Big Ideas for Tiny Messages

My last column suggested you wait before jumping on the MMS bandwagon. Instead, focus your wireless marketing efforts on the SMS format. Today, a few tips on improving wireless messaging campaign results. I have text-oriented campaigns in mind, but those of you who didn’t follow that ditch-multimedia-for-now recommendation can also benefit from applying some of these tactics to MMS trials.

Time the Message

Timing is essential for maximizing the effect of marketing messages over mobile devices, more so than with email. The mobile phone’s omnipresence shortens the time lag between message creation and receiver absorption. Factors to time the message on could be as simple as just before lunch for McDonald’s or near workday’s end for an evening newspaper.

There are more exotic factors to take into consideration as well. Travel agencies know from experience current weather conditions have substantial influence on consumers’ receptiveness to warm-weather vacation promotions. SMS marketing’s short lead time and rapid consumer message absorption has enabled a Scandinavian agency to activate campaigns only on days when rain is pouring down and people just want to escape. Weather timing — what a lovely idea.

Targeting Is Necessary

You can treat wireless as a mass media — but consumers won’t. Mobile phones are primarily used for person-to-person communications. Many consider them a highly personal communication device. Most other messages your prospect receives are personalized. They come from friends and family. In this environment, it’s not merely a waste of money communicating to a 17-year-old skateboard fan that your company’s new diaper lets babies sleep better at night — it’s truly intrusive.

Make targeting integral to your mobile campaigns. If you’re in an experimental mood, you can venture beyond traditional targeting variables such as demographics and interests and test location-based or behavioural targeting.

Message Relevance

In a text-based medium, copy is king. You won’t have enough space to go into detail or employ tons of arguments, as in a direct mail. The downside of the device’s omnipresence is you not only have to break through the clutter of competing messages but also breach the receiver’s mind, which is focused outside the medium. The consumer watches TV, runs for the bus, or sorts his stamp collection while his phone (carrying your fabulous offer) beeps.

It goes without saying passive brand-building messages are less likely to be considered relevant in such a direct medium with very active users. The best examples of copy I’ve come across are ones that are really enticing, emphasize an instant value, underline convenience, or convey a sense of urgency.

Require Minimum Effort

We’ve established that wireless messaging is a fast medium, used by impatient consumers. An implication of this is if the action you want the consumer to take is too demanding, the action will not be taken. Pointing to a Web site or prompting a call to a customer service rep enables you to leap into advanced selling and data capturing. But calculate a substantial loss of interest from users who consider these steps too laborious. An instant response via SMS requires much less effort and usually boosts the share of respondents who will venture through that first important step into the purchase process.

Communicate on the Users’ Terms

A last word on privacy. In this intrusive channel, you walk a thin line between positive and negative impact. Address only consenting consumers. Provide simple ways to change preferences and to opt out. I recommend you never assume viral and inbound campaign participation is the equivalent of an opt-in for more marketing communication. Be nice. Ask. After all, it’s a two-way communication channel.

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