During the 20th century, marketing was relatively easy. The primary tools were TV, radio, print, outdoor and brochures, so connecting with customers was pretty straightforward. But times have changed. While today’s consumer still uses traditional media to gather some information, most consumers turn to smartphones and tablet computers to continue their search and make purchases.

Research conducted by comScore and Millennial Media indicates that more than half (52%) of respondents use their mobile phones to determine if they need a product. 42% of them use their phones to conduct deeper research about a product. And 38% use a mobile device when making a purchase1.

The bottom line is that if you’re in business, you need to be in mobile. After all, your prospects and customers are using mobile to connect with the brands they love, so the opportunities to leverage those connections are significant.

Getting Started in Mobile Marketing. What follows is a step-by-step guide designed to help you launch a mobile marketing campaign and learn how to effectively manage it.

We’ll conduct a brief overview of the tools available to you, including mobile websites, SMS, mobile apps, mobile display ads and other items in the mobile marketing toolbox. We’ll also provide information designed to help you understand how to use mobile to target your audience based on demographics, behaviors, location and other techniques. And we’ll provide you a step-by-step checklist to help you get started in mobile.

If you believe mobile is the future, which it is, and you believe you can use mobile to grow your sales and revenues, which it can, then keep reading. This guide will provide you much of what you need to set-up, launch and manage an effective mobile marketing campaign.

Laying the Foundation. Research conducted by Google highlights the fact that we’re a nation of multi-screeners. In other words, we don’t simply use TVs or computers or smartphones or tablets to gather information about products or services. Instead, we use TVs and computers and smartphones and tablets to gather information.

Given that, it’s important that any mobile marketing campaign integrate seamlessly into a larger marketing program. Traditionally, this meant that the mobile campaign would be reverse-engineered to fit back into the larger marketing program. In other words, businesses would develop their marketing campaigns and then insert a mobile marketing campaign into the larger program.

But a more sophisticated approach is to actually think mobile first. After all, Gartner has famously predicted that by the end of 2013, the primary way consumers will connect with brands is via their mobile devices. In other words, mobile should be the foundation of your marketing program, not an after-thought.

Context is King. When thinking about using mobile to lay the foundation of your marketing program, it’s important to consider the environment your prospect will be in while using mobile to connect with your brand. Will they be exiting a restaurant and using their smartphone to find a movie theatre? Will they be using a tablet in an airport to check sports scores? Or will they be playing a game on their smartphone while in line at a bank?

The likely result is that they’ll use their mobile devices in all of the above-mentioned scenarios and many, many more. After all, part of what makes mobile marketing relevant is that people have their mobile devices with them virtually all the time. That includes while they’re at the store, while they’re watching TV and while they’re in the office.

Given that, it’s your job as a marketer to engage them with your brand in a contextually-relevant manner. In other words, it’s your job to provide them information about your brand that takes into consideration where they are at the time they’re receiving your messages.

It’s also important to establish the goals and objectives for your mobile marketing campaign. In most cases, your goal is to facilitate a financial transaction between your organization and the user. This can come in the form of a purchase or, if you’re a non-profit, in the form of a donation.

In other cases, the goal is simply to provide information to your constituents. If you’re an online publisher, your primary objective is to provide content that keeps the visitor engaged and interested in coming back for more. The same holds true for sports teams, religious organizations and government entities – the goal isn’t necessarily to generate direct revenue as much as it is to connect with constituents via a mobile device.

In the end, it doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to sell something or simply provide information. The important thing is to formalize your objective so that you and members of your team have an established goal and a clear understanding of how you’ll get there.

Overview of Mobile Marketing Tools. One of the biggest challenges for many marketers is that they don’t have a sense of the tools that are part of the mobile toolbox. They might understand what a mobile website is and might even understand how it differs from a mobile app, but they still haven’t had a chance to see all the tools at one time. In other words, they haven’t explored each element to see how it might work with the other tools available to them.

While there are new mobile tools coming online with relative frequency, there are eight that are particularly important.  What follows is a brief summary of each:

  • Mobile websites: This is a simplified and streamlined version of your desktop website that’s been designed to appeal to a mobile visitor who is using their smartphone or a tablet to connect with your brand.
  • SMS and MMS: Short Message Service and Multimedia Message Service are systems that enable brands to send texts or rich media (graphics, video, audio) to prospects and customers.
  • Mobile apps: Not to be confused with mobile websites, these mini-software programs reside in the smartphone or tablet and can be used by brands to provide information or e-commerce with prospects or customers.
  • Response codes: There are a number of different kinds of response codes, the most common of which are QR codes, Microsoft TAGs, ScanLife, SPARQCodes and others.
  • Mobile display ads: These are also known as mobile banner ads and are an effective way to drive new prospects to a mobile website.
  • Mobile Paid Search: Identical to desktop paid search except for the fact that it’s customized for mobile. The largest and best-known players in this field are Google, Bing and Yahoo.
  • Location-Based Marketing (LBM): There are two sub-categories of LBM which include Location-Based Services like foursquare, SCVNGR and WHERE as well as Location-Based Advertising which uses mobile display ads to geo-target prospects within a certain geographic location.
  • Near Field Communications (NFC): Similar to BlueTooth, NFC uses a small chip embedded in a phone to connect wirelessly to a reader device such inside a kiosk, debit card terminal or turnstile.

An effective mobile marketing campaign uses a combination of some or all of these tools to connect with prospects. Most prospects will begin their search for products and services by using one of these tools. It’s the goal for a mobile marketing campaign to meet the prospects where they are when they use the tools to connect and, ultimately, make a purchase.

Understanding the Mobile Marketing Industry. You won’t need an in-depth understanding of the mobile industry in order to launch an effective campaign, but it never hurts to understand the overall environment. That way, you’ll be able to manage and delegate certain responsibilities with greater confidence and effectiveness.

Any mobile device needs an operating system in order for it to work. There are a wide variety of operating systems used around the globe, some of which include Apple’s iOS, Google’s Android, RIM’s BlackBerry, Nokia’s Symbian and Microsoft’s Windows Phone.

According to Nielsen and StatCounter, the top operating system in the United States is Android followed by iOS. In the United Kingdom, it’s BlackBerry followed by iOS. Australia is iOS followed by Android and China is Symbian followed by iOS.

What’s relevant is that the operating systems used around the globe vary country-by-country and having an understanding of which ones are most prominent in your country will help you better understand how your consumers are connecting with your brand via mobile.

The operating systems reside in smartphones that are designed and assembled by manufacturers. Manufacturers include companies like HTC, Motorola, Samsung, HP, Apple, RIM BlackBerry and Nokia. RIM and Apple manufacture virtually all of the phones used in their operating systems. Google and Microsoft, on the other hand, purchase their phones from HTC, Motorola, Samsung and HP.

The manufacturer is different from the carrier. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile are the four largest carriers in the United States. Other carriers around the globe include Vodafone, Orange, China Mobile and Idea Cellular.

Key Terms and Definitions. Now that you have a sense of the key players in the mobile marketing industry, it will help to become familiar with several key terms in order to increase the depth of your knowledge. These definitions are adapted from Go Mobile the book I wrote with Jeanne Hopkins.

  • Ad Network: An organization that places your mobile display ads across a variety of mobile websites and mobile apps.
  • Click-Through Rate (CTR): The percentage of people who clicked your mobile ad or scanned your response code. CTR is obtained by dividing the number of users who clicked on your ad by the number of times your ad was delivered.
  • Conversion Rate: The percentage of respondents who opted-in or converted from prospects to customers. Conversion rate = Total participants/Total audience. Also called the acquisition rate.
  • Cost Per Thousand: A metric used to price the cost of advertising banners. Essentially, a CPM is the price you pay for every 1,000 ad impressions delivered. CPMs typically range from about $6 to about $15 on up.
  • Double Opt-In: When someone initially opts in to your alerts or special offers, you send a response, which confirms their participation in your program.
  • Impressions: The total number of times mobile subscribers have viewed a particular ad, text message, landing page or website.
  • Landing Page (aka Jump Page): The first page a visitor to your mobile site sees. It can be the home page or, more likely, a page designed to continue the message initially established via a mobile display ad, paid search ad, response code or some other mobile marketing tool.
  • Mobile Marketing Association (MMA): The global nonprofit trade association established to lead the growth of mobile marketing and its associated technologies.
  • Pull Messaging (wireless pull advertising, content pull messaging): Any content sent to you upon your request. For example, when you request the local weather from a website or an app, the content of that response (including any ads) is pull messaging.
  • Push Messaging (wireless push advertising, content push messaging): Any content sent by publishers to your mobile device at a time other than when you requested it. Push messaging includes audio, SMS, email, surveys or any other pushed advertising or content.
  • Smartphone: A mobile phone that offers more features and connectivity than a regular mobile phone. Smartphones can store information, send and receive emails, run applications, visit websites and a variety of other tasks.

Now let’s learn about the targeting opportunities a mobile marketing campaign can provide you and your business.

Finding Your Customers and Prospects with Mobile. One of the better features about mobile marketing is that the opportunities to target prospects and customers are very robust. You can target based on demographics, behaviors, location, previous websites visited, interests and other techniques.

The starting point for any successful campaign is to define the demographics of the target audience. This typically includes age, education and household income (HHI) but can also include overlays like geographic location or ethnicity. Targeting based on demographic information is relatively simple for mobile marketers.

Behavioral targeting enables mobile marketers to target consumers based on real-world actions and behaviors. So, for example, a business can target consumers who have visited a sports website as well as an automobile website. Or, they can target consumers who have a preference for fine wines and international travel. The possibilities for targeting based on behaviors is virtually endless.

One of the most important aspects of the mobile consumer is that they’re mobile. In other words, they’re not typically stationary. Instead, they’re walking, driving or in close proximity to a physical location. You can target prospects and customers based on region, state, city, zip code or even geo-locational targeting down to a few miles or even a few hundred yards of a retail location.

Retargeting is also one of the more robust aspects of mobile marketing. This enables marketers and app developers to retarget consumers who have visited their websites or downloaded their apps. It’s a great way to convert an interested prospect into a happy customer.

In some cases, you may want to target consumers based on the characteristics of their mobile device and connection. For example, you may want to send a different marketing message to owners of AT&T, Verizon, Sprint and T-Mobile devices. If that’s the case, no problem – you can do that with mobile.

In other cases, you may want to connect with consumers at specific time or place. That’s a perfect opportunity to incorporate contextual advertising into your mobile marketing mix. Contextual advertising includes day-parting and situational targeting (e.g. at an airport or at an event), which works towards making the message that much more relevant and appropriate.

Finally, you may want to connect with consumers at a time when they’re engaging with mobile websites or apps that are related to your industry. So, for example, if you manufacture golf clubs, sending a mobile marketing message to someone reading an article on the Golf.com mobile website is a no-brainer. Or, you can engage with someone who is using an app that’s related to your product or service – for example, a winery might be interested running ads in apps targeting wine and food lovers.

Leveraging the Complete Power of Mobile. Research indicates that the redemption rate for mobile coupons is ten times that of traditional coupons.  Part of this is because of the novelty of mobile and part of it is because of the ability for mobile to be customized to be more relevant for the consumer.

For example, a geo-targeted display campaign that incorporates the user’s location into the ad will almost always out-perform a display campaign that doesn’t reference the user’s location. And a campaign using response codes such as QR codes or Microsoft TAGs has an innate ability to engage users because the process of scanning a code opens the door for other, more involved transactions.

Subway Restaurants in the U.K. launched an SMS campaign that used geo-locational technology to provide discounts to customers. Visitors to Subway locations were prompted via in-store materials to text a short code to get discounts. Once users opted-in to the program, they were sent texts with discount codes which could be redeemed at store locations. What made the campaign particularly successful was the fact that the SMS messages were only sent when visitors were within close proximity to a Subway Restaurant location. The relevancy of those messages helped ensure a successful campaign for the brand.

Mobile paid search campaigns are another valuable tool that can be leveraged by marketing professionals. Keyword prices are still relatively low, so the possibility of having a positive ROI for a mobile search campaign is significant.

Starwood Hotels uses click-to-call mobile paid search campaigns that now drive a majority of mobile bookings for the chain. The ads use geo-locational technology to target prospects who are conducting searches near their hotels. The click-to-call numbers are delivered to the prospect’s smart phone and include a map to the nearest Starwood hotel. The result is that mobile paid search ROI increased by 20%, mobile bookings increased by 20% and mobile traffic tripled during the course of the campaign.

There are a number of key metrics to keep track of when running and managing a mobile paid search campaign. A successful campaign will usually have a click-through rate of 1 percent or better. As a general rule of thumb, a CTR of less than 1 percent means your ad is not targeted properly.

Keeping an eye on your average position is another relatively important metric. On a regular paid search campaign, up to 11 ads are shown on any given page, but on mobile devices, only 2 or 3 appear. Google also uses a quality score to calculate how relevant your ad is to searchers.

The quality score is based on a number of factors ranging from click-through rate to time spent on the landing page. The higher your quality score, the more effective your campaign. A way to keep your quality score in good standing is to include mobile-related keywords in your search terms. So, for example, include the term “locations” (e.g., “Italian restaurant locations”), addresses (e.g., “Home Depot on 42nd street”) and zip codes in your keyword search terms.

It’s Not too Late to Get Started in Mobile. In the end, a successful mobile marketing campaign includes a variety of tactics and techniques. Focusing on one area – mobile apps, for example – doesn’t do justice to to the full suite of mobile marketing tools. In addition, it doesn’t take into consideration that the mobile user engages with their smartphone or tablet in a wide variety of environments and situations.

By analyzing the full spectrum of mobile marketing tools and selecting those that will best meet your needs, you’ll have a greater opportunity for a successful campaign.

What are some of your favorite mobile marketing tools? And which mobile marketing campaigns do you feel do the best job of representing the full power of mobile? Let us know in the comments section below.

Jamie Turner is the Founder of the 60 Second Marketer and co-author of “How to Make Money with Social Media” and “Go Mobile.He is also a popular marketing speaker at events, trade shows and corporations around the globe.

1)  Millennial Media and comScore, Mobile Insights for Retail Brands study, 2010