With all the mobile phones in the world today, it just doesn't pay to ignore mobile marketing. According to Pew Research, 35 percent of adults in the U.S. owned a smartphone back in 2011. Fast forward to 2015, and that figure has grown to 64 percent.
Those promising numbers represent a big opportunity for small businesses eyeing text messaging as a way to connect with customers. Even consumers who opt for flip phones (data from last year shows that 90 percent of American adults own a cell phone of some kind) typically have the capability to send and receive texts.
Unlike some other communication methods, text messages don't sit around unread, at least not for long. One consumer study found that 76 percent of respondents reported a text message was likely to be read sooner than an email. The ease and speed of text messaging make it increasingly popular for senders as well as recipients.
"It's a very powerful means of marketing," says Nick Fruscello, president and co-founder of mobile-marketing service provider Mozeo. "For the first time, it lets small businesses communicate directly to the hands of their consumers."
How to Use Text Marketing
Businesses already use text messages as a convenient reminder tool to send customers notifications about upcoming appointments and other events. But text marketing is a flexible platform that can be used in a variety of ways.
Chris Gentry, CEO of GenHart Software—maker of SpeedyAdd—says some of his customers use text marketing within their existing clientele base as a way to boost revenue and deepen engagement. He offers the example of a carpet cleaning business using texts to stay in touch with its customers.
"You could set up a message for three months out to ask, 'How did you like your service?' Six months or a year later, you can send another text to remind the customer that it was your company that cleaned their carpets and ask if they need any other services," says Gentry.
One of Gentry's customers was looking for an innovative way to stay in communication with clients about his firm's warranty program. "Text messaging is an easy way for him to tell his clients 'It's time to renew your warranty,' or, 'Do you need any other service? Use this text message for 10 percent off,'" Gentry explains.
Fruscello finds that couponing is a popular way to use text messaging, and it also helps a business grow its marketing list. A restaurant owner might offer an incentive—a free appetizer to his restaurant, for example—to get people to sign up for text messaging.
The opportunity to win something can also be an effective way to build your text marketing list. "A business might give away a $50 gift certificate for everybody who signs up," Fruscello explains. Inviting customers to be part of an exclusive program, where they'll be the first to know about specials or new products, is also a good option.
"We've seen a lot of different uses," Fruscello says. "We even have DJs who do song requests to get people to text in. The options are limitless."
Think Before You Text
Gentry encourages small business owners to identify exactly what they hope to achieve with text marketing. It is to relay information, or is it an attempt to sell them something? Breaking your customer base into segments is also a good strategy.
"If you're looking at customers that haven't used your product or service in a year, send them a message to remind them of your business," Gentry says. If, on the other hand, you want customers to write a review of your business, then it's time for a message targeted directly to recent customers.
He recommends looking at the areas in your business that need improving: customer satisfaction, growing your repeat business. This information will provide direction on which type of text message will be most effective.
Beware that adding customers to your text message list isn't a marketing free-for-all. "You should get people to opt-in and also provide a way for folks to opt out," says Fruscello. This not only ensures your business remains in compliance with spam-related regulations, it also means your text marketing list squarely target customers most likely to respond to your call to action.
"Businesses need to be on the right side of the opting-in component," Fruscello stresses. Make sure your customers want to receive texts from you—and that you give them the value they expect. That will help keep your text marketing communication channels open.
Julie Knudson is a freelance writer whose articles have appeared in technology magazines including BizTech, Processor, and For The Record. She has covered technology issues for publications in other industries, from foodservice to insurance, and she also writes a recurring column in Integrated Systems Contractor magazine.
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