Does Your Agency Need A “Mobile Lead”?
As a writer and speaker on mobile, there are a few questions I get over and over again. For instance, “Is the iPad a mobile device?” and, “Can’t I just sent tablet users to my desktop site?”
Most of these questions are topics of intense debate and few have an easy answer. When it comes to mobile, there is a lot of grey and very little black and white.
But there’s one question I get frequently that does have a clear answer, at least in my opinion, and that is, “Does a digital marketing agency really need a Mobile Lead?”
Consumers Are Mobile, We Should Be, Too
I actually enjoy this one quite a bit since it gives me the chance to explain — and justify — my job. Let me just preface this by saying that in a perfect world, we wouldn’t need a “Mobile Lead” or a “Social Media Lead” for that matter. Consumer behavior is inherently mobile – and social – and so our efforts as marketers clearly should be as well.
But the reality is that with so many brands playing catch-up and the rate of innovation increasing so rapidly, having someone to shepherd your agency’s efforts in mobile is essential — which is lucky for me, since I happen to think it’s one of the most interesting positions in marketing.
For one thing, a big part of your job description is keeping up with every cool new gadget, trend, and vendor (though that is probably true for almost everyone in digital these days). What’s more rewarding is the fact that it forces you to learn a good amount about every single thing your agency does.
There’s a mobile component to everything a brand can do to connect with consumers, both online and off – from digital out of home to search marketing. So it stands to reason that there’s a digital aspect to everything your agency does as well. If your charge is to help your clients use mobile to full advantage, you need to have a solid understanding of it all.
Be Well-Versed In Development And Campaign Management
For example, you don’t need to know how to design and code a cross-platform website single-handedly, but you do need an above-average understanding of the tools and technologies involved before you can strategize what the end result should be.
Likewise, you don’t need to know how to effortlessly manage a paid media campaign, but you have to know way more than the average digital strategist to understand how a campaign should work for mobile. It’s a role that offers a level of exposure, growth, and hands-on learning like no other.
Now, I think of the Mobile Lead role as being a kind of strategist because that’s how I think of myself — as primarily a writer and a strategist. I do think that it’s probably the best term to use if you’re trying to hire a Mobile Lead — or become one. This doesn’t, however, explain what the job entails, which is really what you need to know.
Since the nature of the work crosses various disciplines and touches almost all of them, it’s highly strategic in nature. Of course, you also have to understand tactics as well — a lot of them. The best way I can think of to explain the nature of the work is to break down what I do on any given day into a few high level buckets.
Nearly every RFP that comes along these days includes mobile in some way and many are now specifically mobile in nature. On any given day I’m working with the BD and Client Services teams to:
- Respond to RFPs.
- Write proposals.
- Refine and expand our repository of case study materials.
- Build and strengthen BD and Client Services’ understanding of mobile so that we can better work together and discover new opportunities to do great work.
- Evangelize to clients and help them better understand what their mobile opportunities are.
Here’s where it gets really interesting. A Mobile Lead acts as a true strategist in two key ways:
- Project Strategy: This is the real hands-on strategy. If the project is fully mobile — say, development of an iPad app or a mobile web site — I’ll often find myself taking on the role of strategy lead, doing intensive, billable work from start to finish. If mobile is only a component of the overall project, the role becomes more of an executive sponsor type of responsibility, seeing to it that the project stays on track and develops according the original strategic vision.
- Corporate Strategy: This is where you act as your brand’s own strategist. A big part of the job is defining how mobile affects your business — how mobile ties into your brand story, what you do, and how you do it. This includes determining when to buy, build, or partner for mobile execution as well as how you present your POV on mobile to the outside world — i.e. customers and the industry at large.
While many agencies now have a distinct mobile practice, it’s important to keep in mind that mobile touches every aspect of your business. Having mobile expertise consigned to a silo is a recipe for failure. The agencies most successful with mobile continually connect their Mobile Leads with all other teams to collaborate and share knowledge. In my own day to day work life I’m continually synching up with point people in:
- SEO: to continually refine our POV on organic search optimization for mobile platforms.
- Media: to develop best practices for mobile SEM and Display campaign content and management and to vet new mobile ad networks and mobile ad service providers.
- QA & Usability Testing: to maintain our mobile test plans and best practices and build our library of test hardware.
- Design: to explore new innovations in user experience design and discuss the impact of new devices, browsers, and technologies.
- Technology: to discuss ongoing best practices for development of mobile sites and apps and keep track of new opportunities afforded by industry innovation.
- Strategy: this is the team I spend the bulk of my time interacting with — supplying them with industry insights and keeping them up to date on new mobile tactics and opportunities.
This is the aspect of the job that I personally enjoy the most. Blogging, writing white papers, and POVs, speaking at conferences – putting original thinking and opinions out there in the marketplace has a two-fold benefit. It builds your agency’s reputation as a place that keeps pace with changes in the industry — and perhaps more important, as a place that cultivates intellectual capital.
However, you’ll also find that it’s the best possible business development you can do – every speaking engagement, however small, builds your reputation with current and potential clients in the audience and increases the likelihood of new business coming your way.
Believe it or not, there are about 100 other little things that come along in the course of a day, but these are the high-level basics. Every agency is different so this won’t be a cookie cutter example of how it all comes together but I think it’s a pretty good blueprint.
It’s a role that’s increasingly in demand as the need for mobile strategy and execution increases on the client side so hopefully this sheds light on what to look for if you’re hiring and what skillsets to build if you’re looking for a job.
It’s not a role that will last forever — as mobile becomes status quo, the need for someone to pull all the disparate threads together will dissipate, but expect to see this become a very common job description over the next few years. What it will evolve into is hard to say – these days, the only constant in our business is change.
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