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Add SMS to Your Email Program

  |  June 1, 2011   |  Comments

When, where, and how to use SMS messages in your marketing plans to build your list, nurture and engage, and drive revenue.

Once you have built your email program around your customer lifecycle and automated your programs and optimized the creative for mobile devices, what is your next challenge?

For many B2B marketers, it is adding SMS touch points to the digital marketing mix.

SMS marketing can be incredibly powerful. It's simple and most will almost instantly view an SMS message once received. This tactic in your digital arsenal will allow you to target an audience and almost guarantee they will view your content.

On average, an SMS message draws a 97 percent open rate with 87 percent of messages read in the first 15 minutes after receipt. Personalizing these messages with relevant information for that customer makes them a highly effective addition to your email program. Time-sensitive deals, on-demand access to information and savings, and instant coupons offer a huge boost to your conversion rates.

However, many marketers are confused about where to begin and are concerned about the additional work required to add SMS touch points to their programs.

The following strategies outline a simplified approach to evaluating when, where, and how to use SMS messages in your marketing plans to build your list, nurture and engage, and drive revenue.

Build Your List

The first step in successfully integrating SMS into your marketing programs is to concentrate on using it to build your list.

As with your email, you need to communicate the benefits for receiving messages from your brand via SMS, and then integrate this message into every relevant customer interaction:

  • Integrate mobile acquisition in web preference centers.
  • Acquire mobile numbers through signage at stores, events, billboards, and TV ads.
  • Acquire email and mobile permissions together by implementing email acquisition programs using a mobile short code.

Be sure to capture the acquisition source, event details, demographic information, and location at acquisition time to target future campaigns.

Southwest Airlines is a great case of using mobile for email acquisition. It designed a program encouraging customers to text their email addresses to a specific SMS short code and then promoted the opt-in campaign across web advertising, TV ads, print ads, and gate areas.

Nurture and Engage

Begin by thinking about SMS messages in three distinct ways – time- sensitive communications, location-related communications, and "first to know" VIP communications.

Text messaging is ideal for providing laser-precise timing for offers and updates. Plus, time-sensitive alerts such as new product arrivals, account balance, shipping and order confirmations, and account reminders provide huge customer value.

Location-related communications can be used to message customers within driving distance of an event, at a trade show, or even in-store as appropriate. "First to know" communications can give customers advance notice of special pricing, limited quantity offers, or special events.

Online electronics retailer Newegg uses SMS to send its "Daily Shell Shocker" deals. A subscriber can opt in to receive alerts that offer first notice of fast-moving, limited-quantity product offers. This "first to know" information allows the subscriber to get a jump on the competition for the deal or share valuable information with their friends and social networks.

Schwan's, a home-delivery food service, combines time-sensitive and location-specific communications via SMS. Subscribers receive an SMS delivery notification 30 minutes before delivery or notification if delivery service is delayed.

Travel companies Egencia, TripIt, and Orbitz send time-sensitive alerts regarding check-in, gate changes, delayed flights, and alternative flight information.

Monetize

SMS can also drive revenue directly. The mobile web can be a glue between online and offline. Text messaging provides the right timing and context to deliver an online experience for on-the-go customers.

Use SMS advertisements to drive customers to your mobile website. Make the purchase process easy by storing account and payment information for easy, one-click ordering. Use promo codes or short URLs for specific promotions to track mobile response to measure SMS campaign performance accurately.

The Last Word

Adding SMS to your digital marketing plan can be extremely successful, but it is important to do things right.

Customer sensitivity to SMS marketing's intrusive nature will grow as more marketers begin to use the tactic. As with email, it is imperative to send only the most relevant SMS messages to your subscribers.

Stay focused on the best uses of mobile, such as time-sensitive information, location-related information, or "first to know" information that subscribers love to share with their networks.

As phones increasingly become the preferred gateway to the Internet, having an effective SMS strategy and a highly engaged audience will become more important. Focus your future opportunities on building a mobile experience that fully enables customers to interact with your brand on their smartphones the same way they would on their laptops.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Mike Hotz

Mike Hotz is a senior strategic consultant for Responsys, working with clients to design, develop, and execute cross-channel digital marketing strategies that contribute to their cross-channel digital marketing success. As an industry veteran, Mike has worked in e-mail marketing since 1998, designing, building, and executing e-mail and multichannel direct marketing strategies focusing on increasing customer engagement, nurturing leads, supporting sales organizations, and driving revenue for companies such as CDW, OfficeMax, Grant Thornton, and Digitalwork.com.

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