Category Archives: Mobile Marketing

Is there a future in reaching professionals through their PDAs?

I could have called this entry “Why I own two Tungsten C Palm Pilots.” The short answer is marketing to physicians.

By the way, the answer to the inevitable question “Why two?” is I use one of this pair of identical PDAs as a sort of software tester and back-up, and the other to manage my life (or attempt to).

Physicians are a market that I frequently help my clients reach. They are a difficult market, since they are extremely pressed for time and suspicious of anyone who they perceive is “selling something.” And who can blame them?

I had always been curious about whether technology can help attract this group’s attention and ultimately win their trust long enough to decide on a trial of what we were selling. Three years ago, what we were selling was a respected but underutilized Heart Center in Southern California. We knew that once referring physicians (mostly primary care specialists) sent a patient or two our way, they would likely be pleased with the results and become loyal advocates of this center.

The biggest barrier to trial was perceived distance. Although the center was not located far from our targeted physicians, it wasn’t one of the closest to them. This drive time objection was exacerbated by the major rush hours of the day.

Research at that time told us that the PDA (led, then, by the higher-level Palm OS devices) had high adoption rates among our physicians. They used their PDAs daily, to prescribe, research, review diagnostics and in other ways accelerate care. (The trend continues, with publications such as MedPage Today offering education and CME credits via the three major PDA platforms).

That led to us developing a small Palm application and corresponding Excel macro, both delivered in a direct mailing that these physicians could not ignore. The program allowed these physicians to tap in a patient’s home or work ZIP code and see the actual drive time to our heart center, shown in minutes. To more accurately simulate reality, a sliding bar could adjust for mild, medium or heavy traffic conditions.

Sadly, we never got to launch this application and test its effectiveness. But it illustrates a valuable lesson: The only hope of marketing to the professional (of any stripe) through her PDA is to help her do her job better.

To my knowledge, this is still completely uncharted territory. But with PDA adoption rates continuing to rise, the concept seems more appropriate than ever. 

Attention B2B marketers: Your prospects are tired of white papers

In working with clients who sell to other businesses, I and my team are witnessing something I can only characterize as white paper fatigue. Remember when a truly well-written white paper that you could download from a corporate site was, although never truly a novelty, at least a welcome way to consume important information? Me too.

And it still is to some extent. I still find their contents valuable. The trouble is I’m spending less time reading and more time scanning. Therefore, the white paper has come to represent for me a workaday chore, not an opportunity to learn. Clearly others are in the same camp, because the offer of a white paper, when posed on a site or packaged in an email, is not as measurably compelling to our clients’ prospective customers as we have observed in the past.

There is an alternative, and I’m pleased to see it’s quickly on its way out of the “novelty” category of web site offerings. I’m talking about the audio white paper. AKA, the podcast.

Recent research reported in suggests that the B2B audience is not just receptive to white paper content in this format: They want more of it. Here is an excerpt:

The respondents [in this survey of business and IT professionals] were actually enthusiastic about podcasting — and wanted more. Nearly 60% said business and tech information in white papers or analyst reports would be more interesting as podcasts, and 55% said they would be more likely to use the information if it were delivered in podcasts, rather than as reading material.

This same report showed how these are not just early adopters (from a statistical perspective) but are a growing base of business people who like podcasts, and use them both personally and professionally. This is encouraging news for companies who are seeking new ways to engage their target audience. 

As often happens with quickly emerging media trends, the challenge now becomes meeting this exciting opportunity — quickly — with content that truly takes advantage of the medium. Have any of my readers found strong examples of podcasted (and video!) white papers? I encourage your comments.


Portable marketing is ultimately about place

I attended a seminar on portable marketing yesterday, and was interested to learn that the most popular promotions using mobile phones are still using SMS — i.e., text messaging. I wonder, for instance, when the sending of photos or videos from our phones will figure into large promotions.

We were presented with several examples of promotions where texting was a major component.

In the more exciting of them, the key to success was the place where the user participated. In other words, it wasn’t just that the participant could play a game or request information from anywhere, it was that they could do it somewhere quite specific. For instance, the Van’s Warped Tour is offering the ability to get news on band line-ups and autograph opportunities via your cell phone. According to Cingular, the sponsor, participation so far is over 100,000 messages sent. All branded, I’m sure, with Cingular enticements.

And what could be more place-based than to be updated with what’s happening on the grounds of the very festival you’re milling about in?

Text Message Enabled ChandelierThat reminded me of what is still my favorite “place-based” mobile device. It’s a beautiful spiral chandelier that spells out the messages of people congregating under it, in animated, LED lettering.

Probably the only reason we haven’t seen more of this type of display is the demographics of texting. By far the biggest users of text messaging in this country are those under the age of 30. Two-thirds of all frequent text message users are between the ages of 15 and 35.

Which means that unless you’re organizing a very high-end prom, or are filming an episode of MTV’s My Super Sweet 16, this device isn’t going to be a hit. You might as well hang a disco ball.

But I suspect the demographics will change fast. Especially with more executives of all ages using cell phones with QWERTY keyboards and large displays. I predict that it won’t be too long before I find myself under one of those chandeliers or something like it, watching the guests reveal — via SMS messaging — declarations of their silver wedding anniversaries and not their high school’s supremacy.