How to Use SMS as an Effective Marketing Tool
Remember SMS marketing? It was the channel that was going to let marketers reach most any customer at most anytime. No smartphone required. No apps to develop. It was the "everyman" channel, capable of reaching virtually every one of the 327 million mobile phones in the U.S. (88 percent of the adult population).
American Idol trained millions how to text to a short code. The major airlines taught us about the convenience of real-time messages (i.e., flight updates). The American Red Cross allowed us to make effortless donations to those in need.
Yet SMS remains the least-used arrow in the marketer's quiver. Why the hesitation to draw the bow? Reviewing some key tenants of direct marketing — targeting, timing and trust — might give us some clues.
Targeting is difficult in a SMS-only world. If the opt-in was through a mobile-originated campaign (e.g., "Text CLICKERS to 44144"), the marketer knows nothing more than the subscriber's mobile phone number. Their geographic targeting options are limited to the subscriber's area code, which due to relocation or company-issued mobile numbers, may or may not reveal the subscriber's current place of residence. Targeting for relevancy can be even more difficult (if not impossible) unless the keyword itself can provide clues to the subscriber's specific area(s) of interest.
Timing is always a tricky thing with SMS marketing. The "always on" nature of a mobile phone means that your message can arrive in the middle of a meeting, in the middle of dinner, the middle of a movie or in the middle of church services. If the phone is set to emit a tone upon the message's arrival, some mild irritation is sure to follow.
The possibility of being interrupted by an ill-timed, untargeted (i.e., unwelcome) marketing message is clearly the driving factor behind low mobile opt-in rates.