By Doug Kessler published October 18, 2010

Mobile In B2B: The Invisible Juggernaut

Mobile is one of those areas in which, annoyingly, B2C is way ahead of B2B. You can kind of understand why — the CMOs of Pizza Hut and Smirnoff and Pepsi would be fired by now if they hadn’t at least been groping their way towards a relationship with their mobile users (aka everyone).

In fact, Pizza Hut, Smirnoff, Pepsi and hundreds of other consumer brands have all made excellent starts in mobile. So what about the B2B mobile pioneers? It’s a desert out there.

If it weren’t for airlines, banking and search companies, there would be almost nothing B2B in the mobile channel. And that’s more than a shame, it’s also a huge opportunity for any B2B marketer ready to experiment with new ways to reach customers and prospects.

Learning from B2Cs

At Velocity, we learned a lot about mobile marketing during our work on mobithinking.com for dotMobi (it’s a fantastic resource for marketers if I do say so myself). So, when Michele Linn asked me to come up with a few things that B2B marketers can learn about mobile from our better-dressed consumer peers, I knew just where to start:

Make yourself useful
The best consumer mobile web work falls into one of three camps: entertainment, information or utility.  B2B marketers should concentrate on information and utility — make yourself useful to your target audience.

Remember a smartphone is not a disabled PC
The earliest stabs at mobile B2B have been shrunk-down websites. But a smartphone is much more than a PC with a tiny screen and a crappy keyboard. It’s a fully-functional device with features most PCs would kill for (like a camera, video, location awareness and an integrated phone and texting device).  With the dawn of the tablet, the potential is even greater. So instead of obsessing about what a mobile device can’t do, think about what it can do.

Remember a mobile user is not in ‘desk mode’
The things you want when you’re out and about are different than the things you want at your desk. B2B marketers need to think about the mobile user, not the generic user.  That means less content and different content. It means timely information, content snacks and images or video made for small screens.

Think beyond a campaign
Mobile campaigns are fine, but you really need to start with a mobile presence that persists – like a mobile website or app. Think about something a mobile campaign can link back to instantly. Then you need to let people know about it, using all the on- and offline promotion you can. If users can’t discover or find your mobile presence, it doesn’t really exist.

Beware of diversity
The mobile world does not have the equivalent of Wintel. There are tens of thousands of permutations of devices, operating systems, software and networks. App stores are sprouting like weeds. Content that works brilliantly on one device may falter on another.  So you really have to think about who you’re hoping to reach and make sure you cover the major platforms and devices (or find a mobile expert to help with transcoding).

These few principles should help guide your thinking as you approach the mobile channel.  But when it comes to fast learning, there’s no substitute for getting your own mobile initiative underway. Start low-cost but start now.

Mobilizing your B2B brand

The web-head mindset and the technical challenges are easy to overcome. But to do that you need a good idea for mobilizing your B2B brand. Here are a few to get you started:

An alerting service
If you sell Internet security software, you could do an app that notifies mobile IT professionals of a new virus outbreak. They’d like that.

A mobile media play
If you’re in the information business, consider a mobile website or app (or both) that delivers your content in mobile-friendly ways (e.g., not the entire 90-page pdf). Or, if you’re in the events business, an appointment scheduler app or event planner would add a lot of value to your visitors and exhibitors.

Location awareness
If you’re a national telecom network, you could do a location-aware app that shows the operators’ network planners where the nearest node is and what its specs are.  Beats paper maps.

SaaS to go
Just about any software-as-a-service application can benefit from a mobile version. If you’re a vendor of web content management systems, how about a module to let mobile web editors add content bites or do quick edits?

Wizards & ROI tools
You’ve got a complex product or service. Create a mobile ROI calculator tool so prospects (and your sales team and channel partners) can work out the returns wherever they are.

Quick guides
You’ve still got a complex offer. How about a handy glossary of terms that your prospects always have access to, wherever they are?

See where this is going? Most of these ideas aren’t just new ways to shove your content at people. They’re new ways to serve your prospects and customers on the move, to help them do their jobs better. And isn’t that what content marketing is all about?

Jumping in

B2B marketers are still missing out on one of the biggest opportunities that will ever come their way. The mobile universe is already four to five times bigger than the PC universe. Every one of your customers and prospects has a phone in their pocket – and for most of them, it’s a smartphone.

In every vertical B2B market, the first brands to get into mobile will get a lot of attention, enjoy high levels of user engagement (if only for the novelty factor) and, most importantly, get a head start in learning about this marketing juggernaut. We touch on some of this in our B2B Marketing Manifesto, so do feel free to come and download it.

If you’re a B2B marketer, sitting this one out is malpractice.

Author: Doug Kessler

Doug Kessler is co-founder and creative director of Velocity, the London-based B2B marketing agency. He helps clients tell great stories, then drive those stories into the market using content marketing. Doug wrote Velocity's 'The B2B Content Marketing Workbook' and 'The B2B Marketing Manifesto'. Doug is also an instructor for the Content Marketing Institute Online Training and Certification program. You can follow Doug on Twitter at @dougkessler.

Other posts by Doug Kessler

Join Over 180,000 of your Peers!

Get daily articles and news delivered to your email inbox and get CMI’s exclusive e-book Get Inspired: 75 (More) Content Marketing Examples FREE!

  • http://www.green9media.com/ Glenn Friesen

    I managed a team in the mobile B2C (and B2B) space for Qmania.com, a couple years back. The company was well funded, founded by Music Industry Execs and advised by the founders of NetZero.

    My best, most juicy pieces of advice for mobile marketing?

    BE AN ANTHROPOLOGIST. Observe how real human beings are using their phones, now, in developed mobile markets (northern Europe, Japan, teens and college students, etc.). Learn from existing human behavior. We did this, back then, working with college groups (AMA, mostly) and Japanese tourists in Hawai’i.

    TEST. Once you have the framework for whatever new process or system or tool you want to deliver, release it to a select group of people that will want to use it. See how they use it. Don’t bias your observation. Design the tool, and watch how people use it. We had a test, back then, of a shortcode-based “sweepstakes event” at Level 4 Nightclub in Honolulu. With that test, we observed how real people used tools like ours — rather than us imagining how people would use the service.

    The thing is, I wouldn’t just recommend this sort of scientific process to mobile marketing — but to all forms. Before assuming you got it right from your armchair, go out there and observe, test, observe, improve, test, observe…. prove, improve, prove, improve. It’ll make whatever is finally released on a large scale much much better for the end user (and your revenue).

    Props to CMI! All the best,

    Glenn