Janet Awe says mobile phones have immense potential as an insurance marketing tool

Whether you're an insurer or broker, and regardless of size, it's likely you want to raise your profile to help build your customer base and grow your bottom line.

One of the most exciting marketing vehicles emerging is something that nearly everyone carries around with them all the time - the mobile phone. Increasingly, companies are realising how this small piece of plastic can help retain customer loyalty and drive new business.

The growth of the mobile phone market has been immense. Since the first mobile was introduced to the UK back in 1985, it has steadily found a permanent place in our pockets and bags.

According to the telecommunications regulator, Ofcom, In the UK 82% of adults and 90% of children over the age of 10 own mobile phones. In fact, there are more active mobile phone subscriptions than there are people.

With ever-advancing technology enabling mobiles to be much more than a speaking tool, they are now used for everything from email and digital photos, to music and internet navigation.

Advertising success
Some would say that advertising on mobile phones is the answer. Obviously, there are size limitations, but handset developments mean screens are getting bigger, while sound and graphics capabilities are constantly improving.

A number of successful ad campaigns have already been run, and early industry figures suggest that click-through rates for ads on mobiles are substantially higher than those of web campaigns - registering 19% compared with online's typical 1%.

There's no doubt that SMS messaging - or texting as it's known - will be a huge driver of mobile marketing. Texts are now second-nature to most people and, according to the Mobile Data Association (MDA), more than 15% of the 350 billion texts sent around the world every month have commercial or marketing purposes.

The beauty of the mobile phone is its portable nature - it goes wherever your target audience does. This means you no longer reply on that audience being near your facilities or at their computer to receive your message.

Mobile technology enables you to pinpoint the location of a device to within a certain area, and the mobile phone is one of the few things that most people always carry with them. These two qualities make it possible to develop both time and location-specific campaigns.

Integrating your mobile phone marketing with your overall activity will double the impact. If your company is launching a new product or service, or has a special promotion running, texting details to your target audience will raise awareness.

Nowadays, many people use their mobile to surf the internet - so ensure your website has a mobile-friendly interface.

Plus, what better way to support text alerts about a special promotion than by linking the recipient directly to your website, without taking them away from their mobile.

Personalised communication
The precision of marketing via mobile phone enables personalised communications with some added value for your customer.

Low-cost to implement, it is financially viable to deliver messages that are specific to an individual's situation. Text alerts can give clients up-to-the-minute information on their account status, such as warning them their building insurance is due for renewal.

Similarly, regionally-specific text alerts can meet individual needs. For example, if you sell travel insurance, an alert offering your services could be triggered when someone leaves the UK and their mobile registers on an international phone network.

Be careful, though. Mobile phones are very personal tools, so be sure to strike a careful balance between communicating your message and intruding.

Above all, abide by privacy legislation, which requires recipients to have opted-in to receiving messages from you, at some point.

There is no doubt the mobile phone will be an increasingly influential marketing tool. MDA predicts that 36.5bn text messages will be sent in the UK in 2006 - an average of 100 million texts each day.

Integrating that volume level with the mobile's ability to surf the internet or display colour ads highlighting your promotions puts a fantastic arsenal of marketing tools in your clients' pockets. IT

' Janet Awe is director at marketing consultancy, Awesome Communications.