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Mobile Internet – If not now, when?

If your budget was cut by 90% and you only had 10% left to play with, what is the single most essential activity that will deliver the highest returns in the next 12 months? Yeah, mobile. Idiots.

Having been roundly thrashed proposing ‘the future of marketing was digital’ at the B2B Conference last year, imagine my enthusiasm when I was asked to propose the motion at the recent IDM B2B Conference, ‘This house believes that mobile marketing will be a crucial channel for B2B brands in the UK in the next 12 months’. I politely declined.

My reluctance to take the stage and wave my arms around in a passionate display of mobile affection wasn’t so much the fear of defeat (and the motion was squarely defeated…), it was more a response to the depressing realisation that the B2B industry is catastrophically unable to respond quickly to game-changing shifts in market development.

I sat in the front row and listened to the argument against the importance of mobile and, if you were there, the person snorting and spluttering, unsure whether to laugh or cry, was me. In the panel discussion following the formal debate someone ‘rested their case’ with the comment, “Ask yourself this, if you’ve just been told that your budget’s going to be cut by 25%, what would you do without? – Yeah, [pause for effect] mobile.” The comment (and the vote) highlights the staggering degree of ignorance about mobile technology in the B2B space.

A better question would have been, “If your budget was cut by 90% and you only had 10% left to play with, what is the single most essential activity that will deliver the highest returns in the next 12 months?” Yeah, mobile. Idiots.

“I don’t want people to have my mobile number” was one comment from the floor. “I don’t want more spam texts or unsolicited calls on my mobile” was another. Is that really the extent of understanding of the mobile platform?

Has the B2B industry again failed to grasp the significance of social empowerment, this time in a mobile context?

No one is talking about SMS. No one is talking about telemarketing. That was the 1990s. ‘Push’ marketing pretty much died, fairly quickly, but painfully, with the advent of Social Media. That’s the thing that changed the world of communications forever – you know, the thing that has transformed Facebook into the equivalent size of the world’s third largest country.

What does that have to do with B2B? Well, irrespective of budget cuts, we can barely afford to push even if we wanted to. We have to ‘pull’ social-savvy audiences towards our products and services. If we do nothing else, we should ensure information is accessible when customers come looking for it. Richard Robinson, Industry Head of Business Markets at Google said in the debate, that mobile traffic has increased over 600% in the last year. Your customers use their mobile devices to access and request information online. No one heard that of course, because they were worried about unwanted SMS messages…

Your customers want to use their mobile devices – SmartPhones, NetBooks, Tablets – to access content (your content) when it’s convenient to them, which is hardly ever whilst they’re sitting at their desks. They want to see your content at the airport, on the train, in a coffee shop, on the street, while they’re waiting for something else, whenever they have a spare moment.

Now reach for your mobile (it’ll be right next to you) and punch in the URL for your own brand’s website and have a look at how well your company content performs on a mobile screen. It’s not good is it? Would you spend time engaging with your brand in that context? No, you wouldn’t. So why should your customers? It’s not even a difficult (or budget-breaking) problem to solve. If you do nothing else in the next 12 months, fix your content for mobile delivery. And if you don’t, just remember that your customers are already engaging with those that have. Ok, now you can vote.

Scot McKee