Is Your Mobile Marketing Strategy Cute, Cool, or Critical?

In September, I attended FutureM, a Boston-based conference that explores the intersection between marketing and technology. It was a fantastic event, brimming with energy and enthusiasm about what’s next for cutting-edge marketers.

Though sessions ranged from social media to content marketing to analytics, the word on everyone’s lips was “mobile.” As customers are embracing increasingly hectic lives, they are turning to their mobile phones to make more than calls. They are using them to research products, engage with brands, and even make purchases.

Make no mistake — the mobile era is upon us.

As with any new technology, it can be difficult to figure out how to integrate mobile into your strategy. Many companies have rushed to create apps only to be disappointed with the impact they have on the bottom line. So how do you avoid this kind of misstep?

Make sure that your foray into mobile brings value to your customer.

During one session, John Caron, Senior Vice President of Marketing at Modiv Media, summed it up well. Mobile strategies fall under three categories — cute, cool, and critical.

Cute: These are fun, nifty ways to interact with customers, like check-ins, scavenger hunts, etc. Although check-ins are great, they don’t necessarily lead an increase in activity at the check-out line. Foursquare is a great example. This mobile app encourages users to check-in at retail outlets in exchange for points, badges, and mayorships, but it isn’t clear what these location-based services offer to customers beyond bragging rights.

Cool: This application of mobile gives something unique to its users. It enhances your customer’s experience by bringing tangible value, but it isn’t necessarily changing or greatly improving that experience. LevelUp, a new mobile payments system, is on the right track. When you pay using your LevelUp code and your mobile phone, you get credits you can spend in that store, and incentive to go back as you unlock more and more credits.

Critical: This is when you’ve integrated mobile into your strategy in a way that fundamentally changes how business is done. It brings a whole new dimension to your business that also brings value to your customers. A great example of this is Lowe’s recent decision to purchase 42,000 iPhones for use by employees working the floor. Frontline employees will be able answer customer questions and process purchases on the spot. That’s a game-changer, if ever I’ve heard of one.

Above of all, avoid the “CEO Checklist” approach to mobile marketing. Don’t create an app or buy iPhones for your staff simply because the CEO says so. Figure out which of the three categories it falls into, and map it to your larger strategy.

What company is using mobile well to reach customers? Do you think their approach is cute, cool, or critical to their business?

This post was originally appeared on Beneath the Brand.