With mobile it’s personal – marketers must respect customer information

 In mobile

Here is a lesson in how not to use mobile as a channel.

I just had an experience that proves to me that some companies still don’t get the personal nature of mobile, and the overarching need to ask PERMISSION to engage.

I won’t name the company concerned because they have removed my mobile number from their database and apologised, but the experience is worth sharing as a reminder to companies using mobile as a channel to think very carefully about how they handle private data supplied by customers.

So – a quick overview of the experience.

Last night I received an SMS from the company inviting me to go to a website to look at one of their products.  I don’t receive a lot of SMS messages – mostly I communicate via email, twitter, voice or face to face. 

Coupled with that, my wife and 3 year old daughter are still in Australia visiting family, and we are using SMS as a communications channel.  My daughter has a cold at the moment so when the phone beeped at 8pm last night, it woke me from a jetlag induced sleep (I arrived from Sydney 7am Wednesday morning) and I was expecting it to be a message from my wife.

So not only was I not expecting the SMS, and it was well into the evening, I had no idea how they had grabbed my mobile number.  I emailed the company’s feedback email address this morning and also tweeted about the experience.  As mentioned above, to their credit they have rectified the situation however, they claim that

“You have provided us your mobile number when you sent a message to request a free xxxxx on 29 August 2008”

I now remember sending in an SMS message to get test a service I had seen on a mobile ad banner – as I do from time to time to look at mobile campaigns I see. 

The thing is that at no stage did I ever give this company permission to use my mobile number for any other purpose, so when I did receive the text message – I was quite annoyed.

What this does show is that with mobile, so important to get PERMISSION to continue a relationship – ASK first and then only with permission, send. 

I received a follow up email from someone connected to the company saying I had caused “quite a stir” by tweeting my experience, and asking to be pointed to resources outlining mobile best practice (I pointed them to the Mobile Marketing Association who do this so well) – so hats off to them for listening and engaging on this.

So in summary – think about the 3 P’s of mobile – permission, privacy, and preference.

  • Permission – people will decide what they see/receive/engage with
  • Privacy – people will decide where their data is and how it is used
  • Preference – people will decide what content they find relevant. Inference and assumption has limited lifespan.

    Marketers that adhere to the 3 P’s may find that it leads to fewer messages being sent, but the advertising will be welcome and expected – leading to an increase in sales.

    We need to remember mobile is not a broadcast channel – and I can only imagine how many other people received the same SMS last night but did not bother to complain, but now have a negative view of the brand concerned – and will tell their friends etc.

    With mobile – it’s personal and we need a new approach to marketing – turning advertising messages into welcome and expected useful pieces of information.

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    Based in London, Practical Futurist and former Global Managing Partner at IBM, Andrew Grill is a popular and sought-after presenter and commentator on issues around digital disruption, workplace of the future and new technologies such as blockchain. Andrew is a multiple TEDx and International Keynote Speaker.