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Beam Me Up, Scotty

By Hannah Wallace January 31, 2009

For Star Trek fans in the ‘60s, “Beam me up, Scotty” became a colloquialism. It’s funny how prophetic this futuristic communication device was 40 years ago.



Star Trek had the Tri-Coder, a pre-GPS system that could find you anywhere. It looked like a Motorola flip-top cell phone didn’t it? You could talk, view things, send written messages and be guided to different locations. It had a laser (a weapon, but hopefully we will not get there) and visual projector. Pretty neat science fiction turned into today’s reality.



This came to mind because a friend of mine, David Rippitoe of Neighborhood America, a mobile communications company, just returned from the Mobile Marketing convention in California. He shared some interesting information that could help you decide to put some of your marketing efforts into this new communications outlet.



Mobile Marketing (MM) is becoming ubiquitous. You use your device in conjunction with other media to deliver a message to a prospect, generally with a call to action. This includes text messaging, picture messaging, downloading applications (games, videos, podcasts, ringtones, etc.) and mobile Web.



In my opinion, MM is now taking off for three basic reasons: Vendors have created flat rate fees, the quality of the devices is technologically better and consumers are more comfortable with the whole process. Eighty-eight percent of U.S. mobile owners have now participated in a MM effort; 28 percent downloaded something and 25 percent received status alerts. But that was done BO (Before Obama). I’ll bet it is higher now.



What does this mean for us?  We have a new medium for merchants to efficiently target customers in these rough economic times. One basic way to use it is to hook into a service that meets your needs. I was introduced to one the other day called Opentable.com. It is an instantaneous directory that’s accessible from your car while you looking for a place to dine. Search and you might find one in your business category.



Here are four things you can do now that may help save money and develop your best customers:

  1. Create your own social network via the cell phone. Set up a text program that allows you to send your repeat customers messages with special offers. For a restaurant, it could be tonight’s featured entrée. A bar could notify about the band playing or two-for-one drinks specials. A retailer might have a designer trunk show. Text messaging should be immediate and short term to touch into the “moment.” It is not about brand building in the classic sense. It is about brand maintenance: relationships and personalization.

  1. Use mobile for coupons. It does not have to be sophisticated, just pertinent. One example: tomorrow is Valentine’s Day; bring a friend for lunch and have a free glass of champagne. Or 20 percent discount on all men’s shirts tomorrow only (although women’s shoes would probably do better).

  1. Create a grassroots micromarketing campaign. Viral marketing is a perfect use of mobile. Every charity event should use text to spread the word. It is low-cost and attention gathering. At the very least, use it for reminder advertising as the event gets closer.

  1. Every real estate company should have a mobile application. A prospect could drive past a home, call a number and have most of the multilist downloaded to the cell phone. If they are interested, they text a code which it goes to the agent, and the sales process begins. This creates qualified leads without having to do an endless stream of open houses.

I could cite many more examples, but space constraints limit the exploration. If you are at all interested, contact David at [email protected].


Mobile Media is not a panacea or a replacement for all other communication options. It is the future. It is the new way we will a large part of our marketing in the next three to five years. As I am fond of saying, “the pace of change far exceeds our ability to grasp and react to it.”



Of course you could just reject this premise entirely. In that case I would have to take out my phone and blurt out: “Beam me up, Scotty, there is no intelligent life left on this planet”. LOL

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