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Smart Mobile Tools for CEO’s

Targeting Customers on the Go has Arrived

I’ve been wondering when mobile phone technology would be available for savvy marketers and it looks like it has arrived. Cell phone manufacturers have been talking about mobile marketing for quite some time now and until the arrival of the iPhone it was more of a dream than a reality.

The iPhone and its evolving clones represent the long awaited bridge between the virtual and real worlds. The convergence of several technologies like GPS/cell towers and local Wi-Fi networks with other customer data collection techniques on the internet are creating a digital trail of very specific information on individual consumers.

When finally matched with credit card data there will be a true nirvana for leading edge marketers. It will be possible to be able to track consumers so accurately that marketers will know where customers are all day, every day via their cell phones.

This shouldn’t be a revelation as similar tracking technology has been around for years, but just not capable of being incorporated into a device that can track the activites of individual consumers. Trucking companies have been tracking the whereabouts of their trucks and drivers for years. OnStar has over 5 million subscribers and 25 million people already have facebook on their cell phones.

Blackberry and iPhone users can get immense amounts of information on their day-to-day requirements all the way from immediate traffic reports to locating where they parked their cars.

There are many helpful personal tools already available which you can easily mentally transfer into a variety of possible similar marketing applications.

Among the most powerful is the ability to share information with others in real time. For example, there is a neat program for iPhones and BlackBerry’s called “Trapster” that collects reports from other drivers that identifies speed traps. The software also uses GPS information to offer audible alarms about unmanned speed cameras.

Other very useful information is the ability to produce graphic information on fuel economy at different rates of acceleration and speeds. Another application called iGas can locate the nearest gas stations with the best prices via GPS. This program has 110,000 service stations to select from.

For those who need a rest room there even is a smartphone application called “SitOrSquat” that’s free and locates public restrooms. This software even offers user reviews and connects to Google Maps for directions. Lastly, there is a package called iWrecked that allows people involved in accidents to capture the time, location, insurance information and the names of the other drivers. You can also use your cell phone to take photos of the scene and damages to all the cars involved.

But the real value from all of this evolving technology is the ever more exacting information on patterns of consumption and the behavior of humanity on the GO! Current research by Sense Networks is producing the ability to zero in on shoppers wherever they are in a competitors store, the mall or in clusters now being called Tribes. The digital trails of these tribes of cell phone users are being tracked to within feet of retail outlets.

Imagine being able to have a cell phone advise a consumer that a coupon is now available on their phone or zap their cells with a very specifically targeted ad to a location close by? The marketing implications are enormous and range all the way from really determining valuations of individual households based upon the number of cell phones that are resident there and their purchasing power.

Marketers will know where you go and what you buy, and do. A whole new kind of cartography is evolving. Cell phones are producing mountains of data that are being almost instantaneously converted into intelligence that can be used for every imaginable marketing purpose.

A classic application could be that if you know that a specific “tribe” with a certain profile and propensity for your value proposition is frequenting an area where your products are not being offered you can immediately establish a relationship with retailers in that area, or guide those customers via promotions to their cell phones to somewhere close by where they can buy your products or services.

Amazon, for example, has an application where users can use their cell phones to photo things that they would like to buy and the Amazon software searches and lets the customer know the closest location and lowest price available. Obviously, a byproduct of this service is that Amazon then has invaluable marketing information on the purchasing patterns and movement of loyal customers.

Apple’s iStore has about 8,000 different software packages, and growing, that can run on the iPhone. Take this and marry it with what is being stored in the latest versions of cell phones and you have the epitome of the most fantastic marketing trove of customer information ever developed.

Now with the ability to know where every one of these phones is day and night, the opportunity to entice and motivate customers is mind boggling. In 2008, 56 million Wi-Fi-equipped handsets were shipped according to the Wi-Fi Alliance. And, 200 million hand sets are expected to be sold this year.

With more and more precise satellites cell phones can be reached and can receive marketing promotional materials and prompts, even at rest.

Think about what this can mean for marketing your business. What are you doing to get on the mobile marketing band wagon?

Let’s begin a dialogue if you need help.

An entrepreneur himself, Bob has spent most of his career involved with starting, growing and selling businesses. Having held managerial positions with IBM, Pfizer and Exxon, he draws upon extensive organizational experience with large and small companies in advising CEOs of growing firms. He is available online to answer questions from Chief Executive readers, as well as offer workshops, tips, books to read and a monthly online column about common issues facing CEOs of growing firms. Bob has been featured in USA TODAY for his work with Inc 500 firms and is associated with NYU’s Stern Graduate School of business in their Center for Entrepreneurial Studies where he is a Venture Mentor, Marketing Strategist and Business Plan Reviewer.

He is the author of GUIDEBOOK TO PLANNING – A Common Sense Approach to Building Business Plans for Growing Firms, which has recently been reprinted. He is a past contributor to Chief Executive and one of his articles was featured in The Best of Chief Executive.  Email Bob at: rmdonnelly@chiefexecutive.net

About Robert M. Donnelly

Robert M. Donnelly
Robert M. Donnelly is CMO of Flo-Tite Valves & Controls, a U.S. based supplier of valves and components to the process control industry in North America. A coach, educator, and advisor to founders/CEOs of growing firms, he is a serial entrepreneur, having started, grown and sold several technology based businesses. Previously he held executive positions at IBM, Pfizer and Exxon.