Direct mailings are expensive to produce, and often end up going straight to the trash bin. Email marketing messages, though more convenient and affordable, are often a casualty of the spam filter. So what method should you be using to get your customers’ attention? Text-message marketing.
Mobile text messages may be limited to 160 characters, but that provides plenty of space for your business to promote a new product or offer a special discount. And, with most people tethered to their cell phones almost 24/7, there’s little chance that your intended target won’t receive your message.
If you’re new to text-message marketing, here are some strategies for using it effectively.
Choose a reputable agency or software program to manage your SMS campaign. In order to send bulk text messages, you’ll need to either use a software program or mobile app to manage your campaign, or contract with a mobile marketing agency that can handle everything related to the campaign. If you have the budget for it, an agency can take a lot of the pressure off, but this route may cost thousands of dollars each month. If you decide to go it alone, check out reviews and recommendations of the various SMS marketing software tools to determine which one is the right fit for your small business.
Don’t be a spammer. Instead of using the phone numbers of people who’ve opted in to receive your messages, some SMS marketing companies use automated dialers to send texts to random cell phone numbers. Bad idea: Cell phone carriers are likely to block your number, and you may face stiff penalties for this illegal act.
Create a short code. Generally, companies will ask their customers to send a text to subscribe to their mobile marketing messages. Instead of requiring them to dial an entire phone number, choose a five- or six-digit vanity “short code” word that relates to your company. Check out the Common Short Code Administration’s site to see what’s available and learn how to sign up. Be warned, however: Short code registration and licensing costs thousands of dollars. For a more budget-friendly option, consider using a platform like Mobile Commons, which will let you “buy in” on a short code shared by several businesses for a reduced price. List your SMS short code on your business cards and other marketing materials, so that customers will have ample exposure to it.
Tempt customers with free gifts. Most people closely guard their cell phone numbers, and are wary of any company that might send them unwanted advertising-focused texts. Instead of simply asking people to sign up for your promotions, offer them a special deal for subscribing: If you own a restaurant, reward customers with a free appetizer or dessert; if your business is e-commerce focused, provide SMS subscribers with a code for 10 or 15 percent off their next purchase.
Build an ongoing relationship with your customers through mobile marketing. Once you have a database of cell phone numbers, don’t just use them for a one-off promotion: Through tracking each SMS-subscribed customer’s purchases, SMS marketing provides a valuable opportunity to glean in-depth data about your customers that will let you target them for promotions specifically suited to their preferences. Be careful not to send messages too often, though: Try to limit your offers to once a week, or you’ll risk annoying your customer base.