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Let’s get real: mobile will never be a significant B2B marketing channel

There’s an old mnemonic that my dad once told, as a great checklist when leaving the house. For the uninitiated, it goes ‘spectacles, testicles, wallet and watch’…. To the best of my knowledge no-one has found a way of including ‘mobile phone’ (or cellphone, if you're reading this from North America) into this catchy little phrase, to make it relevant to today. 

Because, as we all know, in its 40th year, the mobile phone is THE critical device for our age. As Richard Robinson of Google puts it, he would willingly drive 20 miles out of his way to retrieve his misplaced mobile phone… but necessarily his ten year old son.

With this essential status comes hype and expectation, and for B2B this means the contention that mobile must surely be a massive marketing channel – hence each of the last five years has been billed ‘The Year of Mobile’. However each year, mobile has conspicuously failed to deliver – much to our collective chagrin.

Survey after survey proves this – the ‘Modern marketer’ research, in association with Eloqua, reveals only three per cent of marketers regard mobile as one of their three top channels

So what’s going wrong? Why are we failing with mobile? It’s quite simple: we’re looking at this all wrong. Mobile (and I'm including tablets here) is not and never will be a marketing channel. But mobile is and always will be an information channel. Its appeal is that the user is in control – advertising messages are limited and clumsy – and what’s worse, users resent them, moreso than on a desktop browser.

The way to harness the power of mobile is to use it to provide your audience with the information that they need, when they need it – and that puts the emphasis on customised content and apps, not advertising and brand exposure.

This is a very different onus, and requires a very different way of thinking – one that doesn’t necessarily sit comfortably under the banner of ‘marketing’ as we traditionally think of it. But if correctly harnessed, mobile still has enormous power and resonance. Let’s hope it doesn’t take us another 40 years to figure this out.