Marketers: Do U Txt? If you don’t use SMS — those 160-character messages exchanged on mobile phones — for your marketing now, you probably will before the year 2014. That’s the prediction from market research giant Gartner, which believes t hat global mobile or smart phone access to the Internet will surpass computer access by that time.
Text messages work on everything from the most basic handsets to feature-rich smartphones, so they’re the lowest common denominator in terms of sending immediate information to prospective or current customers. The most popular usage for marketing texts now is mobile coupons and other incentives that drive consumers to bricks-and-mortar retail stores or restaurants.
SMS text messages are usually read within minutes of being sent, so they’re the most likely to trigger immediate action. As Dallas retail consultant Dick Roth puts it: “Got a theme park that’s not full on a sunny day? A restaurant that’s oversupplied with kid’s meals? A store where you need to move a lot of T-shirts to make room for holiday merchandise? Sending a text message to consumers in the immediate area is a great way to get people in the door right away. It’s the 21st century equivalent of a last-minute ad on the local radio station, which is what my father’s generation of advertising experts would have done.”
There are four keys to successful SMS text message campaigns, he adds.
- Make sure that all mobile communications are permission-based. “Customers have to opt in. Not only are there stiff fines and penalties for spamming mobile users, but customers simply don’t like it, and they will be vocal – online and in person – about their displeasure.”
- Mobile messages don’t stand alone. They’re part of a multi-channel marketing campaign that includes other digital media like email, social media, web, and traditional media like radio, TV, print, and PR.
- Compliance with all regulations for your industry, as well as CAN-SPAM and emerging FCC rules.
- Consider purchasing or leasing a short code to enable consumer interaction with your brand. “A short code allows a host of possible applications, from charitable fund-raising to voting on reality TV shows like American Idol. But they are also the basis for many brand promotions, too.” Information on how to get and use common short codes is available on the Common Short Code Administration website.
Compliance rules for SMS campaigns include:
- Don’t promote the service as “free” if premium fees are associated with the service, even if you aren’t the entity charging the fees.
- All advertising and promotional material must clearly indicate if the service is a subscription, along with an opt-out notice.
- Service pricing information must be clearly and conspicuously indicated.
- Subscription terms and billing intervals must be specified and disclosed to the consumer.
Don’t panic – all of this doesn’t have to be in the basic 160-character text. Just as with Twitter, a short link to a website or landing page with all of the disclosure data can be included in the 160-character message.
Roth adds, “I can’t stress enough how important it is for any SMS campaign to be based on customer subscription or opt-in. Don’t buy lists of phone numbers. Just don’t do it. Other than that, this brand new medium can be as creative and useful as any other, especially when combined with other communication channels.”