Why You Need to Have a Mobile Strategy

Episode #005: Guilda Hilarie, Senior Product Manager, Marketing Technology at Aetna

Let’s talk mobile strategy. When is the last time you took an in-depth look at your organization’s mobile strategy? Can you articulate who you’re trying to target? What goals you want to accomplish? How it’s being promoted? Or, how it’s being integrated in your overall customer journey? While we all know the importance of having a well-thought-out strategy, we oftentimes move so fast that we neglect to spend enough time thinking through the answers to these types of questions before we spin up a new initiative. In our fifth episode of Mobile Matters, we talk with Guilda Hilaire, Senior Product Manager for Marketing Technology at Aetna, about the importance of having a mobile strategy, how mobile is more personal than any other channel, and why it’s time for marketers to make friends with their colleagues in legal and compliance.

Stephanie's Strong Opinions

  1. You need to have your mobile strategy outlined (and preferably documented!) before you start collecting a single mobile number. This means you can’t start getting mobile opt-ins now while you wait a few months or longer to figure out how you’re going to use them.
  2. Make sure you’re keeping a pulse on your opt-out rates. You’re likely already measuring opt-out rates in your analytics, but how often are you truly diving into your opt-out numbers to figure out what’s really driving them?
  3. It’s time to make friends with legal and compliance and start involving them earlier in your mobile marketing efforts.

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Episode Transcription

Stephanie Cox:  I’m Stephanie Cox and this is Mobile Matters. Today I’m joined by Guilda Hilaire at Aetna. Guilda is a Senior Product Manager for Marketing Technology and also happens to be a Salesforce Trailblazer. She has an extremely impressive background in digital marketing with companies such as Boston Consulting Group, Liberty Mutual, Johnson & Johnson, and more. In this episode, Guilda and I talked a lot about why you shouldn’t underestimate the importance of having a well-thought-out mobile strategy, how mobile is more personal than any other channel, and what you need to do to get through the carrier approval process for your shortcode. And make sure you stick around until the end where I’ll give my recap and top takeaways so that you can not only think about mobile differently but implemented effectively. Welcome to show Guilda.

You and I have talked previously around the importance of strategy when you think about your overall digital marketing strategy and how mobile ties into that. So, can you tell me a little bit more about how you think about putting together that type of strategy? 

Guilda Hilaire: Mobile to me is a great way to really engage with your members slash target group. However, it’s also very personal. It’s more personal than email and it’s highly, highly regulated. And I think that there are a lot of organizations that are doing this really, really good. And then there are other organizations that are struggling. And I think the reason they’re struggling is because they’re putting the cart before the horse. Doing the build before putting the strategy together. I think when it comes to mobile, you really have to sit down with your team and figure out and understand why are you communicating via mobile? What do you want to achieve? Who are you targeting? What you are offering? Are you sending them an alert or are you reminding them about something? Are you sending them an update? Are you confirming an appointment? Is this a follow-up? A sweepstakes or are you sending a billing reminder? And let’s not forget, mobile can also integrate into your overall cross-channel marketing program. So what does that look like? A lot of the email service providers, they offer a way for you to build an automation or a journey. So how are you going to integrate mobile into that customer’s journey? At what point in the program, do you plan on sending them that message? And then where are you putting that call to action? And most importantly, the last couple of years have been so critical is how often you send out these messages. Is it daily, weekly, monthly? It can make a lot of people struggle in understanding, what is a short code, and what is a keyword and how does that affect the entire organization as a whole? 

 Stephanie Cox: That’s a really great point. The number I use in the United States is unless they want to work in Canada and certain countries don’t even use shortcodes, they use 10 digit long tones that are more familiar with, like a traditional phone number. And then you know your keywords. The one thing I always tell people is that short, one-word text that I text into my shortcode: one, don’t pick a keyword with spaces on it or something that will autocorrect on your phone because it will never work properly and that it’s easy to spell and once you use that one time you should assume it’s gone forever. And earlier you mentioned, there’s a lot of regulation on mobile. It’s also very expensive to get the stuff up and running the first time. It’s not a sign of free investment to get a shortcode. And so, you’ve really got to think about what you’re doing with it. 

Guilda Hilaire: And I think understanding also that carrier approval process though. And it goes back to putting the cart before the horse. There’s a whole process with getting a short code approval. In addition to building that strategy, when are you targeting to send out that first shortcode, because if you don’t have that shortcode, there’s a whole carrier approval process. And the other point around this is, you have to build out this strategy at the organization platform. Especially, when it comes to the shortcode and keyword strategy. 

Stephanie Cox: To your point around carrier approval, I think it is really spot on because the one thing I think a lot of marketers don’t realize is you have to is part of that approval process right provide sample messages that you’re going to send out. So you really have to have thought about not just what you’re doing with it, but what type of content you’re going to send out and provide all that documentation. And then my favorite part of the whole process is you submit it, and you wait. 

Guilda Hilaire: Patiently and you don’t touch anything. I’ve been in situations where, during the process, the requestor will come back and want to modify the message and, I’m like no, we can’t modify it. It’s currently going through approval. Right so, if you’re launching a campaign in February, really start building out your strategy in August, September unless you don’t have a shortcode. Start thinking about submitting it in October. 

Stephanie Cox: And your point around patience is so spot on, again, because I’ve been that exact same situation. They’re like, oh it’s already working on AT&T, let’s start using and I’m like you don’t understand. We have to wait. Well, why can’t we just call Sprint to ask them to approve us? That’s also not how it works. 

Guilda Hilaire: Yeah. And then I think people also forget that at any time any of those carriers can audit you. And if you’re not complying with all the regulations, turn off your ability to send messages to people on their network without even telling you. And you’re right, it costs us thousands of dollars per month. But they will randomly audit. And come and what they’ll audit is, for example, if in the forms it specifically says you’re going to send a message, one message per month. And they find out that you are sending three messages per month. They can shut you down. So you have to be truthful in your carrier approval form. And you have to be very specific in your answers. That is exactly what they’re going to do when they audit, they’re going to look at what you submitted it and look at what you’re actually doing.

Stephanie Cox: Exactly. And if your strategy does change over time, which we all know as we evolve. What we want to do on any channel tends to evolve, as well. You can submit an updated form and go and kind of say like, this is what we’re doing now and kind of go through that process as well to prevent any issues. So I know we’ve been talking a lot about mobile strategy and the importance of getting that in place. When you think about creating a strategy, obviously there are goals and objectives tied to that. So what are the things that you’re typically trying to measure on mobile to determine success? 

Guilda Hilaire: Well, similar to email the number of people signed up. But as far as tracking, if you don’t already have people opting for mobile, then you have a way for them to sign up to receive SMS messages. The number of people sign and then when you start sending out SMS text messages. You want to start tracking the number of people sent to. You want to track the click-thru rate if it’s sent. And how many people are opt-out. And then the carriers also do a level of reporting, what carrier is being used most by your audience is another great report track. And then, open reporting. Find out who is opening your text messages and look at their responses. And this all goes back to what that mobile strategy looks like. It will also help you identify what exactly you want to track. 

Stephanie Cox: A lot of times people focus on, oh well, we’ve had 10,000 people opt-in for SMS and, I’m like, okay but how many people are opting out every time you send a message? How are you measuring whether there is ROI for what you’re doing? And if you’re seeing an unusually large number of opt-outs that can tell you something very clear about the type of content or the frequency of what you’re sending. 

Guilda Hilaire: Exactly. Again, I think it’s for mobile devices it can be like a spray and pray.

Stephanie Cox: So, I know one of the things you mentioned was the importance of thinking about mobile as part of your overall digital communications strategy. So how do you think about cross channel customer journey management? 

Guilda Hilaire: That’s a really good question. I work at an organization, and one of the things that they were saying that they were responsible for sending patient reminders about upcoming doctor’s appointment. So, what they did as a cross-channel is, that they will send out two email reminders, letting the patient know that they have an upcoming appointment. And then for them to confirm the appointment. If they didn’t confirm the appointment through the two emails, they will get an SMS message, if they opted in for SMS. And that is one example of a really good way that they were using the cross channel. 

Stephanie Cox: I think that that’s an interesting way to think about it because what you’ve done is, you’ve done what I would say is reaching out through some of the, I would say, easier channels right to drive some awareness. And then nicely prodded them and then, when they still hadn’t taken the behavior you want, you sent a mobile message. And is it the mobile message that did it or it was like, you kept reminding them and then you got to them on mobile and it came across as something helpful and almost like expected from your right from your brand? Which, is what drove that behavior. 

Guilda Hilaire: Part of the strategy for us, is that we wanted to use mobile. And I think that that will really caught their attention is that, OK if I’m getting an SMS message and this is important and I need to take action.

Stephanie Cox: Well and that’s the perfect segway to this idea, we see mobile messages as important because it is so regulated. So, we don’t get as many as we do for e-mail and so when we do get them, we take notice whether positively like thank you for sending this to me I’m going to take action. Or why are you in my SMS, I’m going to opt-out.

Guilda Hilaire: And we don’t want them to opt-out. So that’s why you have to be very careful what messages you send. And I think frequency is also important. You really have to understand what that calendar looks like so that you’re not sending an SMS message to that same customer, at the same time. 

Stephanie Cox: So, when you start to think about the future of mobile, what do you think marketers need to be aware of today and start thinking about because that’s going to be the next big thing?

Guilda Hilaire: That mobile marketing for me is increasing. But, I do think it’s an area that a lot of marketers need to start trying to figure out. How do they integrate this into their overall cross-channel marketing program? Is it easy to set up? Absolutely. You develop an ongoing mobile strategy, you get a short code, you get carrier approval and you begin testing. It’s as easy as 1, 2, 3. However, to build out that strategy is absolutely important. Understanding how you integrate that with your cross-channel, it’s extremely crucial. And then start socializing what you’re doing, right? Because there might be other teams in the organization that are trying to do something very similar, but they’re struggling to do it the right way. So, if you launch a successful mobile strategy, socialize this out to the world and help others also understand and learn what to do and what not to do when it comes to mobile. 

Stephanie Cox: Especially, when you’re working at a large organization about just sharing what’s working and what you’ve seen, what challenges you faced with your colleagues. So they can learn from it and that you can, as an organization, even if you’re different departments or different business units you’re all kind of like rowing in the same direction together. And kind of tied to that.  

Guilda Hilaire: And with mobile, you still need to involve legal, you still need to involve compliance, you might need to involve your IT teams or your developers. But have a sounding board that understands the regulation processes and understands your overall mobile strategy. Get them involved early on in order for them to help you. 

Stephanie Cox: That’s a really great point because I feel like we’re so by nature, marketers, myself included like we want to wait to get legal and compliance involved until the last minute. So, it’s like, if I just would have talked to them at the beginning about what I wanted to do and got their insight and feedback and planned that into my effort, we probably would have ended up in a much better spot with less frustration from all parties. 

As you can probably tell, Guilda has a wealth of knowledge about how to think about marketing strategy across every channel, especially in large organizations. Her comment about the importance of socializing what you’re doing with your mobile program or anything in marketing is so spot-on. There’s so much we can learn from our fellow marketers and sometimes we get so busy that we forget to share that knowledge with everyone else. Now, let’s get to my favorite part of the show where you take the education and apply it to your business. There are so many great insights into my conversation with Guilda that can really help transform how you think about mobile marketing. Let’s dive into my top three takeaways. 

First, before you start a new mobile initiative, make sure you spend time on the strategy. We’re all moving so fast on a daily basis both as marketers and just as individual consumers that sometimes we forget to take the time to fill out the strategy before we spin up a new program. And in all honesty digital marketing has this made a super easy to do because we can often spin up new initiatives in a matter of hours and take them down almost immediately if they’re not working. And this can result in us being tempted to spin up a new campaign or program, play with the thought that we’ll figure out the rest of the details later and we’ll take it down if it doesn’t end up working. Trust me, I’ve done this myself. I think we all have. But I think Guilda was right in challenging us to do is really thinking about our mobile strategy before we even start collecting a single mobile number. We need to be thinking about what the purpose of any mobile initiative is how that fits into our overall mobile strategy, what goals are we trying to achieve, who are we really trying to target, how are we going to promote it, how are we integrated into our overall customer journey? And if we can’t answer all of these questions, we need to take a step back and spend some time flushing it out. I’m not saying you have to spend months doing this and developing this complex, comprehensive mobile strategy, but it does really help in the long term if you can answer these basic questions. I also recommend documenting the strategy to whatever extent it is so you can share it with others in the organization. This can help prevent any potential confusion about what you’re trying to achieve with your mobile strategy as well as set expectations for how your plan to use things like a shortcode or keywords for any SMS programs are playing to run. It’s so much more helpful to get this all figured out upfront. 

Next, we all know that we need to be keeping a pulse on our opt-out rates for any of the marketing programs that were running, but honestly, how often do we really think about what’s driving those opt-outs or follows on social media? In most cases, myself included, I glanced at opt-outs or follows every week but I rarely take the time to ask what’s causing them. This is primarily happy because I rarely see huge spikes in my opt-outs. So it’s just a slow steady stream of opt-outs happening which doesn’t seem alarming at first, but it starts to add up over time. That’s why it’s so important for us as marketers to spend time examining what’s causing this behavior. And personally, I recommend you start looking at the frequency of the messages you’re sending on that channel and how that compares to what your audiences want to see from your brand or what their expectations are. You can collect some of this information by including a brief survey and I’m talking like one to two questions people, on your opt-out page for email or sending out a brief survey to your current subscribers asking them to provide feedback on how many messages they want to receive. You can then use this information to change the overall strategy for your messaging program based on their feedback or segment your subscribers into different groups so they are receiving the message frequency they want. The next area you’re going to want to examine the type of content you’re actually sharing. Are you constantly self-promoting your brand and offerings or are you actually including helpful and relevant content to your subscribers? We’re all guilty of this. I know I’ve done in the past, but we really need to think about providing a balance of content or make it super clear in the beginning that they’re only going to get promotional offers from us so that subscribers know what to expect when they opt-in. Personally, I love what Bed Bath & Beyond does, I think they do a great job with their SMS program. They’re super clear upfront that I’m only going to get promotional offers from them via SMS. They tell me how often, I don’t expect anything else or anything more from them. Whereas their email program is totally different. I’m going to get an offer and I’m going to get some content. That’s what I expect now. 

Finally, let’s talk about that one topic that most marketers hate to even think about. I know I’ve been there, which is getting legal and compliance involved in a marketing campaign. I know, I know we all hate doing it because they often want to make changes that I swear are crucial to my campaign. and I don’t want to change. But at the end of the day, they’re really trying to do their job and I can either make friends with them now or be the person that comes to them at the very last minute, needs something to be reviewed immediately because it’s mission-critical and it always is and it has to go out today. None of us have ever done that right? I know I sure have. This is why we all need to start getting legal and compliance involved early on, perhaps when we’ve flushed out our strategy for the first time are we give them a preview of the draft and give them an opportunity to share feedback on what they think might be an area of concern? This allows us to get some of those areas identified early before we spend any more time going down a path that’s going to be a roadblock later on. It’s also going to help you build goodwill with them because ultimately and hopefully it doesn’t happen, but we all know it will, we’re going to come to them with a last-minute urgent request, no matter how much planning we’ve done and they’re much more likely to be willing to do that if we’ve always tried to involve them early on. 

Now, here’s my mobile marketing challenge for this week. If you’re not familiar with how to acquire and use a shortcode it’s time to do some research everyone. There are a ton of great resources on the shortcode registry or the Mobile Marketing Association websites. You’re going to need to really understand the process of requesting a shortcode, how short and long codes work differently, especially internationally, how to ensure that you’re compliant with your shortcode messaging program and what to expect from a potential carrier audit because they happen more often than you think. Spending the time to become familiar in this area is going to not only increase your mobile expertise but ensure that you’re up to date on a channel that drives phenomenal results and it’s totally underutilized by marketers.

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