10 Rules for Mobile Success


ADOTAS — More than 61 percent of Americans own a smartphone and 35 percent own a tablet, according to Nielsen and Pew Research respectively. That creates an enormous and immediate opportunity for businesses to meet their customers’ needs anytime, anywhere.  A mobile strategy is especially critical for engaging customers whose preferred or only Internet device is a mobile phone or tablet. To take advantage of this opportunity and prevent losing market share to competitors who are succeeding in mobile, it is crucial that organizations implement a calculated mobile strategy that focuses on consumer engagement and generates enough revenue to drive businesses to new heights.

Here’s how to create a successful mobile strategy:

1. Start with the assumption that mobile is different from other platforms, and then work backward into the similarities — not the other way around. Mobile should not be treated as a derivative of other platforms like TV or desktop. Instead, companies should devise an approach to mobile that optimizes the mobile experience first, and then tie that mobile experience back to other platforms. While a cross-platform strategy brings many benefits, it doesn’t negate the importance of a stand-alone mobile approach. Lacking a mobile strategy entirely will make most organizations less competitive. Too often, people are using cross-platform “strategy” as a cop-out for not doing the hard thinking on mobile.

2. Executive buy-in for disproportionate and sometimes irrational spending on mobile differentiates the winners. It is one thing to have small pockets of an organization support mobile, but superior organizations infuse strong commitment across the company, particularly in the executive suite. Companies will perform better if their five to 10 most senior executives are literate in, vocal about, and committed to the sustained support of mobile.

3. View each individual and group stakeholder as equal in contribution, and do not permit one group to view others as inferior. Great ideas can often come from unexpected places. Sometimes the lawyer or salesperson or finance manager has insight that is at least as profound as that from a product or user experience team member. Think of mobile growth as an ideal petri dish for contribution from all over the company rather than a discipline confined to one department or role.

4. Hire or train mobile experts, and then organize in ways that make sense between mobile-only and mobile-integrated teams. Organizational structure will vary from company to company. Sometimes it makes sense to have a dedicated subject matter expert and sometimes the organization is better off with someone with a cross-functional mandate. That said, the most successful companies will have people in key positions that have mobile expertise, and the less successful organizations will gloss over the need and spread responsibility like peanut butter.

5. It’s easier to hire for talent and train for mobile expertise than it is to hire for mobile experience and train for natural talent. Don’t assume you need to hire people with mobile experience to excel in mobile. Imagine choosing between a candidate with little mobile knowledge but exceptional sales skills, and a candidate with exceptional mobile knowledge but limited ability to build rapport with customers. Which would you choose? More often than not, companies aren’t going to find the candidate who checks all the boxes during the interview process. When faced with the choice, they can often find great success hiring an exceptional person with domain expertise, and then helping them to grow with mobile.

6. Understand and anticipate the customer. Do not let technology, spiffy functionality and internal organizational structure divert your focus. As basic as it is, remember to focus on the customer. Don’t get distracted by technobabble, or spend more time navigating institutional hallways than on understanding what customers want. The best mobile strategies will be built on the premise of satisfying a basic customer need.

7. Build mobile products that are optimized for each mobile platform. Even within mobile we have distinct platforms with distinguishable user behaviors. These platforms include phones, tablets and cars, as well as mobile web, apps, video and messaging. Keep sight of how content works differently on each platform and then deliver an experience accordingly. Profoundly pleasing customer experiences derive from a nuanced understanding of the differences between browsing an app, watching a video or receiving a message. With this level of mobile distinction in clear focus, mobile offerings will fit more seamlessly together with the other platform pieces.

8. For core consumer products, build yourself or find a close long-term partner to buy from. Core mobile capabilities, especially with browsing and apps, should be considered strategic assets that will generate long-term mobile expertise and institutional knowledge. When companies go to outside groups, they need to think and act strategically. And by all means, try to avoid the “bright shiny object” syndrome.

9. Yes, you can generate enough revenue to drive your business to new heights. Mobile revenue generation is often non-linear at this stage. Some of us may not see this yet directly, but mobile is already driving over half of the total revenue for some organizations. This trend will increase in most companies over the next few years. It doesn’t fall under a normal planning cycle now since the space is younger and more susceptible to change, but it will even out over time.

10. Get involved in industry organizations. Generally speaking, people can contribute meaningfully to their own business and within trade groups at the same time. This approach has the dual benefit of strengthening the environment we work in while helping us to excel at our day jobs. We can all learn from the accomplishments, and sometimes mistakes, of others — so it is this type of collaboration that will refine and polish our mobile efforts over time.

Fifteen years ago, organizations scrambled to develop Internet strategies because they realized that the desktop Web was critical for meeting their customers’ needs. Savvy organizations realize that mobile is just as critical today, and those that ignore that reality will be at a fundamental competitive disadvantage.


  1. Don’t forget about great web services to power those apps! Slow doesn’t cut it in our world both in delivery of content and development speed. A mature API in an integral part of almost all mobile endeavors. This needs to be part of that Executive buy-in equation.

  2. I agree with a lot of what Louis says except the opening point. “mobile” is not really a separate entity or different. At its core mobile came from the desktop experience though long forgotten. Rewind ten years to a previous internet life and you basically have what most are calling ‘mobile’ today. No plugin support to level the web experience with one major exception. We have the power on today’s devices to do a lot client side. That was a huge no-no ten years ago since most people lacked the computing power for anything at the client and everything was done server side.


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