How SMBs Can Win In The Early Days of Personalization Via Mobile

Ask me what holds the most promise in mobile marketing and I’ll answer personalization.

Query me on my biggest disappointment to date and I’ll also say personalization.

Therein lies a big opportunity for small businesses.

I spent the better part of the last 10 days getting smarter on beacons – a hardware and communications method to link proximity with a mobile device, and more importantly, the user.

Why my interest? It was the July topic of my Market Motive online training webinar. But it also is on the minds of many marketers who I meet, and I want to provide strong counsel.

It strikes me that a beacon’s No. 1 mission is to tell a business that someone is in the store.

The SMB doesn’t need a piece of hardware and accompanying Bluetooth transmission to learn that.

He or she knows the customer is there.

Larger entities like Macy’s are testing ways to convert this information into useful data by combining beacon technology with an individual’s previous purchases to deliver a more individualized experience – and to increase sales.  While there is potential there, Macy’s is in the early days of the experiment. However, the SMB doesn’t need beacons to know what a certain customer wants.

He or she already knows.

You may recall my post about the boutique pet store owner who provides such a level of personalized service to me that I routinely pass roughly 40 closer stores selling the same product so I can do business with him.

At the recent CEO/CMO Summit conducted by the Mobile Marketing Association, I heard from the mouths of global brand marketers that personalization through smartphones and other devices is hard. Some believe that it’s unattainable.

To me, we have to get there. There are only so many steak sandwich offers that a vegetarian will receive before he or she is convinced that the business sending them has no clue about their dietary needs or really about them in general.

Few are more bullish than me about text message loyalty clubs.

The top way for SMBs to get customers to return is through a mobile VIP program that opts in mobile users who want to receive offers via SMS. These programs cost the businesses well under $100 a month – good ones can be developed for less than $50 through several high-quality mobile vendors. Redemption rate for deals from the SMB vary, but consistently the savvy business owner is seeing a solid return on the expenditure.

While these clubs are the best that we have for now, they still can be better.

We are under-delivering when we say that we are doing one-to-one marketing when we are really doing one-to-one-opt-in-list marketing. Everyone gets the same offer. Not ideal.

The ineffectiveness of the large brands is an opportunity for SMBs. Until the big players get more targeted through mobile, and provide more value to the consumer, the smaller businesses can win through personalization.

If you like, call it old-fashioned customer service. I’ll refer to it as a leg up in the battle for sales and loyalty.


This post was brought to you by IBM for Midsize Business and opinions are my own. To read more on this topic, visit IBM's Midsize Insider. Dedicated to providing businesses with expertise, solutions and tools that are specific to small and midsized companies, the Midsize Business program provides businesses with the materials and knowledge they need to become engines of a smarter planet.