Getting the message across with text marketing

Woman using a mobile phone - text marketingText message marketing (also called SMS marketing) has been around for over 20 years. Yet many businesses have failed to grasp its potential

It's direct, personal and, properly targeted, can be a great way for small firms to communicate with customers. Read on to find out how texting can help you spread the word about your products and services.

Text messages in your marketing strategy

Take a look at your marketing strategy. Does it contain all the elements you need to connect with your target market in the most cost and time-effective way?

Consumers are a difficult bunch to reach. Our lives are busy, so we don't always have time to sit and read articles, emails or newsletters on a company's offerings.

However, the majority of us do have mobile phones. (Did you know that the UK has more mobile phones than people?) And we keep them with us day and night. SMS marketing, or text marketing, is a personal, direct and cost-effective way to reach your target market.

Opportunities to text your customers

Text message marketing can work for all kinds of businesses.

For instance, restaurants are often quieter at the start of the week. One way to attract more business might be to contact customers, using details collected during previous bookings.

A simple text message - with a compelling offer - could be an excellent way to reach these people. For instance: 'Buy one meal get one free at The Bull on Tuesday. Please call Helen on 01222 123456 to book.'

Or take a plumber who wants to drum up trade before the winter rush. They could send a text message to customers offering 10% off if they have their boiler serviced before September. This attracts new customers and helps to spread work throughout the year.

SMS marketing best practice

It's easy to start building a database, as long as you're disciplined about asking customers for contact details. And, of course, it's vital to capture mobile phone numbers.

Ask for contact details on the telephone, in person and on your website. At the same time, get permission from customers to use their details for marketing purposes.

To avoid falling foul of the Data Protection Act, you must also give them a simple way to unsubscribe from marketing messages.

Once you've started gathering customer details, the key to a successful SMS campaign is simple:

  • Know who you are trying to reach
  • Think about what you want to tell them
  • Be clear what you want them to do and give them a call to action
  • Prepare the content of your text message carefully (then get someone else to check it)
  • If you want them to contact you, tell them how (include your URL or telephone number)
  • If you want to give them an offer, explain it in the message

You can also brand your SMS messages (so they come from your company name, not just your number) or include colour, images, video or sound in an MMS (multimedia message).

These techniques can make your messages stand out and boost conversion rates. But tread carefully; messages containing pictures and sounds may have a higher annoyance factor than simple text messages.

Some statistics suggest that 98% of text messages get read, so SMS offers real opportunities for small businesses. With figures that impressive, you would be mad not to give it a try.

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