I stumbled across an interesting article on SandHill.com that provides a good summary on what businesses should consider to go mobile.  I personally think the article is worth a read but I want focus on one particular section of this article that I think is the most basic (and most important) concept every business needs to understand before getting started – the three tiers of mobile marketing.

Tier#1: Text Messaging (SMS)
The first tier of mobile marketing is text messaging, or technically known as SMS (short message service).  By now, I’m sure everyone is at least aware of SMS considering that text messages outnumber phone calls today.  SMS provides a very simple way share small tidbits of information with mobile users (e.g. special offers, coupons, contact info, pricing info, etc.).  Since SMS is a messaging system, it does not provide a very engaging or interactive experience with users and should not be used for those purposes.
Tier#2: Mobile Internet (WAP)
The second tier of mobile marketing is the mobile internet, also referred to as WAP (wireless access protocol).  The mobile internet is similar to the web you are familiar with on your PC/Mac except there are drastic form factor and functionality differences when accessing the internet on mobile devices.  The biggest mistake businesses can make it to think their primary website is the same as their mobile internet site (or mobilesite).  Due to the smaller screen sizes, different operating systems, limited browser functionality, slower processing speeds, and lack of memory, mobile sites need to be highly optimized for a user’s experience on-the-go.  For all businesses, I strongly believe that mobilesites will become the de facto standard for mobile marketing similar to the way the web has become a business’ front door today.

Tier#3: Smartphone Applications
The iPhone has revolutionized the simplicity for users to download dedicated applications to their phones.  There are applications for everything from simple games to enterprise services.  Similarly, all the major smartphone manufacturers and/or carriers are opening app stores to make it easy for mobile users to download applications to their phones.  So what does this mean from a business perspective?  Smartphone applications provide a unique branding experience for a business helping engage their mobile users anytime, anywhere by providing them with “one-click” access to the information, service, or multimedia content they want.  In my opinion, business that value and leverage their brand day-to-day will need to embrace smartphone applications.

So I’m sure you’ve heard the massive buzz around mobile marketing.  Is it just media hype?  No. Mobile is really going to be the most important medium for business to leverage with their customers.  It doesn’t matter if your business is retail or enterprise.  While you try to wrap your head around how to use mobile marketing, my only advice is to first understand the three tiers listed above… thoroughly.  Can you use each one?  What value does each one provide to my users?  What do you want your mobile brand be?

Once you’re ready to get started, I will repeat the advice the author of the SandHill.com article tells his readers, “Whatever content strategy you employ, it’s important to remember that the mobile medium is not a smaller version of the desktop.”