One of the best analogies I can think of that summarizes digital communication’s role for brand marketers: a brand is standing at a podium giving a speech to an audience.

There are a number of reasons why I think this analogy is strong. One, brands are a single entity trying to communicate with an audience of many people. Two, the audience members, i.e. consumers, attend due to their interest (at least peripheral) in the subject matter. Three, each audience member has a personal take on the speaker’s message that the speaker can only moderately control. Four, the reason for speaking at an event is to engage that audience’s action in other locations, not necessarily during/at the podium speech event.

I could keep going (and imagine others could as well – feel free to post to the comments), but let’s assume that digital marketing is exactly like speaking at an event. The question then becomes, how can I make this speech more effective?

Waterfall’s vision of personalized engagement summarizes one angle to improve success. Namely, that software can allow a speaker’s message to be tailored for the specific audience member listening. Using our analogy, you can imagine a speaker in front of an audience where filters exist in the air so that the message hits home uniquely for each individual listener. That’s the power of personalized engagement software.

A second angle for improving the effectiveness of a podium speech is reach, i.e. the amount of people in the audience. (quick aside: reach, non-coincidentally, is exactly why folks are so excited about social media advertising and, to a greater extent, mobile. No other technology allows access to as widespread an audience as a device that outnumbers the population in the U.S. and numbers in the 4 billion range globally).

Reach seems like a no brainer right? By adding more people to the audience, the speech will be more effective (making an assumption here: the sound and relevance of the message won’t be tainted by the bigger audience) because more listeners results in huge benefits like higher engagement, more word of mouth, and increased opportunity to personally impact an audience member.

So here’s the kicker, (and why I am writing this post): it’s reach that I think a lot of mobile marketers should improve upon. Some examples of ignoring reach:

  • Using a QR code
  • Marketing an app
  • Using a passbook mobile coupon

Wait, what? Arent’ QR codes, apps and Passbook basic tenets of mobile marketing? Well, yes, but no. Here’s why:

  • ~50% of people have a smartphone. Of those, ~50% know how to use a QR code reader. That’s ~75% of the population without easy access to QR codes.
  • ~50% of people have a smartphone, leaving ~50% of the population without access to apps (not to mention that ~15% of the market does not use Android/iOS).
  • ~50% of people have a smartphone. Of those, ~40% have Apple smartphones, with ~50% using iOS 6. That’s 90% of people without access to Passbook.

Now, of course these numbers are all going to change. But the numbers aren’t what’s most important. What is: there are multiple percentage divisions to make when considering reach. It’s not just “how many people can use cell phones.”

Luckily, there’s an easy way to address reach and make sure that no consumers are shut out because they have the wrong device, insufficient tech acumen or extenuating circumstances like too little time, convenience, etc. to engage with a brand:

Cross-channel marketing. By combining channels under one roof, it’s easy to maximize reach and technology effectiveness – simultaneously. Using our examples above, here’s how they to deploy while maximizing reach.

  • Offer consumers an SMS call to action in addition to a QR code.
  • Have consumers sign up for a mobile list where they can receive updates about when an app will be released for their specific mobile OS.
  • Offer consumers an option to view a mobile coupon via a mobile web page if they cannot use iOS Passbook.

Simple, powerful and effective. That’s all mobile marketing takes sometimes. Happy public speaking.

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