B2B mobile marketing – the insider’s guide to engaging business customers by mobile, with Christina “CK” Kerley

When you think about it, mobile is an obvious channel to engage hard-to-reach, busy and highly mobile people. Armed with high-spec phones, with an employer that picked up the bill, they were the first to adopt mobile email, mobile Web and SMS alerts, to help them keep their fingers on the pulse of business, news, markets etc.

Christina “CK” Kerley is a mobile evangelist, but while pretty much everyone preaching from conference rostrums is focused on wooing consumers via mobile, her target audience is those who market to business customers. When you think about it, is there a more appropriate group to engage with via mobile? Business people are rarely at their desk, in and out of meetings and often traveling, but always have a mobile phone to hand. They were among the earliest adopters of mobile email and Web, so it’s no coincidence that B2B publishers such as Reuters embraced mobile much earlier than their B2C contemporaries. But most mobile marketing gurus seem to have lost sight of this.
• CK is spearheading a new mini-MBA in mobile-marketing at New Jersey’s Rutgers University Rutgers, a part time or intensive course for business executives starting in April.
• Download CK’s most recent paper The Mobile Revolution and B2B.

Q1. Why should B2B businesses use mobile to engage their customers?
The short answer is because their customers aren’t “going mobile”, they’ve already gone mobile. A business professional without a mobile device is like the Loch Ness monster… it doesn’t exist, or is rarely seen.
But what B2Bs really need to understand is that the mobile revolution isn’t merely a migration in communications devices, but a sea change across our business audiences’ needs, preferences, expectations and thresholds. These dramatic shifts mark a full-on revolution in how we B2Bs build relationships and ROI in this anytime, anywhere world.

Q2. How big is this today? Are there any stats?
The stats for mobile are mind-blowing… intoxicating even.
• By the end of 2010 there were 5.3 billion mobile subscriptions and 940 million of those have – potentially - access to mobile broadband services (ITU 2010, estimated).
• The US has seen rapid increase in how people (generally) use their cell phones for purposes other than calling. Now 38 percent of cell phone owners use it to access the internet, 34 percent to access email; 72 percent for text messaging; 30 percent for instant messaging; 76 percent for taking pictures (Pew Research Center, 2010)
• Sales of smartphones are growing at 74.4 percent each year. Smartphones are now 21.8 percent of mobile-phone sales globally – this is higher in the US and other developed nations (IDC, 2011). While you can still do web surfing, email and download apps to many feature phones, smartphones deliver a richer experience, which is why many people are upgrading.
• There are over one billion mobile workers in the world (IDC, 2010) who are able to do their job remotely, while away from their desk. The US is the most highly concentrated market for mobile workers – with 72.2 percent of the workforce being mobile in 2008.

However, stats for how business people (as opposed to consumers) use mobile e.g. use of mobile Web, apps and email are in short supply. And statistics for how widely mobile is used in B2B marketing/engagement is all but nonexistent.
But just because the analysts don’t segment business from consumer cell-phone users and no-one is measuring mobile B2B, doesn’t mean it isn’t happening or that every B2B should be embracing it. The perception of “mobile as purely a consumer media” is akin to arguing that professionals don’t use computers for their work, purchasing and communications activities either. As I often say, for professionals, their mobile devices have become veritable lifelines to their livelihoods. So rest assured the numbers of business people using mobile data services, if measured, would be massive – probably considerably higher than consumer usage – after all, if your company gave you a smartphone and picked up the monthly bill, would you just use it for the odd call?

Q3. Is it going to take off? When? What will be the catalyst?
Oh, yes, it will take off — you can quote me on that. Every time… every single time…, I have the opportunity to articulate to a B2B marketer how applicable and opportune mobile is to their audiences, whether it’s a 10-minute conversation or a speech, you see marketers light up, get inspired and take the message back to their companies. It’s just a matter of explaining the business case, the expansive suite of communication tools that mobile offers, and the B2B strategies and best practices that they need to follow. But we need more evangelists spreading that word and more marketers to hear and embrace the message and start championing the mobile cause within their organizations. Luckily the numbers work in our favor - 5.3 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide – but we need more B2Bs who are prepared to share their success stories with mobile.

Q4. What businesses use mobile for B2B engagement today?
When you think about it, lots of companies already use mobile to target their business audiences. Most business-orientated publications have mobile Websites (some have been doing it for a decade), many also offer apps, SMS and/or email alerts. Examples include Bloomberg (mobile.bloomberg.com), CNN Money (cnnmoney.mobi), FT (m.ft.com), Reuters (reuters.mobi), The Street (thestreet.mobi) and WSJ (m.wsj.com). Many investment companies also have mobile sites, apps and alerts, such as Ameritrade (tdameritrade.mobi), E*Trade etrade.mobi, Fidelity (fidelity.mobi), Nasdaq (mobile.nasdaq.com) and Schwab (wireless.schwab.com).
Airlines are particularly forward-thinking when it comes to keeping their frequent flying – and lucrative – business audience happy through mobile sites and apps for booking, ticketing, check-in and alerts to warn them when the plane is delayed. See AA (mobile.aa.com), Continental (pda.continental.com), KLM (klm.mobi) and Lufthansa (lufthansa.mobi), for example. Logistics companies allow businesses to track parcels via the mobile site, SMS and/or email, such as UPS (m.ups.com), DHL (dhl.mobi) and TNT (tnt.com/mobile).

Here are a couple of recent examples that caught my attention:
Regus, a global supplier of temporary office space, developed a mobile app that uses augmented reality (AR) and location-based services to help users to find office space near them whether they’re in Boise, Brussels or Barcelona. By scanning the area in front of them with their phone camera, the office options populate their phone screens. It’s interesting to see AR being used for practical reasons for B2B audiences, when AR is usually used just for fun with the B2C audience. In less than six months the app has been downloaded over 19,000 times across 85 countries and received wonderful press coverage and provides a better mobile experience than their PC Web site, but at the moment it’s only available for iPhone users.
Hoovers’ Near Here is a location-based sales prospecting tool enabling sales forces to identify, filter, contact and get directions to their targets. Hoovers is harnessing mobile to increase its audience’s productivity. In moving to smaller screens and leveraging mobile tools, Hoovers has made prospecting better, faster and easier for their core audience, while making their core value proposition — supporting sales professionals in their prospecting efforts — more relevant than ever in this mobile world. At the moment the app is only available for the iPhone, but expect more mobile to be coming from this organization following the success of this mobile venture.

Q5. How/why is B2B different to B2C mobile engagement?
Unlike B2C marketers who tap novel approaches to engage consumers, business audiences are driven by efficiency rather than entertainment. Where consumers have time to spare, professionals never have enough of it. And while consumers set their own priorities, professionals are accountable to their bosses, with their priorities determined by the organization’s bottom line.
Whether the goal is to generate leads through a new medium or to retain customers with new benefits, mobile presents B2Bs with a remarkable new inroad to their business audiences. But in order to win the favor of busy professionals, B2Bs must develop mobile programs that strive to make the work activities of their audience better, faster and easier - this should be the rallying call of all B2Bs, as it is critical to successful mobile ventures that will deliver ROI.

Q6. In what types of business and types of business relationship does mobile make the most sense?.
All types of business. Why? The simple fact is that all business professionals use mobile in their work tasks and activities. Moreover, mobile offers a wide range of tools that enable marketers to create real value for their business audiences, whatever breed of industry or niche sector.
It doesn’t matter if you are in technology, manufacturing, publishing, professional services or aerospace, your business needs to communicate, prospect, engage, train, inform, build relationships and, yes, build ROI with business professionals via mobile. So, think about how you can use mobile to: (1) enhance marketing programs; (2) improve internal productivity; and/or (3) create mobile products that generate a new line of revenue for the business.

Q7. What are the essential first steps that a B2B should take in mobile?
Optimize your existing content for the mobile environment. B2Bs here’s a newsflash: if you have a Web site, you’re already in the mobile world — and the chances are you’re making a terrible impression on your audience.
Why? Because that fancy Web site, with all the bells and whistles that look great on a laptop, doesn’t look so good crunched into a miniature of a mobile screen. Make no mistake, if you don’t optimize your site for the mobile environment, it’s going to be unusable on the only device that your audience have with them all the time.
And the big action points? Don’t only optimize the copy, graphics and technologies for the mobile environment… optimize the content strategy. Mobile users of your site have different needs to a desktop user. They need quick answers and bite-sized content in easy-to-digest formats (e.g. video/audio vs. text). So, optimizing your content for a mobile environment is your first stop, but this requires a full-on strategy and entirely new design. It takes time and effort, but it’s worth it.

Q8. What are your best-practice tips?
Better, faster, easier is the B2B’s mobile mantra: companies that develop mobile strategies that make their audiences’ work-related activities better, faster and easier will win mobile hearts, minds and market share.
Think “inside” the box: be aware of the space constraints of mobile and build accordingly and be mindful of how user needs differ when accessing your content via a mobile device rather than a PC or tablet.
Use mobile to extend brand value proposition (don’t just aim to produce a “cool app”): ensure that you stay relevant in this newly mobile world.
Leverage existing content through new tools and new formats: it is vital that B2Bs audit their existing content to see how it can be repurposed for the mobile audience tools. To give some examples: video is a terrific platform to convey otherwise long articles, audio is wonderful for summarizing case studies. Instead of long articles opt for short, 100-word posts that help your specific market stay up-to-date on small screens. SMS alerts are a great way to keep your target market informed of industry developments – SMS messages are quick and easy to read, and can hyperlink to a mobile landing page with more information.
Don’t sell, help your audience: trust me, your market doesn’t want a pitch. They never did — but on their most personal mobile devices, a sales pitch will enrage, rather than engage, them. Think how you can use mobile to help them do their jobs better, faster, easier, to stay ahead of the competition and remain relevant in these fast-paced, forever-in-flux times.

Q9. Where should people go for more information on B2B mobile engagement?
It pains me and astounds me – considering the potential – to say that the B2B mobile space is not well covered today, so I can only suggest Social Media B2B, which has started to cover mobile more, and my own blog CK’s B2B blog, with a substantial archive of articles, video and slideshows.

Q10. A final question on the Mini MBA program: what do you hope it will achieve (in the greater scheme of things)?
Mobile devices aren’t the story. They’re just the screens. We’re in the midst of a mobile revolution – the level of innovation, the impact it is having on our lives and the opportunities it provides for businesses is awe-inspiring. We’re very fortunate to be witnessing it. So in the grand scheme of things, I want this program — which I’m proud to say is a first in executive education backed by a top university — to help people, not only the students, but the larger business community, grasp that mobile offers the most profound set of media of our time, and is are driving unprecedented and permanent shifts across societal behaviors and business practices.

• Mini-MBA in mobile-marketing at Rutgers University

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Christina “CK” Kerley, one of the few mobile marketing evangelists focused on the B2B audience.


CK is spearheading a new mini-MBA in mobile-marketing at Rutgers, New Jersey for business executives.


Reuters.mobi and Fidelity.mobi: many B2B publishers and service providers were engaging the business audience via mobile, long before the B2C marketers woke up to potential.


Regus uses augmented reality to guide business customers to the nearest temporary office.


Hoovers provides essential corporate information about prospects for salesmen.

Rating for this article:

A lot of mobile site sellers haven't given much thought to B2B applications, but it is only going to grow in practice. In 5 years I don't think some businesses will remember ever living without such applications.

Excellent article!

Mobile is here and I plan on capitalizing on it by selling mobile sites to small business owners.

Thank you!

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