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December 18, 2014

Texting: A Life Beyond Marketing

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Many businesses send mass text messages as part of their marketing plan. And why not? It’s a low-cost, highly effective way to offer special deals directly to customers. But direct marketing is just one way to leverage the power of SMS messaging.

Increasingly, companies are finding more innovative uses for text messages. For some, it’s about customer relationship management. For others, it’s merely the most easily accessed form of communication for remote employees. A growing number of businesses are no longer just using text messages to offer something of value – they’re using it to take payments from clients.

Let’s take a look at some common, non-marketing uses of text messaging:

News Updates

SMS is ideal for issuing operational information such as store opening and closing times, locations etc. It’s a brilliant way to engage customers and keep them aware of your brand without trying to sell anything.

Urgent Notices

Circumstances sometimes conspire to prevent entrepreneurs getting on with their plans. Let’s say you’re running an event and your keynote speaker drops out. What if that speaker was the only reason some of your attendees were planning to go? Letting them know of the schedule change by SMS may disappoint them – but not nearly as much as showing up and finding out on the day. For instant contact with an extremely high chance of being viewed, SMS is unrivalled. 

Competitions & Surveys

It’s true that your business will go nowhere if it doesn’t offer something people will pay money for. But that doesn’t mean your relationship with customers has to start and end with a financial transaction. Give them something fun to pass the time on the bus and they are already that bit closer to purchasing something. Offer a prize and they’re even more likely to play along. Create a quiz that’s relevant – even tangentially – to your company. Send it to opted in customers via text message and get the responses back in the same way. You can learn a lot about customer preferences this way!

Appointment Reminders

With hectic schedules and multiple distractions, missed appointments are a fact of business. SMS is a fantastic tool for issuing reminders to customers. Do it within 24 hours of the appointment to allow them to re-organize without risking them forgetting for a second time. Although not a marketing tip, this approach will ultimately help you grow your bottom line by minimizing lossess incurred by no-shows.

December 17, 2014

How SMS is Helping Small Businesses in Latin America

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The second annual Latin American Bitcoin Conference took place in Rio earlier this month. More than 200 attendees saw seminars and panels featuring 37 guest speakers from around the world. 

Among the keynote speakers were a number of bitcoin representatives. The crypto currency is making a big impact across the region. A new partnership between Coinapult and 37 Coins seeks to expand bitcoin access to segments of the population without smartphones or traditional banking methods at their disposal. Their weapon? SMS messaging.

The service allows bitcoin users the world over to send and receive payments using only a feature phone with SMS capability. For entrepreneurs in South America, it holds the promise of allowing them to operate from remote areas, lessening the burden on over-populated urban centers.

This is a crucial development, not just for SMB owners, but for the public purse as well. Millions of small businesses across Latin America are currently restricted to cash-only transactions. This raises the question: how sure can local governments be that rural entrepreneurs are doing due diligence when it comes to paying taxes? It hardly takes a cynic to assume millions of pesos, bolivianos, reals and dollars are slipping through the net.

Of course, there will always be a black market. For some, operating outside the system is a point of principal. But for most small businesses, removing the temptation is all that’s needed to reduce corruption. Give them the tools to accept trackable, taxable payments and they’ll play ball, safe in the knowledge that the added security will help their business in the long run. Legitimacy is so much more attractive when it’s easily achieved.

A similar scheme – albeit with no SMS element – has been implemented in East African countries including Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania. M-Pesain allows its 16 million users to send and receive money, pay bills and withdraw cash from local ATMs. 

SMS-based money transfer systems are providing the way forward in Latin America. Paraguay has Giros Tigo, which incurs a 5% commission fee. Brazil and Argentina have similar systems in place.

Bitcoin and text messaging seem to be a winning doubles team. The key beneficiaries are often people who face discrimination from financial institutions, which view them as risky prospect for credit. Entrepreneurs trying to make headway in these conditions find it difficult to send money, pay with credit cards or open a bank account – no matter how promising their ideas are. Nothing can match text message in terms of potential: four billion people worldwide are living without smartphones (perish the thought!) and the remittances market has found it’s most promising tool yet in SMS-enabled bitcoin transfers.

December 15, 2014

The Ten Best Mobile Marketing Campaigns of 2014

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2014 has seen some terrific mobile marketing campaigns. By utilizing both social media sites and all of the functionality of mobile phones, we’ve seen some innovative ways that advertisers have increased their reach with mobile users. Here are the ten best campaigns of 2014:

1. NASA’s #GlobalSelfie engages users to create a worldwide mosaic of photos.

Nominated for its use of multiplatform social media for engagement, NASA invited users to take selfies that they would organize and compile into a global mosaic on Earth Day 2014. Using Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Flickr and Google+, NASA urged users to include the hashtag #GlobalSelfie. Users could also access the event directly on Facebook, Flickr and Google+.

2. White House’s #getcovered spreads the word about Obamacare.

The social media campaign from the White House received a huge response from users, even in 2014. #Getcovered allowed users to tweet their personal stories regarding securing health insurance, and utilized a Storify slideshow to enhance their website.

3. NPR’s company page on LinkedIn provides rich content for workers.

By offering LinkedIn users exactly what they’re there to receive, NPR increased its brand awareness. Users can access NPR’s company page right from their mobile phones to get information about how to improve their career and to increase their knowledge of their industry. Many of their posts are educational and inspiring, and have tremendous reach.

4. Nissan launches a multiplatform B2B campaign with comedy and celebrity.

Nissan’s digital and social marketing campaign promoted its rugged commercial vans, and achieved a wonderful response from the companies it reached. The ads, entitled “Tough Love,” featured rock-and-roller Bret Michaels getting in touch with his softer side. The juxtaposition proved a hit, and garnered terrific ROI for the car company.

5. Nivea’s Bluetooth-enabled print ad helps to track your children at the beach.

Nivea launched an innovative print campaign that featured a removable protector strip that can be placed on a child’s wrist. An app called Protégé then allows parents to track where their kids are by locating the protector strip using Bluetooth 4.0 technology. Very handy for beach trips, indeed.

6. Hershey’s unveils a sponsored mobile data opportunity with a video campaign.

In an astoundingly simple way to get mobile users engaged, Hershey offers to pay for part of your mobile data when you watch their Scharffen Berger brand commercial. The sponsored content, offered by AT&T and partners through advertisements on apps like Pandora, has been well-received by mobile users.

7. Movie theatres incorporate mobile-enabled interactive ads into their lobbies and on screen.

Thousands of movie theatres have enabled moviegoers to interact using the camera on their mobile phones. The visual search platform Slyce teamed up with Screenvision to enhance the audience experience when going to the movies. Consumers have eaten up the ads, downloading games and purchasing film-inspired merchandise due to these effective interactive advertisements.

8. Pepsi – London #LiveForNow turns a bus stop into a wild and weird space.

PepsiMax created a bus shelter ad that made it appear as though crazy events were taking place. The entire experience was recorded and converted into an advertisement (that consequently went viral). Watch the advertisement here: http://youtu.be/Go9rf9GmYpM.

9. Red Cross collects donations after Hurricane Sandy with an SMS short code.

In an unprecedented example of human kindness, people around the world donated money to help victims of Hurricane Sandy through the Red Cross’ donation efforts. Donors texted “REDCROSS” to 90999 to donate $10, which billed mobile users directly through their cell providers. 20% of all of the donations received by the Red Cross for Hurricane Sandy relief came through text message donations.

10. Samsung’s #Oscars Celebri-tweet dominates Twitter.

Everyone who is anyone heard about Ellen’s celebri-tweet during the Oscars. Very few knew that it was a ploy, created by Samsung, to increase brand awareness among the viewers of the awards program. Probably the most brilliant mobile marketing stroke to date, the famous photo was shared and shared – causing viewers to create their own selfies and engage with the brand as well. 

The key to good mobile marketing is to consider all of the ways that you can roll out your campaign: the capabilities of devices, the variability, and how to incorporate every platform available. Then, keep it as simple as possible. All of the above examples do just that, by simplifying the strategy while increasing customers’ awareness of the brand.

December 10, 2014

Why Are Mobile Marketing Budgets Increasing?

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We see a lot in these pages about the growth of mobile marketing. But just how fast is that growth happening? And are the same trends expected in future? 

The more the industry swells its ranks and revenues, the more data we have to go on. A recent Tatango survey looked at mobile budget trends and forecasts and compared the results with previous mobile marketing metrics. So, are budgets going up in accordance with the mobile explosion? 

The answer is yes. Very much so. Some 44% of marketers said they were increasing their mobile budgets during 2014 – up from a little over 42% in 2013. Mobile is proving particularly popular with startups, who can devise creative mobile marketing campaigns on relatively few dollars.

Other surveys report similar upward trends. According to Gartner, digital marketing budgets are expected to increase by 8% in 2015. Exactly half of all respondents stated an intention to increase digital spending next year.

The message from businesses remains remarkably consistent. Gartner’s research was conducted with the participation of 315 companies located in the United States, Canada and the UK. They represent organizations with more than $500 million in annual revenue, working in six disparate industries: hospitality, tech, manufacturing, financial services, retail and media. The bigger the firm, the greater the marketing budget as a percentage of revenue; companies with revenues in excess of $5 billion report spending, on average, 11% of revenue on marketing. For companies generating between $500 million and $1 billion, marketing spend was 9.2%. 

And really, those dollars are what it all comes down to. Understanding how to exploit capital to it’s fullest potential is the primary challenge for cash-strapped startups. That’s why having an effective CFO is so important, and it goes a long way towards explaining the huge popularity of mobile marketing tactics like coupons and time-limited discounts, which are easily and affordably disseminated via text message.

The modern marketer is performing a delicate balancing act. Each strand of their campaign must be woven together into a satisfying whole. Integration is everything. The resultant consumer experience is nudging users towards a more self-service buying model, which means businesses can reduce traditional sales-led budgets without sacrificing quality. Marketing budgets in general – and mobile marketing budgets in particular – are the primary beneficiaries of this new model. If you’re yet to move ad spend into a coherent mobile marketing strategy, it might be time to start…

December 05, 2014

5 SMS Marketing Ideas for Musicians

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The music industry is notoriously tough. Countless passionate performers compete for a slice of an ever-shrinking pie, as recorded music continues to be hit by filesharing, and fans feel increasingly ripped off by ticket prices, especially for big marquee names. At the other end of the hierarchy, upstart musicians often willingly play for free, further degrading the market value of all except those at the very top.

Like the society from which they emerged, the gap between rich and poor is growing in the music world. The more that can be done to level the playing field, the better for everyone. Enter: SMS marketing.

Cheap, effective and personal, text message marketing offers the ideal solution to struggling artists. Now, bands and performers can foster intimate relationships with their fans by using mobile marketing tactics that are proven to work. A friendly, relevant text message parlaying information about an upcoming show can not only help artists reach an audience, it can facilitate new revenue streams and ultimately help keep musicians playing music.

Check out these five SMS marketing ideas for musicians – they might just rock your world!

1) Gig Reminders/Cancellations

In the topsy-turvy world of rock and roll, things are apt to change at the last minute. The support act’s drummer flakes out and the line-up changes three hours before the show. The tour bus is stuck in the snow and the gig has to be cancelled. Whatever the reason, the only form of communication capable of reaching people at short notice is SMS. 

2) Merchandise

Update fans on the latest merch and offer them a discount via mobile coupons. Advertise the special offer on social media as an incentive for people to opt in to your SMS contact list. To incentivize opt-ins, offer a discount on t-shirts for anyone who signs up to receive mobile alerts.

3) Drinks Promotions

Forming relationships with promoters and venues on the road is tough. A band may not speak to their hosts until they roll into town, at which point it’s a little late to email people about drinks promos. Sending a text is a surefire way to reach gig-goers who are weighing up their options for the night. If you offer the right deal, you could easily attract some last-minute bargain hunters looking for a cheap night out.

4) Link to Song Downloads

Text messages themselves are simple, but they provide a portal to rich content. Include a link to an exclusive download, only available to opted-in SMS subscribers. It’ll make loyal fans feel valued, and more likely to give your music the attention it deserves.

5) VIP Passes

Another surefire way to grow your subscriber list, backstage access is the ultimate fan experience. Run a competition for followers, with VIP access as the prize. Let the winner come backstage before and after the show; include four or five friends as part of the offer. The more guests you allow, the more chances you have to turn a casual fan into an ardent one. 

December 04, 2014

How to Protect Yourself from Cyber Scammers

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A new scam operating out of Tallahassee has been asking Bank of America customers to divulge their account information. The text message asks Floridians to provide personal information – including debit card numbers – in response to ‘fraudulent activity’ being detected. In truth, the only fraud being perpetrated is by the authors of the SMS; no legitimate financial institution will ever ask for details via text message. One 21-year-old victim learned of the scam after being charged a few hundred dollars for a dress costing just $50.

She’s not alone. With the majority of the populace surfing the web for gifts every holiday season, it’s little wonder that so many are affected by scammers. Last year, a staggering number of Americans fell prey to a data breach at Target stores. It operated for less than three weeks, but managed to harvest bank details from more than 70 million citizens. 

This year won’t be any different – unless shoppers change their habits and become more alert to the warning signs of fraudsters. The rise of online scams correlates with the increase in web shopping. Bottom line is, more people shopping on the internet = more potential victims. So how can you protect yourself?

Cyber Scams and How to Spot Them

Annually, more than 16 million people report identity theft. During the holiday season, the number of victims increases. Cyber fraudsters view online shoppers as easy marks.

 

It’s not just the increase in the number of consumers that attracts criminals. From mid-November to mid-January, retailers start slashing prices, often with aggressive time-limitations. Shoppers act hastily in the face of perceived competition, with scant regard for the possibility that they’re being conned.

Protect yourself by learning the fraud indicators that should set alarm bells ringing:

 

  • No padlock icon. When visiting a site purporting to be a bank, check the far left side of your browser for the green padlock icon. As a security measure it’s far from failsafe – the padlock just means the site is encrypted – but clicking on it should bring up the true site address. If what you see doesn’t match the URL in the address bar, the site may well be a fake. Look for the lock. It’s something all legitimate websites will have.
  • Non-secure protocol. Never give your financial information to a non-secure website. Check the URL: if it begins with https it’s secure; http means it’s not. Again, neither protocol guarantees safety or scam, but no legitimate banking institution would use http, so its presence should put you on high alert for other fraud warning signs.
  • Being asked to pay by money transfer. Private sellers who ask you to pay using a prepaid card or via money transfer are highly suspicious and may be operating a scam. Always use a secure payment platform like PayPal.
  • Public wi-fi. Incredibly useful for using in-store apps or comparing deals on retail goods, access to free wi-fi is understandably tempting for shoppers - just don’t use it to input any personal data. That includes logging into your email account. Public networks are gifts for hackers, especially in busy malls where it would be extremely hard to identify who the perpetrator of a fraud is. Not that you would know you’d been hacked until much later.

 

As long as you remain vigilant to the possibility of being defrauded, and are aware of the methods they use, you stand a very good chance of surviving the holiday season without falling afoul of cyber criminals.

November 15, 2014

The Potential of App-to-Person SMS for Mobile Network Operators

App-to-person SMS represents a major revenue opportunity for mobile network operators. Globally, app-to-person messages are expected to hit 2.19 trillion by 2018, generating predicted revenues of $60 billion.

The figures come from wide-ranging research conducted by UK-based industry analysts mobilesquared. They surveyed more than 50 international mobile network operators and made a number of key findings:

  • 32% of mobile network operators have experienced a reduction in person-to-person SMS over the last year
  • 50% have experienced an increase in app-to-person traffic, with a third of those reporting growth of at least 6%
  • 81% cite decreasing revenues from traditional services like P2P text messaging as their primary concern

When it comes to P2P messaging, mobile network operators have long been upping the ante on competitors, with increasingly generous – and in many cases unlimited – SMS bundles on offer as a way of enticing new users. 

They’re no longer just competing with each other. So-called ‘over-the-top’ (OTT) services like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger are usurping traditional SMS providers as the go-to platforms for interpersonal communication. Half of all mobile network operators who took part in the survey expect to lose at least half of their customers to OTT services by next year. 

But while P2P text messaging is on the wane, business is booming for commercial text messaging companies. Consumers, it seems, are compartmentalizing their personal life, preferring OTT platforms for talking to friends while sticking with traditional SMS to engage with brands.

This is great news for mobile marketing campaign managers and small businesses. With an opt-in model predicated on consent and trust, the mobile marketing industry has managed to skirt the problems faced by their email-marketing forbears. Rather than filtering out all commercial messages as spam, smartphone owners are engaging with businesses via SMS because they want to, not because it’s the only option available to them. 

There’s no such low-hanging fruit for mobile network operators. They must forge relationships with OTTs and provide competitive price points if they want to leverage revenues from app-to-person SMS.

 

 

 

November 07, 2014

How to Reach Millenials with Your Mobile Marketing Campaign

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In the world of mobile marketing, much hay is made of millennials and how to reach them. They’re supposed to be wily, committed to free content and spendthrifts. They spend a lot of time online – but not so much money. But is this demographic really so mysterious and elusive? Are there really 12 types of millennial that you must identify and target at all costs in order to thrive?!

At this point, a group of 22-year-olds grimace, roll their eyes and go back to texting their twelve types of friend about how baby boomers ‘just don’t get it.’ The problem for boomers and Gen-Xers is that millennials have grown up in a connected world. They’ve never known anything else. Their interactions with the online world are more sophisticated and diverse than any of us can understand. There’s no point scanning the latest research paper on how long those 22-year-olds spend on their tablet. It’s more complex than that.

The ‘amount of time spent’ is such a common metric that many mobile marketing campaign managers have ceased questioning it’s validity. For millennials in particular, the amount of time spent on a specific device is far less important than what they are doing on that device. Let’s break it down:

Laptop

Millennials stand alone among the generations in their preference for laptops over desktop computers. According to Pew research from 2011, 70% own a laptop, compared with 57% who own a desktop. The laptop is their primary portal for shopping, web browsing and watching movies and TV shows.

Tablet

The tablet unites all demographics under the age of 65. Though only 4% of adults own one, that statistic remains constant for people of all generations. For millennials, it’s a luxury item used primarily for entertainment purposes – and often in conjunction with other activities, such as watching television. 

Television

Ah, yes, television. Lest we forget, young people still watch traditional television sets in huge numbers. The rise of prestige TV, in conjunction with an increasingly diverse array of options, may have heralded the end of the family viewing experience, but individually we’re watching more than ever. And instead of uniting the nuclear family, TV shows are uniting people of the same age. If you’ve got the budget, don’t make the mistake of ignoring traditional television advertising. The millennials have been dubbed Gen FOMO (Fear of Missing Out), an indication of the power of multimedia as a social glue.

Smartphone

The smartphone is like a fifth limb for Gen Yers. They’ll just as happily use an iPhone to watch a YouTube video, and the market is awash with apps aimed squarely at young people. There’s nothing they don’t use smartphones for, but the commonest activity – by far – is the humble text message. Time Magazine recently suggested that the average American aged 18-29 sends 88 text messages per day. For anyone devising a mobile marketing strategy aimed at millennials, that statistic is a mouth-watering one.

Millennials are by far the most likely group to own more devices and to use more functions on them. From a marketer’s perspective, there’s little point just blithely shifting budgets to digital. In order to reach millennials, you need to understand how they engage with the digital world, and recognize that they are calling the shots.

November 05, 2014

Can I Start a Business in Canada if I’m Not Canadian?

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Yes.

That’s the short answer. Now for the caveats. ‘Starting a business’ can mean a few different things. How much red tape you have to wade through before getting your enterprise off the ground depends on what your current situation is. Are you launching a brand new company? Or are you simply looking to expand an existing operation into the Canadian market? 

If it’s the latter, you can do it without even setting foot in the country. The rules for established foreign businesses vary from province to province. Even if you don’t currently have a preference for which part of Canada you register in, it’s imperative to compare the rules and regulations for each province - you may well change your mind. Visit the corporate registry for starting extra-provincial companies in British Columbia and see how it fares against Ontario. Rinse and repeat with the other eight provinces. If you wish to do business in more than one province, you will need to register separately with each. Here’s a list of provincial registrars across the country.

If you are starting from scratch, things get a little more complicated. Broadly speaking, there are two options for launching a brand new company in Canada as a non-citizen: become a citizen or form a business partnership with one. Let’s take a look at each option.

1) Immigration

If you want to live in Canada anyway, you can incorporate your business interests into the immigration process by applying for business immigrant status. There are two types of business immigrant: self-employed persons and start-up entrepreneurs. Again, you can’t be too thorough in your research here. Look into each type of immigrant status and decide which is most appropriate for your situation. 

2) Partnering with a Citizen

If you have no intention of moving, you can team up with one or more Canadian business partners. At least 25% of the company directors must be resident Canadians. If your company has fewer than four directors, at least one must be a resident Canadian. Contact the provincial registry for the territory in which you want to do business and follow the requirements therein. The key thing to note is whether or not you plan to incorporate your business federally or provincially. Consider how far your business could expand – it might be worthwhile registering federally from the get-go (bear in mind you still have to register with each province individually if you incorporate your company at the federal level).

There are numerous benefits to launching a business in Canada. Government subsidies for tech startups are much talked-about, and can make all the difference during those crucial first 18 months. If you’re lucky enough to get it. However you go about it, research all the options thoroughly to ensure your Canadian adventure will pay off.

November 04, 2014

How Spamming is Helping Fight Ebola

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Spamming is aiding the fight against Ebola.

Operators of text messaging system Tera, which provides advice and help to people fighting Ebola in the Sierra Leone region, are looking to extend the service to seven other African nations—Mali, Benin, Togo, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Gambia and Burkina Faso. Ebola kills victims via dehydration and multiple organ failure, and more than 4,000 West Africans have perished from the disease.

The network allows Red Cross and Red Crescent charities to “send SMS messages to every switched-on handset in a specific area by drawing its shape on a computer-generated map.” Automatic, appropriate replies to incoming texts are also featured. Both charities aim for expansion completion over the next nine months, but cooperation of local mobile authorities and networks is needed.

"It's been doing an excellent job in Sierra Leone, sending out in the region of 2 million messages per month, helping the communities there to prepare themselves, try to avoid getting infected, and then if they do, to know what to do about it," notes Robin Burton from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). “Unlike TV and radio, if we send them a text message it's retained on the phone."

The trick is quelling each nation’s concerns or fears about joining the network.

"The thing operators might have a problem with is that they are basically being asked to spam millions of their customers, and people often object to that," says Ken Banks, an SMS expert who advises the UK's Department for International Development. "When people in Haiti received messages asking them to donate blood [after the 2010 earthquake] that were blasted out willy-nilly some were not in a position to do so, and they found it annoying.”

However, Banks notes operators can’t really argue this one, as no one wants to be accused of blocking potentially life-saving messages during an epidemic. He adds that the significance of the Red Cross as an organization will also fuel the proverbial fire. The IFRC also wants Tera to appear as "network friendly" as possible, and allow individual subscribers to opt out and operators to apply exclusion lists.

The network is specifically designed to send texts to powered-up handsets. This avoids build-up of millions of undelivered messages, and therefore potential network strain. Staggered texts are yet another way the network is preventing overload, and the system is location-sensitive, so messages are sent to affected areas only.

An inexpensive system to operate, Tera may be utilized during natural disasters and for relief effort feedback, potentially emerging as one of the key factors in helping to limit the damage from both natural and human-spread calamities.