One Mobile Mistake Every Business Leader Should Avoid

“Put Mary in charge of our TV advertising. She watches the most television.”

“I want Jeff running our print advertising. He has the most magazine and newspaper subscriptions of anyone in the company.”

“Lisa clearly needs to manage our events marketing. She always knows the hottest shows and venues in town.”

“Find the youngest people in our company and put them in charge of our mobile strategy. They use their phones for everything.”

Businesses tend not to associate high degrees of consumption with operational or strategic expertise, which is why the first three statements above are so implausible. Yet for the third time in my business career, I hear and read intelligent and accomplished business leaders saying and recommending the fourth. When the Internet first bloomed as an advertising medium, they instinctively looked to the Gen Xers in their midst for guidance. When social media took off, it was Gen Y’s turn. They’re saying it again now that mobile has emerged.

The likelihood that your firm’s most prolific mobile employees are inherently qualified to run your mobile operation is probably low. That’s because there’s a big difference between familiarity and accountability, between strategic leadership and tactical know-how. Just because your company’s under-30 crowd may have the biggest monthly phone bills does not mean they are ready to be mobile marketing leaders or even experts. Unless they also know how to integrate with the rest of your company’s marketing, discover and share best practices, and estimate, measure and deliver ROI, at best they may be tactically qualified to manage things like mobile creative production and media buying.

Though I’m critical of this impulse, I’m also sympathetic. The emergence of mobile is inflicting massive change on what consumers do and how they do it, forcing every business to rethink the way it engages, services, monetizes and retains its consumers. Many aspects of the mobile world are complex, requiring specific and, these days, hard-to-find skills. It’s also tempting to conflate “knowing how to do” tactical ability with “knowing what to do and why” strategic insight and responsibility.

Fortunately, there are many things business leaders can to to find their mobile comfort zone and suppress the reflex to hand over potentially one of the most important parts of the business to those who may only look the part of mobile leaders. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Identify or affirm your marketing objectives. It sounds so basic as to not deserve mentioning, but putting your goals first will focus your critical thinking on mobile and mobile marketing. Do you want to dominate one aspect of your customer’s engagement with the market segment in which you operate? Do you aspire for ubiquity throughout the user’s day? Do you depend solely on word-of mouth marketing and managing a loyal user base? Are you a challenger entering an established market and looking to establish a beach head? The answer should dictate not just what you do and for which target markets in mobile, but across your marketing department.
  2. Indulge the equivalent of mobile “summer reading.” You don’t need a Ph.D in all-things mobile to develop your authority on the topic. Instead, here are three things you can do to learn about ways in which mobile serves your company’s marketing. First, some of the biggest and most reputable ad networks, such as Millennial Media, have tools that show how to build a mobile ad campaign from scratch. These ads would run in users’ apps and mobile web browsers. Trying these tools yourself will give you a sense of how they work and what they can do for your business. Second, put yourself in your customers’ shoes and try to search for, find, and use your company’s mobile websites and apps. Does it all work the way you expect? Third, ask questions of whomever is responsible for building, maintaining and measuring mobile website and app performance. Just engaging in relevant conversation can boost your fluency. Each of these suggestions will help you assess how well your mobile operations serve your firm’s marketing goals.
  3. Integrate mobile into the rest of your marketing. One of the first companies for which I worked during the Internet boom built a web team that loosely reported into the team that managed marketing services and events. It was an awkward organization maneuver because it put distance between it and the firm’s marketing decision makers. These days, I know of some companies that have hatched mobile operations in their IT departments, which looks like a recipe for more dysfunction. Make sure, therefore, that mobile has a seat among the marketing if not the company leadership.

Mobile marketing has made it easier than ever to reach customers at every point in their day. Knowing how to leverage mobile’s power as a part of your marketing mix does not require some secret insight available only to people born after Ronald Reagan’s second inaugural. Any seasoned, thoughtful business leader has what it takes to ensure her company’s mobile operations is positioned to succeed.

One comment

  1. […] my recent post on the importance of recognizing the distinction between functional and strategic expertise […]


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