Mobile Messaging for Lifetime Relationships

Delivering the right message at the right time is the fundamental goal of every marketer. This principle has held true, regardless of the medium used to deliver the message. Whether email, banner ad, television spot, radio commercial, magazine spread, classified ad, printed flier, town crier, marketers seek to provide information that will trigger action on the part of the consumer.

The medium often dictates the approach and impact of the message. You think 140 characters is short? A town crier had just seconds to shout out a coherent message. In that case, the best bet was to repeat an informative slogan. Richer media allows for more expansive messages. Many magazine spreads tell epic stories, as do 30-second TV commercials, which manage to pack Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey into the time it takes to brush your teeth.

We’re at an exciting point where mobile messaging allows marketers to create stronger connections with users than ever before. A smartphone is the most intimate and important technology today. How important? Pew Research found nearly half of Americans “couldn’t live without it,” and that 93 percent describe these devices as “helpful.”

Because you can control the time, place and circumstances of delivering the message, the only limits on mobile marketing are the imagination of the marketer and the nature of the relationship with the person. It helps that the smartphone is an omnipresent, geographically aware, fully contextual message-delivery vehicle.

Therefore, marketers can use mobile messaging to build a more intimate, emotionally resonant relationship with their customers. The persistent connection allows marketers to go beyond simply informing and persuading to motivate and inspire long-term relationships.

The key to succeeding with mobile is delighting your users. You have to treat them like people, and not just devices or numbers. Quite simply, the “Mobile Era” has raised the bar for consumer expectations.

A few years ago, you would be delighted if your bank had an app. Now, that’s what you expect from your bank. In fact, if your bank doesn’t have one, it’s actively hurting your experience. Mobile channels, like push, are so powerful because they offer an intimate touchpoint, but that also means it’s a responsibility. An email that’s not personalized or targeted can be somewhat annoying, but most people put up with it because it’s easy to ignore. A push message that’s not personalized or relevant feels invasive — beyond just seeming like spam, it damages the experience and can make people delete your app.

Strong mobile strategies require personalizing your messages to people based on activity, behavior and what you know about them. The person who has only purchased fantasy football trophies from your e-commerce app is not likely to be interested in a push for discount lingerie. Sounds obvious, but executing personalized messages, at scale, is hard.

You also need to optimize everything. Constantly test your copy and the time of day it’s sent. This has to be a continual process, because there’s no one optimal time of day for your entire user base — each person will have optimal times.

Uber uses push in a way that’s aligned with its value. The transportation service uses push for utilitarian purposes: it tells you when your car has arrived, to follow up on finishing a transaction and when surge pricing has ended. Uber is a great example of knowing when not to send a push. It understands what its customers want from push (where is my car?), and it saves larger brand-building messaging for email, social and other channels.

8tracks also has great examples of mobile messaging to achieve business goals. The company used humor in its push campaigns to build its brand and engender good feelings with its audience. It wasn’t as simple as including a few funny quips, however. The 8tracks team used a metrics-driven strategy to see how it could incorporate humor.

First, it ran a “pilot” campaign that featured a few humorous tweets to its more than 68,000 followers. This went over well, so 8tracks included a funny message in its push notification. The message with humor only went to about a quarter of the campaign audience, while the other two were more straightforward. The message with humor achieved a higher engagement rate and goal uplifts, which emboldened 8tracks to use more humor in future campaigns.

This ultimately paid off: 8tracks was able to reduce churn by 8 percent because it connected with users in a personal, data-driven way.

In addition, many media outlets are intelligently leveraging push notifications to send breaking news alerts. In the breakneck world of media, this provides a significant edge on capturing readers’ attention. However, smart news organizations know that blasting push messages to their entire audience for every story is a quick ticket to getting your app uninstalled. Combining the immediacy of push with relevancy, timeliness and great copy is the only way to go from noisily yelling at your users to communicating with them in a delightful manner.

Remember, push notification can help you build a strong relationship with your customers because of its intimate, powerful nature, but it’s just one tool in your marketing toolkit. If you’re not aiming to delight your users through all the channels you reach them, you’re in for a messy breakup.

Adam Marchick is the CEO and co-founder of Kahuna, a mobile marketing automation company based in Palo Alto, Calif. Adam can be reached at @adammStanford.