In the World of Mobile, Think Apps Not Ads (Post 2 of 5)

Apps-for-Mobile-Not-AdsMost of us spend more time with our mobile phones than with our spouses or children. Ludicrous? Think about it. Your phone is the first thing you may interact with when you wake up in the morning and the last thing you touch at night. You carry it around with you all day long, checking it frequently for important messages.

When work is done, you probably have some fun with your phone playing games or posting on Facebook, getting headlines and stock quotes or whatever helps you unwind. When out with family and friends, your phone becomes the event archivist as you snap photos and shoot video of the fun and instantly send it to Facebook or directly to folks in your contacts list.

It’s time to admit it: we’re having a love affair with our mobile phones! Maybe that’s why it’s so annoying – and even sometimes disturbing – when advertising pops up on those personal little screens.

Harvard Business Review devoted its March issue to the topic of “Advertising that Works,” including an interesting article by Sunil Gupta called “For Mobile Devices, Think Apps, Not Ads.” Gupta’s three arguments for why mobile ads don’t work:

1-    People don’t like them. Surveys show that people find mobile ads more intrusive than desktop ads because mobile is a more private venue. In fact, fully one in five say that mobile ads are “unacceptable.”

2-    There’s no right side. PC users are conditioned to find ads in the right margin of the screen—they appear that way on Facebook and in Google search results, for example. But mobile screens are too small to have a usable right margin, so ads pop up in unexpected places.

3-    The “Fat Finger” effect. Advertisers closely track how many users tap on an ad. But many of those taps are inadvertent because the ads are so tiny—so it’s difficult to judge an ad’s effectiveness.

Next time I’ll share Gupta’s thoughts, and my own, about what does make sense for marketers interested in reaching consumers through smart phones.

In the World of Mobile, Think Apps Not Ads (Post 1 of 5)

Apps-Not-Ads“Public”, “social”, and “mobile” took on new meanings in the aftermath of the Boston terror attacks. Not only were many people on the streets as the terrifying events unfolded, many more were connected via text, photos and video that was created and transmitted in real time by people to their loved ones in other locations. This instant reporting from the bloody aftermath of the bombings both terrified and reassured those not on the scene.

The use of mobile devices soon took on an even more noble purpose as the surreal week progressed. Police used texts and tweets to provide important public safety announcements. Most significantly, they released photos of the suspects that were obtained from the cell phones of marathon supporters, as well as video shot from a nearby security camera. Once those images were released, social media mavens began posting the photos. (Even folks in Minnesota posted the grainy suspects’ photos on their Facebook pages in an attempt to spread the word and facilitate their capture!)

I heard at least one seasoned broadcast journalist remark during the harrowing Friday manhunt that this was the first time a serious crime investigated had been “completely crowd sourced.” He was referring to the pervasive use of social media tools by police and the public in managing and, ultimately, resolving this public safety crisis.

The comment reminded me of an interesting article I read recently in Harvard Business Review about mobile advertising and effective apps. I’ll share my thoughts on that article in my next few posts.

Effective Public Engagement – Look for Convergence, Create Awareness

MN LegislatureThis is the last post in my series on Fighting a Government Threat. My 8th lesson, Don’t assume that your counterpart thinks the way you do or is influenced by the same consideration, is underscored in the Harvard Business Review case study on this topic. Author Michael Hartman notes, “Especially when dealing with government entities, it’s important to carefully evaluate what factors are likely to affect their decision making. Will an article in the newspaper sway the governor? Or is he more apt to be persuaded by constituents, such as the company’s employees?”

While you most likely will think about an issue differently, it still is possible to (lesson #9) find points of convergence and show empathy for the goals of the Governor or legislators with whom you have a disagreement.

In the recent B2B tax proposal, the Governor’s good intentions and desire to generate more money to fund them offered little in the way of a solid, viable plan. I was careful to explain that I share the Governor’s love of our state and the many benefits it offers. I hoped that by noting our shared commitment to the state, he would be more open to hearing my thoughts on why I disagreed with his B2B proposal.

Finally, lesson #10: Build a positive relationship with the news media over time. I have spent the better part of the past two decades building relationships with the local business news community. Working with a publicist has helped, but at the end of the day I have agreed to participate in almost every request for an interview that has come my way.

Building relationships with the press takes time, but this credibility pays huge dividends when you want to speak out on an important issue. If reporters and editors already know you are a credible businessperson from past interactions, they are more likely to seek you out for quotes and consider your OpEd submissions for publication.

Effective Public Engagement – Engage, Speak, and Be Practical

Small-Man-Big-MoneyWhen a political proposal threatens your business, it is in the best interests of you and your employees to speak up in a public way. Hence, lesson #4: Engage your employees in the public debate as much as possible. We found this to be an effective technique when the Governor was pushing a proposal to tax business-to-business services recently.

Intertech employees were provided with factual information about the issue and a tool for identifying their local representatives in the State Legislature. I also gave them a copy of my Star Tribune OpEd and encouraged them to send it to their local representatives with a personal note.

Many employees chose to engage on this issue, which resulted in an invitation to join a group of business leaders to meet with the Governor and selected state reps about the issue. We would not have been at the table without our proactive work with employees around this issue.

Thus, lesson #5: Don’t be afraid to take a position and speak out about it.

For some business people, it feels uncomfortable to get involved in a political discussion or debate. After all, we’re used to running our businesses not making governmental decisions. But the business community is a major stakeholder and decisions that impact our livelihood and the livelihoods of our employees deserve our time and attention.

But don’t go ballistic and (lesson #6), Don’t make idle threats. In the B2B debate, I was careful not to threaten relocating Intertech to another state. I did, however, describe the lobbying efforts of other states to lure businesses such as mine to their lower-tax jurisdictions. In the HBR case study, the lesson is stated as “Never, ever make a threat you’re not willing to follow through on.” Why? “Hollow threats undermine a company’s credibility, and that’s hard to recover from.”

I also believe that making threats create an environment that is hostile and nonproductive. Much better to  (lesson #7) offer reasonable ideas and counter proposals that both parties can live with. I genuinely believe the Governor when he says he loves Minnesota and wants to build a strong future by beefing up education at all levels. and early learning opportunities for young children.

However, offering a paltry tax rebate to property owners seemed like a strange way to achieve that objective. I was not shy about pointing this out in my OpEd. I also acknowledged that while I’m not a fan of higher personal income taxes, I understand that more revenue is needed and that probably has to happen in some capacity to keep our state on a positive future course.

By meeting the Governor half-way on this issue, I hoped to show that I am a reasonable business person and a sincere Minnesota resident who deserves to have my thoughts about the B2B proposal seriously considered. The HBR case study summarizes this lesson this way: “Always look for a solution both parties can live with, even if it is not optimal for either one.”

My next post, and the last in this series, will look closer at lessons #8-10 on Fighting a Government Threat.

It’s Back… Minnesota Reconsiders a B2B Tax on Consulting

According to yesterday’s Star Tribune, the Minnesota Legislature is reconsidering a tax on B2B custom computer software services… here’s an excerpt from the Star Tribune article:

“To make up for the lost revenue, those who buy… custom software… would pay … sales taxes”

I wrote an article when this was first being considered by the Governor entitled Taxing business services is bad for Minnesota.  The principles in my OpEd are still accurate.  If you live in Minnesota and agree this is a bad idea, let your legislators know by using this simple automated site to voice your concern (it takes less than a minute).