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Mobile Technology Marketing Insights From Tamara Gruber

When I think of mobile, I think of Tamara Gruber, who specializes in marketing mobile technology companies here in the northeast. I first met Tamara at an AMA Event (I’m a past president of the Boston chapter) and we started chatting about the challenges mobile technology companies face in marketing their services. I thought an interview on Mobile Technology marketing strategy would be interesting, so here’s the result:

John: How are mobile technology companies different from other start ups?

Tamara: Frankly, I think mobile technology companies face greater challenges than an internet service or enterprise software company.  To start, you have such disparate technologies that you need to bridge…be it a thousands of handsets, various operating systems, or multiple network protocols.  That requires a tremendous amount of expertise and support.  Next, there are many factors that you just can’t control.  For example, we are still dealing with carriers that want to create “walled gardens” of content and make it challenging for companies addressing the mobile consumer or business needs.  Then, you have the lifespan of a mobile phone.  As hot as it was, a year after the launch of the Apple iPhone, Blackberry was still the number one device used for accessing the mobile web.  It takes time, and a number of pricing factors controlled by the network, to achieve critical mass. 

You may be the hottest thing in mobile and still only address a fraction of the audience.  First mover advantage is still important but it is not at all unusual to see a disruptive technology or policy, change the landscape dramatically, making it actually easier for new entrants to gain market share.

John: What’s different about marketing within the mobile industry?

Tamara: Probably speed.  I know we are all used to working at a pace that was unheard of a decade ago but even still, as I hinted at earlier, the landscape and ecosystem of this marketplace changes so rapidly that your messaging needs to constantly evolve. 

Staying close to your customers and marketplace is crucial and keeping your ear to the ground to anticipate how moves from device manufacturers and carriers can affect your business is critical to your survival.  Just look at how Verizon’s move to increase SMS rates sent so many companies into a tizzy – that announcement may not have meant much to the average consumer but it could drive some companies out of business.  All in all, the mobile space is actually a fairly small and incestuous community so someone with good business connections brings a lot to the table. 

John: What marketing advantages does your expertise in the mobile technology industry give you?

Tamara: When I talk about the “mobile industry,” that brings to mind many different things depending on who you talk to and I’ve worked in just about all of them.  Generally I split the industry into three categories: 

1) Carrier/infrastructure – which would be the carriers and companies that sell to carriers;
2) Enterprise – which includes devices from Blackberries to rugged handheld devices, and software like sales force automation, mobile workforce management, fleet management, pick up and delivery applications, field service, and more;
3) and finally, what most people think of, Consumer – consumer includes phones, content like ringtones, mobile applications, mobile websites, messaging services, and mobile marketing. 

Mobile marketing is another marketing channel but a very complex one.  If you want to put together a mobile marketing campaign, you may need to work with a dozen vendors.  First, you need to buy advertising inventory, which can be done directly from a publisher or through a multitude of ad networks.  In fact, you many need to work with multiple publishers and ad networks to reach your target audience across various wireless networks.  If you want to incorporate a messaging component to provide a direct response mechanism and incorporate the campaign with the rest of your marketing, you need to obtain a short code and work with a messaging provider.  Plus, you need someone to create a mobile optimized site for you, as well as design and serve the ads.

Understanding the landscape, having established relationships, and being able to discriminate between the various players and business models helps someone hit the ground running that much faster. 

John: Who are the important people and associations in the industry?

Tamara: MobileMonday (http://www.mobilemonday.net/) is an organization that has grown to have chapters around the global, including a very active community here in Boston (http://www.momoboston.com/).  Depending on your focus, a few other important organizations include Mobile Marketing Association (http://www.mmaglobal.com/main) and CTIA (http://ctia.org/).  Developers might want to check out Wireless Developer Agency (http://www.wirelessdeveloper.com/).  Kim Dushinski over at MobileMarketingWatch just did a post with a list of groups to join in various social networks that is a good resource.

John: What’s the timeline of marketing history within the industry?

Tamara: If you are referring to mobile marketing as an industry, it really came it being with the advent of the mobile web and SMS.  The Mobile Marketing Association was formed in 2002 and has since grown to become a global organization with over 700 members.

John: When did you get involved with the industry and how can people find you?

Tamara: I first started working in mobile in 1997 when I joined a wireless middleware provider, now MobileAware.  After that, I served as VP of Marketing for an SMS-based application, shopping, ticketing, and game service provider, Scan Mobile.  In 2003, I founded Red Giant Consulting, a strategic marketing and communications firm that focuses largely on mobile/wireless companies.  You can find out more about my services and client list on http://www.redgiantconsulting.com but the best way to connect with me would be through Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/tgruber) or LinkedIn.  If you are heading to an AMA or MobileMondays event in Boston, please drop me a line at tamara@redgiantconsulting.com, I’d love to chat.

John: Thanks Tamara!

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