Top tips when choosing an agency or service provider for your mobile strategy, by Melissa Parrish, Forrester
As mobile becomes an essential part of customer engagement, choosing the right partner is critical for brands that want to establish a successful, long-term mobile strategy.
Melissa Parrish, senior analyst, interactive marketing, Forrester Research, shares her tips for finding the right mobile partner, and helps you to sort those with real mobile expertise from the wannabes.
Before starting to look for a partner for mobile-marketing services, marketers should assess what kind of help they really need. Once identified, it will be easier to pinpoint the type of partner best suited to meeting these requirements.
Mobile services vendors fall into three basic categories:
1) Mobile specialty vendors include mobile search providers, e.g. Google, mobile ad networks, e.g. Millennial Media, and SMS vendors, e.g. Cellit. These providers are great for those marketers who already have their mobile strategy in place and now need advice and execution in the service provider’s particular area of expertise.
2) Mobile platform providers, such as Velti and Augme, supply the underlying technology that runs mobile programs, and helps the client to optimize, measure and manage the campaign. The relationship is more likely to be wholly-owned and managed by the company’s IT department (or agency) than by the marketing department.
3) Agencies – of all types – are chosen by marketers who are either just getting started in mobile or are looking to expand their mobile programs, as well as those companies that routinely turn to agencies for comprehensive services. Types of agencies include:
• Full-service agencies. These agencies, such as Crispin Porter + Bogusky and DraftFCB, handle marketing and advertising programs across all spectrums of both online and offline media.
• Digital (interactive) agencies. Agencies such as SapientNitro and Razorfish focus on giving marketers great experiences across all interactive media, including smartphones and tablets.
• Mobile-specific agencies. This emerging category of agencies, which includes Punchkick Interactive, Plastic Mobile and Joule, focus on providing just the mobile piece of a marketer’s strategy.
After analyzing the company’s mobile requirements, the marketer may decide to bring in an agency – which is likely, as mobile is still an emerging market. At that point it’s important to scrutinize existing/potential partners to find the best fit.
Tips for finding the right agency:
1) Start by evaluating the mobile expertise of the existing/potential agency partners, focusing on strategy, creative, execution and measurement. Agencies will have different levels and history of experience in the channel – my research found some that have been working in mobile for 10 years and some with less than 2 years of experience. Marketers should decide ahead of time how much experience the agency should have to make them comfortable with relying on that agency’s expertise.
2) Marketers should make sure they understand the current/prospective agency’s strategic approach to mobile, and that it aligns with the marketer’s own vision of how they want to engage their mobile customer and create integrated digital experiences. Consider: do you see mobile strictly as a buy-stage tool? Are you looking to create deep experiences with your most loyal customers? Marketers should make sure the agency will help to set them up to be successful with the programs of today and tomorrow.
3) Demand case studies – not just examples – that prove the agency has measurable success for companies with similar objectives to their own. You don’t just want to know that the agency has built an app for a brand. You want to know how well that app performed against the agency’s stated objectives. After download, was it used a lot or abandoned? Did it move the needle on brand measures? Did it provide important info about the customer, etc?
4) Check references to determine how skilled the agency is at collaborating on mobile projects – it is common for different agencies to partner on projects; for example, where they need to bring in technical expertise.
It is important that brands build a long-term mobile strategy, rather than just using it on an ad hoc basis with one-off campaigns, and to ensure that that mobile marketing isn’t dealt with on its own in a silo. Digital agencies – with proven mobile expertise – are particularly well placed to ensure that mobile is integrated into a brand’s holistic digital strategy. My recent Forrester Wave research evaluated the mobile strategy and execution capabilities of nine top US digital agencies: AKQA, iCrossing, Ogilvy, Possible Worldwide, Razorfish, Rosetta, SapientNitro, TribalDDB and VML.
• Melissa Parrish will be sharing more advice on Choosing a partner for mobile marketing strategic services at The Mobile Marketing Conference, March 19 – 21, 2012, Miami, USA. mobiThinking readers can get 20 percent discount for this event.
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