Text Messaging Can Be More Than Cool

Call me an optimist – I believe that direct marketing enriches our lives when executed properly. When done right, direct marketing brings brand information directly to me at just the right time. Email marketing has become such a successful way to reach me and when complemented with an appropriate direct mail piece I appreciate the continuity across channels. I also like brands that give me a choice on the way to reach me: email, mail…or text message.

The focus today is on my phone and text messaging. As marketers we know the great (and nearly unbelievable) text messaging statistic: 98 percent of all text messages are opened. I think you’ll be hard-pressed to find another channel with that kind of open rate. Add that to the fact that there are 234 million mobile devices in use in the United States today.

However, we also know that text messaging is interruptive, limited to 160 characters, and doesn’t offer the rich branding experience of other channels. Most importantly, only 14 percent of Americans prefer to receive promotions through text messages. But if you think about it, 14 percent of 234 million is still plenty large to implement a text messaging strategy. If that 14 percent stat still scares you, how about using SMS to provide valued alerts or reminders. You may not drive revenue, but you can go a long way to building brand affinity and loyalty.

When contemplating your text messaging approach, you need to consider your audience. Does your audience “get” text messaging? I don’t mean do they have the device to receive it. I mean do they understand it and value it as a communication vehicle? Your demographic may provide a clue. Under 40, it’s highly likely. Over 40, maybe less so. But if you don’t know, you can always ask them in a standalone survey or as part of another communication. In addition to knowing if they get text messaging, you also need to understand the “mobility” of your customers. How do they consume information on mobile devices? What activities are they willing to engage in via their mobile device?

Once you’ve figured out how your customers interact with their mobile devices, you can then determine whether you have relevant information that can be shared via SMS to enhance your relationships with your customers. And you should think beyond simple “Text CHEAP to 123456 to receive crazy discounts” promotions. Try adding some value as well. Can you remind someone about an upcoming birthday of a friend or family member (which you can tie to an offer)? Can you alert someone to the start of an event or the expiration of a service?

Also, look at your programs holistically. When is it important to use text messaging in conjunction with email – whether promoting an email program via SMS or an SMS program via email? More to the point, is there an opportunity to use SMS to sign up subscribers to your email list?

Ultimately, a successful SMS program comes down to whether you’re able to offer real value to your participants. By respecting your customers and engaging them in a two-way dialogue, you will have a new, successful channel for interacting with your best customers.

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