SMS texting is a phenomenon of the 21st century.
Twenty years ago, mobile phones were not even heard of. Now it is rare to find someone without one.
They are a unique marketing medium because they are personal to each and every user. What other marketing medium is carried around in someone's pocket or handbag?
It will be no surprise to small business operators that successful SMS texting campaigns require careful planning and consideration of questions such as:
When should I send the message?
Who should I send it to?
What should I say?
When should you use SMS messaging?
SMS messaging is a great tool for messages that require only a short lead-time.
That is to say, messages that are transmitted within hours of the required action on the part of the target market.
Examples include a restaurant that has a ‘happy hour' every night between 6pm and 7pm.
An SMS text messaging campaign could be created whereby a message is sent to patrons at 5pm to advise them of the ‘happy hour'.
An added ‘hook' could also be included to encourage action e.g. The first 20 people through the door receive a free drink.
Another example where SMS messaging could be used to good effect, when there is a short lead-time between message and action, is a shop sale.
Retailers can message shoppers one hour before the sale commences, creating excitement, anticipation and, hopefully, action!
Give shoppers an added incentive – the first 100 shoppers through the door receive a $20 voucher.
Who should I send SMS text messages to?
Not all campaigns suit SMS messaging.
Due to the nature of the medium, younger target markets react well to SMS text messaging campaigns.
There is hardly a 20-year-old alive who cannot remember ever being without a mobile phone! They are part of the youth culture in the 21st century.
Not only are they a valuable communication tool but mobiles are also used to play games, watch video footage and send jokes to mates!
The wise marketer will tap into this psyche and tailor their campaign to reflect this ‘new world order' where mobiles have become a vital part of life for most young people.
Concert promoters use SMS text messaging to very good effect by sending ‘advance notice' or ‘reminders' to select target audiences about particular bands performing.
SMS text messaging is a great medium for competitions as an instant response can be elicited from the target.
If the recipient is offered sufficient incentive to respond – and remember, the incentive must be relevant to the target audience – SMS campaigns based on competitions usually attract good response rates.
Of course the object of the competition – of any marketing – is to attract customers, so try and tie your competition in to some mechanism to get people to trial your product or come to your shop, restaurant, and salon.
One example could be a mechanic who sends his customer database a message regarding a ‘special customer draw' with a $1,000 cash prize. He also offers every entrant a free oil and tune to get them to come to his premises, knowing that once he has worked on their vehicle he can ‘up sell' them to other services and hopefully recruit them as a long-term customer.
What should I say?
SMS text copy is a specialized writing style and there are SMS copywriters now offering their services.
However, a few simple rules can ensure your SMS copy hits the mark.
1. You only have 160 characters so use them wisely. Chop out all extra words that are not necessary. However, be sure to leave enough words in so that your meaning is clear!
2. Make sure the message is relevant to the target audience. You will lose fans, not gain them, if you send irrelevant messages to people who have no interest.
3. Talk in the same language as your customers. Try and imagine you are them opening the message – what would you want to see?
4. Lrn txt spk! Especially for youth markets as this is what they know.
5. Personalize messages where appropriate e.g. SMS messages to remind clients of appointments or ‘Happy Birthday' SMS messages.
The only way to be assured your message is hitting the spot is by testing it.
Different mobile phone screens have different limitations – test your message by sending it to a variety of different handsets to ensure the copy reproduces well on each screen.
Also, text different networks (Vodaphone, Orange etc) to be sure the message gets through.
Importantly, run your copy past someone in the target audience – make sure they understand the meaning. Sometimes ambiguities can occur due to the nature of the copy i.e. It is abbreviated.
Like any marketing campaign it is important to know where you are, and are not, making a mark.
Some indicators that can be used to measure the success of an SMS campaign include:
Foot traffic (to website etc)
Brand awareness (measured through pre and post-campaign research)
It is important before you commence the campaign to think about the most meaningful measurement, given your objectives.
Ensure the campaign is designed to deliver you the statistics you need to shape further campaigns.
Things to watch out for with SMS campaign
The most important thing to consider is that you need the recipient's permission. They need to have opted in.
Recipients can ‘opt in' by checking a box on your website, on a customer comment card or some other form of marketing material.
Messaging recipients who have not opted in is illegal.
Relevance is also critical to success. Successful SMS campaigns deliver relevant messages to the target audience that adds value to the product for the recipient.
Consider also, message receipt. Do you have the necessary systems in place to handle the volume of responses?
If you are running a competition or other promotion that you expect to be very successful, should you cap the responses? Check your resources and also check back to your campaign objectives.
Allow for wrong answers when running a competition – you will need to consider where you channel these, as well as the correct answers!
Lastly, always identify yourself. Make your message more personal by finishing with a name or ‘from the management and staff'.
The advantages of SMS campaigns
They are very cost-effective. There are no design costs, no printing costs and no advertising costs (although you should consider supporting some SMS campaigns with advertising).
The only costs involved are in planning your campaign and writing the copy – and of course the cost of sending the message itself.
Carefully targeted, mass market campaigns can be very cost-effective per message – a matter of cents per customer.
SMS text messaging campaigns are also a very personalized way of sending a message – directly to the recipient's own, personal mobile phone – so it is a great opportunity to engage with customers and develop an ongoing relationship.
Messages can also be designed to be interactive – encouraging ‘dialogue' between the sender and recipient – further building a relationship.
SMS campaigns are also a great way of capturing data. Once people have responded to your message there is an implication that they have ‘opted in', as long as you offer them the option of also ‘opting out' in your message.