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The Role Of SMS In The Digital Marketing Mix

Increasing customer engagement drives revenue, as every multichannel marketer knows. And email marketing continues to hold its own as one of the most profitable and proven digital marketing channels for attracting new customers, building engagement with existing customers and propelling one-time buyers to become repeat, loyal customers.

In the new omnichannel economy, sustaining and optimizing proven email marketing tactics — re-mailing, promoting special offers and coupons, reminding consumers about abandoned shopping carts — is only 80% of the marketer’s task. The other 20% represents an opportunity for the marketer to spice up his or her programs to appeal to the consumer in fresh and compelling ways, via the most popular channels. This is where SMS comes in — as an extension of your existing email marketing program.

Fortunately there’s a tool in your consumer’s hand – or your pocket or purse — that can transform the ways in which your brand interacts and engages with customers. It’s a mobile phone, or possibly a tablet. These mobile devices hold the key to more successful email and cross-channel marketing campaigns.

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SMS — Not Just For Millennials

Nearly half the world’s population use mobile devices. Ninety-one percent of U.S. consumers own mobile phones, 95% of which have SMS or text-messaging capability. With mobile use reaching 6 billion subscribers in 2011 according to The International Telecommunications Union and continuing to grow at an exponential rate, ignoring mobile as a marketing channel is clearly a risk.

SMS, or Short Message Service — also known as text messaging — is a powerful extension for email marketers seeking to engage prospects and consumers. A compelling 95% of text messages are read, 90% within three minutes of receipt. Coupons sent via SMS are eight times more likely to be redeemed than those sent via conventional email campaigns. The open-and read rate, coupled with the extremely low cost of SMS, delivers a double boost for marketers seeking to maintain engagement via relevant, timely and welcomed messages. Getting started is easy.

  1. Think of SMS as part of your extended email campaign strategy. Build SMS into campaigns from the beginning, and you’ll see faster and more substantial results.
  2. Consider using Text-to-Join campaigns to accelerate customer acquisition. Text-to-join campaigns give consumers an exciting new way to opt in and out of email programs from their mobile phones, and give you a way to confirm email addresses easily.
  3. SMS messages can transform transactional interactions. Use SMS to send order confirmations, shipping alerts and other service-focused messages. But don’t stop there — be sure to personalize these messages with coupons, account balances or updates on VIP program status; even geo-based data to lure shoppers to brick-and-mortar locations — these are all viable techniques. And don’t forget to add cross- and up-sell offers.

As with other elements of your marketing program, you’ll want to use segmentation with SMS. Segmentation improves relevance, and it’s the key enabler behind geo-targeting efforts. For example, segment your opt-in list based on area codes or time zones and send welcome messages about contests, flash sales or local store events.

SMS lends itself particularly well to contests, coupons, polls and time-or-locale-sensitive deals. Rewards are especially tempting to consumers; text-to-win contests, location-based coupons and other messages well-suited to SMS add valuable consumer insight to data in your customer database. This increases your ability to deliver more personalized and relevant campaigns to the right customer at the right moment.

Dos And Don’ts

As with all push marketing, SMS marketing should follow a few simple guidelines:

  1. Ensure you have opt-in permission from your customers. Gather permission by sprinkling SMS teaser opportunities in print or TV ads, signage, even in point-of-purchase displays in brick-and-mortar stores. Make it easy for consumers to sign up for SMS messages.
  2. Always include an unsubscribe option. Send one with every message and if a consumer selects the option, delete them immediately. You’ll have other opportunities to lure them back.
  3. Beware additional fees — some customers do not have unlimited texting plans. Ensure they know additional fees may apply if they’ve exceeded their texting limits.


Cross-Channel Approaches

The most important thing to remember about SMS is it should be part of your cross-channel marketing strategy. Sure, it works as a stand-alone approach, but a number of integrated marketing platforms support the SMS option.

When you’re focused on customer acquisition and list building, don’t forget to integrate mobile and SMS into your campaign strategy. SMS is a building block for list growth and customer engagement. It takes advantage of the ubiquitous nature of mobile technology, and appeals especially to key buyer demographics, e.g., younger consumers who are always-on with mobile technologies.

As an extension of your existing email marketing programs, adding an SMS component is easy, inexpensive and offers opportunities to drive engagement, build lists and capture insights into consumer behavior. Don’t forget mobile in your next campaign, and where you can, make it SMS-based. It’s a message consumers and marketers will be happy to receive.


Damian Trzebunia is Product Marketing Manager for Bronto Software (www.bronto.com).  He drives product-focused communications for Bronto. Trzebunia has spent the last 10 years marketing enterprise software products within startup, high-growth and well-established companies. He can be reached at damain.trzebunia@bronto.com.

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