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Don't Let Your Data Get in the Way of Your Marketing

  |  February 25, 2011   |  Comments

SMS campaigns should be a way to provide high-value opportunities for customers on the go…not used to collect customer data.

A world where marketers know everything about their customers and can deliver relevant messages to the preferred channel at the right time would be wonderful. But so many companies seem to think data collection is their primary objective. SMS campaigns are the biggest offenders, and this bodes ill for the future of mobile marketing.

Think about whom you text on a regular basis: typically, a very small circle of friends. Your cell phone number is mostly unpublished and you like it that way. Kids and teens in particular enjoy this exclusive, parent-free zone.

Now think of what I call the "Advertising Aggravation Continuum." The more personal the medium, the more intrusive we find the advertising. Print ad in a magazine? No big deal. A piece of mail you can toss out in a moment? Likewise. At the other end of the spectrum is e-mail and, heretofore the worst offender of them all: telemarketing. Low value, non-permission-based text messages would most definitely fall in the highly-aggravating category.

Remember also that SMS messages, like phone calls and unlike e-mail, can be effectively screened out. A "Do Not SMS" list is a very real possibility. Yes, there are guidelines, but no, there are not rules to prevent abuse by SMS senders.

But back to the good guys, those who want to do the right thing but seem to be looking at the channel as a customer data collection device rather than a customer value provision opportunity. A typical example: text us your e-mail address, then we'll send you an e-mail with a link to a form, and you can provide us with personal information.

The focus should be on providing high-value opportunities for customers on the go (e.g., here's a discount code, opportunity to get on the VIP list, or link to our event schedule). What are we looking for from companies? One of three things: information, entertainment, or a great deal.

For companies that have not yet defined their mobile programs, it makes sense to demonstrate the great value customers will receive in exchange for giving you their cell phone numbers. Show rather than tell, and experiment to find those that resonate with your audience. Perhaps you will only know the cell phone number and not name, rank, and serial number. I know, I know - you can't add it to your database without this crucial information! Get over it. Provide value first, multiple times, and then ask for e-mail, Zip Code, first and last name, and whatever else you feel you must know.

On the other hand (and I don't feel this is a contradiction), every e-mail sign-up form should ask for a mobile number and permission to send an SMS. This is simply low-hanging fruit; a low-effort add-on for someone already filling out a form. Then, as you learn what great SMS offers are most attractive to your customers, you can add that value statement to your subscription form: sign up to get X delivered to your phone.

What is X? That's what you need to figure out; not how you're going to get more data. Provide enough value and customers will provide more personal information and then you can ride off into the sunset.


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Melinda Krueger

Melinda Krueger is a senior marketing consultant with ExactTarget and a digital marketing veteran – starting with direct, moving to interactive, specializing in e-mail, and now charting a course for mobile marketing. Working with the best agencies in the business, she has helped Harley-Davidson, Miller Brewing, Sears/Kmart, CDW, and many others build their interactive marketing programs. Melinda holds an MBA from Marquette University and is a highly-rated speaker for professional organizations and business schools. As the Email Diva, Melinda answered questions on all aspects of the practice. Your questions about mobile are welcome!

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