Text Messaging As Marketing

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LIke it or not… use it or not… text messaging is here to stay. A look at the numbers will convince you. There are an estimated 280 million American wireless users. Each day some 3.5 billion texts messages are sent and received according to a wireless industry trade group. This is three times higher than in 2007, the increases coming mostly from those over 30 years old.
You’ve probably heard about relief text message efforts for the Haiti earthquake that have gotten their due from the media. Musician Wyclef Jean used Twitter to get users to contribute to his Yele Haiti earthquake fund. There were also campaigns that allowed you to text HAITI to a number to donate $10 to the Red Cross, raising $3 million in aid. By contrast, text message donations to the American Red Cross following Hurricanes Ike and Gustav in 2008 brought in only $190,000.
By coincidence Joe Scott has a smart piece in Promotional Products Business that covers text messaging as a way to reach customers where they live. Here’s how it works, a subscriber decides (opt-in is the technical term) to join a group by sending a keyword (COFFEE for example) to a five or six digit short code. The keyword is what organizes the numbers into groups, and the short code is the phone number that makes the calls or sends the texts. Transactions that involve donations are often handled through the Mobil Giving Foundation (MGF), a nonprofit that acts as intermediary, the amount of the donation itself having been added to your bill when you sent the text.
What makes text message marketing a bit dicey is that group members can remove themselves from your reach at any time by texting STOP to the short code. This immediately deletes a mobile phone number from a specific group, and you stop getting messages. On the plus side, those who continue to get your texts are some of your best, most interested prospects.
Texting was most famously applied in the political area when the Obama campaign announced its pick for vice president. An estimated 2.9 million registered to get the name of the nominee by text, and though they didn’t get the news first (CNN broke the story 2-plus hours before) the list of mobile numbers was used to send out future messages to drum up donations and volunteers.
Other businesses who are using texting (also known as SMS for short message service) include:

  • sports teams seeking to increase ticket sales
  • retailers offering coupons, special sales, seeking RSVPs to events
  • service businesses offering discounts based on purchases
  • dentists sending available appointment times, specials
  • event notification, specials, services and emergency notices
  • health clubs handing out trial passes

The benefits of text message marketing

  • immediate — no making a call or visiting a website
  • you can react and deliver messages quickly
  • customers choose (opt-in) to get messages from you
  • convenient — most everyone carries a phone
  • unlike rarely opened e-mail, 97% of all texts are opened
  • secure — no revealing credit card numbers or other personal info

The thing to recognize is that someone’s mobile number is likely one of the most guarded of their possessions, right up there with their social security number and mother’s maiden name. You can make it more likely they’ll give you these precious numbers by changing your approach from “selling” something to giving “exclusive access” or offering a chance for customers to give “valued feedback”. Of course even with this new form of communicating, old stand-bys, like giving something of some value away for nothing, are always a winning approach.
It’s also important to let everyone know about your texting campaign. Social media sites like Facebook and Twitter have already shown themselves to be of value here. Add a mobile call to action, that short code, to all your ads, your website, in store signage, business forms, billboards (in short, anywhere you can) to reinforce your texting campaign. By adding a reference to your text message to a promotional product you’ll be maximizing exposure with an item that people can see, feel and enjoy.
Even if you’re not ready to market your business using text messages today, this will certainly be something you’ll want to consider going forward. Texting is here to stay. Smart marketers will look for ways to use this new form of communication as part of their overall marketing strategy to reach as many people as possible. As with all good marketing, this isn’t a “quick fix” or “magic bullet”, texting is all about long term relationship building.
Texting, when used correctly, can actually make your relationship with your customers (and prospective ones) better than ever.

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