3 Mobile Short Code Promotion Best Practices
Many Broadway musical lovers were already enchanted with Chad Danforth, the character from the Disney Channel movie series "High School Musical." So when the image of the actor, Corbin Bleu, smiled out at passersby from a Times Square billboard touting his new role in the Broadway musical "In the Heights," so many mobile users accepted the sign's invitation to text "Heights" to 21534 for a video message from the star that the campaign saw a 24-to-1 ROI.
Bleu left the show on Aug. 17, but the campaign may leave a lasting impression on marketers who want to learn best practices and tips from those behind the campaign, including the Heights campaign developer, Venice, Calif.-based mobile video marketing platform provider Mogreet. Mogreet CEO James Citron says the static campaign his company developed for New York-based arts and live entertainment advertising agency SpotCo was aimed at increasing ticket sales for the musical.
But the billboard wasn't the only way consumers learned about the Heights campaign and Citron and others offered more advice on how marketers can best deploy short code campaigns.
Consumer interest is there, according to a recent study by Sunnyvale, Calif.-based mobile transaction network mBlox. Ninety percent of U.S. and U.K. consumers "prefer multichannel options for interacting with businesses"; nearly 42 percent of U.S. respondents say they'd like to receive coupons on their mobiles while shopping; 17 percent of U.S. consumers want companies to contact them by SMS for appointment reminders; 10 percent of U.S. consumers pick SMS for bill payment reminders; and 75 percent of those surveyed say they use coupons (regardless of channel) with 15 percent of U.S. survey-takers reporting having already used mobile coupons, according to the survey released on Oct. 5, "Consumer Attitudes Towards Business Communication."
Joining Mogreet's Citron in providing marketers with ideas on how to build short code campaigns that find prospects are:
- Carrie Chitsey, CEO of Austin, Texas-based mobile marketing software and services provider 3Seventy;
- Pieter De Villiers, CEO of Redwood City, Calif.-based SMS messaging provider Clickatell;
- Shane Farrell, marketing director at Chicago-based text message marketing provider Moto Message;
- Danielle Gilardi, senior strategist at New York-based marketing agency Big Fuel;
- Doug Moss, CEO of Idaho Falls, Idaho-based mobile marketing platform provider Txtwire;
- Kevin Newby, director of digital strategy at New York-based marketing agency Euro RSCG;
- Derek Rhie, marketing manager at Beaverton, Ore.-based email, mobile and Web marketing services company Trumpia;
- Robert Sanchez, CEO of San Diego-based mobile and Web marketing platform provider Globaltel Media; and
- Matt Silk, senior vice president of San Francisco-based Web-based enterprise mobile message management software provider Waterfall Mobile.
1. Understand roles. Like Bleu, consumers are playing a role. If marketers want to cast them in their dramas as paying customers, members of the public may ask: "What's my motivation?"
Moss says a great motivator is to be part of an exclusive club that gets special offers that aren't extended to other customers or to prospects in other channels. "Customers are giving you access to their personal cell phones," he emphasizes.
That personal access means marketers are playing the role of spouse, Gilardi says. "Don't spam, so you can continue the relationship far into the future," she says. In other words, respect the relationship so that customers don't initiate a quickie divorce by texting "STOP."
And especially avoid an ugly divorce that becomes a tasty subject at dinner parties. Sanchez says: "If treated improperly, harassed or annoyed, end users may go beyond simply not responding to your campaign and actually promote your campaign in a negative light."
2. Make interesting, clear, exclusive offers that are appropriate to the demographic. Gilardi says consumers provide companies access to their cell phones for two reasons: to save time or waste time. "Understand that users are looking to mobile for utility or fun. Google Maps and Angry Birds emphasize both of those points exquisitely."
Citron says: "An increasing number of marketers are also using polling or trivia via text to engage with [out of home] consumers. Rather than just texting in for future alerts, the consumers answer trivia or give thoughts on different topics, sometimes for a prize or just to kill time."
Plus, Silk emphasizes, ensure the offer is prominent and legible. "If your call to action can't [be] seen, people can't text it," he says.
Giving texters something for free or at a steep discount can also boost results, Sanchez says. Physicians, for instance, can provide a free consultation. One of his clients, Scripps Ranch Dermatology, used SMS "to increase the local visibility of the practice, receiving an initial response rate of 69 percent, increasing to 88 percent when services were offered," according to a Globaltel Oct. 25 press release.
Chitsey says pizza restaurants can use radio and television commercials to offer steep discounts during their slow times, and when the short codes come in, they deliver the reduced-price pies.
While a rather large demographic enjoys pizza, Chitsey suggested various venues to appeal to more specific audiences. At sports venues, perhaps have texters vote on their favorite beverages. At music venues, bands can offer fans a chance to text to listen to music, view their pictures and learn—by area code—when the band will again be nearby.
Bringing the concept of demographic-appropriate texting to a crescendo, Rhie says he was surprised to learn who the most engaged texting audience was and how highly receptive it was to using short codes. The biggest cohort of texters he knows and the largest percentage of his company's business, churches, often text Bible verses to congregations.
3. Use the appropriate channel at the appropriate time and place. Just about any channel can promote a short code. And, Silk says, marketers should promote short codes in every channel—including on Facebook, Twitter, TV, billboards, in emails and online. But overall, according to Gilardi, print is the "most supportive driver for SMS campaigns."
De Villiers agrees, addingprint can be acted upon at responder's leaisure—as illustrated in case studies highlighted in his company's white paper, 101 Uses of Mobile Messaging in the Travel, Tourism & Hospitality Industries—when they're not being interrupted or engaged in an activity like driving.
While De Villiers rated billboards as the least effective advertising option due to the driving factor, Newby rated it one of the best in foot traffic situations.
"Packaging is another option for short codes," Newby adds. "But keep in mind that the longevity of packaging demands short codes that drive longer-term acquisition plays."
Farrell says social media's a great channel to use, because consumers visiting your pages and following your accounts "are already engaged in your brand—and it's free."
Existing opt-in email lists work well, Farrell says, and "you will also move these highly active consumers to a list that enjoys 95 percent read rates and higher redemption rates than email."
Rhie believes marketers should track response through, for instance, differentiating keywords. He suggests even breaking down response by agents, if appropriate, in order to improve results.
Less desirable promotion channels include the mobile Web, because there are too many steps and clicking to call becomes a better option; and Web display advertisements, because consumers are more likely to simply click through, De Villiers concludes.