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Get your ground game down with mobile before trying trick plays

October 18th, 2012

By Allan Maurer

Bill Leake

Bill Leake, CEO of ApogeeResults, is a veteran of McKinsey & Co. and Dell Computers. He is one of 120 digital marketing thought-leaders participating in the Internet Summit in Raleigh, Nov. 6-8.

Ad agencies may try to sell on the idea of letting them build you an expensive mobile app. That’s fine for some companies, “But others might not need to spend that money,” says Bill Leake, CEO of

Leake has created one of the 20 largest independent online marketing agencies in the United States. Apogee has been instrumental in building dozens of “Internet Retailer 500” and “Software 500” and venture capital backed companies. It works with top global brands such as Whole Foods, IBM, SAP and Hewlett Packard.

While iPhones and tablets have made mobile much more of a real thing, “There is still a lot of hype about mobile,” says Leake. “It’s more of a real thing, but still not for everyone. Folks don’t do a lot of hard core research or interactivity that takes a lot of typing on a smartphone. You have to keep in mind how everything changes on mobile.”

Leake is one of 120 thought-leaders, game changers and marketing gurus participating in this year’s Internet Summit in Raleigh, NC, Nov. 6-8, which this year includes a Startup Summit sponsored by TechMedia’s 2013 Southeast Venture Conference set for Charlotte, NC in March.

Back to marketing basics

Leake suggests the way to approach mobile is to “Get back to the basics of marketing. Who is your customer and how does he like do things? Do you want a mobile app or just a mobile web site? The Google Places piece of Google Plus offers a free mobile web site and probably 50 percent of businesses would do just fine with setting up a Google Places profile.”

“People are getting snookered with mobile apps instead of microsites. Sometimes a mobile app is a game changer, but many get lost in the Apple store. The world is littered with mobile apps no one can find.”

Instead of spending $100,000 on a mobile app, he suggests, “Spend $20,000 on the app and $80,000 on media so people find it.”

You need to be in the mobile pool, he adds, “But it may not be time to dive in from the 50-foot high board. Stay in the shallow end unless you have the budget top learn and fail.”

Get your ground game down

Putting it another way, he says, “Get your ground game down before doing trick plays. Really complicated apps are trick plays with a high failure rate.”

One of the best approaches to a mobile strategy, he says, is to “Let it be an extension of what works well in other places. It’s going from beach volleyball to indoor. It’s not a new game. The form factor just changes a little.

Too many ad agencies tend to view their clients as their artistic patrons, Leake says. “I’ve run into so many creative types who believe the client lives to support their art.”

When a client asks how much they need to spend on a web site, the agency says, “How much was your SBA grant? That’s how much you need to spend.”

They use expensive, slow-loading flash art work. “It’s the height of arrogance,” says Leake. “Flash can be good if embedded in a humble way that downloads a quick bit of HTML saying we have this other thing to show you, but you can bypass it if you want to. But just waiting 20 seconds with no explanation? It’s like the news networks telling you what to believe every night.”

They will judge you on speed

Similar arrogance leads to overdone mobile projects. “A lot of times,” Leake says, “you just need a first level mobile app. People on mobile will judge you on speed. Have things far less graphic with fewer functions.”

All of which, he notes, “Flies in the face of what the typical creative agency wants. They can’t build as much with text as they can with moving pictures.”

Focus, he says, “On what you are trying to do and what your clients are doing. It doesn’t need to be award-winning; it needs to be good enough.”

Think about building something “reasonably” stable that doesn’t need to be replaced every six months, he suggests.

Consider such elements as how to minimize data input challenges. “Thumbs are a pain in the rear,” he says. You have to realize that typing is not the same as on a regular keyboard.

Bring hyper local to the fore

Right now a lot of retailers should be thinking about how to use mobile to defend against the Amazons of the world. So a mobile app or web site should let users know, can they get a certain product? Is it in the store? Will they match lower prices?

“What we’re not seeing enough of is sending mobile ads to someone sitting in a coffee shop within walking distance of a store.”

Also, he says, “Mobile should not be viewed as an isolated silo. It needs to integrate into a full marketing strategy. It’s mission critical for some, but in a lot of cases it’s not. You’re not going to choose what car to buy on a smartphone.”

Marketers also need separate strategies for smartphones and tablets, he adds. “People toss around the word “mobile” casually and apply it to both.”

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