Email marketing may be one of the most effective ways to promote products and services, but small business owners are turning to text messages to grow their businesses.
From sending out event announcements to offering special discounts and exclusive perks, text-message marketing enables small businesses to combine successful marketing techniques with mobile and Web technology to interact with consumers in a new way.
Text-message marketing, however, is an art form. Done correctly, it can benefit companies immensely by driving new business and engaging with current customers to increase sales and brand loyalty.
Text-message marketing is about having one-on-one conversations with customers, said Jack Ukropina, head of Mogreet Express, a text-message marketing platform. In a world full of clutter and short attention spans, Ukropina said that text messaging is primarily a different type of channel where businesses really have a chance to grab people's attention.
"It's truly limited to your creativity on how you wish to use it," he said.
One way to creatively run tex- message marketing campaigns is with multimedia integration. "Text-message marketing is not limited to text," Ukropina said. Businesses can use texting to distribute multimedia content by including photos, audio and video, as well as encourage interaction via photo-sharing platforms.
The bigger picture, though, is to provide customers with texts they actually want to read. The goal is to always deliver value and send out valuable content, Ukropina said.
Businesses that have effectively used text-message marketing agreed.
"Text marketing is a great way to target your niche market," said Andrea Ciciriello, director of marketing at Andrea's, a fine dining restaurant at Encore at Wynn Las Vegas. "Be aware of not over doing it and creating content with substance that will interest your consumers."
As a mobile marketing strategist, Mobile Mixed founder Greg Hickman uses text messaging to increase conversions for clients, as well as remind customers about appointments and prevent lost revenue by eliminating no-shows.
"Text marketing is one of the most effective marketing channels that there is. It should deliver messages that are exclusive, have tremendous value from an offer perspective and capitalize on the immediacy of which you'll be connecting with your customer," he said.
Paul Hollowell, owner of LUX Tanning Salon in Dallas, Texas, also uses this marketing principle and has seen tremendous success with text messaging.
It only takes a few seconds to write a text message announcing a sale or inviting people to an event, but Hollowell stressed the importance of planning and crafting messages. "If you want an effective message, you have to spend time creating it."
Part of it is writing the text itself, but Hollowell explained that an equally important consideration is figuring out to whom text messages should be sent and when a business should send them.
For instance, there's nothing more alienating than sending loyal customers exclusive deals that are only available new customers. Using text-message marketing, businesses can market to one group of customers without alienating another. He said, "With texting, we're able to segment our lists. We can send messages to new customers, then send a different message to current customers."
Moreover, by strategizing when texts are sent, text-message marketing can result in an immediate boost in business.
"The nice thing about texting is customers can read it on the go," Hollowell said. Although customers also read emails on the go, text messages have a much higher open rate, giving businesses the leverage to immediately attract customers. They can send a single message on the day of an event, which will then remind customers to come in that very same day. According to Hollowell, this type of success isn't limited to holidays or special events. "If we have a slow day, we'll send out a text and they'll come."
Given the effectiveness of text message marketing, it's critical that businesses not abuse this platform.
"When executing, I'd remind businesses that text messaging is a permission-based marketing channel," Hickman said. This means that businesses must get consent from customers before contacting them with any sort of marketing texts.
Ukropina said, "It's really important that businesses understand that they are accessing the most personal space of their customers' mobile devices."
Hollowell agreed. "It's the same level of engagement as talking or calling them — there better be a good reason. You have to be more cognizant that you're entering a customer's personal space and you have to be respectful."
The first step is respecting the frequency in which messages are sent and letting customers know what to expect. "When a customer signs up, tell them how many [texts] they'll be receiving," he said.
Customers should also be able to stop receiving messages whenever they please. "Always provide a way to opt out in every message," Hollowell advised.
Businesses should make it easy to opt out of messages, not only to avoid annoying customers, but to generate a metric of how a campaign is doing based on opt-out rates.
"Text marketing has allowed us to easily reach a mass market at anytime," Ciciriello said. "Because of the opt-in and opt-out options, we are able to target our niche market who we know are interested in receiving our updates and promotions."