SMS Marketing: Trend or Trouble

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Did you know that in the U.S. we send over 3.5 billion texts a day? I didn’t until a few months ago when I read, “Text-Message Marketing”. The article explains the rules on how to get started with SMS marketing. When I started the article I was completely against the whole idea. A few years ago I participated in a text message contest for “One Tree Hill.” We were allowed to pick which guy one of the characters could end up with. Who wouldn’t participate?!

After entering the contest I continued to receive weekly texts nagging me about some promotion. Needless to say, I loathe this form of marketing. However after reading this article and learning that 97% of people who receive SMS marketing messages open them I no longer disliked the idea. I could see it’s potential.

Since I was still on the fence, I turned to the very reliable PRBC Twitter community to start a discussion and gather their thoughts. Here’s what some of them said:

Heather Dueitt: I’ve done some successful campaigns though. mainly around txt to win and we aren’t spamming them afterwards. #prbc
Jason Keith: I’ll never be ok with text marketing, and I’ll never sign up for it. Feel like my phone is my own private sanctuary.
Lindsay: If I’m paying for a text, it had better be from a welcome source. Send me mktg e-mail, that’s what my cberry is for. #prbc
Vince Pickett: Mobile has to be part of marketing mix (DMA) #prbc

From Vince’s link we learn the top 3 categories of mobile offers: 1. Entertainment/Music/Video, 2. Food/Beverage and Telecommunications/Mobile and 3. Beauty/personal care. This doesnt surprise me, it reiterates the importance of knowing your target audience before implementing a SMS marketing campaign (or any campaign) and how to reach them. In my coffee talk with Mike Schaffer, he explained a great SMS marketing plan takes time and effort to succeed. He found that when implementing the plan, it was more difficult to inform the audience about it versus getting them to sign up.

When it’s all said and done, I believe SMS marketing can be essential for some, not all, marketing/PR campaigns. And it’s not just for the big guys like “American Idol”, Dunkin Donuts, or McDonald’s; small companies can benefit too.  I think we haven’t seen more companies taking advantage of this form of marketing because the laws surrounding it are vague.  Also companies need to make sure their consumers don’t feel they are being spammed or taken advantage of.

Overall, in order for SMS marketing to be successful, you have to earn the trust of the consumer. Remember the beginning of e-mail marketing? I hated giving my e-mail to retailers and now I do it at the drop of a hat to the places I trust. Sure I may delete 70% of those e-mails but if I really don’t want them I can unsubscribe with a simple click.

It’s simple: gain the trust by building the relationship. Like the Times article says, offer the consumer something valuable, an exclusive VIP pass, or privileged information. Make them feel they are on the “inside.” Ask for their opinion. Isn’t the customer always right? Also opting out should be just as easy as signing up. Don’t make the consumer do the extra leg work to quit when it only took a few seconds to start.

So I’m curious to hear what you have to say. Have you participated in a text message contest? What were your likes or dislikes? Have you implemented an SMS marketing campaign? What would you add as pros or cons to this relatively untapped form of marketing?

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