By Sherry Zameer, Senior Vice President Telecommunication Solutions for Middle East & Africa at Gemalto
The success of mobile marketing with consumers makes this a potentially valuable asset in B2B communications. But there are some important rules that must be observed. When brands speak to customers, their main priority is to grab those customers’ attention, so they tend to drop the formalities. This is why business-to-consumer (B2C) marketing tends to be more playful in tone than business-to-business (B2B) marketing, where the need for decorum is given more weight.
Mobile marketing exemplifies this unspoken rule. Texting has been adopted far more in B2C conversations than B2B, which may be because the mass adoption of the SMS was an unexpected social phenomenon – the “conversation between friends” element has been easy to capitalize on. The SMS was originally conceived as a test system for telecoms engineers, and its popularity among the public was completely unplanned.
Brands have used mobile marketing successfully for years. Coca-Cola, for example, sponsored the Brand App Challenge in December 2010 (to create apps to promote Coca-Cola, Coke Zero and Diet Coke). Today, it uses augmented reality so consumers can react to TV promotions, while keeping SMS as its main B2C marketing platform.
The various forms of mobile marketing have been considered too informal for conversations with suppliers and partners, which is why B2B marketing lagged behind. But B2B is catching up and it calls for a change in tone, language and approach.
Reasons for growth
There are a number of drivers for the increasingly enthusiastic adoption of mobile marketing by the B2B sector. The technology used at work is becoming less corporate, with workers demanding to use their own smartphones and tablets to access company information – otherwise known as bring-your-own-device (BYOD). By 2017, half of all firms quizzed by analyst Gartner said they would no longer provide devices to their workforce. As Cisco’s research shows, 90% of US workers use their personal smartphones for work purposes.
Meanwhile, the range of mobile marketing options has expanded to include multimedia messaging services, push notifications, mobile emails, QR codes, location-based marketing and in-app messages. The humble text has been gradually supplanted in the affections by over-the-top (OTT) messaging apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat. More than half the world’s 1.4 billion smartphone users now use the newer forms of OTT apps, according to market researcher Analysys Mason.
Mass acceptance means business conversations will increasingly be conducted on mobile devices – whether smartphones, tablets or connected eyewear – through push notifications, Smart Messages or text messaging. According to research body M&M, mobile marketing will grow by 28% in the next four years, from a US$4.3 billion global market in 2014 to US$15 billion by 2019.
Consulting firm Frost & Sullivan found marketing texts have an open rate of 98%, compared with 22% for email marketing, so the advantages of this tool are too great for B2B marketers to ignore. But there are lessons to be learned from the pioneering efforts of B2C marketers.
The power of mobile marketing lies in its intimacy, so it’s logical that unwanted advances evoke feelings of antipathy. Best practice is therefore centered on the need to respect people’s boundaries. Yes, all business is sociable, but people only welcome messages from those they already know or have opted in for. Mobile marketing will only be effective if it builds on existing relationships or opt in. This is why mobile operators and brands should consider using permission-based & contextual mobile marketing solution, enabling messages to be fully personalized to match the profile and behavior of each end-user and to be delivered at the precise moment it offers the most value for the consumer. End users should be free to opt-in and opt-out at any time and thanks to this enhanced mobile marketing approach, customers relationship can just get more personal, more relevant and more respectful, the key elements to make them successful and beneficial to consumers.
Business communications should adhere to strict governance built on a foundation of security and the most important quality for B2B messaging is a respect for privacy. Data privacy is a big concern with the mobile marketing industry and as targeting becomes key to more brands’ strategies, security will become more of an issue.
Having created your secure foundations, the second most important discipline is focus. There are so many options for mobile marketing that it is easy to get carried away. Mobile marketing is a straightforward business when done well, but too often, marketers get caught up in the idea that they should do everything at once. It is therefore better to pick one strategy and stick with it. For example, don’t try to expand into new fields like audio streaming or second screens if your content is going to suffer.
Trade between businesses is built on reputation, so trust, security and mutual respect should be at the heart of any B2B mobile marketing strategy. Only when that trust has been secured will companies willingly opt in for messaging – but when they do, it can be massively rewarding for both parties.