SMS marketing, also called text message marketing, is one of the most powerful small business marketing tools to come down the pike in a generation. Why? Simple, nearly everyone has a cell phone, carries it with them everywhere they go, and text message open rates are sky high (>95%). Marketing emails, on the other hand, do well to be opened half the time, and that’s if your copywriter is a whiz with headlines.
It Gets Even Better
Not only are texts almost always read, they’re read right now, in contrast to emails, which, when they’re read at all, average almost 48 hour response times. While nearly 48 hours is too slow for a marketing campaign to rescue your Thursday night dinner business, “right now” is perfect for it. The combination of ubiquity and timeliness has more small business owners discovering the power of text message marketing to not only get the word out to customers, but do so when they sorely need them to come back through the door.
You want to pull in more guests? Nothing succeeds like appealing to both their palette and their wallet. One SMS technique that’s proving to be an overwhelming favorite is the “instant special”, which works equally well for many different establishments, from bars and restaurants to boutiques. It works like this:
Here is one place where text message marketing thrives. If your restaurant is slow in the period between the lunch rush and your dinner, you can “fill in the blanks”, or in this case, your empty tables, with a well chosen special and a compelling text coupon. Send it out immediately after the lunch rush subsides. If it is right on target, and you servers are well schooled in upselling, you can get a nice little business boost, when traditionally you’d have nothing.
All the Time, or Show Some Restraint?
If you’re blasting texts every day, one of two things will happen. The worst outcome is that your customers will ignore or unsbscribe from your list, effectively negating it’s effectiveness. On the other hand, if your offers are truly compelling, they will come to expect them.
While they may not come in for your $4.00 crab stuffed mushrooms every Tuesday at 3:00pm, they will at least on be looking for something great from you, and will show their smiling faces at your door on occasion. Better, they will probably mention those fantastic offers to their family, friends, and business associates. It’s all in the offer and how you present it.
Expect the Unexpected
Text marketing can be equally effective for a wide variety of local businesses, not just restaurants. Virtually any business where you have traditionally slow times effectively use the technique to bring in business, and even better, it can work wonders on those unexpected slow days that can kill your bottom line. After all, you’ve already factored in those slow Tuesday afternoons, but what about when Friday night’s just not shaping up like it should?
Auto service and oil change businesses can also profit handsomely from a judiciously applied SMS campaign to fill in the slow times. For example, if your Saturday afternoon is not seeing the typical full bays, you can send one of your employees out on the street with sign boards, or you can broadcast a text to your loyal customers with a half price oil change.
Another great use of SMS for auto care providers, and others is for weather related services. For example, on the first really hot day of the season, you can send out a special on an A/C service or cooling system flush. The same techniques works well on the first cold day also. A friendly reminder about the effects of old antifreeze on their expensive engine, coupled with an attractive special is normally enough to bring in at least a handful of anxious drivers seeking t ward off disaster.
Own a marina or tanning salon? Sure those are disparate businesses, but they both have one thing in common, demand rises when the weather is nice enough to take your shirt off. On the first really nice day of spring, it’s time to fire up the text message marketing machine. A “Get ‘er in the Water” special, or 5 for 4 tanning package on that day will nearly always create a flood of phone calls and visits.
In the marina example, you’re normally just trying to get maintenance appointments scheduled. It’s one of those things people know they need to get done, but don’t seem to get around to, unless they get a friendly reminder, coupled with an incentive. Of course, you’ll use their visit to sell them all manner of other things, too.
Tanning salons are a perfect fit for text message marketing. Their customer base falls exactly into the demographic that most uses cell phones and texting, as you’re no doubt well aware if you’ve ever seen a pair of teens or twenty-somethings madly exchange text messages from across the room (or even the table), when a spoken word would have more than sufficed.
Why Does SMS Marketing Work?
Th aforementioned open rate of 95%+, for one, but it goes far beyond that. Texting and mobile devices are now well engrained into the American lifestyle. According to the latest studies, statistics more than bear out what parents everywhere could have told marketers 5 years ago; texting is more than just here to stay, it’s taken over as the preferred communication method.
- There are 5.9 billion mobile subscribers (87 percent of the world’s population) More people use mobile devices than toothbrushes!
- Mobile advertising revenue doubled from 2010 to 2011, and is predicted to explode to 8 times its 2011 level by 2015 (Gartner research) That shows consumers are accepting of mobile marketing, or at the very least, marketers are seeing a heck of a return from it!
- 70% of 17 year-olds text everyday (2010 Pew Internet Study)
- More than 7 in 10 (71%) of cell-phone owning parents of teens 12-17 say they send and receive text messages on their cell phones (2010 Pew Internet Study)
- 8 trillion text messages are predicted to be sent world wide in 2012
- 83.3% of advertisers used SMS marketing in 2011, an increase from 58.3% in 2010. This illustrates the medium’s effectiveness.
Stay Tuned In
Another powerful advantage of texting is that you know exactly how well a specific offer works, and you get that feedback very quickly. That kind of info allows you to fine tune your marketing campaigns and maximize your ROI. As with any sort of marketing, through testing is the key to complete success, Test everything, refine and repeat. This includes the offer, the headline, the time the text is sent, and virtually any other possible variable. Your mobile marketing provider will (at least they should) carefully track this and report what works and why.
How to Get Their Number and Permission to Use It?
One of the most effective and simple methods to do this is to offer a coupon on your website and a mobile coupon in your establishment. For example, you can have various print media, such as posters and table tents with an offer customers can redeem by texting a keyword to a specific number. It is similar to offering an incentive for an email opt-in.
Make sure you have your offer attractively placed where it can benefit both existing customers and bring in new ones as well. Put it in the window or on other outdoor advertising, such as billboards or other promotion methods you may be using.
This is very effective and will not only bring in your existing customers more often, you’ll reach new ones as well.
The Next BIG Thing in Mobile Marketing? Video Messages
While text message marketing is highly effective, trends point to more mobile marketing messages being video messages. While people love online video, and there is no doubt video marketing works (Just ask YouTube), there are solid reasons why, as a local business owner, you should stick with traditional SMS for now.
1) Deliverability – While video sure looks slick on your customer’s smart phone, those without smart phones just don’t get it. Your aim is to deliver your message to as many potential customers as possible, so stick to text.
2) Text is Easy and Fast – While some folks can create a compelling 20 second video message in a few minutes, most business owners simply can’t make that happen, but they can crank out a great text marketing offer and send it out in about 30 seconds. More easy-to-use tools, such as Vimeo, will come down the pike to help on this score, and you can re-use video messages with minor changes, but it will never be as quick and easy to make an on the spot video offer as it is to create and send a text.
3) Cost Effective – Texts are cheaper to send than video and have very high response rate, meaning the ROI on marketing dollars spent is hard to beat, and that’s what is important to most business owners.
It’s the Law
As with anything in our society today, there are some important legal ramifications from text message marketing. For example, all marketing text communications must include an unsubscribe, or stop, similar to what’s required with email marketing messages. Check your federal, state, and local laws, and work with your mobile marketing provider to ensure you stay on the right side of the statutes.
SMS Marketing is the Small Business Owner’s Friend Indeed
All the evidence points to the fact that SMS marketing is one of the best friends a local business owner can have. It’s ability to drive customers through the doors virtually at will, and keep them engaged is hard to beat, and it’s easy implementation and tracking ability will combine to keep you, as a business owner hooked once you try it, too.
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