What SMS Will Bring You: Reach and Revenue

Flies on the walls of marketing war room planning sessions the world over may not know the terms because they are scarcely mentioned, but “SMS” and “text messaging”‘ might just be the booster that finally propels the mobile marketing rocket ship into a leading position for digital marketing.

This is not your teenager’s texting. SMS use among consumers continues to increase globally. Recent data from the International Telecommunications Union shows that the total number of SMS messages sent globally tripled between 2007 and 2010, from an estimated 1.8 trillion to a staggering 6.1 trillion. Close to 200,000 text messages are now sent every second. For marketers, SMS campaigns have a wide reach because text messages – as opposed to mobile applications – are accessible on all devices and many consumers still prefer the immediacy, brevity, and ease of SMS communications. They are also a lot less expensive to produce, personalize, and test.

The “mobilization” of email draws marketers’ attention to the device as an increasingly powerful part of the email channel experience. Fellow ClickZ email columnist David Daniels also wrote about this just last week. Once we start thinking about the device, two forces combine to create an opportunity for SMS to step fully into the channel mix.

  1. Email is data driven and increasingly multi-touch, so marketers are tapping automation technology to make email more responsive to both behavior and preference. One of those preferences is channel choice by message type. Send me an email for my order confirmation; send me an SMS message when my flight is delayed.
  2. Customers engage with brands via a continuously dynamic matrix of channels – retail, events, email, mobile, social communities, social networks – and increasingly marketers want to try to keep messaging in line with that movement.

Given that, it makes sense to launch your SMS program so that it can integrate, complement, and synergize with your email and other outbound messaging as part of a CRM campaign to nurture and engage. SMS, even more than email, is also experiential. Text messages can be received and interacted with in the moment – even while the customer is having a brand experience in another channel. As a result, we are seeing more and more marketers consider SMS as the glue to connect their retail/event + mobile apps + email strategies. That synergy, along with the reach, lures us into this channel; but it’s the revenue that keeps them coming.

There are two primary types of SMS campaigns: inbound (prospect reads/hears/gets invited to an event that she can text C-O-U-P-O-N to a designated five or six number for a discount); and outbound (event reminders, shipping notifications, flight status) SMS campaigns. Both are fully trackable at the subscriber level.

The most successful examples of these are for B2B events and conferences (inbound), banking notices (outbound), airline flight status notices (outbound), and retail and restaurant coupons (inbound). Regardless of type, all SMS programs are permission based. An express permission grant is required by the carriers, but also by the spirit of the relationship. Similar to email marketing, no one gives their phone number to strangers or wants to be contacted by a brand unawares. Respect your customers and they will reward you with response and loyalty.

Relevancy plays an even bigger role in mobile and text marketing than in other channels. Perhaps because it’s so personal, the bar for creating relevancy is high. Just as many people download apps and never use them, people will quickly stop an SMS subscription if the messages are not helpful or come too frequently. The promise cannot outweigh the actual value.

Automation technology makes SMS even more appealing. Consider the benefits from an integrated marketing management approach:

  • Publish SMS, email, and social messaging from the same application, using the same database. This allows messaging to be multi-touch and cross-channel at the same time, while still respecting each audience member’s preferences.
  • Use the technology and data-driven targeting rules to trigger SMS messages based on user preference, response, coupon redemption, or other behavior (in any channel). Interact with a kiosk – get an SMS receipt confirmation. Walk into a restaurant – join their loyalty program and get a text for a coupon for tonight’s dessert. Attend an event – sign up for email newsletters via your phone or iPad. Respond to a one day sale email and get an SMS reminder to bring a friend for another 10 percent off. When a rewards member checks in at a hotel, ask them if they’d like to receive SMS messages for last-minute spa offers while they’re staying at the hotel. Send them 20 percent discount offers for times when your staff is slow.
  • See reports across channels at the subscriber, campaign, or audience persona level. Let SMS make your brand present and engaging with customers as they move through life (commute, business travel, shopping trip, late night check-ins). It’s a complement to the outreach you are already doing.

Where have you seen SMS added to a campaign that drew you in, or gave your brand (or competitor) the edge? Please share ideas in the comments section below.

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