Mobile Marketing, Are you ready?

The thing that you grab along with your keys, your purse or your wallet, what is it? It goes wherever you go.  The quick and obvious answer: Your phone. Mobile marketers salivate at this Personal Digital Advertising Device or PDAD. You as a captive audience waiting to be pounced upon by advertisers and marketers is like a 12 ounce steak to a chained up Bull Dog. And why not, you are carrying around your constanly changing, always updating bulletin board/commercial/ad, right there in the palm of your hand.

Before I go any further, chew on this. 16 million children under the age of 17 have cell phones. Ever wonder why Google wants to be a player in the cell phone market? Why not? Every one has one. I will go on record to say that over 70% of the people in the US over the age of 17 have a cell phone. Given that challenge, wouldn’t it make sense for an advertiser to want to tap into that potential?

According to Accuracast a  London based SEM company, “Mobile search engine marketing seems poised to be the next big thing in the world of search.” That would be a safe statement if there ever were one.  Recently Google Mobile launched its first advertising program targeted at mobile phone Internet users in Japan. Given that Japan is one of the largest wifi/ internet users in the world,  this seemed to be just a test market, and indeed it was. It no doubt, served notice to the world that a new era in search engine marketing was upon us.

As well, Microsoft has aggressively been developing and pushing their own mobile platform for the past few years now, and it is just a matter of time before they will announce their own mobile advertising service. Wasn’t it not too long ago when all we talked about was, What is Microsoft going to do next?

Furthermore, T-Mobile and Google formed a partnership last year, which ensured that Google would be the home page for all T-Mobile customers browsing the web on their mobile handsets.

Couple this with Google’s pending launch of their phone and you can see the writing on the wall. Mobile search and Mobile marketing will be huge. The question is, How do you, as a marketer tap into this, with the same relative ease that people have been accustomed to when using traditional online marketing methods and techniques?

Yes it’s true that mobile marketing is still in its infancy at present, but growing rapidly.  It might not be the most effective medium for all businesses to market their products and services. But as a business owner, when exploring new ways to acquire customers, foolish is the one who ignores the pink elephant in the room. When evaluating a company’s future sales and marketing strategy you have to think about the audience, and when they might use their mobile phone or PDA, if at all, to search for  products or services. The reason being is because of the latency with some mobile browsers, the patience of mobile users is not where it needs to be for effective mobile search.

But in other situations, mobile search is a perfect fit.  The wait for the mobile internet market to mature and become a more established medium will not be as long as you think.  cCouple this with the subsequent maturation  of advertising and marketing on mobile search engines, and you will see a convergence rivaled only by the advent of online search as a knee jerk reaction to all things done as it pertains to a computer.

Google is pioneering the way to reach Wifi browsers through the technology it knows best – search. Mobile marketing through SMS is too restrictive to be a resounding home run. A lot of companies still use it very effectively, especially to promote mobile games, ring tones,  and events such as American Idol voting . However, the reach and effectiveness of such advertising is limited by the same factors that limit bulk emails – lack of targeting.  You just don’t know enough about the person behind that phone number.

Mobile search  advertising on the other hand, allows businesses to reach potential consumers who are looking for their services, anywhere, even far away from a PC or a wired network connection.

Like all new channels, the mobile search advertising medium needs to be tested carefully, to avoid alienating users and continuing to provide useful data services on the go while maintaining profitability through delivery of relevant ads.  Measuring the effectiveness of this medium will be the most crucial aspect.

Google Mobile Japan for instance, currently displays ads on the top and bottom of their search results. Only time will tell if this is the most effective placement strategy for them. Mobile search marketers need to realize that a) the real estate is not the same as 800×600 for instance and b) the message has to be entirely different. The call to action is framed differently on a mobile device. Because of this, traditional electronic means will need to be altered, tweaked, tested and evaluated before marketers flock to a platform that works. And they will. In the online world, imitation is the mantra of all that occurs on the Wild wild web.

So the question is are you willing to go along for the ride? or do you want to build your own vehicle? The potential is as ripe as ever for a market segment that has yet to reach anything close to critical mass.