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Whatever your business, most of your customers today probably carry at least one mobile device. Marketers have rushed to capitalize on that fact, but standard “spray and pray” advertising tactics have failed to deliver the desired results. Now, a more focused, customer-specific approach is emerging — one with enormous potential.

Sanjay Govil, founder and chairperson of Infinite Computer Solutions, recognizes that potential. “Marketers should leverage the ubiquity of mobile to provide value-added services to customers,” he says.

The rapid evolution of mobile advertising means that businesses of all sizes must move away from traditional promotional models. Banner ads and email blasts, for example, yield consistently poor rates of engagement and conversion. Targeted smartphone and tablet messaging, however, is proving much more effective.

Govil, whose company helps growing businesses take advantage of rapid technological change, agrees: “Using mobile messaging to reach customers not only allows businesses to increase brand loyalty, but also to use this touchpoint to increase revenue and enhance business strategy.” He notes that the EMS (Enterprise Messaging Service) provided by Infinite Convergence, a subsidiary of Infinite Computer Solutions, has seen exponential growth since its launch in December 2012.

Thanks to location and preference data shared by mobile users, businesses can now target customers with exactly the kind of ads and offers they want to receive — the kind they are most likely to respond to.

Such ads can actually enhance device use, rather than simply interfering with it. As Forbes contributor Mikal E. Belicove writes: “By offering advertisements through ad networks that are designed from the ground up to compliment — not disrupt — the user experience, your advertising dollars lead to more conversions, better brand authority, and more repeat customers.”

There’s data to prove it, too. A recent report shared by Mobile Commerce Daily shows that targeted SMS marketing campaigns delivered rates of engagement eight times higher than email equivalents. At 23 percent, conversion rates were also way up. Interestingly, customers proved far less likely to unsubscribe when receiving promotional messages on weekdays rather than on weekends.

The key is to engage the customer with offers that have them volunteer their information. With a third of apps already logging location data, and mobile users increasingly eager to find, patronize, and rate businesses through their devices, more and more people are “opting in.” The better the service they receive from personalized campaigns, the more receptive they become.

And the experiments keep coming. Mobile Marketing magazine recently reported a U.K. campaign by French car manufacturer Renault. Promoting the Zoe, a new electric model, those ads targeted particular smartphone users (already categorized as “in-market” based on their browsing history and other socioeconomic data) passing within five miles of a Renault dealership. As well as offering a free test drive, the messages showed how cheaply nearby landmarks could be reached thanks to the Zoe’s gas-free engine.

This is “focus and find” marketing, refined to reach only those customers most likely to offer a positive response. By comparison, “spray and pray” looks clumsy and inefficient.

Still, embracing geo-specific mobile marketing can be a daunting prospect, not least because of the costs involved. “Business owners are often reluctant to spend money on something new,” says Katherine Kotaw, CEO of KOTAW Content Marketing. “And their advertising departments — or agencies — are reluctant to give up their bloated budgets.”

But the potential rewards justify the outlay. “Any time you can reach — and command the attention of — your target audience,” Kotaw says, “your return on your advertising dollar will increase.” And personalized, location-specific ads can do just that.

As Sanjay Govil at Infinite insists, now is the time to pursue this kind of strategy. “Mobile messaging has become a key way for businesses to give their customers what they want: pertinent, real-time information on products and services that add value.”

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About B.J. Hinshaw

B.J. Hinshaw is a freelance writer based in Davis, California. He holds MAs in cultural geography and creative writing, and has previously been manager of a small business in London, England.

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