The “Mikey” Mobile Adoption Test

First published July 14, 2011 in Mediapost’s Search Insider

The time to get serious about mobile is here. I say that not based on any analyst’s report, industry intelligence or pronouncement from any of the companies who have billions riding on it, but rather due to the “Mikey” test.

What, you ask, is the “Mikey” test? I thought you’d never ask.

My friend Mikey (and, yes, he lets me call him that and yet we’re still friends) is a building contractor. Recently, he oversaw the renovations on our home. We were a little concerned by the fact that in the middle of renovations, during a critical period when kitchen cabinets would be installed, old walls would be ripped down, new ones put up and our bathroom floor would be retiled, we would be 3,000 miles away on the most remote land mass in the world, Hawaii.

“It’s all good!” said Mikey (he says that a lot, which is another reason why we’re friends), “I’ll keep you up to date with this!” From his pocket, Mikey pulled out a brand-new iPhone. “I’ll just take pictures and send them to you!”

I was shocked. Mikey and I have a lot of things in common: love of family, appreciation for a good hand-crafted beer, dedication to a job well done, becoming reluctantly middle-aged — but technology is not on the list. His wife, Rosie, does his emailing for him. He was the last guy I expected to get an iPhone, let alone use it to send pictures via email. But sure enough, each day we’d get an update from Mikey, complete with fresh pictures of the progress.

But my biggest shock was still to come. When we returned, Mikey asked us to go to the Lennox website and print off the installation instructions for our gas fireplace insert. As I dropped by after work to drop off the print-outs, Mikey cornered me and said, “Tell me, if I had an iPad, could I look up this type of stuff online?” I would have been less surprised if the neighbor’s cat made me a martini. Mikey is a smart guy, but an early tech adopter he’s not.

For those of us in the biz, the benefits of mobile are obvious. We’ve been crowing about mobile being a game-changer for almost a decade now, but those messages never seemed to move beyond our little circle. But some time in the last year, something fundamental switched. During that time, the Mikeys of the world have suddenly become aware of how mobile might be applicable to them.

Just this past week I did a workshop for a company that makes sandpaper. Mikey is a customer of theirs. Keeping in mind the Mikey test, I decided to check and see what percentage of search queries for their key terms came from mobile devices. Obviously Mikey isn’t the only one who got himself an iPhone. Over 20% of searches for sandpaper and other terms came from mobile devices. And that percentage has more than doubled in the past year. These are numbers you have to pay attention to.

Why is the Mikey test important? There are a number of reasons why this marks a sea change in digital marketing. First of all, Mikey is only interested in mobile because it lets him do things that are important in his job. This isn’t about checking restaurant reviews, looking up show times or updating your Facebook status; this is about getting the job done. That sets a pretty stringent bar for user experience, one that most industrial marketers haven’t even considered. They’re still struggling to make their website a place that doesn’t cause mass user suicide.

Secondly, If Mikey is looking at mobile, we’ve already moved into the steepest part of the adoption curve. That means things are going to move very quickly. Moving quickly is not something that industrial marketers are very comfortable with. If we’re already at 20%, with a doubling in the past year, expect next year to be at 40 or 50%. That is a pace of change that is going to leave a lot of marketers behind.

It’s time to think seriously about mobile — but don’t do it because I told you to.

Do it because Mikey likes it.

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