Moving Targets: Why SMS-based Mobile Marketing Still Matters
Mobile marketing isn’t the next big thing: It’s the now big thing, and if your small business isn’t aggressively pursuing consumers via the mobile channel, your competitors undoubtedly are. Not only are mobile campaigns substantially less expensive than marketing initiatives across more traditional media platforms, but mobile reaches consumers wherever they are in real time, leveraging always-connected devices that are always at arm’s length.
Marketers spent about $500 million on mobile efforts in 2009, according to technology advisory firm ABI Research. Moreover, ABI forecasts that spending will experience a compound annual growth rate of more than 40 percent through 2015, galvanized by increasing subscriber interest in mobile application downloads as well as the advent of more interactive apps and services based on the emerging HTML5 web standard, which incorporates features like video playback. Consumer awareness is growing in tandem with marketer focus: Twenty-eight percent of U.S. wireless subscribers say they are “somewhat interested” in opting in for location-based mobile offers, up 2 percent year-over-year, according to a study conducted in mid-2010 by market research firm Harris Interactive. Harris adds that about a third of Americans who’ve already signed up for mobile marketing promotions cite mobile alerts for shaping their decisions to visit a business, and 27 percent credit those alerts for impacting their purchase.
But while it’s imperative that small businesses look to a future where mobile marketing represents a significant chunk of their promotional efforts, they shouldn’t look too far ahead – at least not yet. Despite all the hype around next-gen smartphones like Apple’s iPhone and Motorola’s Droid, the reality is that so-called “feature phones” – i.e., more basic mass-market handsets without all the bells and whistles – make up more than 75 percent of the U.S. mobile device market, meaning the overwhelming majority of American subscribers still can’t access the next-generation applications and multimedia solutions expected to dominate the mobile platform in years to come. That’s why conventional text messaging remains the most effective vehicle to reach the mobile consumer masses for now: As of June 2010, 244 million of 293 million total American wireless subscribers carry SMS-enabled phones.
For small businesses with neither the resources nor the reach to compete with national brands, text promotions are far simpler and much less costly than building a customized mobile app: Just assemble an opt-in customer mailing list, partner with a trusted SMS service provider with the necessary wireless carrier partnerships and technical expertise, and emphasize brief, direct messages that effectively communicate the product or service you’re spotlighting. Promote the hell out of your text efforts – tout them at the point of sale, across other promotional materials and on your social media accounts. Reward customers for signing up – a free soda, perhaps, or a buy-one-get-one-free offer – and continue to offer compelling deals when moving forward. Don’t overwhelm recipients; send no more than two or three messages per month. Make each call to action exclusive to the mobile audience – customers should feel like they’re receiving the best deals in town. And last but not least, do it now: Consumers are already mobile, and the longer businesses wait to follow suit, the longer it seems like they’re merely standing still.
In Part 2 of Moving Targets, we explore the best practices for mobile marketing campaigns.
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