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Text Your Way to Marketing Success

Text messaging is gaining momentum around the world as a preferred communication channel, and it provides a cost-effective way for small businesses to increase real-time communications with other businesses. But where and how should you use SMS? Here are some examples of how it can be used to target and communicate with customers in a business-to-business setting.

Trade Shows and Conferences. Interactive agency HyperDrive Interactive CEO and president Dan Heimbrock recently used SMS to engage his audience when speaking at a marketing event. At the end of his presentation, Heimbrock invited members of the audience to send a text message requesting a copy of his slide show. More than 60 percent of the 120 attendees texted in their request. Following industry best practices, HyperDrive Interactive sent an immediate text confirmation in return, stating that an e-mail would soon follow. When the e-mail was sent thanking audience members for attending the session, 78 percent responded to the e-mail to confirm their request for a copy of Dan’s presentation. With a simple text campaign this small business turned 78 percent of a room full of strangers into reasonably self-identified qualified sales prospects.

E-Mail List Growth. Research from Ball State University, Email Marketers Club and ExactTarget released earlier this year found that a record number of marketers will turn to text messaging to grow their e-mail subscriber lists. With SMS, marketers can target prospects when they’re on the go, yet communicate with them later via e-mail to further nurture these leads and secure their business. SMS is most appropriate for personal or urgent messages, so collecting prospects’ e-mail addresses is crucial for delivering future messages via the most appropriate channel.

Customer Service. Zappos.com is famous for its customer service, and word-of-mouth advertising about the company’s commitment to customer satisfaction has paid off. Small business-to-business companies can learn from Zappos.com’s heralded attention to customer service and use SMS to provide better customer communication and service. How? Imagine you have a customer waiting on an important shipment from you, and the driver is running late for the scheduled delivery time. Alert them with a text message, and you’ll be sure to reach your customer no matter where they are.

Inventory Update. Do you have some products that are so popular there’s often a waiting list for them? Or what about an upcoming product for which you’re starting to collect orders? Make sure these customers are the first to know when their long-awaited product has arrived by sending them a text message.

Now that you have some ideas to spark your SMS program, here’s a quick four-step road map to help you develop and implement a successful SMS program into your existing marketing strategy:

  1. Determine Your Strategy. Think about all of the communication channels you can use to correspond with other businesses and then determine when it’s most appropriate to use SMS. Ask yourself if a particular message you’d like to send to another business requires urgency or portability. If it doesn’t, it’s best to send the message through a different, less personal channel like e-mail or direct mail.
  2. Choose a Provider. Knowing your intended SMS uses and estimated messaging volume will make vendor selection far more effective. You’ll also need to ensure the vendor you chose can meet your implementation schedule, particularly when it comes to leasing a short code — a five- or six-digit number customers use to access mobile content. You can either lease a shared or private short code. Shared is ideal for short-term or infrequent campaigns to get up and running quickly. They cost less, but you have less control because you’re sharing the same number with many other companies. A private short code can take four to five months to provision and configure and it costs you more, but you’re the only company using that number. For large companies with a variety of brands and complex campaigns, the private short code is best.
  3. Get Permission. Companies sending outbound text messages are required to obtain a double opt-in from their subscribers, according to industry standards from the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA). The first opt-in can be done on the Web and the second half is confirming on the user’s mobile phone that they intended to subscribe to your messages.
  4. Engage Those That Engage. Now that you are a savvy SMS marketer, be sure not to lose sight of why you started this effort — engaging with other businesses. Be sure to continuously evolve your tactics, calls to action and promotion based on their feedback.

Amanda Berkey is a product marketing manager at ExactTarget focusing on emerging digital communications that complement e-mail, including SMS/text messaging, permission-based voice messaging and advanced e-mail features including Live Images, Live Ads and Live Content. Contact Berkey at aberkey@exacttarget.com.


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