text-message-marketingText message marketing, what does it all mean?
The emergence and adoption of mobile marketing among businesses seems to mirror that of social media – everyone is talking about it; few businesses are using it; and of those using it, very few are using it well. According to the 2010 U.S. Local Mobile Advertising and Promotions Forecast, text message marketing spend was $90 million in 2009 and is expected to hit $6.52 billion in the next four years. Yet despite this rapid growth, text message marketing, particularly text message coupons are still very much in their infancy. Although most businesses are fully aware of the marketing potential of business sms couponing (namely its ability to reach customers anywhere, at anytime, with any message) many marketers still have not found effective ways of harvesting that potential and transforming it into sales. For this reason, we are providing a list of some of the potential opportunities and challenges that marketers will need to acknowledge if they are going to have a chance at harnessing the power of mobile couponing.

Apps are cool, but does your audience really need an app for that?
Since apps are the hottest trend right now, the first question that many marketers want to ask when stepping into the mobile arena is how they can “get an app for that.” But the truth is apps have an incredibly limited reach as only 17 percent of phones are smartphones. Meanwhile, virtually all handsets are capable of sending and receiving SMS or “text” messages. The simplicity of text messaging, along with its reach (SMS is available on nearly 100 percent of the 288 million mobile phones in the United States and 5 billion mobile phones around the world), makes it the most effective medium for sending mobile coupons.

Give a reason for your customers to join the club, and make it simple
Text message coupons are permission-based so you need to make sure that you give your customers a good reason to opt-in and receive your deals. One way to do this is to offer customers an incentive while they are already engaged with your product. An invitation to text a keyword to a short code is a welcome diversion when waiting in line to buy a movie ticket or if you’re sitting in a car wash. This is a great opportunity to offer your customers an incentive for receiving your coupons. However, make sure that the short code that you’re using is simple and easy to remember. Twitter’s short code, for example, is 40404 – isn’t that much easier to remember than a random string of numbers like 19520? We tried to keep it simple, the Call-Em-All short code is 292929.

When it comes to the keyword, be certain that you choose something that has some sort of relationship to your brand. For instance, a movie theater could use the keyword “Boxoffice” or “popcorn”. You want to make sure that customers associate the keyword with whatever product or service you offer. And again, keep it short and simple – avoid random numbers, hyphens, underscores, or any other symbols that customers might forget to insert.

Timing is everything
If you want your customers to act on your mobile coupon, you need to catch them on the move and create a sense of urgency. Unlike a print coupon that you clip out of the Sunday paper and throw in a drawer for another time, or an e-mail coupon that you save in your inbox until a later date, mobile coupons need to expire within a manner of hours instead of days, weeks, or months. A successful mobile coupon is designed so that customers are compelled to use them immediately.

If you want your customers to grab a burger on their lunch break, for example, you should send mobile coupons at around 10:00 a.m. – right when their stomachs are starting to growl. And to add a sense of immediacy to the deal, the coupon should expire at the end of the day or, better yet, after lunchtime. Check out our case study, highlighting how one of our customers used text marketing to boost sales in his restaurant.

Start a conversation
Another advantage that text coupons have over apps is the ability to communicate directly with your customers and empower them to interact with your business. Anytime a customer opts-in to receive your mobile coupons, it’s important to thank them for inviting you to earn their business. Auto-replies are a must when sending text coupons as they are the first step toward creating more meaningful and advantageous customer relationships.

One way to start a conversation with your customers is to ask them what kinds of deals they are interested in, rather than just pushing a random deal on them. For example, a burger place can send a text that says, “Lunch deal of the day – would you rather have a free burger or two free side items with the purchase of a combo meal? Text ‘burger’ or ‘side’ to vote.” By asking your customers what they want, you aren’t just learning more about them, you’re creating a thread of conversation that will invariably lead to a more loyal customer base.

Making the most of your mobile coupons

  • Text message offers are easy to implement and offer the best return – don’t waste your time (and money) on fancy things like apps, unless there is a compelling business case.
  • Reward your customers’ loyalty by providing them with exclusive deals and they will reward your business with their unwavering dedication.
  • Activate your current customers to engage with new customers. Social media sites aren’t the only ones capable of turning a marketing message into a viral campaign. A well-crafted and specifically-timed text message coupon can encourage regular customers to bring in first-timers.
  • Keep business booming by offering great deals during slow nights, weeks, or even months. Don’t let inclement weather or a sudden downturn deter you from offering your customers great deals – often times, a well-timed coupon can give your business the jump start it needs.
  • Use text as a vehicle to ask your customers what they want – they’ll be more than happy to tell you.

The redemption rate of mobile coupons is nearly 25 percent higher than printed internet coupons and roughly 10 times greater than mail or newspaper distributed coupons. Mobile coupons can do more than just increase sales for your business, they can also create more meaningful, lasting relationships with your customers.