Becoming A Mobile-First Agency


Tom Farrell, Senior Marketing Director at Swrve

At Swrve we spend a decent amount of time in the company of agencies. I don’ think that’s a surprise – certainly when it comes to some of the more creative mobile campaigns a large number of organizations trust their partners in agency land to work with them on smart, cutting-edge mobile marketing campaigns.

It’s certainly an interesting experience for us, and not only because the quality of coffee and biscuits is infinitely superior to those we’ve become accustomed to in tech organizations. We have a background working with some pretty hard-nosed app businesses with a clear focus on revenues and the bottom line, so it makes a change to be involved in projects that take a more ‘brand led’ view on success – considering the simple creation of ‘brand equity’ as a positive result (although all carefully measured of course).

What Agencies Want

A side effect of this involvement has been a greater understanding of what makes agencies tick. And I think I am on reasonably safe ground with the members of the MMA when I make the following two observations:

  • Agencies succeed when they move up the value chain. Churning through development isn’t a long-term strategy for anyone, and the real business is in strategy and the ultimate goal of being a long-term digital or mobile ‘partner’ (really just a part of the business that happens to sit in another office)
  • A large part of success for many agencies remains the media buy. The more money they handle in this space, the more valuable they are to the client and the bigger the contract.

So where does mobile marketing automation fit into that? Does it help the agency or make their life harder?

Perhaps first I should explain what mobile marketing automation (can I call it MMA? probably not) means. To put it as simply as possible, we’re talking about the collective campaigns and experience management that go towards improving the engagement, retention and revenue delivered by mobile app users. Or to put it another way – everything after the install that turns a new user into a profitable long-term customer.

With that out of the way let’s take the first bullet – because the answer here is relatively straightforward. The ability to optimize and personalize the mobile experience, and create awesome individual campaigns, is clearly something that any brand should consider a high priority.

In fact, it’s the JOB of the agency to understand what can be done in the space and bring that story to their clients. Failure to do so that is a problem – you can’t be the organization that relies on their client to explain mobile to them!

The second bullet is more problematic. After all, by creating an emphasis on the way we engage with existing users, rather than focusing on acquiring new users, doesn’t the agency run the risk of damaging their business (even whilst doing the right thing)?

Well, yes and no. The truth is that ultimately a mobile business has to have a handle on engagement and monetization before the acquisition tap is truly turned on. Mobile apps and experiences that an organization is truly confident about will always attract the biggest acquisition spends – and that confidence comes from the mobile marketing automation campaigns that turn casual visitors into long-term ROI. And as Mary Meeker noted recently, there’s still plenty of room for growth in mobile acquisition spend.

Ultimately, it’s possible to do the right thing (ensure the mobile experience is as awesome as possible) and create the environment in which acquisition and media spend can be turned up, safe in the knowledge that ROI is being delivered on all that spend.

Great news for agencies!

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