When it comes to mobile, interacting with your favorite brands can be the greatest experience… or it can makes you question why you’re interacting with that brand in the first place. Marketers know this. It’s probably why so few brands are killing the mobile marketing game, despite the fact that smartphone adoption has exploded across the globe.

That’s where companies like POSSIBLE Mobile come in. One of the team’s true experts in the strategy side of the house is Jeff Hasen, POSSIBLE’s senior strategist and industry mobile evangelist. He works hand-in-hand with leaders at some of the world’s biggest brands.

We recently had the chance to pick Jeff’s brain on what marketers really need to know about mobile: where to start, best practices from leading mobile marketers, and more. Read on for the full Q&A.

Tell us about your background and your role at POSSIBLE Mobile.

Jeff Hasen: I’m a former sportswriter. My dad told me to enjoy it because one day I would be working for a living. That played out. I’ve since spent years in agencies and was in mobile even before the iPhone came out. I spent six years as CMO of a leading mobile marketing company called Hipcricket, and was a consultant for my own business called Gotta Mobilize working with Fortune 500s and others. For POSSIBLE Mobile, I provide strategy and mobile user insights to get brands closer to their customers. I’ve also written two books, including The Art of Mobile Persuasion.

Why do you think so many brands struggle with ROI on mobile? How should marketers and product managers solve for this?

JH: The results of a Forrester survey released last year showed many marketers’ ineptitude when it comes to mobile ROI. The survey revealed that two-thirds of marketers are unable to gauge the success or failure of their mobile programs. Newer information released from IBM demonstrated that almost 50% of the largest companies doing mobile are operating on an ad hoc basis rather than in a strategic fashion.

Why is this happening? Lots of reasons with the most important one being that large organizations don’t understand exactly what we should get out of mobile efforts and sadly many marketers and program owners have been spending money and time and getting a pass.

We simply have to do better. I’m not going to go to my CFO and ask for more budget when I can’t measure what I’m already doing. And neither should you.

Where should new mobile marketers start?

JH: Here are five actions to take:

  • Establish business goals first. It’s clear that not enough marketers are starting mobile projects with the identification of business objectives. When objectives are detailed first, marketers can work their way backward and develop programs that lead with or include mobile. Take a lesson from the wireless carrier that addressed a concerning churn problem by providing personal and timely mobile videos that brought transparency and comfort to individuals. The result was tens of millions of dollars in saved business. That’s mobile ROI.
  • Focus on results, not budget. At first blush, smaller businesses may look at the mobile dollars being spent by enterprises and think they have nothing in common. In fact, according to the IBM study, the average number of mobile projects being done at enterprises is five, and the cost of each project is more than $2.4 million. The commonality in successful mobile programs from companies of all sizes is a commitment to engage users and key stakeholders to identify quick wins and impactful use cases.
  • Don’t cut corners. This should be a given, but judging by the evidence, it needs to be said. In all but rare exceptions, fast and cheap is dumb and dumber. An ice cream shop I visited as a child had a sign that said, “Good food is not cheap. Cheap food is not good.” All these years later, you can and should apply the same line of thinking to mobile.
  • Mobile benefits are clear. The mobile-enabled companies surveyed by IBM expect a 7 percent increase in revenue and a 6 percent cost decrease. It’s safe to say retailers can expect similar results. Not only can these stores sell more when they combine mobile commerce and brick-and-mortar, but they can often reduce overhead in terms of shelf space and service personnel with customer-driven mobile efforts.
  • More mobile projects needed. The expectations of mobile users rise every year. Many people have little to no patience for slow mobile web pages, irrelevant messages, and experiences that are not intuitive. As a result, businesses of all sizes cannot afford to wait. In the IBM survey, 22 percent of companies plan to undertake 10 or more mobile initiatives in the next year, while another half of the group are planning between five to nine projects. Your numbers may not be the same, but the clear trend is that more projects are needed to remain competitive.

Many marketers struggle with finding the right balance. Message too much, you risk losing users; message too little, and you risk the same. What best practices can you share?

Find ways to create value, take care to be neither intrusive nor creepy, and always look to get better. And the marketers I spoke to who are pioneering the channel provide some great lessons

  • Be Pragmatic. Mobile has changed everything about marketing – and it’s changed nothing. We still need to sell stuff. It’s merely the how that is different. Identify the business results you want and design your efforts to those ends. It’s easy to be distracted by the pixie dust and possibilities in the digital arena. Filter the possible through the lens of what’s wise.
  • Knock Gently. Mobile users are a lot more open to interactions with brands than many marketers believe – but the efforts need to be respectful. Just because customers invite you into their homes doesn’t mean you get to put your feet on the furniture, or stay all night. This means no 3 a.m. text messages for a dollar off a burger. And no push notifications every three minutes while someone is shopping. Less is more.
  • Simplify Life. Mobile is for action. A theme that emerged often in conversation with mobile’s best thinkers: Mobile should drive action. To do that, eliminate the unwanted. Beyond his or her mom, name one person who wants to read the bio of a company’s CFO on a mobile website. List store hours, provide directions to your location, make purchases easy–whatever action your customer needs to take. Forget the rest.
  • Cherish the Relationship. Just as you would with a spouse or other loved one, work daily to make the interaction even richer. Businesses have extensive information available about many of their customers. For instance, purchase data that shows what generated a response from a mobile ad or offer can give a look into the desires of a wireless user. Wise mobile marketers interpret these signals and get even more personal with tailored outreach to individual customers that proves the brand’s value.
  • Get Better. It’s called mobile, right? So keep moving. Your efforts to reach mobile users should always be evolving. You may feel you are performing well today, but you should constantly be seeking new products or technologies that enhance the mobile experience. Maybe it’s a better way to tell a traveler that his or her gate has changed. Or an easier way for someone to find and save a mobile coupon. We all need to be better tomorrow than we are today. And it’s what mobile users expect and demand.