A Texting Tutorial
These 10 tips can help increase your mobile marketing success.
There are more than 240 million mobile users in the United States. Because cell phones and personal digital assistants are the modern consumer’s constant companion, mobile marketing quickly is becoming an interactive marketing channel that can complement and enhance your other marketing initiatives and communication channels.
Mobile marketing initiatives are the most personalized method to interact with a customer base in real time. With the right approach, you can deliver a customer experience that builds loyalty to brands, channels and services not based solely on price. As with most marketing initiatives, however, to be successful with mobile marketing, it’s important to do your research and plan your approach.
These 10 tips are basics that can help you create an effective mobile marketing campaign and integrate this communication channel into your larger marketing plan. They also represent principals in many winning mobile campaigns in both the United States and Europe. In general, these basics will help you avoid some common mistakes and put the power of text to work for you.
Evaluate mobile options. Mobile marketing is amazing, but it represents a wide variety of options and methods of communication. Take time and evaluate what form — or forms — of this communication channel will work best for you. Perhaps you want to send out coupons to rush-hour drivers for discounts on a car wash, but not tips on selecting a wax to preserve their vehicle’s finish. Meanwhile, a culinary supply store might find text tips on what’s fresh at farmers markets increase business. It’s possible to allow consumers to text to purchase, text to make reservations, text customer service — the options are endless.
Define your ultimate mobile goal. Use the unique capabilities of mobile to support your existing overall marketing plan. You must have some idea what you want to do with these mobile customers and how you want to integrate the interactivity mobile connectivity gives you. There are many ways text and
mobile applications can be integrated across channels to offer total support of the brand.
For example, one multioutlet retailer not only encourages consumers to purchase via mobile, but it offers mobile customer service support as well. The retailer wants to be available to its customers no matter where they are, and no matter what the hour or the day. Mobile is proving to provide this connectivity and is supporting existing Web sales as well as brick-and-mortar locations. Overall, this retailer is providing an interactive experience across channels for consumers, and they are responding with increased sales and customer loyalty.
Know your target. Mobile marketing is personal. You are messaging an individual — not an address, a business or a family. It is a must to define your “core” customer. Many marketers find that their target is really a subsegment of their overall client base. As a rudimentary rule, 14- to 34-year-olds are most receptive; the 35-plus group will text to make their lives easier and already are using it in their business and their personal lives; and the 50-plus group is using text to communicate with their children and grandchildren, and in their jobs. But these guidelines can differ depending on your application and geographical area.
Plan to promote. If no one knows about your mobile program, it won’t make much difference. To achieve the best results from mobile marketing, you have to let your target group know about the program and show them the benefits of getting involved. There are many ways to market your mobile options, but these must be evaluated as part of an overall campaign. Often, the expense of promoting a mobile application is the deciding factor that precludes adoption of a text-based approach.
Build your subscriber base. For maximum results, create your mobile subscriber base. You know best what will create a buzz among your existing customers and prospects. It can be challenging, but it’s worth the effort as you launch and expand your mobile marketing initiatives.
We recommend building your subscriber base organically as opposed to purchasing a list. It’s one thing to advertise with someone else’s subscriber base if they will allow it, but it’s entirely different to purchase the list.
First, purchasing a list of subscribers is a violation of the Mobile Marketing Association’s Code of Conduct for Mobile Marketing. Second, the knowledge gained in showing customers how your mobile marketing can benefit them is critical. Without it, you could find yourself back at square one.
Create value in brief messages. The consumer should not be able to discern between useful information and the information the brand wants to get across. Text alerts should add either value through an incentive or critical information for the best results. Alerts and experience updates are feasible, but be sure to maintain a balance.
You must be brief because text messages are limited to 160 characters per message. As with all technology, you always are working to the lowest common denominator. In the United States, 80 percent of handsets will not accept more than 160 characters, so it is essential to keep messages concise.
Before you send a message, test the text in-house to make sure it delivers. Also, be careful about overusing text speak to minimize the character count, or you might discover no one understands your message.
Mobile customer service can be the starting point. Text and mobile support for customer service, order confirmation, tracking and information updates are equally important launching points as opposed to marketing. One company I know started out using mobile technology to send order status and customer service messages via text. Once a majority of its customer base alerted the company that they preferred this form of communication, it then begin its mobile marketing efforts.
Select the right partner. References, level of service, technical capabilities to support the way your business works or specific market challenges, and reputation are key factors to evaluate. This is true in almost every industry, but especially in mobile marketing. I am amazed at how many companies still offer mobile services via e-mail considering that it’s against the MMA Code of Conduct, carriers are trying to turn it off and 50 percent of the benefit from mobile is eliminated.
Time your mobile marketing approach. Do not underestimate the importance of timing. Text messages can be sent anywhere and at anytime, but you should take the time to consider when your core customer and prospect groups will be most receptive. This is one of the reasons it is so important to develop your own subscriber base, so you will have the most information about who uses your brand, when and where.
Start now. By the end of 2007, there will be more than 250 million mobile subscribers in the United States. If you’re not already in mobile, you’re already behind in delivering a new intimacy, excitement and choice of service to your customers. Start small and increase your commitment as you find what works.
As with all marketing, mobile also is an iterative process. Work with partners and vendors to develop cooperative campaigns that will allow you to test your mobile approach multiple times to various audiences to learn the right fit. These small tests are very important in discovering what your customers want and expect from your brand.
Steven Kelley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.