Mobile marketing 101: Texting for dollars

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Melinda Krueger has developed something that she calls the Advertising Aggravation Continuum.

It’s a scale that the senior marketing consultant of ExactTarget uses to illustrate different types of marketing and their resulting annoyances on consumers. On the low end of the scale, the “impersonal” and “unobtrusive” end, Krueger lists print and snail-mail advertising — mild irritations that one can easily look over and throw away.

On the opposite end, where the “personal” and “intrusive” advertising lives, Krueger lists email and telemarketing — annoyances that tend to invade an individual’s personal bubble. “They’re intrusive. And we all feel the same way about telemarketing,” she says. “They call, sometimes they’ll even interrupt dinner.”

Text message, or SMS and MMS marketing, is placed firmly between email and telemarketing on the higher end of the scale due to its personal nature, Krueger says, which is why businesses should take extra care when using it as part of a marketing campaign. “The same thing could happen to SMS marketing as telemarketing or email if we’re not careful with it,” Krueger says. “If we go the way we went with email, sending one every day like some people do, people will either start ignoring it or opt out.”

So to help you start your text message marketing campaign on the right foot, the following are some of Krueger’s tips to getting started in text message marketing:

Think about what your customers need from you. Ask yourself questions like, what information do my customers need in the palm of their hand? What will provide them value? What will I offer to my customers via text that they won’t get via my other marketing efforts? Customer service is much more valuable to customers than marketing, Krueger explains. You can choose to text customers when their order is ready, when their vehicles are done being serviced, or to highlight a special event.

Develop a “value statement.” Condense everything you’ve thought of into one short, simple message to say to your customers. “Something like, ‘text the words ‘super deal’ to [us] and we’ll send you the super deal of the week,’” Krueger says. Send your text messages no more than once a week — any more, and you might be considered a spammer.

Promote your efforts. “In all places that you promote email, promote SMS as well,” Krueger says. “But give your customers a reason to do it. Make it compelling. Right away, provide that value.” If you send out email newsletters, include a link where subscribers can opt in their mobile phone numbers to receive text alerts. (Opt-ins are required by most, if not all, mobile phone companies, to prevent spamming.) Always give your customers a way to opt out, as well. You can choose to enlist an automated text that asks customers if they’d like to continue receiving alerts from you. “They’ll get a reply text to text back ‘yes’ or ‘no’ if they want to continue receiving texts,” Krueger says.

For those hesitant to start a mobile marketing campaign, there’s research that should put you at ease. For one, according to the Direct Marketing Association 2010 Response Rate Trend Report, about 90 percent of all text messages are read within three minutes of their delivery. More than 99 percent of text messages are read by the intended recipient. These stats, along with current trends in smartphone purchasing and other factors, are why Krueger believes SMS marketing is here to stay.

“I think all trends right now are working in its favor,” Krueger says. “If marketers use it responsibly, it will grow. Just like email did.”

This story originally appeared in the Dealernews July 2011 issue.