When someone mentions short message service or SMS, an image of teenagers furiously firing text messages back and forth may spring to mind. But, with more mobile phone subscriptions than the number of people in Australia today1, messaging can be a great way to market to consumers and even improve the level of your customer service through the sending of alerts and reminders.
Otherwise known as text messaging, SMS is the sending and receiving of messages via mobile phones. The benefits of this type of marketing include highly targeted and personalised messages, relatively low cost, limited resources and a high response rate.
Is SMS marketing right for your business?
While SMS marketing can work well for many types of businesses, small businesses with a lot of foot traffic, such as restaurants, hair salons or chiropractors, can really benefit from the power of SMS. For example, by building up a phone list of your customers, you can later send out personalised messages reminding them of their next appointment, special promotions and more.
An estimated 98 per cent of SMS messages are read upon receipt, with 83 per cent read within three minutes2, making it a valuable medium for marketing messages. Unlike emails, which are often skipped unread, SMS messages reach the customer directly and while on the go, enticing them to read and take action.
As such, it's important to think about who your customers are and how and when to reach them via SMS. For example, a restaurant could send out a time-sensitive offer just before lunchtime, or a shoe store could use text to notify a customer when an out-of-stock item has arrived.
SMS marketing challenges
SMS marketing isn't without its challenges. Businesses are required to convince customers to hand over their prized mobile numbers - something many customers aren't willing to do easily. Some businesses have found that by offering a special discount in exchange for a text message to a preset number (e.g. "Text the word FREE to 555"), they are able to quickly build a contact list.
Once a list has been built up, it's important to honour the customer / business owner relationship by sending messages sparingly. One way to engage customers through messaging is by offering occasional VIP discounts to your contact list. This strategy helps prevent customers from unsubscribing, whilst allowing you to regularly communicate with them.
SMS: The best kept secret
Despite the many benefits of text marketing for small business, a recent Hipcricket survey found that 80 per cent of those surveyed had never received a marketing message via SMS. Additionally, 57 per cent said they'd be interested in receiving marketing messages if they were offered.3
When creating your SMS campaign, it's important to provide customers with a way to opt out, with each message clearly stating how to unsubscribe. To minimise a widespread exodus, it's important that your messages are relevant, timely and do not overwhelm the customer.
SMS marketing software
The right software can help you deploy campaigns that work. SMS marketing tools, such as those offered by Tatango, allow you to easily reach customers and provide an easy interface that enables you to see results more rapidly.
While SMS marketing has its place for many businesses, it's important to note that text marketing may or may not be the best choice for your particular marketing strategy. By knowing your target market and determining if messages are a good way to reach that market, you'll launch campaigns with maximum impact.
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This article represents the views of the author only and not those of American Express.
Kathleen has a degree in marketing with over 10 years experience in the IT field as a database developer and web designer. As a freelance writer, Kathleen has written for several publications across Australia as well as for various business and hi-tech blogs online.