June 2012

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June 28, 2012

July 4th SMS Text Coupons That Can't Miss

Entry By Jason Brick

July 4th. Independence Day. Even people who are otherwise unpatriotic tend to get excited about the national picnic and fireworks day. Those who are proud Americans can get downright emotional about the birthday of the Great American Experiment.

As this season of summer celebration approaches, throwing some Independence Day text coupons into your SMS blast mix can help convert some of that excitement into a healthy bottom line. Try some of these can't-miss coupons in the coming weeks.

  • Traditional Purchase Coupons. Picnic and party supplies, not to mention patriotic decorations, are traditional purchases for this holiday season. If your shop sells them, offer a discount so folks buy them from you instead of the competition. If you don’t sell those products, offer a discount for people who come into your store carrying one of those items – or give a coupon to individuals who donate such an item to a local charity.
  • Showing the Flag. Get patriotic by encouraging your customers to show the American flag on Independence Day. Offer a discount or free small items to anybody who comes in carrying an American flag or wearing apparel with the flag on it. Another option is to ask customers for photos of the flags flying at subscribers' houses.
  • History Lessons. Put together a series of texts containing trivia and famous quotes related to the birth and early history of our country. For best results, make it a trivia contest with a discount for those who respond with the correct answer.
  • Talking About the Weather. July 4th is smack in the middle of summer; tie coupons to the weather creatively. One example would be to offer a discount associated with the current temperature -- 7.5 percent off when it's 75 degrees out.
  • High-Ticket Item. Text coupons aren't as effective for higher-ticket items as they are for smaller purchases; but, you can still use holiday-themed coupons to convert thinkers into buyers. Use the message to create a sense of scarcity by holding a holiday season sale open only to those who respond to your broadcast.
  • Seasonal Contests. SMS subscribers love contests, both for the prizes and for the fun of participating. Offer a small discount for participation, and a larger prize for winners. Some Independence Day contests include best fireworks photo, patriotic trivia contests, best picnic story and biggest holiday gathering.
  • On-Site Events. If you'll be out and about on July 4th, broadcast hints about your location. Offer a coupon for the following week to anybody who brings a photo of you -- or your staff -- into the shop.

June 26, 2012

It’s a Marketing State of Mind

Entry By Jason Brick (via inspiration from our Lead Community Manager, Albert)

The trick to succeeding in small business is to think and act like a large business whenever possible. This is especially important in text marketing – a venue where it's easy to slip into an unprofessional mindset, because it feels a lot like shooting a quick message to your friend. As easy as that might be, it's a mistake. If you give in to that temptation, you risk alienating your customers. Instead, you should approach your text campaign with the same marketing mindset you see in Fortune 500 mega-corporations -- applying research, message and metrics to perfect your text technique.


Professional Market Research
It's vital to know as much as possible about your customer base and subscriber list. The largest companies hire an entire department -- or outsource to professional research firms -- for this task. As a small business owner, you lack the budget for this. Luckily, you likely have better personal knowledge about your industry and customer base. Use that, text surveys and other research methods to learn:

  • The demographic breakdown of your customer base.
  • What interests and motivates them.
  • Which periodicals, blogs and podcasts they consume. 
  • What kind of humor they most appreciate. 
  • The sorts of "insider info" about your business and industry they find most interesting.

The more you know about your subscriber list, the better you'll be able to deliver exactly the kind of content that engages them best. 

Messaging Modalities
You can learn a lot by experimenting with different text messages, and then watching the results. Since each business has a unique set of potential customers, what works best for your company may be quite different even from your direct competitors. Play with different factors to dial in what works best:

  • Send texts at different times of the day.
  • Use different message templates, such as news reports, coupons, contests, polls, countdowns and featured links. 
  • Experiment with different kinds and levels of humor. 
  • Tweak your language to say the same thing in different ways. 
  • Link to different relevant news sources.
  • Beware of negativity in your posts, which tends to alienate most audiences.

When trying new things, change just one factor at a time. This lets you know exactly what's driving the results that new text gets.

Message Metrics
Using metrics is the most common difference between successful and struggling companies. Access to performance statistics in real time is one of the greatest advantages of text marketing. For every broadcast, check the important numbers and compare them to other messages. Some vital metrics include:

  • The total number of subscribers.
  • The number of direct responses from each message. 
  • Increased or decreased sales on the day of and after a broadcast. 
  • Keyword performance breakouts. 
  • Quit rate: the number of stop requests resulting from a message.
  • Number of visits to your mobile and regular websites as a result of the broadcast.

By comparing the results of different kinds of messages, you learn even more about your audience. This research lets you fine-tune your text marketing even further. When you track the results of those new messages, you'll learn even more -- beginning the cycle anew in an ever-upward spiral of marketing effectiveness.

June 19, 2012

Mid-Year Report: What's Happening In Text This Year

Sms-mid-year-reportEntry By Jason Brick

The thing that makes new media marketing so challenging is that by the time news get written down, it's likely to be out of date. It's such a fast-changing industry. That doesn't excuse marketing professionals or small business owners from keeping track of what's happening -- it just makes it a challenge.

Just the Stats as of 2012

  • 5.1 billion humans worldwide actively use text messaging, including people in areas with no land line telephones or electricity.
  • Over 500 billion text messages are sent each month -- about 200,000 per second. 
  • In the developed world, people are more likely to own a cell phone than a bank account. 
  • Market research puts the average consumer attention span at 7 seconds -- making short forms like text ideal for engaging with potential customers. 
  • The redemption rate for text and mobile coupons this year is 10 times that of traditional print coupons. 
  • Mobile marketing is the fastest growing marketing media, expected to account for over 15 percent of the market by 2014. 

Bottom Line: Text is bigger than ever, but a lot of people are doing it. There's huge opportunity to grow your business, but only if you stand out from the crowd.

The Year of the Smart Phone

This year's Super Bowl demonstrated that social and mobile media have become a major part of the culture. Research shows that 9 out of 10 mobile searches end in an action, such as visiting a shop or placing a phone call, and over half of mobile ads result in customer contact. Smart phone and mobile device usage is growing even faster than text, and is expected to increase as mobile prices continue to fall.

Bottom Line: Your text campaign needs to include items that take advantage of mobile capability, and your website should include mobile-optimized options for potential customers on the go.

On the Campaign Trail

Obama's 2008 text campaigning was a newsworthy attempt to court a younger, hipper constituency. This year, every candidate has a mobile platform supporting their political platform. This includes official text campaigns from the candidates, as well as extensive mobile networks for political groups and support organizations nationwide. We can only expect the mobile campaign to escalate as Election Day grows ever nearer.

Bottom Line: Even the technologically conservative political establishment has embraced text marketing. If you're not, you're far behind the marketing curve.

Arab Spring, Part II

Last year, social media and text communication were an integral part of the civil unrest and positive change in the Middle East. As those countries begin to establish new ways of living in the aftermath of conflict, text and mobile media have become invaluable tools. For example, Muslim Aid raised over 100,000 pounds via a text campaign to help with humanitarian aid for Syria.

On the home front, text message campaigns form the backbone of political demonstration from both the left's Occupy and the right's Tea Party movements, and with the FEC's recent decision, Presidential fundraising.

Bottom Line: Text communication can mobilize thousands -- even millions -- to act. If your message is 1 percent as good, it should mobilize 10 or more people a day to come into your business.

June 15, 2012

Drinking From the Information Fire Hose

Entry By Jason Brick

The mailbox of a small business owner is packed daily with notifications, news, advertising, junk mail, industry reports and trade publications -- and that's just the physical mail. Internet resources and vital industry data are another fast-flowing river of information. Add that to the business practice, performance metrics and skills training you need to steer the company and it adds up to a rushing torrent of information so intense that many business owners choose to ignore it completely.


The result is focusing entirely on your business as-is, which means missing out on the knowledge that may help you grow it into the business you want. When attempting to drink from the fire hose of industry information, try using these five techniques to get the most useful data in the most efficient ways possible. 

  1. Ignore (Most) Print
    It's generally safe to throw out anything in your mailbox that you didn't ask for directly. Even the print trade publications operate on a publication schedule, it puts them behind the curve. Process your mail next to the recycling bin, and don't give the junk mail a second thought. 
  2. Subscribe to Podcasts
    Podcasts are a great source of in-depth, current industry news and self-help techniques. Better yet, you can listen to them while commuting, running errands or working out. This means getting solid information without taking out extra time for reading or research. 
  3. Use a Blog Aggregator
    Your industry most likely has a blogger who's always one step ahead of your competition and the major news sites. Every industry does, and most have several. Use a blog aggregating program to get that blog delivered to you with every update, along with the other blogs you read for self-improvement, local news and general education. Make this your morning newspaper.
  4. Attend Conferences
    Find the budget and take the time to attend industry conferences. They're like a crash course in what's going on in your industry right now, letting you attend talks, workshops and presentations about the most exciting changes and opportunities. They tend to be exciting, too -- which can leave you energized and excited about your success. 
  5. Observe Basic Time Management
    To do your research and education, you need to have time to do it right. This means observing the best practices in time management and personal effectiveness. Some of the best advice includes scheduling your time, being willing to close the office door, and doing the hardest tasks first. 

June 14, 2012

Text-2-Donate For Political Campaigns In US Approved

Earlier this week the Federal Election Commission (FEC) approved text-to-donate for political campaigns. Politico reports:

The Federal Election Commission on Monday night unanimously voted to allow Americans to make political donations via text message, making Androids, iPhones and BlackBerrys the newest weapon in the battle to raise unprecedented amounts of money.

The decision will take effect immediately, although it may be days or weeks before the system is fully functional. Individual phone numbers will be capped at $50 worth of donations per billing cycle per political candidate or committee.

Texting a political donation will be akin to what many charities already do in asking people to text a short message to a five-digit number in support of a cause.

Upon doing so, a donor has a fixed amount of money — often $10, sometimes more — charged to his or her account. The process takes a matter of seconds in contrast to comparatively clunkier methods, such as writing a paper check or using a credit card after filling out an online donation form.

The result? A win for democracy:

Both parties, as well as campaign finance reform advocates, say the move will allow Americans of modest means to play a greater role in a democratic process dominated this election cycle by billionaires and multimillionaires and political organizations such as super PACs that may raise and spend money without restriction.

Learn more at Politico.


June 13, 2012

7 Summer-Themed Text Message Coupons

Entry By Jason Brick

The summer vacation/retail season can be one of the hottest of the year - no pun intended. Even in industries where business tends to slow in summer, a good text message marketing campaign can help you survive until the school year and holiday seasons get your gravy train rolling once again. Whichever extreme your business lies within, you can boost sales and improve profits by broadcasting some of these summer-themed text coupons. 


  1. Holiday Coupons Match a summer holiday with something you offer, no matter how slight the connection. Offer a discount for buying on that day, or for buying goods related to the holiday. Don't settle for just July 4th, Memorial Day and Labor Day. You can use the dozens of observance weeks and lesser holidays to keep in touch with your subscribers. 
  2. Beat the Heat Whether you offer actual cooling products, or simply have a shop with good air conditioning, make these offers whenever the mercury rises. Every summer has its hottest week - celebrate it with a coupon offer. 
  3. Summer BOGO By one, get one free is classic couponing, a successful tactic born long before SMS was even a thought. Use summer-related gear like sunblock, iced drinks or cheap paper fans to bring folks in to buy your higher-ticket items. Consider using a loss-leader strategy here to lure in subscribers with an irresistible deal.
  4. Celebrating Community Almost every town in the country has at least one summer festival - and many have several. Stay on top of what's scheduled in your market, and send coupons that participate in the event. Offer a special discount for those who can prove attendance.
  5. Partner With Neighbors If your business isn't really summer-centric, talk with a neighboring business that is. Have both broadcast a special discount for those who bring in a receipt from the partner. This builds your business both with the coupon, and by adding potential subscribers to your own broadcast. 
  6. Vacation Photo Contests Summer is vacation season, and people love to talk about their vacations. Integrate your SMS with your Facebook by having subscribers share their (appropriate) vacation photos on your page. Give a big discount to the best photo of the week, and a lesser discount to all participants. 
  7. Kids Discounts Summer also means parents with a house full of bored children. An "act fast" coupon that gives parents something to do with their kids for an afternoon will get you business and loyalty. Send it out around 11 AM for an afternoon event, ranging from "kids eat free" to a free kids clinic on something your business does well.


June 04, 2012

Reasons Your SMS Campaign is Failing – And What to Do About It

Entry By Jason Brick

SMS is easy. The good news about that is you can do your own marketing with low overhead. The bad news is you can do your own marketing without any professional advice or support. If the results from your text campaign are lackluster, check yourself for these common reasons text marketing can fail. 


1. No Outside Promotion

Too many people treat SMS like it's operating in a vacuum. Although it's good to make your text content unique, keeping it separate fails to spread the news to new subscribers. Beat this by:

  • Mentioning your SMS subscription options in print and other advertising
  • Placing QR codes in your place of business
  • Getting other local businesses to host your QR code in their shops


2. Weak Call to Action

Sales greats say that if you never ask for money, you're not selling -- you're talking. For text broadcasts to work, they must include an overt and compelling call to action. Without it, you're not soliciting business. You're just making noise. Create a compelling call to action by:

  • Offering something your subscribers will want, like free tchotchkes or a discount coupon
  • Placing the call to action where it's easy to see
  • Making the next step obvious and easy to do


3. No Opt-Out Message

This one might seem counter-intuitive. Though opt-out messages make it easy to lose subscribers, without an obvious opt-out option, your SMS marketing will begin to feel like spam. A subscriber list of 100,000 does you no good if they're all just a captive audience. The best opt-out messages:

  • Are displayed prominently at the end of every message
  • Make opting out simple and easy
  • Are automated, so there is no lag between opting out and being removed from the list


4. Generic Content

Make every message somehow unique to your audience and/or your business. Name specific menu items, offer insights from your most popular staff members, mention neighborhoods or local schools. Anything you can do to make meaningful personal contact with your subscribers will increase the success of your SMS marketing. Get ideas for this kind of content by:

  • Reading the local newspaper for events, openings and other celebrations
  • Mining your sales data for the most popular items and specials
  • Creating a content calendar to take advantage of events and holidays


5. Not Seeking New Subscribers

Sending perfect, effective text messages to 50 subscribers is great, but it’s not as good as sending it to 100 subscribers. The best SMS campaigns feed themselves by creating a constant stream of new opt-ins. Create this stream by:

  • Making regular "bring a friend" offers that give a discount or freebie for introducing new subscribers
  • Offering at-the-counter discounts for customers who sign up
  • Holding polls and contests that encourage members to sign up their friends


6. Poor Mobile Support

This is a chance to really stand out in many fields. Everybody has a website. Everybody has a QR code and SMS campaign. But few businesses still have solid mobile support -- which is a shame, since mobile shopping is the fastest growing type of Internet usage. Support mobile shopping with your SMS by:

  • Having a mobile version of your website
  • Testing your mobile site on different devices
  • Including links to your mobile site in most of your SMS broadcasts