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SMS Marketing: How to Harvest Your Customers' Mobile Details

by Bill Hilton  |  
September 8, 2011

In this article, you'll learn...

  • How to obtain customers' mobile numbers for SMS marketing
  • SMS campaign pitfalls to avoid
  • Why SMS marketing is more effective than email marketing

SMS marketing is a huge growth area for businesses of all sizes, and it's not hard to see why. It's cheap (texts cost just a few pence, especially if bought in bulk), and it's easy to track return on investment.

But most of all, SMS marketing is direct and personal. Look at it this way: If you send your customers a marketing email, it's probably just one of dozens they'll receive that day. Chances are that only a few of them will open your email, meaning you'd need to send it to thousands of potential customers to make the exercise worthwhile.

That's not the case with SMS. Most people receive relatively few text messages from businesses (we'll look at why in a moment), and it's very hard to ignore a text when it arrives.

If you send 10,000 emails in a marketing campaign, only a few hundred will likely be read—even if you have a brilliant headline, great copy, and a must-have offer. But if you text 10,000 people, you can be pretty sure that nearly all your recipients will read your message. If your conversion rate for SMS marketing is close to your conversion rate for emails, that translates to 10 or 20 times as much business.

Interested? Before you start collecting customers' mobile numbers for SMS marketing, you need three essentials in place: a great offer, the right technology, and most important—your customers' trust.

A Question of Trust

There's a reason most people don't get as many marketing texts as they get marketing emails. They see their phone numbers as more personal and more valuable than their email addresses, so they are more careful about whom they trust with their number compared with their email address.

The issue of trust is the great advantage that lies at the heart of SMS marketing. Because people are reluctant to give out their numbers, few businesses have those numbers, and so fewer marketing texts are sent compared with marketing emails. The result is that customers are unlikely to get bored with marketing texts the way they've become bored by marketing emails.

But trust is also the greatest obstacle that you, as a would-be SMS marketer, have to overcome. How do you persuade customers and potential customers to hand over their mobile numbers?

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Bill Hilton is a marketing communications specialist and trainer based in the UK. TextMagic, one of his longest-standing clients, is a provider of SMS marketing software.

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  • by Avishek Thu Sep 8, 2011 via web

    What is the efficasy of sms marketing, if you receive atleast 30 sms/day from real estate agents to sauna belt companies. In India these sms`s have became a meneace, which now pisses of customers which intrudes your personal space(i.e. your mobile inbox).
    In such a senario how can we make it more effective and increase conversion rate.

  • by Carmia Thu Sep 8, 2011 via web

    Nice article - don't see many on good ol' text messaging anymore.

    While I agree that SMS can be effective (in South Africa we see great success among lower LSM groups and especially when using USSD), I think that it - like email - is competing in an overcrowded inbox space. Unfortunately, many companies that require you to submit a mobile number for service delivery are then targeting their databases with excessive promotional and marketing content. It's annoying. And yes, SMS open rates are high, but for the most part I think that's because you have to open an SMS for the new message alert to be removed from your screen. Don't ask me why, but personally it seems easier on email to delete and on SMS to just open and delete (as opposed to just deleting). So yes, SMS'es attain higher open rates, I'd like to see more on what the conversion rates in this medium are.

  • by Jeff Thu Sep 8, 2011 via web

    From my perspective, unless there is a very clear and positive "Opt-In", SMS marketing is a horrible idea!

    1) Many people don't have unlimited texting with their cell plans, so why would we want to annoy them by sending commercials that might cost them money?

    2) Most people view text messages in a different light than emails, and will often stop what they are doing to read one. How annoying would that be to stop everything just to read a commercial?

    3) We all have spam filters to control unwanted emails, but not for text messages. In other words, as consumers (and we are all consumers), this now puts us at the mercy of marketers. (And yeah, there might be some form of 'opt-out', but that doesn't seem to be in place at this time).

    4) If the goal of marketing is to make a positive impact with potential customers, why would you possibly send something that would more than likely annoy them?

    The bottom line is that I think this form of marketing is a really bad idea. In fact, I even blogged about this back in January ( when the holiday "offers" that came by SMS were becoming overwhelming.

    My advice: Don't do it unless your customers and prospects clearly agree to opt-in.

  • by Tom Thu Sep 8, 2011 via web

    I run a small business and found that SMS text message marketing has help more then any other marketing I have ever run. It's cheap, ( a penny a message!) and easy for me to do on my own. I 100% agree through that it should only be opt in, and that they can unsubscribe at anytime. If this gets abused this will become spam like everything else!

  • by Scott Fri Sep 9, 2011 via web

    Very interesting thoughts above. I have not seen it effectively used in my market, but think there are real possibilities if done right.

    Because text messages are viewed in a different light than email messages, personally I feel we bear a greater responsibility to clearly explain the opt-in and ability to opt-out. Secondly, there needs to be greater value/reward for our customers to opt-in. Maybe a higher tier of reward than your standard email target list.

  • by Jeff Fri Sep 9, 2011 via web

    I think we need to put ourselves in the place of our clients and prospects in ALL of our marketing efforts. What would appeal to us as individuals? Certainly opting-in for SMS is critical, but even beyond that, our marketing efforts need to be all about the client or prospect. What's in it for them?

    As an example, I've been using Groupon (as a consumer, not as a marketerer). I opted in and was receiving notices on my phone every day just as I had expected. After a while, though, I realized that they rarely had anything I was looking for at the time they sent it, and it was becoming annoying. So, I changed my account settings to stop receiving the notices, but I can still login whenever I wish so I can see what's available. Now if I'm looking for a place to eat, or a particular product, I login and see what's availabe at the time that I want/need it. (I realize this isn't ideal from a marketer's perspective, but it does make their efforts all about ME, which should be the goal). I'm going to be far more likely to buy from someone who doesn't annoy me!

    And that, to me, is the ideal sort of messaging process. It provides all of the information I want, but I get to choose if/when I want to take the time to review it.

    How much better than receiving a text message (in 160 characters or less) that says something like: "Buy my widget and, if you do, I'll take 20% off the retail price..." I may have no interest in that widget - and I probably won't if I'm one of the 3000 who receive the text where the marketer is hoping for a 1% or 2% response rate.

  • by Noelle Fri Sep 9, 2011 via web

    Online sign up pages are a great way to collect consumer information. This is a great article, a lot of mobile marketers have trouble figuring out how to collect mobile numbers since the industry is fairly "new."

  • by K Patrice Williams Sun Sep 11, 2011 via web

    I run a Marketing Company and I've seen the effectiveness of SMS Marketing in Resturants, but not for B2B. I would love to see a B2B case study.

  • by Steve Wed Oct 5, 2011 via web

    I run an SMS service in the US. So far I have not had any problems with any of my clients subscribers opting-out or complaining. I know other operators that have had bad experiences with opt-outs and spammy type of messaging.

    The key is to treat the subscribers exactly the way you want to be treated. Push this down their throats and you won't have that customer long. Mobile Consumers are a different breed an you market to them on their terms.

    I would like to see a B2B case study on this as well.

  • by Isabella Fri Mar 2, 2012 via web

    Hi, I am a Chinese student and I want to get your perimission to use your article to finish my homework which asks me to translate an English article. I am apreciate for ur article and agree with you, thx very much!

  • by Donna Burdett Fri Feb 15, 2013 via web

    I agree that SMS text message marketing can be an effective marketing strategy, I think that, like email marketing - is competing in an overcrowded inbox space.

  • by Donna Burdett Thu Feb 28, 2013 via web

    This is why a service like Blend SMS Marketing is so reliable and effective. It allows users to call one number, from any type of phone; say a promotion or marketing phase and get a SMS marketing message back. Businesses would never have to send generic messages to their customers. They would get the message of the day and advertisers would be able to customize their text messages based on what they really want to promote.

  • by Marie Aubert Tue Sep 13, 2016 via web

    I’m sure that SMS marketing is really running thing, which could help in business. Most consumers of my company order that service known as send and bulk messages. In fact, people read text messages more often than checking email. With the help of SMS informing it’s possible to advertise the product or service company offers. So, when you understand that your subscribers will be happy to know about new events, special offers etc. you should connect this service and increase your sales. This feature is successful, but actually every subscriber should have a right to deny subscription anytime.

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