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Why 'Free' Text Messages Will Cement Mobile as a Critical Component of the Marketing Mix

by Matt Silk  |  
September 21, 2010

With short message service (SMS) reaching 5 billion mobile phones around the world, marketers can no longer ignore the significance of this marketing channel. Applications may be making a lot of noise in the mobile space right now, but the truth is only 17% of mobile users are capable of accessing the Internet from their mobile devices. Texting, however, is almost universal.

Although many top brands have adopted SMS-based mobile marketing, some consumers are hesitant to take advantage of those mobile marketing programs. The fees associated with branded messages are a key factor in that hesitation.

Most mobile subscribers have plans that restrict the number of texts they can send and receive per month. If their messages exceed that number, they are charged exorbitant rates. Some consumers have adopted an unlimited-text-messaging package for a flat rate, but the majority does not have that type of plan—and it's the majority of customers we want to reach.

You did read that correctly above when I said "send and receive," as in US consumers' message plans typically count both incoming and outgoing texts. That is not common practice in Europe and Asia, where they have a "Sender Pays" model.

Understandably, some brands fear that the US pricing model will lead to limited adoption of mobile programs among customers. If it's going to cost consumers 25 cents to receive a mobile promotion, they may think twice about texting in to get it.

FTEU to the Rescue

So what is a brand to do if it would like to target a user base that may not have unlimited texting plans? Charging customers a quarter each time you send them a note is a quick way to have them unsubscribe from your list—and once you lose them, they most likely won't come back.

A good solution to that common mobile-marketing dilemma is FTEU (free to the end-user) messaging, which allows the carrier or a brand to pick up the tab on messaging so the marketing texts don't count against the customer's monthly bucket of messages. And for those customers who use an a la carte plan, FTEU means there is no charge on their monthly bill for those messages.

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Matt Silk is senior vice-president of Waterfall Mobile, a company that provides enterprise marketers with a mobile and social marketing platform to increase customer acquisition and strengthen loyalty.

LinkedIn: Matt Silk

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  • by Howie at Sky Pulse Media Tue Sep 21, 2010 via web

    I think SMS and 2-D Bar Code (like JagTag) are very powerful for call to action campaigns. They offer immediate gratification and can be used to launch a mobile user into, video, offers, games, mobile web.

    What SMS should not be used for is push advertising which most loyalty programs are. If one signs up for a ton of these then SMS gets cluttered like email and everything gets ignored. Even worse users get pissed. I think if one uses Google Voice where messages get saved in email format that might be different.

    The key is conditioning users to engage. If I know that when I go to Best Buy for example I can send an SMS for specials unique to me I would do it every visit. Do I want an SMS back from Best Buy every day or week..not likely. Let me start the engagement.

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