August 2012

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August 30, 2012

6 Back To School Text Message Coupon Ideas

Entry By Jason Brick

Ed. note – For general Back To School SMS Marketing ideas/strategy see our previous post.

Back-to-schoolThere's a classic Calvin and Hobbes cartoon where Calvin fears that summer vacation is slipping away from him and starts running around in a panic, trying to pack in as much fun as he can in the remaining weeks of summer. Your customers won't take it that badly, but the return to school is on a lot of minds as August fades into September. Mentioning that fact in your text message coupons can keep you in front-of-mind awareness during this relatively busy consumer season. 

  1. The Inevitable Merchandise Sale
    Everybody does this, the trick is to find some way to be creative about it. If you offer anything remotely related to the school year, school supplies, or similar, broadcast a different deal every day in the week before school. Get a copy of the supply list from your local school district for help with ideas.
  2. Alumni Weekend
    Broadcast a discount to anybody who can show up with proof they attended the local high schools. Be liberal in what you count as proof to maximize takers, and consider a two-for-one buddy deal so your alumni can include folks from out of town.
  3. School Days Photo Contest
    Everybody has one or two pictures from high school they don't want to make public. Your job is to offer a deal so great they text that photo to you anyway. Extend this one by having a different themed contest every week: worst hair, best clothes, prom night pics, etc.
  4. Mom's First Day Off
    This is an under-served but real part of the back-to school season: that first day when the stay-at-home parent has no little ones underfoot. They'll be looking for a little pampering, so offer a deal that gets them to indulge in your business.
  5. School Year Philanthropy
    During the first week of classes, schools eagerly accept donations of cash and supplies from anybody who offers them. Instead of sending a coupon that gives a discount to your subscribers, offer a donation for every purchase made by a subscriber. This can help grow your subscription list, as parents share the deal across their PTAs.
  6. Iron Student Contest
    Take time to help aggressive students shine by offering a discount to those who bring in the most challenging class schedules to prove how tough they have it for the coming year. If your business caters to a less academic crowd, tweak it to reflect the tastes of your subscribers.

August 29, 2012

Back To School SMS Marketing Ideas & Strategy

Entry By Jason Brick

According to research by the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. families spend $7.7 billion on back-to-school clothes every September. They spend $2.4 billion on textbooks, and $5.9 billion on school supplies. Those numbers are for K-12 only, with a total spending of over $52 billion if you include college spending. 

School desk at Southborough Historical Museum

And they don't begin to include the extra expenses of day care and other spending increases that come with the new school year. Bottom line: back to school is big business, and your business should be a part of something that big. Let's explore how you can use SMS Marketing to get in on the back to school action.

SMS Marketing Strategy for Back to School

How you get your business on the back to school bandwagon will depend on exactly what you sell...even if you offer something with no direct relation, you can find a way. 

  • If you offer back-to-school related merchandise, such as clothing, books, supplies and sporting goods, this is pretty simple. Tell subscribers that you have what you need, in as creative and attractive a way as possible. 
  • If you offer school-related services, it's best to wait a week or so before offering your best deals. Stay in peoples' minds, but realize that people don't usually hire professional organizers, tutors or test coaches until the initial chaos of back-to-school has settled. 
  • If you offer mommy pampering, go big on day two of school. Day one is often a half-day, and is always stressful. But day two is when mothers of school-aged children breathe deep and begin to relax. 
  • If you offer unrelated merchandise, get involved tangentially. Some ideas include making donations to local schools, offering specials based on school, simply cashing in with a school-related pun. Yes, that means your lingerie store can run a special on "naughty teacher" outfits.

Sample Back to School Text Message Broadcasts

If you're having trouble coming up with your own idea, use these wholesale -- or as a springboard for the message you know will work best with your customers. 

  • For back-to-school merchandise, run a series of sales on different kinds of items with each broadcasts. Ten percent off backpacks on Tuesday, buy-one-get-one on notebooks on Friday. Uber-shoppers will come back each day, while others will come in once and overspend on all the other things they need. 
  • For back-to-school services, consider a series of brief advice broadcasts, or even a sequence of pithy quotes, to keep folks thinking of you during the week before and after school begins. When week two begins, hit them with a time-sensitive, irresistible offer. 
  • For pampering mommy, nothing beats a buy-one-get-one offer so they can spend adult time with friends. This is as true for massage treatments as it is for a coffee house. Consider "teasing" the deal a day o r two early, so moms -- who are often busy -- can pencil you in.
  • For everything else, the best strategy is whatever you've been using all along. Just "spin" it in a school-related fashion for late August and Early September.

August 22, 2012

The Front Door: Getting New Subscribers for Your SMS Marketing List

Entry By Jason Brick

SMS marketing shares a variety of traits with older, more traditional modes of advertising. Among the most important is the importance of getting eyes on your marketing message. Sending brilliant content to a list of 10 people -- including your mother-in-law -- may be cheap, but it's wasted effort.

Key to the open door

If your SMS "front door" is mostly closed, consider these proven tricks for increasing your subscriber list.

  1. Start With Who You Know
    Facebook and Twitter followers, email subscribers and actual physical customers can all be converted into SMS subscribers -- often by simply asking them to join.
  2. Get the Word Out
    Put your short code & keyword call-to-action or QR code graphic on every piece of print and web marketing you put out. Some people haven't subscribed simply because they don't know about your list.
  3. Provide Incentives
    A simple coupon or giveaway is a great way to encourage people to opt-in on your list. It provides instant value -- which you then follow up on with value in each message you send.
  4. Referral Rewards
    Offer even bigger incentives for people who bring their friends on board. Referral customers are often some of the highest-value customers you can get. They're pre-sold and tend to refer new customers of their own.
  5. Get 'Em At the Register
    Mention your text messaging list to everybody who makes a purchase, as a routine part of the check-out process. Combine this with a compelling incentive for even better results.
  6. The Business Card Fishbowl
    You know this one, and may have used it to collect addresses in the past. Use it to collect mobile numbers for your SMS marketing list. Be certain to make it clear with a label on the bowl that this is your plan.
  7. Web Widgets
    Facebook, blog and Twitter options allow one-click subscription to your SMS list for any reader who wants to learn more. This works even better if you imply that subscribers get content and deals regular uses won't.

Last (but certainly not least): Provide Excellent Content

If your messages provide good value, your subscribers will share them without being asked. Those shares will create new subscribers, who may share your content with their friends. You might not "go viral" and get a million subscribers overnight -- but you will experience a steady growth in your subscriber pool.

August 20, 2012

The Last Picnic: Labor Day Text Message Coupon Ideas

Labor Day marks the end of summer: the weekend pools stay open and the week to start getting ready for colder months ahead. Like any other benchmark time, this season is an opportunity for you to tailor your text marketing to what's going on in your world. Adding some or all of these ideas to your content calendar can keep your broadcasts compelling and timely.

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Seasons Change (and so does your inventory)

If you're switching from summer to autumn inventories, offer exclusive text discounts on people wanting to stock up on your unused seasonal products. Using leftovers as a loss leader can be a great way to maximize your profits.

Community Events

You won't be the only one planning something special for the holiday. Find out about parades, concerts, festivals and other events that you can mention in your broadcast. Offer a deal for people participating, attending or who respond with a photo of the event. 

Partner Progress

Consider other businesses in your area with which you don't compete. Perhaps you can combine efforts and each broadcast a message about one another. This is especially helpful if your business doesn't offer anything that's thematically linked with Labor Day.

Remember the Unions

Many people overlook who Labor Day celebrates. More than cook outs and pool parties, this holiday was created to honor the manual laborers and union workers. Impress your union customers by offering a special for anybody who comes in with their union card.

The Long Weekend

For some customers, Labor Day is just an excuse to lock themselves in for three consecutive days and recharge. If you offer goods or services that make this easier, throw out an offer. To make it fun, consider escalating offers for each consecutive day of relaxation your subscribers enjoy.

Back to School

Labor Day coincides with a return to school in many regions. If that's the case where you do business, consider deals for back-to-school supplies, or activities for parents with a suddenly empty nest.

Picnic Time

Never forget the value of Labor Day for that last picnic, beach trip or other celebration. A coupon for to-go lunches, picnic supplies or an outdoor activity near your area can get the most out of  this common seasonal trend.

August 16, 2012

Last Word On Text-2-Donate For Political Campaigns In US?

Text-2-donate-votingWe've written in the past about the prospect of text-2-donate campaigns for this year's Federal elections in the US - back in June the FEC (Federal Election Commission) approved of the plan, but then a few weeks later that decision was thrown into doubt. Although the FEC had given the green light, the nation's major wireless carriers balked. As we noted then:

But the wireless carriers who would oversee the donations-by-text service - including the four U.S. giants Sprint Nextel Corp, Verizon Wireless, AT&T Inc. and T-Mobile USA - have yet to get on board with the plan.

The carriers - who account for about 90 percent of the more than 330 million wireless subscriptions in the United States - are worried about an array of liability and regulatory issues they could face in handling contributions to presidential and congressional candidates.

The carriers are asking the FEC for more guidance on how they should implement a donations-by-text program, according to four industry sources.

One sticking point is that the carriers want to make sure they will not be held liable for determining donors' eligibility to contribute to a campaign, industry sources said.

Reuters now has word that the FEC has assuaged the carriers - so it looks like the program is a go:

Americans moved a step closer to being able to make campaign contributions by text message on Wednesday when the Federal Election Commission approved protections sought by wireless carriers over fraud and profitability.

The FEC ruled that wireless carriers would have no responsibility for possible fraudulent campaign donations and could refuse text-donation services to campaigns if they are not deemed commercially viable.

"Barring some unforeseen issue I think this increases the likelihood that text donations in some form will be used this year," said Jan Baran, a prominent campaign finance lawyer representing carriers.

Read more over @ Reuters.

August 15, 2012

6 Social Media Myths You Probably Believe

Entry By Jason Brick

It seems these days like everybody is a social media expert. Although the field has its share of legitimate experts and gurus, the fakes out there have led to a lot of bad advice masquerading as truth. If you're running your own social media program, it's best to check your plans against these popular social media myths. 

Social Media Mythbusting

  1. Quantity Trumps Quality
    Many experts will tell you that the important thing is to get your presence out there. Get as many hits, subscribers and shares as possible -- even if you have to pay for them. Post early and often, and don't worry too much about making it good. 
  2. Everybody Is On Social Media
    This myth approaches truth a little bit every day, but in fact those who don't use social media still out  umber those who do. If you abandon your other marketing modes in favor of social media, you're likely to lose revenue.

    The best plan is to balance your marketing just as you always have -- by using social media among other modalities to create the best possible results.
  3. You Have to Update Constantly
    Some will tell you that you need your finger on the Facebook and Twitter pulse at all times if you want to ride those waves to success. The idea is that, since those sites update constantly, you need to be constantly on top of what's going on there. 

    The truth is that checking in regularly -- even just a few times a day -- will give you a powerful enough presence to get value from social media. 
  4. You Can't Measure Social Media Success
    This is a favorite of social media consultants, since it means you can't measure their performance. They'll tell you that the benefits of social media are "soft" -- that you'll see the m in subtle changes in other numbers in your business. 

    In fact, you can easily measure the performance of your social media by watching the number of shares, subscribers, likes and other direct impacts. Further, if six months of social media efforts don't show up on your bottom line, it's time to change your social media program. 
  5. Never Ask Subscribers For Help
    Too many people feel like they shouldn't overtly ask subscribers to help with their social media efforts. The origins of this myth are harder to understand than many others, since asking for help almost always works in the "real world."

    The truth is that many of your followers are eager to help out. They just don't know how. By asking for comments, retweets and shares you give them that ability. Your message gets out, and they become more loyal and engaged in your brand.
  6. Social Media Replaces Web Content
    It's tempting to believe this one, s ince it's one of the few modern media "facts" that equates to less work instead of more. The idea is that, since social media is the Internet's most rapidly rising star, you can use it to communicate with potential clients instead of a traditional website*.

    The truth is you need both. Social media primarily engages people who already know about you and your product, and shares information in smaller bites. Your website should give deeper and more detailed information, and be keyed to bring in new followers and subscribers. 

*How weird is it that we're using the word "traditional" to describe anything about the web?

August 13, 2012

Text Message Marketing vs. (Rich) Mobile Marketing

Entry By Jason Brick

It seems like just a few years ago that SMS messaging was the king of small business marketing, but times are changing as we watch. The explosion of mobile computing has opened the door for increasingly ambitious electronic messaging. Which is right for your business? Should you invest in new technologies, or stick to the simple, tried and tested?

Gladiator Mosaic at Kourion (II)

Implementation Aspects

SMS messaging remains easy to implement. You just need a list and a series of good ideas for broadcast messages. The best results come when you consistently follow the performance statistics of your broadcasts, but making it work remains simple and has a small time footprint. 

Mobile access can mean an extensive overhaul of your website and social media platform to accommodate smaller devices and screens. This isn't free -- or even cheap -- but the added functionality of mobile shopping can mean increased business. 

Advantages of Text Message Marketing

  • SMS is easier to use, and less expensive, than richer mobile marketing formats. 
  • You can focus on SMS efforts as a stand-alone marketing initiative. 
  • SMS performance is an older technology, with more refined and proven methods for assessment. 
  • SMS reaches clients who use regular (feature) phones (still half of all Americans). 
  • Text messages take less time to load than the images, video and audio that often accompany mobile advertising.

Advantages of Rich Mobile Marketing

  • Rich Mobile is sexy. Early adopting consumers may give you more business simply because you're at the front of the wave. 
  • Rich Mobile is flexible, allowing you to direct potential customers to content that is most likely to make a sale. 
  • You can make direct sales using mobile platforms, and potential customers can get directions or answer simple questions without occupying staff time.

Bottom Line

Every company is different, so the answer to the SMS vs Mobile question depends on your individual circumstances. Consider the following situations when making the decision for your business. 

  • Companies with a strong SMS Marketing program in place and a little money to burn can benefit from upping the ante with a solid mobile presence. 
  • Retail and similar industries can increase sales by setting up a mobile platform where customers can buy via their phones. 
  • A business with a strong customer base that relies on face time -- such as a restaurant or a karate studio -- is likely better off focusing on SMS marketing than on investing in other mobile formats.
  • Companies with exiting SMS efforts but no mobile can "split the difference" by pointing to social media platforms via simple text messaging.

August 09, 2012

5 Secrets for Improving Productivity

Entry By Jason Brick

Here's the big secret of productivity for business owners:

You need to spend less time on your business. 

It's counterintuitive, but true. For the overwhelming majority of entrepreneurs, the problem isn't putting too little energy in the business. It's putting in too much – often to the point of exhaustion and reduced effectiveness. Juggling your time between managing employees, crafting your next SMS blast and thinking strategically about your business can be a drain on time and resources.

Top-secret

If you're unhappy with the progress you make on the average business day, try these five secrets to success.

  1. Learn to Say "No"
    Whether you're trying to be polite or you're simply convinced nobody else can do the job properly, it's easy to take on too many commitments in a new business. By saying "no," you can focus on the tasks that are most needed and leave smaller tasks to employees you hired for their great skillsets.
  2. Schedule (and Keep) Time for Yourself
    Plan and cook healthy meals. Exercise 20 to 30 minutes every day. Get at least 7 hours of sleep. All of these time investments pay dividends greater than they cost in time. To make sure you get exercise in each day, schedule them early in the morning – before the craziness of work can tempt you to skip them.
  3. Close Your Door
    A closed office door limits interruptions by providing a physical reminder that you're at work. Because you're the boss, many of your employees might feel free to bring you questions they could answer on their own. That door encourages them to work it out themselves.
  4. Delegate Like You're Running a Sale
    For every task on your agenda, ask yourself "can one of my loyal employees do this for me?" If the answer is "yes," then let an employee work on that project. Always check in to see that the job is done well and on time, but give yourself permission to share the load.
  5. Practice Ruthless Communication Control
    Communication is vital to the success of your business, but too much communication wastes hours every week. Keep meetings on topic, excuse yourself from idle conversations, and limit voice/email check-ins to avoid recursive conversations that really only need a single check-in. The less time you have to spend talking about things, the more time you have to get those things done.

How about you? What tools and techniques do you use to keep yourself at the top of the game while you're captaining the ship of your business? Combine your best time management tips with these to find success in your business endeavors.

August 07, 2012

Six SMS Coupon Ideas To Beat The August Heat

Entry By Jason Brick

Unless your business is in the Southern Hemisphere, August is one of the hottest months of your year. With shared experience one of the quickest routes to rapport with your customer base -- and thus to sales -- cash in on the "dog days" by adding some or all of these text ideas to your SMS content calendar.

Melted-street-lights

  1. Get Out of the Kitchen! If you run a restaurant, capitalize on how hot cooking makes the house feel for everybody, and doubly so for the cook. Use a simple "mercy" discount to encourage folks to carry out or dine in.
  2. Partner With the Pool Or any other business with a summertime, it's-too-hot-to-breathe, specialty. Offer a discount for anybody who brings in a receipt from the location you announce. Be sure to tell your partner you're doing this, so they can return the favor.
  3. Brag About Your A/C Admit it. You've considered sleeping at the office just because of how much cooler it is in there. Invite your subscribers to enjoy that cool air with a coupon giving a discount equal to the difference between the temperature at their house and the temperature in your business. Have them text in photos of their home thermostats for verification.
  4. Energy Savings Summer often draws heavily on the local utility infrastructure as people crank their cooling systems and water their lawns. Get green and offer a discount for everybody who spends less on utilities in August than they did in January. Have them bring in utility bills, or just a photo of the relevant paperwork. Have a contest for the biggest change.
  5. Weatherman Contest! This one's simple and fun. Offer a freebie loss-leader item to the person who responds to your broadcast with the most accurate guess for the next day's high temperature. Be sure it's something you can give a lot of in case of a tie.
  6. World Record Celebration No matter what year it is, the August you're stuck in the middle of feels like the hottest on record. As the temperatures peak for the season, maintain a stream of messages promising a record-breaking discount on the day the temperature beats its past performance. If that doesn't look likely, do some quick research to find another record such as longest consecutive rain-free streak, highest temperature on a Saturday, or any other excuse to trigger this deal.

August 02, 2012

Running the Numbers: How Text Messaging Works

Entry By Jason Brick

Some people use text message marketing like they use their cars. They give the system a little input, and it gets them where they want to go. They're not interested in what goes on under the hood. 

Others like to know more about the tools they use. A basic understanding of how text messaging works may simply be interesting, or it could provide insight that helps you improve your SMS campaign to better turn potential into profit.

Sms-under-the-hood

SMS Basics

SMS, or short message service, derives from text communication – essentially an instant message conversation between two mobile devices. The "Short" refers to the character limit imposed on text messaging – 160 characters in the Latin alphabet, 80 characters for more complex alphabets like Chinese Kanji.

On the Airwaves

Even when you're not using it, your cell phone is constantly in communication with nearby towers. They send each other small packets of data over a "command channel" to establish the phone's location and confirm that everything is working correctly. When you place or receive a call, the command channel establishes the connection for a broader band that handles the conversation. 

Text messages are small enough that they ride in with those smaller data packets, passing through the core network then out to the tower the recipient phone last checked in with. In addition to the message itself, that data packet includes a variety of other information:

  • Message length
  • Recipient phone number
  • Sender phone number
  • Formatting data
  • Data coding scheme
  • Protocol identifier
  • Time stamp

Repondez S'il Vous Plait

Responding to an SMS message works essentially the same way as sending one. The phone automatically codes a packet of data to go along with the phone's next check-in via the command channel. That packet hits the data tower, then the core network, and then is pushed out through a tower to your phone. 

On your end, various tools and tracking programs analyze the responses to help you track the performance and response rates to each of your SMS broadcasts. Exactly how these work is also fascinating and useful, but a subject for another post!