception of responsive, you still have to design what that layout is for a smartphone. We are going from two column to one column, we are going to stack these items this way, make the menu work like this and move it over here. We are designing what it will actually look like on a smartphone. That design might work on a very small smartphone or on the larger Nexus smartphones. Then when it gets to a breaking-point, a certain size, then we program it to make a decision to adjust it and display it full-screen size on a tablet or PC. Images are going to adjust, text is going to adjust and you go to a new layout. We feel the most you want to design for is smart phone, small tablet, large tablet and desktop.

Greg - You make a good point on how people are using it. If they are on a smartphone the context of it could be, “Is it urgent? Is it now looking for a phone number?” That’s the kind of context the breaking-point might show. You have to design that in. “I’m looking for an address. How do I find this location?” I like to think that CEOs are not an end user. They are the ones that come in and say, “We need an app; our competitor has an app. Why don’t we have a mobile site? Why are we spending all this money?” It’s an interesting space for an agency trying to give the backup team data for the CEO. The right experience is how they should be spending their money, and the right strategy.

Mark - We had a client that was redoing their website and their initial request was that they wanted their web site to be responsive. The cost of being responsive was about 30% of the entire project. They looked at the dollar amount and at their user base and made a decision that, for now, they were not going to have a responsive site. Their traffic was about 5-6% mobile. At some point they will plan to make that investment, but for right now it wasn’t urgent.

Greg - Going back to strategy, if their marketing strategy for 2014 is an increased presence on mobile devices using smartphones and interactive devices as the base, then I think you may want to have more of a mobile presence. Maybe it’s landing pages or microsites, maybe the plan is to push people out in the field or have manuals or mobile content, or maybe their email campaigns are going to be read on mobile devices, then you would figure it out. But you don’t have to make your whole website email friendly.

Ken - Do you see mobile growing in importance for B2B over the next couple of years?

Both – Absolutely.

Greg – I am already seeing it, especially in the work I do with the tradeshow element. You used to see QR codes that didn’t work, didn’t go to a page, or weren’t able because you weren’t in a Wi-Fi friendly zone Now with the increased speed that mobile is on with 4G or LTE, or things like that, even stadiums and convention centers are setting up Wi-Fi and they realize the importance of it. We are starting to see people standing back and looking at that company online or at the product or information. I am seeing it big time in the tradeshow business.

Mark – We looked at the mobile traffic to B2B websites a couple of years ago and on average it was about 5%. The data I have here shows it was 11% about 6 months ago. I guarantee that if we surveyed our customers again we would probably see it up a few percentage points. My expectation is that it is going to be more and more important over the coming year. We are starting with a low number on the B2B side, but looks like it has pretty much doubled.

Greg - People are wanting to get information machine-to-machine. People are wanting to dig it out of their machine in the B2B space and have that data, making decisions on how the industry or machines are being run. We expect our phones to turn on and connect to Bluetooth, connect to your car, your house, and turn your light bulbs off. The same thing is happening on the consumer side and eventually leads into the B2B field, with a little slower adoption. I don’t know if it will ever be “the year” of mobile, but we were talking about how all of those things are coming together because of the smartphone. How many digital cameras do you have in a drawer at home? Now I have an iPhone 5S and I love the camera. People are figuring out what is best. How do we use the phone as a marketing tool?

Ken - You both specialize in B2B. Is it more important for mobile on the B2C side?

Mark – In most cases it is absolutely more important. Think about how a B2B website is used. The person is at work and they have a desktop station. Just by definition of where we are using these devices today and how they fit into our lives there is no doubt that the importance is much higher on the B2C side. We have some clients in our base that are B2C and we see mobile numbers that are 2 to 4 time higher then we see on the B2B side.

Greg – Search is a big deal on both B2B and B2C. It’s how people are using devices to search for certain things like a restaurant or something they want to buy. It’s getting easier and easier. I buy a lot off Amazon, not on my smartphone but I use my tablet. A lot of people will walk into a store and do what is called, “showrooming.” When you are standing in Best Buy looking at a model and the (retailer) says, “Just show me the price and we’ll match it.” On the consumer side you can see where that is very popular. It is always going to lead the way on mobile and social for B2C, but B2B will catch up.

Ken - Geolocation, is that particularly critical for B2C?

Greg – I think in other countries it’s a lot bigger than it is here. If you walk into certain stores and turn the phone on they know you are there so they can make an offer to you. I think we are starting to see more of that on the consumer side. I walked into the Denver Athletic Club and they finally have an app in place so when you walk in they will notify you about two-for-ones, or “come by the pub” or something like that. But I have to turn the device on so the system knows I’m there.

Mark – We have had two potential customers come to us in an absolute panic. Google had changed their algorithm and the customer’s business was no longer showing up. Their business had literally dried up. In both cases we know what had been done to cause this problem. We live in a very different world. Not long ago they placed an ad in the Yellow Pages and they knew if they bought a certain size ad with great copy they could count on a consistent number of phone calls coming in. Now, with search being the primary method of discovering your business, you really have businesses whose livelihood depends on how Google is ranking them or displaying them locally.

In the consumer world you can live and die online and have your entire business shut down if you are not paying attention to mobile to properly optimize your presence. As an example, I took my kids on a trip to Grand Junction and we wanted to eat at a restaurant called Café Rio. We looked it up on Google and got the directions to that location. We got there and Café Rio was nowhere to be found. I later found Café Rio had listed the wrong address with Google and they lost our business. I can’t imagine how many people lose because of something like this. This shows how important it is to be optimized on search, because search is how people are looking for them.

Greg – That’s true with B2C; also on the B2B side, when you are going to a meeting or sending an email and the wrong address comes up.

Mark – We usually find that for a lot of our companies they haven’t thought about that. “What happens when a person is on the move and they are looking for you? What is that experience and what does that look like?” You need to go out and try it yourself to see if it works!

Greg - I don’t think people understand geolocation. They think it’s just something simple that magically appears and they don’t check it. On the consumer side if you type in Starbucks Denver or coffee Denver you want to make sure your location comes up correctly. Ask your clients, “How does it look when you search across different platforms, whether it’s Google or Bing?” It’s called testing.

Ken - A lot of offers are made on mobile now. How does the opt-in opt-out fit in?

Greg - I think opt-in is email. If you want that audience to want to receive your messages, whether it’s a text message, geolocation or app, you don’t want to just push something to them they don’t want because that’s not how they want to be communicated to. Opt-in is important for privacy issues.

Mark - All the opt-in rules that apply to the consumer world do not in the B2B world — there is a misconception. When it comes to B2B email, users don’t actually have to be opted-in for you to send them emails. You need to have all the proper opt-out capabilities to unsubscribe. That is of course for B2B emails. For text messaging I assume the same rules apply as consumer.

Greg - Where I see the opt-in is in apps. For a long time you never got a notification. Now you have United Airlines getting smarter on how to notify you of flight changes. The Denver Athletic club is smarter about notifying you that there is an offer. But you have to opt-in for that. Now they are saying, “Will you allow this app to connect where your phone is?” So they understand that you are there. If you are driving by they can contact you. I think it’s a creepy, weird thing that if you are driving down Larimer and turn your phone on, you see who will give you two-fers or dinner. You have to opt-in for those.

Ken - Getting set up to go mobile, what is the cost? Setting up your mobile plan and making it mobile friendly and adding apps?

Greg - It depends. If you are a start-up company you can probably do a mobile site for $5,000. If you are an existing company that has many pages it could be tens of thousands of dollars.

Mark - Talking about the apps — my company develops apps for customers and most of them are around marketing. We have also developed some more consumer-oriented apps. It can range widely. You can develop a basic app for $4,000 or $5,000. Larger projects can be $200,000-300,000. It gets down to the complexity of the app and tying into different resources, geolocation, websites and all the different services such as Facebook.

Greg - In B2B in Salesforce, they want an app to pull down a geolocation. Say I’m in Kansas City and I want an app to connect to my Salesforce. They are using it to connect to a lot of different databases. That is where it gets complicated and expensive. It goes back to your having to understand the users and what the strategy is. The client is not always aware of what they want. I think if you are going into the mobile space you need to keep it simple. Do not try to design for every source, just for the basic four devices. Why do they need to go into the mobile space? Is there a strategy? Is their audience in that space?

Mark - A smart way of approaching mobile is, you definitely need context and strategy but it makes sense to take baby steps to try some things and see how they work. You run the risk if you develop your mobile strategy and then go hog-wild and spend hundreds of thousands to build that out. Mobile is so new and changing you may not have enough experience in mobile to have the confidence that the strategy you are executing is actually the right strategy. Keeping it simple and starting off with the core functionality or core capabilities that you are highly confident in are important in the mobile space. Starting with that, seeing how it works, seeing what your response is, learning what worked and what didn’t work and then taking the next step. We try to narrow it down as to what is absolutely essential: how can we simplify this so that that we are using as few resources as possible and getting the biggest impact?

Greg - I think it goes back to requirements, having strong requirement that everyone agrees on. Inevitably it becomes this exercise where they want everything possible, and when they get down to it they finally realize it is a $200,000 project. They haven’t tied their measurement to it either, as to how it is going to affect their business.

Mark - It could be that you scope the project at $200,000, but as you really scale it back and look at the most important functionality that needs to take place in the mobile space it might be that that one piece is only $20,000 or $30,000. You can spend $200,000 to get everything or spend $20,000 or $30,000 and get 80% of what people want to do in the mobile space. So start there.

Greg - Do a phased approach. Understanding what the big picture looks like, knowing that once you do Phase One you will come up with other ideas.

Mark - I think by being very nimble and smart about it doing that first phase you see what worked, look at the analytics of what didn’t work and learning from that then taking on Phase Two. The challenge is we will ask a client how many of their users are mobile, and they don’t know. With that basic approach you have to (ask the client to) make a commitment to listen to your customers, to watch how they interact with mobile, learn from that and be committed to saying, “This is what we have to do next” and then taking that on.

Ken - Thinking of the analytics: number one, they want to know if their customers are mobile and determine how to find that out and, number two, what analytics do you use to track them?

Mark - Most use Google analytics. There are a variety of analytics program out there. (You want to know) exactly where people are going, what they are interacting with, and how long they are there. Google continues to evolve and include more of those capabilities.

Greg – (Analytics tools) will tell you what operating system is important to people, maybe more so on the consumer basis. If they are Android or iPhone users that are coming to the site, that can tell us a lot. Google does a pretty good job of at least getting a snapshot of that. Most people have an analytics package. They may not know what it is, or they may not even look at it until they engage. Then apps have a whole other report of how they are being used, when it’s being accessed, how much it’s being accessed, and when was it downloaded.

Mark - I think what happens, unless it is a large company, is there is not usually one person who looks at the analytics package. When someone has a question then someone goes out and does a deep dive to see the analytics. The role of analyzing analytics on a website or mobile site has not been elevated yet to where people are being held accountable all the way up to the CEO level to say what has happened, what is the latest, what are the stats, what is the data.

Greg - There is so much data that it is smart to hire someone on the outside. On mobile apps, companies are spending $20,000-$50,000 on this. How are you marketing this? What are the constant touch points? If you are Hertz or a B2C brand, people are going to start using that. In a B2B company I don’t see them marketing to get that awareness.

Mark - We are often asked by our clients to help them find people to fill positions. The position that I hear is the most difficult to fill in companies is the marketing analytics position — they simply can’t fill the position. To me it seems there is a lot of demand — a rising career for people who are experts in looking at analytics, whether it’s in Marketo or Google analytics. Tracking email and making sense of all that and turning those insights into next steps, to (sourcing) actual information to address what ever goals we have to meet.

Greg - People look for “mobile” or “social” to have a trend. How is it affecting the buying cycle? Is it going to shorten your sale cycle, is it going to help your sales team do their job better? What marketing wants to do is analyze that information. They want to know if Sales is using their sale enablement tool, or are they using the content vs. just sending out a brochure or something. I think analytics is opening those doors: it’s the missing link that will, in the future, shape how things are coming together

Mark - There is a question we haven’t talked about. It is a little bit of a chicken-or-egg issue and we are being a little bit misleading. If a client has 11% mobile traffic, what would that traffic be if we had a better, more optimized mobile presence? You may be getting only 11% traffic because your website is terrible for mobile visitors; they had a bad experience and they are not coming back, or they had a bad experience on another site so are not even going to try. There is the potential that if you build it they will come. If you build a better mobile website people will notice that and you will have return visits and your traffic increases.

Greg - Mobile is a tool in the toolbox: how many websites get built that have the worst content on it? I think that is the other missing link is content. We are seeing people pushing videos online, and we can actually download them. But the content is incorrect because I’m not going to download every white paper on my smartphone. It would be more interesting on tablets if you developed that website to be more tablet-focused.

Mark - I think this leads into, what you are going to see in the future? Customized, with content based on the device-of-entry. If someone comes in on a tablet, they will be offered the white paper; if they come in on the smartphone they will be offered something else like a coupon.

Greg - How many times have you watched a thirty-second ad on YouTube? Now it is coming down to five-second videos. We have to become smarter with the content and that exposure we are trying to get in front of people, on either B2B or B2C. On a smartphone you are going to have short snippets of information to get their attention. It’s going to be interesting with email, whether you are on a smartphone or tablet, how much email is being read and consumed. I get my email on three different devices. You could have 100 email addresses on there. I find it interesting in content on how we are going to be viewing information. The content department combining with the analytic department will help to develop that strategy moving forward. The device it is opened on is the experience you are going to get.

Mark - A lot of the discussion today is, “How do I re-order, re-lay things out, and how is the content changed?” and less on how the content changes based on what device the user is using. I think that is the future. It’s not just the function they are looking for, but when you go to those functions how do you want to encounter them based on the device they are coming in on? To your point, they may want to read far less on the smartphone and have just snippets not documents, things that are very digestible vs. on a tablet.

Ken - What about the future?

Greg - I think it is going to be interesting. People are learning. Now you have iOS and having Siri where you can ask any question, you can tell it to text, you can read email back to you. We are really trying to see how we are consuming information. Like emails, it’s now more of knowing where that comes from, how people are opening emails on smartphones and tablets as opposed to desktop. If you are a buyer and you are trying to make decisions, you don’t leave your desk. That doesn’t mean you don’t work after 5 o’clock and use your smartphone. I think email is one of the future things we are going to be looking at, as to how we are making decisions, how we are marketing and opening up that data.

Mark - I think one trend is that there will be more fragmentation of devices and device sizes and even platforms that you are targeting. We talk as though it is very simple. You create a mobile experience for smartphones or small and large tablets. The reality is there are hundreds of screen sizes out there. Even the implementation of Android is different. It really makes our job challenging as mobile marketers because we are not dealing with something that is homogeneous: you are dealing with a variety of devices, platforms and the users and how they use them is all over the place. That’s going to continue.

Greg - We know that the use of mobile is increasing: that’s going to be key. Whether someone uses a mobile website or not is debatable and depends on the industry they are in. We know people will be on the smartphone. How we want to market to them is going to be the key and that’s where I feel the future is in analytics. It’s going to be really smart people getting together and developing a strategy. We are living in a time where people have computers and they carry them with them everywhere. I see kids that are two years old on their parents’ phones playing games, interacting. Think where they will be when they are 15 or 21. We know everyone will have a powerful little computer. Think of our smartphone now and how much more power it has than the Apollo spaceship did. Once we figure that out we will be able to know the decision-makers and how they are thinking.

Mark - One of the reasons Greg and I have gravitated so much to analytics is that the mobile world is changing so quickly. What people are doing on the phones is changing so much, whether they are using Facebook or Yelp or whatever platform, there are so many additional venues that are essentially additional channels for mobile marketing and it changes so quickly. I noticed the other day that young tweens and teens are not using Facebook; is that the beginning of Facebook being phased out?

We know that mobile is going to be very fluid and change very quickly. As marketers we struggle with that. You look at traditional advertising and people continue to throw advertising dollars into TV advertising, well-knowing it isn’t paying off the way it used to but also struggling to figure out how to actually advertise on multiple devices. So it seems this year is kind of a turning point and that needs to be resolved: the proper way to actually advertise on mobile devices. I would give us marketers a pretty poor grade on staying up-to-date and properly marketing on mobile devices, perhaps a C or a D. It is such a fluid, challenging world that it requires quick thinking and a lot of attention to analytics to figure it out. What I do know is that for clients that figure it out the payoff is big.

Greg - It’s like social media. People have figured out that they can advertise on LinkedIn: “I’m a B2B company, I’m looking for this and I can geo-locate the people.” Facebook is the same way. You had your social media challenges. Now people are better at it. They are starting to see results and leads. Now the people on the mobile side, they’re not quite sure as to, “How do you target. Is it through an app or on Facebook?” There are a lot of questions. If you are a C-level person you probably have an IPad. But people still are not sure what to do with the information.

Ken - Final Statements

Mark - Half the things we said are very cautionary, very grounded. “Wait a minute, do you need mobile for this?” Anytime there is a big herd of the masses trending towards something, within that is a lot of money being wasted. That is where we try to have the conversation with our clients: “What do you really need or not need?”

Greg - It comes back to marketing 101. We still have to go back to the basics.
That is where research comes into play. They really have not done any research. The CEO comes in and says, “Call up some agencies and find out what an app will will cost.” The smart companies are putting a plan in place, and are doing it in phases. All that being said, we still need to do these other things like tradeshows…and traditional media.

Mark Mitton is the Founder and President of Carbon8, a digital marketing agency based in Denver, Colorado.  Mark offers his creative passion and strategic experience to Carbon8’s clients. Under Mark’s leadership, the company has averaged 50% annual growth since its founding. Mark is also actively involved with the Parkinson Association of the Rockies and serves as President of the Board. Mark has an MBA in international business from the University of South Carolina. He speaks Spanish and Portuguese, is a father of four, enjoys climbing 14ers, loves to sing karaoke and has an unfulfilled dream to be a TV weatherman.
Contact Mark at

Greg Olson is a Partner of Growl, a marketing agency specializing in healthcare and technology companies, with offices in Denver and Tampa.   In addition, Greg is the digital strategist and SR. Account Executive with Condit,   a trade show exhibit company, helping their clients be more effective with their trade show marketing efforts. Greg is involved in the National Business Marketing Association and currently serving on the Board of Directors.   Recently married, Greg also enjoys rescuing rottweilers and teaching climbing and skiing classes for The Colorado Mountain Club. When he is not talking all things marketing, you may find him on a local improv stage.
Contact Greg at

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