Perception and reality are sometimes two very different things. Although in-app push notifications and geo-targeting messaging platforms have eaten up the majority of industry press in recent years, text messaging is still the marketing channel of choice for the majority of small business owners.
Thirty-eight percent of businesses use SMS/MMS for marketing, according to a 2013 survey by StrongMail, versus 20% that use mobile push notifications. Meanwhile, 33% of retailers focused on their ad and marketing budgets on text messaging during the 2013 holiday season, compared to the 17% that focused their budgets on mobile apps.
Here are seven strategies that merchants can use to reinvigorate their text message marketing campaigns.
1. Encourage customers to interact with your brand. “Consumers today expect you to engage with them wherever they are. One strategy is to promote brand awareness by using text to interact with digital signs. For example, customers can send a text to a shared short code and get back an immediate, positive experience like seeing their name on the billboard. The current Share a Coke campaign does this effectively by creating a personalized, interactive experience with their brand with large outdoor displays in New York, San Francisco, and elsewhere. With SMS, customers can text using any phone and they don’t need to download any apps.” (Dan Kamins, TextMarks)
2. Make sure your content is timely. “Our customer’s SMS marketing lists continue to experience steady growth. And, consumer response rates to marketing messages and mobile coupons have been extraordinary. We have found that the key to our customers SMS success is to deliver timely, valuable, and possibly exclusive content to consumers. Our customers tend not use this channel to promote existing campaigns.” (Dan Slavin, CodeBroker)
3. Use SMS to augment multi-channel campaigns. “Brands today are using multi-channel messaging strategies for their marketing campaigns, taking advantage of all the ways consumers look for and process information. The personal nature and accessibility of the mobile phone number makes it the ultimate ‘get’ in consumer data. Every phone today is SMS capable right out of the box, and SMS has a 95% open rate. To that end, every marketing campaign should include an SMS call-to-action. For example, append an email offer with a method for consumers to sign up for mobile coupons. Use SMS as an additional entry mechanism for a Facebook competition. Use SMS in store to facilitate loyalty program signups or to send an app download link.” (Stacy Adams, mBlox)
4. Make your local advertising actionable. “If you advertise locally, through a community newspaper or radio spots for instance, add an SMS shared shortcode and keyword offering special offers or discounts. It’s a great way to generate responses and track the effectiveness of your offline marketing channels. Instead of relying on customers to call in to a phone number or visit a website, merchants can make it easier to respond to ads via SMS and then track responses to each keyword on the back end.” (Dan Kamins, TextMarks)
5. Enter customers into sweepstakes. “We have been doing some great work with using SMS and text to facilitate entry into sweepstakes. We provide the fastest and most effective way for participants to enter national promotions, all from their mobile phones. We have also been using our text marketing services to communicate with our retail clients’ customers’ with a lot of success.” (Marcos Menendez, Momares)
6. Provide in-store recommendations to customers. “Merchants are providing better customer experience in-store by offering them ways to easily access more detailed product information, discounts on specific products and product recommendations through SMS. For example, in an auto parts store, customers could text their car make and model to a keyword displayed in the store aisle, and get back the recommended part number they needed to purchase. SMS provides another way for marketers to implement in-store targeting that doesn’t require customers to download an app.” (Dan Kamins, TextMarks)
7. Utilize opt-in loyalty lists. “Retailers must have mobile opt-in SMS loyalty lists that work both nationally and on a store-location basis. Twenty percent of customers drive 80% of sales, and that 20% will likely opt-in to receive mobile offers. Even relatively small lists can drive significant sales, because they keep the store top-of-mind with their best customers.” (Adam Lavine, FunMobility)
Interviews have been edited for length and clarity.
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.