Recently, I’ve had several conversations with the heads of marketing at large brands that surprised me. They have opt-in mobile lists of hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of consumers who have raised their hands and said, “Yes, I love your brand and want to receive information from you on my mobile phone.”

A marketer’s dream, right? Yes and no.

Most marketers intuitively understand there is value in building mobile opt-in lists, but wonder “What do I do next?” There is a tremendous opportunity to create conversations with consumers, promote products and services in timely ways, and gain key insights like location and time of day preferences. But, more often than not, marketers are choosing not to do anything with their mobile lists because they are afraid about have messages be perceived as spam or they are too busy fueling the content machines of Google, Facebook, and Twitter.

We can do better than this. It’s time to for marketers to unleash the power of their mobile lists and data. Although mobile engagement is still an emerging discipline, savvy marketers are transforming the power of mobile opt-in lists into marketing gold. Here are a few tips marketers need to start paying attention to or risk losing customers to their competition.

Start with Smart Data

Right now, you probably have unsynchronized consumer data in your mobile marketing platform, your email marketing solution, and your CRM system, among other places. This is a problem. And, it will only get worse over time.

According to a recent Gartner report, enterprise data is expected to grow 650 percent in the next five years. Given the amount of time and energy it takes to acquire new customers, it’s ironic that little is being done to effectively manage–and capitalize on–current customers’ data. By embracing data in different places as an untapped asset, it’ll help you cultivate new relationships and strengthen existing ones.

Start with something as simple as matching mobile numbers with email addresses to create compelling promotional offers, for example. If a marketer isn’t comfortable reaching out to consumers on their cell phone, then they can always continue the conversation in email and realize higher response rates than normal–given these are the same consumers who have opted-in to receive mobile communications from you (a much higher bar than standard email communications).

How Ford Uses Mobile Engagement to Drive Leads

The last three years, Ford has sponsored the American Idols LIVE! Tour and successfully transformed mobile engagement at a concert into tens of thousands of leads. This year, the campaign began at the concert when American Idol fans were given the opportunity to use their mobile phones to enter to win a “Meet the Idols” backstage pass after the show. Everyone who entered the contest was then given the option to provide their email addresses and receive more information about the Ford Fusion. This simple activation not only helped Ford connect mobile numbers to email addresses that were later used in direct marketing promotions, but directly tied to lead matching for new car buyers.

Tap Mobile for its Best Purpose

Before you can start your journey, you need to know where you’re going. What channel should be used for what communication? Do you want to grow new relationships and/or build depth into your existing relationships? How might you extend your event or brand experience after it ends? How do you measure success? And, how do you tie your mobile promotions into other marketing campaigns to maximize impact? These are all questions that you need to answer before you can begin.

Mobile presents the most compelling channel for building the database. For example Clorox was able to drive a similar number of database opt-ins using the mobile channel at concerts as it did with its always-on online channel. Considering that interactive digital spending still accounts for less than 20% of overall media and promotions spending, according to Forrester, no brand should be leaving its media and event spending untouched with mobile calls to action and mobile list building.

Be Relevant and Respectful to Earn Trust

Consumer trust is most critical when you’re engaging with them on their most intimate communication device–their cell phone. Always gain proper permissions by requiring a clear opt-in process. By requiring the additional step to join your mobile list, you guarantee a higher percentage of qualified and loyal fans who will not mistake your text for spam. Know that consumers are still looking to be in touch with the right message at the right time. Pew Research recently reported that 31% consumers prefer to be reached by text messaging. A text message is perfect for timely and scarce content that can drive a “first to know” feel to info or merchandise.

As we head into 2012, you will see more examples of smart mobile engagement strategies that fuel clean and improved database building. Marketers are making the move to take mobile beyond a brand experience and leveraging it to build a long-term relationship with powerful and quantifiable results. It’s time to unleash the power of mobile.

Dorrian Porter is the founder and CEO of Mozes. He is an entrepreneur who co-founded HigherMarkets, an on-demand software company in March 2000. He later became CEO and led it to its acquisition by a Nasdaq listed company in 2002.