The SMS Marketing Blog

[ By Ez Texting ]

Mobile Marketing is Going Hyper-Local

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Mobile marketing has taken huge strides towards fulfilling the potential of geo-targeting technology, allowing local businesses to make the most of their sphere of influence. The only way for geo-location techniques to go is inward, reaching ever-more specific parts of the local economy.

Mobile marketing is doing just that, placing an increasing emphasis on attracting foot traffic to brick and mortar retail outlets. The industry is now able to service international brands with bespoke campaigns in multiple locations using region-specific methods capable of targeting users to a single square foot. 

This ultimate refinement of mobile marketing tactics is a real game changer. A heady cocktail of beacons, GPS, location information gathered from existing interactions and other geolocaters is ushering in a new era of hyper-local mobile marketing so precise it’s hard to imagine how it could improve further.

Having such devastatingly effective mobile marketing tactics available at the local level is helping small businesses maximize their efficiency on tight budgets. For a relatively low cost, small businesses can quickly, reliably reach the widest audience they can serve, via a combination of in-app messaging, web ads, text messages, MMS and push notifications. 

So what next? With such sophistication already on display, where targeted mobile marketing could go now is anybody’s guess. Some mobile marketers are considering adjusting their services to allow for weather, which would let marketers better judge the prime time to pitch discounts. It might not be relevant to every business, but purveyors of ice cream or rooftop cocktails could really use knowing if it’s about to rain the moment they’ve sent their 50% discount coupon to hundreds of people. Other local data like traffic conditions may also begin to play a part in geo-location technology. 

The tools at our disposal allows imaginative approaches to marketing to flourish, unencumbered by technological limits. Nobody can say for certain what the next few years hold for mobile marketing - that’s why it’s so exciting. But if the rapid rate of change we’ve seen take place over the past decade continues, we can be confident that the mobile landscape of 2025 will look very different to the one we see today.

Pace is Using SMS to Tell People When Their Bus is Arriving

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The speedy reliability of the text message has proven useful to all sorts of businesses. As a long term mobile marketing strategy, SMS messaging is capable of nurturing the loyalty of existing customers and winning over new leads, but it also happens to be the most effective method for issuing time sensitive messages.

Bus arrivals and departures information falls firmly into this latter category, a fact not lost on Pace, who have followed the example of countless bus companies around the country by establishing a text message service for riders. The Chicago-based company had, until recently, been relying solely on its online bus tracker to disseminate information, but gave in to high demand from customers for an SMS program similar to that offered by the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA).  

To use the service, riders must send a text message containing the word “Pace” followed by the relevant bus stop number. The bus tracker is available as both a pure text format (for people with feature phones) and a rich graphic version for smartphones, tablets and desktop computers.

A spokesperson from Pace said the firm had held off launching a text message service when CTA unveiled theirs. The success of CTA’s venture - and the increase in bus rider expectations it prompted -  convinced Pace that the “availability of real time information is a key source of customer satisfaction.” 

Pace makes no bones about directly following CTA’s lead, even using the same company to provide the service, and for a while considering joining the same contract. 

With a bus system that covers more than 25,000 stops and six counties, their reticence to undertake such a huge task is understandable. Even post-launch, Pace admits to having no timeline for completing the replacement of old signs with new signs featuring the shortcode and bus stop numbers. In the meantime, riders can access this information from the Pace website.

The Benefits of Adding MMS to your Mobile Marketing Campaign

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For companies that aren’t sure about how to integrate MMS into a mobile marketing campaign, the first step is to understand MMS capabilities then realize those through useful cases that haven proven effective in various enterprises. Taking a creative stance, positioning the right use of MMS in a marketing campaign is virtually limitless.  

First, let’s understand what Multimedia Message Service (MMS) allows an enterprise to do. An MMS message can send rich media content directly to mobile devices anytime, anywhere. It’s a powerful and effective tool that strengthens customer loyalty by keeping them informed with time sensitive information. An MMS message speaks consistently to branding throughout all marketing channels, with messages that are equipped to handle image, video, audio or mixed SMIL. It’s truly a 21st century marketing solution that engages customers via mobile device, which they are likely to have with them at all times.

 

MMS Use Cases 

MMS communication utilizes these capabilities to increase revenue by upselling customers with unique offers, special services and more. Recognizable applications of MMS are used by millions of people already in the form of useful services, like providing a boarding pass for a more efficient check-in at the airport. Financial institutions also provide useful applications by providing bank statements and security warnings. Further, important emergency alerts can be sent via MMS, warning users of dangerous weather or traffic. 

Now let’s consider the creative uses of MMS messaging to connect with customers. Shipment notifications would allow users to receive speedy information from a local shipment station. Customer service providers can communicate with customers by trouble shooting common problems and sending helpful video/audio messages. The result of providing this improved service would reduce the contact center costs. 

Wellness centers and pharmacies could continue a discussion with customers long after they leave the store by updating important medical information, providing healthy living tips or special offers on new products or services. What’s more, brick and mortar stores of every variety can more effectively engage customers by offering product information with QR codes placed on shelf locations. Once the code is scanned, a customer could watch a video featuring additional product information.  

MMS messaging works best when it provides useful information and services to the end user. The more a user increases their engagement with the message, the more likely the they are to build the kind of lasting brand relationships all enterprise should seek with their customer base and audience. 

Is MMS the Next Big Thing in Mobile Marketing?

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Mobile marketing has proven more viable than its email predecessor, as consumers become more detached from their email and clients like Gmail implement new sorting features. Today, mobile devices are in almost every hand and most already have the ability to read SMS and MMS messages—yet, one question remains: which one is better?

Short Message Service (SMS) works similarly to a regular text message in that it can be sent peer-to-peer or from a mobile service provider, and appears to the user in simple text. There’s a limit, however, of 160 characters and all click links require the use of data by the end user. The upside is that these messages are fast, reliable and less expensive than their multimedia counterpart.

Multimedia Message Service (MMS) allows the use of images, animated .GIF, or short video and audio clips. Thousands of characters can be fit in a single MMS message, which provides better branding opportunities and higher high consumer engagement—boasting a 15% average click-through-rate and increased campaign opt-ins by 20% over SMS. 

Both of these mobile marketing tactics increase ROI by creating a direct line of communication to the consumer, building brand awareness and loyalty literally from the palm of the user’s hand. But as Zach Zimmerman of ePrize, the mobile marketing team behind Starbucks’ promo success, pointes out, “MMS is a tactic, not a strategy.” 

While the seeming advantage of MMS is presented in beautiful images, video and sound, the use of this service can be a financial money-pit if paired with the wrong message, brand, product or campaign—a number of things that have to be considered on a case-by-case basis.  

One huge drawback to the allure of MMS is its inability to collect important space and tracking data, which is easily available through mobile web landing pages, assessable through a click link in basic SMS messages. Moreover, MMS is not enabled on all mobile devices—yet. 

Upgrades and increased sophistication of these mobile marketing tactics are already underway. Developing platforms will allow brands to reach any phone, anywhere, anytime, from the iPhone5S to the Lumia. These media marketing companies are pushing the mobile frontier, and with clients like Ikea, Kellogg, Bloomingdales, Starbucks and major TV networks buying what these companies are throwing down, it’s only a matter of time before answering the SMS vs. MMS question will need to be answered once and for all. 

 

 

Did American Idol Help Kickstart the Text-to-Donate Fundraising Culture?

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Aside from launching the music careers of several aspiring singers, American Idol can also be credited with inspiring a new way to raise money for disaster relief. 

The show’s primary voting system, which allows viewers to cast votes via their mobile devices, became a springboard for AT&T engineer Marin Croak who realized a similar use for the technology as hurricane Katrina tore through the Gulf Coast in 2005. 

Instead of transmitting fan votes via text message to an operator, Croak came up with a way to pass donations via text to participating charities. The donation would later show up as a charge on the person’s cell phone bill.

However, Croak recalls, during this time, that the use of text messaging was not nearly as popular as it is today. According to an informal poll taken in 2008 on AT&T’s website, approximately 22% of respondents reported having learned to text as a result of American Idol’s voting system—an interesting perspective attributed to the powerful reach of AI. The subsequent increase in text messaging may have also helped prepared voters to become donors.  

AT&T who originally set up American Idol’s voting system in the early 2000s, placed a patent on behalf of Croak in October 2005. And although AT&T currently maintains this patent, Croak says AT&T is not seeking to make the patent propriety—which is great news for nonprofits and disaster relief programs.

For example, in 2010 text-to-donate made its first major headline debut during the earthquake in Haiti. The relief organization collected an unprecedented $30 million via impulse disaster-relief donations— a term which describes the ease and accessibility of this technology. What’s more, these donations were collected $10 at a time. Other significant text-to-donate relief campaigns have included Hurricane Katrina and the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean.  

Aside from generating these donations through a streamline system, nonprofits are now able to acquire donors, not just cash donations. Opening up this intimate communication channel may be more valuable than a $10 donation. Organizations can engage donors over time, build a relationship and collect future contributions. 

Notable organizations like the Red Cross, Salvation Army, GlobalGiving, Mercy Corps, and Saving the Children have all established similar text-to-donate programs. 

Although Croak holds dozens of patents, she is particular proud of this one, which has made an enormous difference in the way people interact with their mobile devices as well as in the world of philanthropy.

 

Using Data to Improve Your Mobile Strategy

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Looking to enhance your mobile marketing strategy? Who isn’t these days? Thinking well beyond app downloads is the first step to fine-tuning your strategy, as a data-led, “moneyball” approach to mobile is a viable (and arguably the best) route to success. Check out a few moneyball indicators to help you rethink current mobile marketing strategies: 

 

Brand Reputation 

These days, mobile is the main source of interaction between you and your customers, so failing to treat it as such is not going to help pique consumer interest. Think about the overall perception of your apps, trending topics and wants in customer reviews, app reliability, and whether or not customers are using the app features you’ve designed. Gather this information and use it to craft a mobile-first marketing strategy. 

 

Competitive Intelligence

Knowing exactly where your brand falls on the competitive landscape is essential, as it helps you understand what is and is not working for you, and to make adjustments accordingly. Compare your brand to competitors in terms of mobile, especially in regards to marketing efforts, visibility, sentiment, and promotion. 

 

Customer Engagement 

The “holy grail” of mobile app engagement is the ability to give customers exactly what they want, when and where they want it. Today’s mobile analytics combined with intelligent marketing makes this possible, and studying the right KPIs is the best way to ensure proper engagement. KPIs include how different users engage the app, such as how often and how much time they actually spent on it. Also keep a close eye on push notification opt-outs, how often your users adhere to predefined conversion goals, and how many times the app is uninstalled. 

 

Mobile Moments

A fantastic mobile strategy goes beyond customer engagement, as the main point is monetizing “mobile moments.” Finding the balance between engagement and encouraging consumers to take action means using certain indicators to test marketing efforts, including whether customers are purchasing your products, if they’re becoming advocates of your brand, and whether they are currently part of your ongoing sales cycle. 

 

Investing

According to the Mobile Marketing Association, brands need to invest 25-30% of their marketing budget in mobile marketing if they truly want their brands to become household names. A strategic investment in mobile marketing is therefore necessary in order to ensure the aforementioned indicators happen. Invest wisely, use the above metrics, and take advantage of mobile moments, aka “game changers.” 

 

New App Helps Canadians Pay for Parking via Mobile

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Toronto, Canada drivers will soon have a new mobile option at their fingertips, one designed to make parking easier.  

The Toronto Star recently reported that Canadian smartphone users may use a new app to pay for parking in the city’s outdoor Green P lots.  

“City-owned Toronto Parking Authority unveiled a free app and said that, by the end of spring, motorists should be able to use it to pay to park — and remotely extend their time if needed — at all outdoor Green P lots that currently use ‘pay and display’ machines,” the report notes.

In today’s world, cities and municipalities in every shape and size are using mobile apps, iBeacons, and similar options to aid local residents in finding parking and paying for parking tickets. Since mobile apps are utilized to make innumerable familiar chores more convenient, it’s no surprise it’s extended to parking.  

The mobile app as well as cell phones and web browsers may be used to make payments, and signup is free. Registration is straightforward, and only requires a quick download and mobile number entry to receive and subsequently enter a verification code. The final step is creating a PIN number. The app is available wherever Green P Parking signs are found, i.e. non-gated, off-street parking lots all over the city of Toronto. 

Ticket enforcement officers check license plate number and payment standing after parking, and the only fee drivers pay is the normal parking rate. There’s no service charges or other fees associated with the app.  

"This kind of approach makes sense," said Mayor John Tory at a recent news conference held to unveil the app. "Our role isn't to fight the future, it's to embrace the future."

Tory also added that he believed Toronto  has been “frozen in time," and vowed that the city is set to use modern technology in its services. “I think we have actually ended up behind other Canadian cities in a number of instances and I am determined to see us where we should be,” he said, saying the app will give residents "the best possible parking experience."

The mayor also noted the app will “make lives easier for people in the city.” 

Green P Parking lets drivers know when their parking is about to expire, and allows them to add more time, whatever their current location. The credit-card based system is set to launch next year. 

 

Has Mobile Marketing Become a Technical Profession?

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These days, extensive technical expertise is required for any company to enjoy marketing success. Mobile attribution, or discovering how a mobile user found out about and signed up for an app or service, is considered a technically-challenging task. It’s also one that has had a serious impact on how companies approach marketing. 

Doug Milliken, the vice president of global brand marketing at Clorox, remarked in a panel at VentureBeat’s Mobile Summit that mobile marketing has become a “technical discipline.” The session was moderated by Ashu Garg, general partner of venture firm Foundation Capital. 

Milliken referred to another CEO with a technical background who enlightened him about this shift in marketing. 

“It’s an important insight,” he said. “It’s a huge period of innovation, the greatest period of innovation in the history of the profession. And it’s all being done by computer scientists and engineers,” adding that “deep expertise” is required for success as a marketer.  

Today’s marketers must now analyze and deal with sizable data sets, and subsequently link together automated platforms so as to run mobile marketing campaigns in real time.  

Jeremy Wacksman, vice president of marketing at online real estate site Zillow, agrees that understanding the technical side of mobile marketing is essential. The site receives 90 million visitors per month, with company heads spending some $75 to $100 million a year on building an audience. Since 75% of Zillow users now come in via mobile, the company has more economists and data scientists than performance marketers. Wackman says what marketing efforts are driving users to their app is challenging.

Clorox, in comparison, spent $10 million to $20 million a year on marketing, and while perfecting campaign strategies was once a top priority, “good enough” campaigns are now considered the norm. 

“You optimize it as you go,” Milliken said. “That’s a very hard thing to do. But now we add in the cost of delay. You may lose hundreds of thousands of profit if you delay a month. So good enough is better. We’re a younger company, and the market is you test. If you are wrong, you make a change. But you learn a lot faster.”  

Milliken added that real-time strategic marketing is now the company’s focus. 

Marketing used to be about print campaigns, such as those featured in magazines, newspapers, mailers, and billboards. Now it’s all about mobile devices, as the information people want about brands and services are merely a screen touch away. Figuring out new ways to encourage people to use apps and visit mobile websites is marketing’s future.