Push marketing that turns people on, not off

Nov. 15, 2013
Push marketing that turns people on, not off

By Anke Corbin

When a consumer downloads and opens your branded app, hopefully it's the beginning of a wonderful relationship. Marketers love the idea of being able to engage with customers directly on their mobile home screens, and the allure of a push message driving desired behaviors is hard to resist. Many marketers consider push notifications a broadcast medium and are thus treating it similar to paid TV or radio advertising with the objective being that they can share a one-sided advertising message. If you do this, please, please, please STOP. This approach and way of thinking about push messaging is harmful to your brand.

A mobile phone is a 24/7 personal device; people use their phones everywhere — at home, at work, some people even take their phones into the shower. We take our phones to bed at night. It's the keeper of memories and the connector to friends and family. A smartphone is probably the most intensely personal communication medium available to a marketer, and one of the most powerful communication channels. Because of that immense power to enhance or destroy consumer relationships, a new, more thoughtful marketing approach is needed.

What exactly is push messaging and how does it work?

Basically, it is a permission-based communication that goes from an app directly to the phone screen. Often, there is some sort of a nudge like a buzz, ping or vibration to announce a push message, which increases the impact. Compare this to in-app messaging, which is also very powerful and effective, where there is some sort of a pop-up message that shows up after you've loaded your app at appropriate times. An in-app message does not push to the smartphone home page, so it is less disruptive.

As you grow your mobile audience, push messaging will become much more powerful than even broadcast and other paid media. People have on average 65 apps on their phone but probably only use about 10 consistently.

Because it's permission based, all of the power in the relationship rests with the consumer. They will turn you off because you're not adding enough value or respecting their boundaries, and you will no longer have access to communicating with them via their mobile phones. Your less than stellar approach to push messaging could even hurt the relationship that consumers have with all apps and push messaging as a whole.

How do you create meaningful and desired push messages?


Put yourself in the mind of the consumer. Is what you're communicating really a huge value and benefit? If not, perhaps an email or in-app pop-up message would be more appropriate. Some of the key factors of relevance are whether your message make your customer's life easier, better, safer, more enjoyable. Always ask yourself, "Is this notification something the customer wants to hear about or is this something I want to tell them about?" Definitely not the same thing.


Push your message out at the right time. You might want to think twice about early morning or late night messages. What push message would you like to wake you up?

A special offer to lunch at a favorite restaurant around 11 a.m. — just before most consumers make a decision about where to go for lunch — would probably be a welcome message when used infrequently for most of your customers.


The best push messaging allows users to personalize when they would like to hear from you and what topics are acceptable. It's a 1:1 medium so getting the right message to the right customer at the right time is key.

Less is more

Less is more and simplicity is required when thinking about push messaging. Keep your messages clear, simple, short and easy to execute calls-to-action.

Get better every time

Learn from each communication. Did your customer respond to your last push? Was it engaging? What are the metrics you're using to decide if it worked? One way to measure if your notification worked is to test different messages and promo codes against each other by splitting up your test market and then measuring the response to the call-to-action within your push message.

Perhaps a quick in-app survey question that pops up next time a customer opens your app with some sort of a reward for giving feedback would help you to understand how your customers feel about your messages. Notice I said "in-app message," not push notification. Remember, it's all about things your customers want to see not what you want to tell them.

The better you know your customers and the more relevant you make your push notifications, the stronger your relationship will be and the more powerful and rewarding mobile marketing will become for your brand.

Read more about mobile.

Anke Corbin is SVP Sales & Marketing for Splick.it.

Photo provided by flickr user phlyingpenguin.


Topics: Marketing / Branding / Promotion, Online / Mobile / Social

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