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Setting up a Mobile Marketing Program: A Primer

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Quick—is your marketing mobile? Can your message reach your on-the-go audience and can your in-motion customer interact with you wherever they are?

In the past, as long as you were advertising out-of-home, you could have answered "yes." But today, unless your media plan contains a significant amount of mobile-compatible mediums, you are not optimizing your reach.

The mobile phone is everywhere and goes everywhere, and consumers are increasingly comfortable using all of its features, including text messaging, Web browsing, and more. Text messaging, for example, continues to grow exponentially year after year—and it's no longer just a teen or tween thing.

Creative advertisers recognize the potential for adding mobile marketing to their mix, especially for products and services that appeal to a mobile, on-the-go audience. For example, two major restaurant chains in Houston recently added a text messaging component to their point-of-purchase displays and in-store signage, as a way of engaging with interested customers, promoting new offerings, and rewarding those who want a deeper relationship with the brand.

In fact, text message programs are ideal for extending the reach and "stickiness" of your existing campaigns, and for enabling interested consumers to opt in for more information.


All advertisers have loyal communities that want to know more about the marketing message. Many in those communities would interact more with your brand or service if it were easier for them to do so. Texting works—it's quick and easy for customers and it can be added to existing marketing efforts with little effort and very low costs, if you have the right text-to-shortcode provider.

Let's look in greater detail at the restaurant examples I mentioned.

Popeyes Chicken & Biscuits recently conducted a text messaging campaign in its Houston-area stores that rewarded customers with a ready-to-use coupon sent to their mobile phone. Promoted via outside signage and window clings, the campaign was designed to encourage consumers to try a new chicken sandwich by awarding them a free drink and fries.

Over the course of the campaign, an average of more than 100 people a day texted the word "popeyes" to the shortcode that had been set up, and in return they received a reply text that served as the "coupon."

Many of these customers also responded to the Web link that was included in the reply text, increasing the value of the connection between Popeyes and its loyal customers.

The Popeyes effort was designed to reach people right there in the store—and provide immediate gratification. It was basically a reward for trying something different and new.

The Texas-based units of Red Robin Gourmet Burgers are using text messaging to engage consumers, too, but in a slightly different way.

Signage throughout the restaurants and buttons worn by servers encourage customers to text in and join the Red Robin VIP club. Those who do, receive a reply text with a link to special microsite where they can print a voucher good for $5 off their next meal. They also receive advance news of upcoming promotions and other goodies, if they choose, all via text.

The value? Let's say you work near a Red Robin restaurant and you go there once a month or so for lunch with friends. On your most recent visit, you joined the VIP club via text messaging. Now, a few weeks later, around 10 a.m. on a Friday, you receive another text with an offer for a free appetizer. Where are you going to go to lunch that day? Chances are good it will be Red Robin.

Here's another example: ENVY magazines in Houston and Dallas cover the entertainment, dining, and nightlife scene. ENVY uses text messaging as an "opt in" for subscribers and others who want up-to-date information on local events, special "invitation only" parties, and restaurant and fashion boutique recommendations.

Setting up a text messaging program works like this:

Text-to-shortcode providers create unique word "tags" that can be used on any advertisement. When texted to the specified shortcode—in our case it's 78247—the provider delivers information via a text message back to the consumer about the brand or service.

The advertiser specifies the content of the text message—it could be a Web address, a phone number or a promotional code, a coupon, an "opt in" for future information, or just more details about the product.

With some providers, texters also have a message about that advertiser saved for them in an online inbox.

It's important to make certain that the text platform you use is paid for by the advertisers, not the consumers. If customers wind up with extra charges on their mobile phone bill, they aren't happy about it. So texting shouldn't be seen as a revenue generator by itself, nor should be it viewed as an extra that should cost. It should be a value-add paid for by the company as a way to assist consumers who want more information.

After all, you wouldn't charge a person who visited your Web site, would you? Or one who listened to a radio ad?

Another important caveat: Make certain that the text platform you use allows consumers total control over the interaction—no selling of mobile numbers, no future spamming. At qtags, we never release mobile numbers to anyone, not even the clients who pay for the service. In that way, the consumer is protected and text messaging remains an avenue that individuals control—it's not just another way to push unwanted messages to people.

With the right strategy and a little creativity, mobile marketing can help any business engage more effectively with on-the-go consumers who truly want to learn more about their products or services.


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Allison Gower is cofounder and president of qtags text, a Houston-based provider of SMS and text messaging programs for advertisers. To learn more, go to www.allaboutqtags.typepad.com or www.qtags.com.

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