Digital Marketing 101: How to Start with Mobile Messaging

Mobile apps are enabling marketers to get more up close and personal with customers than ever before.

With mobile messaging marketing, you can whisper right into your user’s ear, if—and it’s a big if—you can cut through the noise of a crowded app marketplace and inspire continuous, meaningful user engagement over time.

Many brands excited by the great promise of app marketing are diving in unequipped to engage, interact with, measure, reengage, and analyze users—and then do it all over again. Essentially, they put all their energy and budget into achieving app downloads. They may master driving awareness and standing out in the app store (no small feat), only to discover that their obsession with the download metric blinded them to the real challenge: driving ongoing brand interactions with relevant, valuable content.

Downloads do not equal engagement. Stop measuring success by the number of downloads, and start focusing on user engagement over time. One question should keep your marketing and analytics teams up at night: How do we turn one-time users into power users?

What Is Mobile Messaging?

Mobile apps are more intimate than any text or landing page, because apps allow you to deliver rich, contextual content to individual users and foster a personal relationship with them based on usage insights. Mobile messaging refers to the content and communications you deliver to customers both within and originating from your app.

Through in-app messages and push notifications, brands can share a surprisingly wide range of content, including

Think outside the Smartphone

Mobile messaging marketing can take place in any app, on any device:

For now, smartphone and tablet apps are likely your targets. However, you should be thinking about how to make the leap to other devices your audience uses. Imagine being able to carry out a seamless, consistent conversation with customers across devices: wherever they go, there you are. The more places they can access your app, the more convenient and valuable your app becomes, and the more loyal your users will be.

How to Turn One-Time App Users into Power Users

If you’re ready to add mobile messaging to your marketing mix, and start building user engagement over time, start by crafting a strong strategy. Your mobile messaging strategy should consider acquiring, analyzing, and making personal connections with users. You want every step of the user experience to be timely, relevant, and personalized. When in doubt, remember those three guiding words.

Follow these three steps to create a sustainable mobile relationship and increase customer value, while sharing useful, life-enhancing content with your users.

Step 1: Understand Your Users

Start by analyzing your target audience. Use data-driven insights to get to know your customer’s needs, habits, and engagement levels. This will form the basis of rich user personas, which you can improve over time as you generate and gather more user data. Your user personas should include, with as much specificity as possible, each segments’ pain points, motivations, preferred purchase path, unique values, and favorite channels and content formats.

Your content strategy needs to be centered on user profiles to give you experiences and top returns. Using personas is serious to your success. By increasing your content development process, you can work to increase effectiveness. The Content Marketing Institute found that improving your content development process can help to increase your effectiveness by as much as 45 percent.

Answer the following questions before you even think about creating content and crafting messages:

In a nutshell: Why should someone make room for your app on their phone?

Step 2: Understand your Messaging

Whether you are creating in-app messages or push notifications, your objective is to drive interaction and discovery within the app. Although the objective is the same, messages inside the app function differently from messages outside the app, so you need a clear strategy for each.

Imagine you are sitting right beside your users while they navigate your app. What would you say? How could you be most useful in the moment? Would you teach them how to use a particular feature, maximize loyalty benefits, or customize preferences to make the app more friendly?

Messages that appear when an app is in the foreground, or in-app, are best for broadcasting important information to users based on their behavior. In-app messages are responsive to triggers, making them uniquely qualified to facilitate personalized engagement. This engagement can help drive session conversion and user retention.

The opt-in rate for push notifications varies widely among industries, from as low as 40 percent to as high as 80 percent. Ride-sharing services have the highest opt-in rates, because they typically provide information that is integral to the app’s purpose, and requires immediate action. If you’re not a ride-sharing service, you can still apply these principles to your own push messaging strategy. How can notifications actually serve to make the app more useful? What purposeful calls-to-action can you make to help users complete a process and earn rewards?

Push notifications are best used to drive reengagement and purchase conversions. When the app is in the background, they call attention and activity back to the app. Data should form the backbone of push notification strategies. When these pop-up alerts are personalized based on previous in-app behaviors, events, time of day, location, persona, or all of the above, they are more likely to be relevant and enticing.

Whether you’re reaching a user inside or outside your app, connect on an emotional level rather than listing features and benefits. No matter what, mobile messaging should not feel like an ad. Ads feel artificial and intrusive; mobile app messaging should be a natural outgrowth of a one-to-one relationship with your users.

Josh Reed, Co-founder of PitchMaps, B2B Marketing Messaging company, makes a great case for mobile messaging that speaks to the heart:

“Don’t bow to the competitive pressure to say, ‘We’re better than best.’ Offer a thoughtful, empathetic reply to your market, and people’s ears will perk up and listen. Elevate the discussion above the technology or solution. Speak to what the customer cares about. Then, your technology just becomes a natural byproduct of your mission to solve this customer need….When everyone else is screaming for attention, sometimes a thoughtful whisper is what it takes to get heard.”

Step 3: Push Responsibly

No other marketing medium allows you to be with users in their workplaces, at their breakfast tables, while they’re commuting, and even when they’re playing with their kids. This level of intimacy comes with great responsibility: Respect the mobile channel by sending only highly personalized messages that add value, or risk having users opt-out of notifications or even uninstalling your app.

Mind the following do’s and don’ts to remain in users good graces for the long term:

The list goes on, but it all comes down to those three guiding words: timely, relevant, and personalized. Nail all three, and you’ll watch one-time users turn into power users, growing serious mobile loyalty for your brand.