In business, there are only two questions owners ask about anything new: “What is it?” and “What can it do for me?” All other questions are merely to clarify one of those two.
For today’s business owner, the “newest” new is “text message advertising.” So, let’s answer the questions.
What is it?
If you have been out and about at all in the last few years, you have seen nearly every teenager busily pecking away on their cell phone– not talking, but texting. According to CTIA. the wireless industry’s closest thing to a trade group, there are more text messages sent every day than there are people on the planet.
Short Message Service (SMS) has a 160 character limit, which is both good and bad. It can be bad in that you can’t exactly text all the juicy details about something, but it’s good in that it nearly guarantees a read. Estimates range in both read rates and time lapse to read, but they all come in at over 90% read within minutes. Compared to newspaper, email, direct mail, or any other way to get a message out, it’s as close to a guaranteed read as there is.
What can it do for me?
In short, (no pun intended) SMS can increase the number of new customers you have, and increase the repeat business you get from existing customers.
Let’s use a restaurant as an example. You go into the restaurant, and are informed either by something on the table, or by the waiter, that if you text JACKS to 82222, you will receive a free drink with your meal. (In this example, “JACKS” is a keyword, and “*82222” is a shortcode.) You take out your cell phone, send the text, and a few seconds later receive a text message back that you will receive the free drink by showing the message to the cashier.
Forward two weeks. It’s Thursday morning, and you are wondering what you are going to do for lunch. Your phone beeps, and you see you have a new message. It says, “Between 11 and 1 TODAY, get a free dessert with any entree at Jack’s. Show this message to cashier to redeem.” Decision made.
It doesn’t have to be a restaurant. Retail stores can have a sale exclusively for subscribers. Sports teams sell more tickets with special promotions. Golf courses can promote an early evening special. Youth groups can let everyone know that summer camp fees are due tomorrow. The list is literally endless.
If you see a use for SMS in your business– and if you don’t now, you soon will– there are a few things to know before you start.
1. Be legal. Right now, the SMS field is not plagued by spam the way email is. Estimates now are that over 90% of all emails are either sent straight to spam or are not read. It’s hard to find an email from anyone except a close friend that doesn’t contain some kind of pitch and link in it. In spite of strict anti-spam laws, there are still companies that mine for email addresses and then sell them as legitimate.
If you use SMS to advertise, be sure you get the information legitimately, and always give them a way to stop. Don’t send a message to anyone who has not first sent you a text to get something, and don’t send them anything after they say they’d like to stop.
2. Be informed of your options. Decide what you want your messaging service to do for you. If you are a church that wants to send out a “devotion for the day,” your needs will be entirely different than if you want people to get a message to come into your store when they are close by.
If you are a radio station or some other kind of advertising medium that wants to resell your service, you will want to see how many keywords you can get, and how many sub-keywords from each of them. Find out how many response messages you can send, and how many new messages. As with anything else you purchase, it’s better to do your research ahead of time than to wish you had.
If you are a non-profit agency, or even a political candidate who is wanting to receive donations for something, you will want to know if that is possible.
3. Continue with traditional marketing methods. Text message marketing is not yet the be-all and end-all. You will still need to continue with at least some of your traditional methods. Including your keyword and short code in your other advertising will increase your responses. As your text messaging data base grows, your other advertising venues can decline.
4. GIVE. People don’t willingly give out their cell phone numbers to strangers, and if you are going to capture a phone number, you need to make sure they get value for it. “Free” is the operative word.
Campaigns that are exclusive to the texting data base are extremely popular. Before hours and after hours campaigns are getting huge responses. They need to feel like they are getting something special, and not just a text that gives them something everyone else also is getting.
5. Be respectful. (Show restraint). Two to four messages a month will probably be more effective than bombarding them every day or so. Too much, and as soon as they see who the message is from, they delete it.
Also, don’t be cute with your audience. “Was gr8 2 c u” may work when a teen is texting a teen, but not for business. In all of your messages, show respect for your clientele.
The field is wide open. The possibilities are endless. Text message marketing is here to stay, whether you use it for your business or not.