10 ways to get your agency more mobile

With apologies to the Economist

There is no shortage of facts, figures, stats and predictions on the proliferation of mobile and the market penetration of smart phones. Apparently you can make a pretty good living issuing research reports about how many people now have smartphones and what they’re using them for. (Hint: That would be everyone and everything.)

You can also fill up the web, or try, simply re-posting and regurgitating those facts in one form or another.  Take a look at some of the coverage of Mary Meeker’s Internet Trends report from a week or so ago. Hundreds, if not thousands, of press and bloggers embedded her deck or linked to her talk.

Most of the write-ups added little value for their readers; they simply cut and pasted what was in Mary’s deck. (If you want one of the better lists of Mary’s facts, check out blogger Dave Allen.)

The real question is what you’re supposed to do with all of this information, from Forrester, from Pew Research, from Mary Meeker. Sure you can put it all into a deck with your logo on the front and present it to clients. But I’m not sure that will get you very far. At least not in the long term.

It’s not about knowing that mobile is soon to be the dominant digital and social platform, it’s knowing what to do about it. I can’t claim to be an expert, but here’s what I’m thinking you should be doing.

Make mobile your new focus

You may have been late to the Internet revolution (hopefully you’re still around to take advantage of this one) and perhaps even slow to realize the potential of social. Don’t blow this one. It may be too late to be early, but it’s still early enough not to be late. What, you’re thinking mobile should be the domain of the media department? Or maybe the developers? Think again, everyone will need to be and do mobile before next year is out.

Get smart about behavior not technology

Since I’m not a developer I always start with the consumer rather than the technology. Think about social media. What was more important, the platforms or what consumers did with them?  The same is likely to hold true for mobile. How and when will people search from their devices? Will they access a retailer’s site when they’re looking for directions, or when they’re in the store? How about a museum? Will a user want hours and exhibit dates before visiting the museum? Or is she interested in the backstory of an artwork when she’s standing in front of it? Understanding how and when someone uses their device leads to better mobile functionality. 

Think utility over advertising

A few months ago, Jeremiah Owyang shared a mobile strategy deck. The mobile world changes pretty fast, but Jeremiah’s content remains relevant, demonstrating how to bring utility to every point on the purchase funnel, from pre-sale awareness generation to post sale loyalty building. He includes examples from North Face’s snow report to AAA’s roadside assistance, making this overview a good starting point to think about all the ways you can apply similar thinking to your clients.

Remember that mobile isn’t always about on the go

Heineken’s Star Player is one good reminder. It’s an accompaniment to a user’s TV set. The app makes a soccer fan a participant in a any televised soccer match. It does everything right: it understands the user and context, connects him to others in a community, and puts a branded experience in his hands for 90 straight minutes.  It may make it harder to slurp down a beer, but presumably if you use the app for that much time you can do it with one hand. If you’re not familiar with it, check it out.

Don’t forget to think beyond apps

Would you rather pinch and zoom or simply scroll vertically.

Yes we’re all programmed as users to download and use them. But as mobile search begins to rival that of desktop – it has a ways to go but is growing fast – you’ll want to be in the business of developing mobile optimized sites. And if you start developing them using responsive design, you’ll deliver a branded experience to the all of the plethora devices that make standardized apps a never-ending challenge. Furthermore your online advertising will be more effective. Most Google ad buys (full disclosure, they’re a client) include mobile, but if you’re delivering ads that link a user to a non-optimized site you’re wasting money, or at least diminishing effectiveness.

Take a look at this search I conducted to make the point. On a smartphone I searched men’s shoes. (In real life I’d just go to Zappos, but for the purpose of this exercise I used Google search.) Two paid results came up. Whose site would you use?

Remember to sell stuff and make paying easy

Apps and gaming are easily embraced, but the real future of mobile is commerce. Pay Pal will do $3.5 billion in transactions from mobile devices before the year is out. And that’s a conservative estimate. Heavy mobile users actually prefer to shop from their mobile devices versus a laptop. So make sure your commerce site is not only optimized for mobile but offers a fast and easy way to search product categories, find what you want and enter payment information.  Oh, and let us not forget mobile payment. We may have taken a long time getting there compared to some other countries, but it’s here. Learn how to leverage it.

Include mobile thinking on every assignment

There’s a tendency whenever a new technology comes along to place it in a silo. Digital. Social. Mobile. But they’re not isolated media or experiences. These days everything is connected to everything else. And I’m not talking about QR codes on print ads. Take a look, for example, at this print ad optimized for mobile. The Zappos team at Mullen knows that people discover fashion in magazines. But you can’t really shop off a magazine. Unless, of course it interacts with your smartphone. In this case we developed an ad that lets you drag items of clothes into your phone, dress a digital shopper and then connect to Zappos to actually purchase your desired items.

Learn from the startups

One thing that ad agencies and clients have a tendency to do is to copy each other. I prefer to steal from more innovative companies, in this case startups who are inventing the stuff. We can learn a lot from Instagram – fun, sharing, user participation, community and the network effect. We can learn from Spotify – a perfect application of the freemium model and an experience made better by social sharing. We can learn from SCVNGR – gaming dynamics to influence.

Make it social

One interesting fact in Mary Meeker’s presentation is how much social media is now mobile. More people tweet from their smartphone than from any other kind of device. She also reminds us that the mega-trend of the 21st century is the “empowerment of people connected via mobile devices.” Hate to break the news, but in most cases, people want to connect to other like-minded or trusted friends via mobile more than they want to connect to your brand. So give them all the opportunity possible by creating a site experience and/or apps that not only allow but encourage people to connect with one another.

Do it to get it

Everyone who got into social media as a user got better at creating in the space. Ask Iain Tait, the brains behind Old Spice on Twitter.  Or talk to the Brammo team at Crispin. Same is likely to hold true with mobile. So don’t leave it up to someone else. Play in the space. Get excited about responsive design. Think about all the ways a mobile site can be  useful. Try all the new services. Check-in. Pay with Google. The more you use it the more you’ll get it.

Thoughts? Other things your agency is doing?  Or your clients?

Related post: It’s time for web marketers to cater to mobile users.


All great points Edward, but the one that resonates the most is to first see mobile as a behavior and not as technology. You have to be thinking in terms of context, content, and the value that the experience can deliver to the user. Mobile offers so many points of engagement linking both the physical and digital experience at retail or at an event. The participatory aspect of sharing and documenting what we do and bringing some kind of social reward to the experience should not only be a component, but in most cases be at the center of any marketing initiative.


To add: the mobile device is also the first really personal device. It's pretty universally 1 device = 1 person.

So in marketing or advertising on mobile to people you're competing with all their personal communications -- a text from their friend, posting a photo on Instagram, reading their Twitter stream for breaking news -- at the same time.

So be brief, be brilliant, begone. People are very task focused and intolerant of crap that degrades their experience.


@edwardboches We'll see you in Mobile, AL Nov. 14 - 16 to talk more about mobile. Looking forward to it!

edwardboches moderator

@mikescheiner True. If you consider that mobile offers time, place, context for the user then it's incumbent on brand to know where someone is, when they are there, what they are trying to do and then be available with the right content and experience. Worst thing would be vapid, intrusive ads.

edwardboches moderator

@Sherrett Like that. Be brief, be brilliant, be gone. But I would add: be always accessible and aware of the context.


@sherrett I'll be there. This is basically my presentation. Or sort of. Work for you?


@edwardboches Cool stuff! Thanks. It's much more tactical and informed by lots of lessons learned on big e-commerce and publisher sites.


@sherrett May not be much more than that :-) Jason Prospero from Google will be the smart guy. Plus all the tools and mobilization.