Ez Texting

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January 22, 2015

The SMS Modification Craze

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Remember flying in the 80s? Long haul flights seemed to take days. There was only one movie and three screens in the entire cabin, so if you were wheezing a bit too much at Shanghai Surprise for the fifth time, everyone knew about it. To hear the audio you had to shell out $4 for those stethoscopic ‘headsets’ that were barely-glorified tin-cans-on-strings (no really, kids – they were nothing more than hollow tubes that plugged into two tiny speakers in the armrest). You could smoke.  

The funny thing was, nobody complained. It was as if flying through the air incredibly and winding up thousands of miles away in a few hours was enough for people. They didn’t need anything else. 

Like aviation in the 80s, SMS in the 90s was a primitive affair by today’s standards – if by ‘primitive’ you mean ‘the sudden ability to instantly transmit the written word to people around the world.’ 

For much of the 90s and 00s, text messaging was impressive enough to flourish without extra bells and whistles. Rapid advances in technology allied with free market forces soon put paid to that. These days, the new normal is modified, souped up, pimped out text messages adorned with fancy new skins and non-QWERTY keyboards capable of sending anything from emojis to rap lyrics.  

It should be noted at this point that SMS is SMS; the protocol hasn’t changed a jot in twenty years, only the window dressing. In many cases, ‘SMS modification’ really means ‘SMS replacement’ in the form of messaging apps. The appeal of these apps lies largely in their ability to provide users with a bespoke messaging experience.

Among the most popular of these is Chomp SMS, an easy-to-use, customizable app that lets users create their own themes and download custom font packs as they tire of their current look. 

GoSMS Pro is a similar idea but with a much bigger palette from which to work. It allows users to completely overhaul their visuals with new icons, fonts, animations, backgrounds and text bubbles. It also comes with a raft of non-visual features, including a private storage space for storing locked conversations and a text message backup service. 

Not all messaging apps are designed for purely aesthetic reasons. Some, like TextSecure, prevent screenshots of messages being taken and uses end-to-end encryption, thwarting prying eyes (whether criminal or federal!). 

The trouble with these apps is that both parties have to be using them in order to reap the full benefits. Unlike standard SMS messaging, which everyone in the world with a phone has access to, the playing field is not level. For instance, Strings - the app that lets you recall text messages you regret sending - is of no use unless both parties are running the app; two people agreeing to send messages with the app is a tacit acknowledgement that there is a lack of trust in the relationship. This will be the major stumbling block for Strings (and others) as they try to grow.

Our favorite SMS messaging apps are those with objectives no loftier than bringing a smile to the face. There are a plethora of text messaging apps designed to add some levity to your conversations with friends and family. Here are some of the very best:

Crumbles. Sends messages in the form of cut-ups from famous movies, one word at a time. You type the message, hit send and the recipient sees an array of great characters - from Doc Brown to Darth Vader - deliver each word. Hard to describe, but loads of fun once you try it.

PopKey. Leverages the power of Apple’s GIF-supporting Messages app to send any number of GIFS from a huge library of possibilities. Also enormous fun!

RapKey. Far and away our favorite messaging app right now, RapKey sends hip hop lyrics instead of boring prose. With a cool, 8-bit influenced retro interface, it works by giving you a series of categories to choose from - talking to your spouse, griping about money etc - and a list of couplets to scroll through. Find the most appropriate rhymes for your situation and make text messaging more fun!

 

 

 

December 25, 2014

Amex Takes Mobile to Another Level

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It’s no secret that people are “addicted” to their smartphones, and that mobile advertising has eclipsed many traditional ad forms as a way to reach consumers. American Express believed the “quality and content” of ads was “not keeping pace,” resulting in a partnership with Zumobi that began in 2012. 

Zumobi offers “the very best mobile apps and advertising experiences through an array of advanced platforms for media companies.” The company’s mobile campaigns have aimed to “shake up the mobile platform norm,” and create wondrous experiences for smartphone users customized to interests and spending habits. This was accomplished via social media, video, and user-generated content. Campaigns also created “tailored timelines” of images for each user, who may also put together personalized panoramas geared towards interests such as dining, electronics, shopping, and travel. 

“We are thrilled to be tapping into Zumobi’s incredible creativity and expertise in developing innovative mobile ads that make full use of smartphones’ native capabilities across their Brand Integration (ZBi) ad platform,” Louis Paskalis, Vice President of Global Media, Content Development and Mobile Marketing, American Express, remarked at the time of the partnership.  “They are enabling us to truly bring The Membership Effect campaign to life by creating a highly interactive and personalized brand experience for card members.”

Zumobi CEO Ken Willner also noted that “this campaign is really about creating personalized and meaningful connections between American Express and its card members.”

Another appealing aspect of the AMEX-Zumobi partnership is providing cardholders with exclusive discounts and deals to restaurants and retail stores when they sync their cards with their Twitter, Facebook or Foursquare accounts. The companies elected comedian Aziz Ansari to star in their television ads, which likely enticed young people. 

American Express made a smart decision by harnessing the power of mobile ads and offering members the chance to enjoy even more discounts and opportunities when using their cards on mobile platforms. Marketing Land predicted a mobile advertising spike of between $2.5 and $3.0 billion dollars in 2012, and that number has only increased.

AMEX, Zumobi and similar companies continue to find new ways of attracting consumers through mobile means, something that will undoubtedly reap serious rewards. If in doubt, simply look around—how many people are immersed in their smartphones? Phones are no longer simply for calling and texting; smartphone use now shapes how consumers shop and how credit card companies, retailers, and other businesses appeal to their target audiences.

 

 

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 02, 2014

Crank Up Your Marketing Efforts for Christmas

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As the holiday shopping season draws near, it’s important to “amp up” marketing efforts. Let’s check out a few holiday promotional tactics small businesses can implement and subsequently increase brand recognition while ensuring customer loyalty.

 

Email Marketing

A straightforward option, email assorted blasts to opted-in customers about deals, sales and other promotions, and create holiday messages discussing new promo codes or other exclusive, limited-time offers. Existing customer discounts and free gift cards with purchase are generally the most successful email blast options, as they build brand loyalty and referrals in addition to increasing sales. Find an appealing holiday template, add the right information, and go from there.

 

Content Marketing

Whatever you “put out there” for your customers should engage them--don’t simply go for the boring sales pitch. Place attention-grabbing content on social media channels, blogs, press releases, articles, videos...think funny holiday clips, last-minute tips, guides on using your products, fun and helpful newsletters, and more. Information on day-before-Christmas ordering is another great content marketing method.

 

Social Media

Social media is a viable option for promoting your brand and products. Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook all provide real-time access to customers and their online communities, with social media marketing even more essential during the holiday season. Upload holiday-themed images to your accounts, such as product shots in holiday settings or stores/offices decorated for the season. Provide regular updates on holiday promotions, sales, return policies and shipping cut-off dates, but don’t forget to add fun seasonal facts and similar information as well. Promoting gift card opportunities with links back to official websites is another option.

 

SMS Marketing

Text message marketing is becoming more and more prevalent, as it provides an easy, cost-effective method for reaching the vast majority of your customers instantly. Send holiday promo codes to opted-in customers, as well as exclusive holiday coupons and sales alerts. Advertise Christmas-themed discounts and specials to potential customers who opt-in, and enjoy a larger database you can utilize all year long.

 

Open House 

Another excellent Christmastime marketing idea is to host an open house at your place of business if applicable. Provide cookies and warm cider and or mulled wine, as well as free gift-wrapping for shoppers. Raffles, discounts and other special promos also work when advertising an open house, as do cross-promotional efforts, such as offering handmade chocolates from the confectionary across the street. If your business caters to children, have a friend or co-worker dress up as Santa and hand out candy canes or Christmas-themed coloring books while taking free photos with customers and their little ones.

These are just some of many marketing options to try this holiday season. Good luck, and Happy Holidays. 

November 25, 2014

How SMS Marketing Drives Black Friday Sales

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SMS marketing impacts Black Friday sales in a big way. Since it’s the biggest shopping day of the year and the beginning of holiday shopping activities, marketing campaigns announcing Black Friday sales are everywhere...including on mobile devices. And really, what better way to advertise Black Friday deals and events than with SMS? The vast majority of consumers own mobile devices, which they have turned on (and carry on their person) at all times. Ninety-five percent of marketing messages sent via SMS and MMS are opened, so crafting marketing campaigns around mobile devices makes a whole lot of sense, as many retailers have discovered.

Businesses use SMS to deliver sales alerts to customers, as well as exclusive coupons, video clips, and much more. All help ensure customer loyalty and holiday business; and when the holidays are over, businesses have a whole new database of customers opted-in to loyalty programs. This means alerting customers to sales events and new products all year long.

 

Black Friday: 2012

According to IBM, mobile shopping increased considerably in 2012 compared to 2011, with 24% of customers using a mobile device to visit retailer sites. Some 16% of shoppers used a mobile device to shop in 2011. In 2012 the iPad was the main device utilized for online shopping, followed by the iPhone and the Android. And while shoppers used social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook to express gratitude about great deals and sales in 2012, that number decreased from the previous year. Shoppers referred from social networks made up .34% of online sales in 2012, a decrease of over 35% from 2011.

 

Black Friday: 2013

Last year, the amount Black Friday shoppers spent over the two-day Thanksgiving holiday rose 2.3% compared to 2012. Online sales also increased--20% from the previous year on Thanksgiving and 19% on Black Friday. Amazon.com attracted consumers by offering deals and discounts every 10 minutes, while Walmart processed some 10 million register transactions from 6pm to 10pm on that shopping day.

 

Black Friday: This Year

Social media may not play as prevalent a role in consumer shopping this year, however SMS marketing is certainly aiding retailers in their efforts to increase holiday revenue. Whether retailers will choose to implement new SMS strategies during the holiday season has yet to be seen, but one thing’s for certain: mobile marketing allows businesses to alert customers to Black Friday deals quickly, easily, and earlier than ever before. And with a simple click-through of a hyperlink, SMS receivers can make fast and easy mobile purchases. That means bigger sales, satisfied customers, and happier business owners this holiday season with SMS marketing.

November 24, 2014

Do Mobile Payments Hold the Answer to Small Business Collections?

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Consumerism is changing so fast, trends that seemed to represent the future of commerce a couple of years ago are now old hat. Innovation is outrunning itself. 

Take chip and pin, which once held the promise of becoming a far superior replacement for swiping and signing. When the idea was introduced a decade ago, it was assumed that everyone would be using it by 2014. But then, in 2004, few would have predicted the stratospheric rise of the smartphone. Now mobile payments are threatening to make an anachronism even of plastic credit cards. Chip and PIN has missed it's chance.

If you’re a small business owner, mobile payments might seem like an innovation designed for for big corporations, but if anything, the reverse is true. Big companies can, after all, absorb the cost of bounced checks and delayed payments. It’s the little guy who needs to be on top of his collections process, as a single large late payer could easily put him in the red. 

It’s all about making it easier for the customer to pay. The fewer steps there are in the payment process, the less likely they are to put it off. Mobile payments represent the easiest payment method around. Offer customers the ability to pay using their smartphone and they will likely grab it with both hands.

As we've seen, this shift could spell the end for credit cards. Checks are already on the seriously endangered list. Setting up a mobile payment system for your business puts you ahead of the curve, so why even consider going without one?

Some small businesses will claim the cost of setting up mobile payments is prohibitively expensive. But there is a growing number of affordable options out there, and the more competitive the market becomes, the better it will be for SMBs and startups. 

It’s hard to say which payment method is right for your business. The answer differs according to industry, brand image and turnover. It would be false to say mobile payments – or anything else – holds ‘the answer’ to the collections process, but it certainly makes the process easier for specific kinds of consumer.

You can’t, in the end, force a defaulting customer to pay without going through a lengthy, expensive legal process. But you can make it a lot easier for them to do so. And the fewer barriers to payment there are, the better for everyone. Check out some of the mobile payment options available, and move your collections process into the 21st Century.

November 20, 2014

How Clubs & Bars Can Grow Their SMS Lists

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SMS marketing may be a new concept to club and bar owners, however many are finding the dramatic difference this strategy makes in terms of customer satisfaction, revenue and much more. Since text messaging is now one of the most effective forms of marketing available, let’s check out how bar and club owners can grow their SMS lists and therefore their customer base:

 

Focused Campaigns

Focused campaigns directly targeting those interested in your particular bar or club is a strategy that meets the needs of customers. Because of such direct targeting, no resource is wasted and the right messages go to the right consumers. And since SMS marketing lists generally require opting in, you’re assured the messages you send are read by interested customers, some of whom may visit your establishment the day the message is sent.

 

Incentives

Incentives are a huge part of attracting customers, so adding an exclusive coupon code or deal for consumers in text messages is an ideal way to get the positive response you want. Feel free to get as creative as you want, from codes that translate to free drinks to deals that include discounted entry.

 

Blogging

Everyone is blogging these days...including bars and clubs. Use this medium to grow your client base and spread your message. Write about upcoming events and specials, holiday parties, happy hour, and anything else that’s relevant. Include funny images of employees, amusing top 10 lists, and more. Add information about text message opt-ins at the end of each blog and watch your SMS list lengthen.

 

Social Media

Social media tools are yet another effective way of reaching consumers and letting them know about your SMS list(s). Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram...use these tools to let people know why they should join your list and how it will benefit them.

 

Referral Bonuses

Increase your customer base via referral bonuses. Provide existing customers with free food, drinks and other specials for referring friends and family to your business. Not only are you growing your SMS list, you’re also ensuring existing customers remain happy.

 

Wrap-Up

Bar and club owners are utilizing other means to let customers know about SMS lists, such as print media. Advertising in newspapers and magazines are two options, though you may want to go beyond print and use email or other means. Whatever you decide, know that SMS marketing lists are a fantastic way of increasing business as well as brand awareness. 

November 18, 2014

6 Business-to-Business Mobile Marketing Ideas

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B2C mobile marketing ideas are everywhere, but what about B2B marketing options? If you're trying to come up with business-to-business mobile marketing ideas, check out six useful possibilities:

 

1. Add a Mobile Website Focused on B2B

The importance of a mobile website cannot be underestimated, as it’s the foundation for all mobile marketing. Creating one is not difficult, and provides a fantastic option for other companies to learn more about your business. Use a mobile grader tool such as Marketing Grader to find out how well your site is doing and what adjustments, if any, are necessary. Make sure to target business owners by understanding their needs and developing an applicable mobile version of the site.

 

2. Create Specific Banner Ads

Use banner ads to your advantage in more than one way. For example, run a banner ad that creates an email when clicked instead of a web page. Have the email pop up on the user’s mobile device with your sales department’s email address and content reading “Tell me more about order with a 15% discount.” A mobile banner ad targeting various demographics is another option, including those specific to entrepreneurs in certain locations or those workers who only use iOS or Android.

Another mobile banner option is one that adds an event to the user’s calendar. The event is added only if the user clicks the ad.

 

3. Use a Customized App

Have a trade show or similar event coming up? Create a customized app that allows attendees to find your booth(s) or otherwise navigate your event easily. An ideal way to connect with and engage your audience, you’ll impress attendees with your attention to detail and dedication to helping them find the event informative and fun.

 

4. Integrate Social Media 

All social media platforms are “all over” the mobile ‘verse--Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google +. Don’t forget about mobile when posting social media updates, as many of your fans and followers are likely reading them from a mobile device. Create posts with time-sensitive exclusive offers, as well as other promotional updates.

 

5. Launch an SMS Campaign 

Why not use SMS to stay in touch with customers? While other avenues are better for general advertising, SMS is ideal for creating specific messages for a highly-targeted group of customers or prospects. Make sure to include clear call-to-actions as well.

 

6. Implement QR Codes

Adding QR codes to collateral is an excellent promotional option for trade shows and other events, as well as general marketing. 

Try these and other B2B marketing ideas and see if business doesn’t improve. 

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 06, 2014

Gif-ify Your Texts with Popkey

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For millennials, it’s no longer enough to simply send a text message. There has to be some other ingredient. A video. A photo. A song. Look at any SMS thread from an under 30 and you’ll likely see a string of weird and wonderful emojis. 

Now it’s GIFs. The resurgence of GIFs is something few would have predicted ten years ago. In the mid-noughties, GIFs were outdated, a relic from Web 1.0. As soon as the internet had been around long enough to start witnessing retro fads, the GIF was back with a vengeance.

A new iPhone app is helping users easily find and share animated GIFs in order to express their emotions via SMS. PopKey takes advantage of Apple’s GIF-supporting Messages app in true style. 

It’s not the first GIF app, per se. Ultratext and others have come before it, but PopKey is the first to successfully integrate GIFs into a text messaging keyboard, without having to open a separate app. Here’s how it works: 

Users switch to the PopKey keyboard and search for an appropriate keyword. The results returned will be a list of static images which, once clicked on, will preview the GIF as a thumbnail. Simultaneously, PopKey copies the animation to the phone’s clipboard for easy pasting. Even if you like a particular GIF but opt not to use it, the app saves it in a favorites folder for easy future access.

There are a few drawbacks. PopKey’s GIFs aren’t particularly high-res. The app chooses speedy transmission over quality. And although you can upload new GIFs to the app, it requires you to grant access to your contacts and invite them to the service – something not everyone is willing to do. It also brands every GIF with the PopKey logo. Understandable, but slightly annoying.

But compared to emojis, PopKey’s GIFs get the job of conveying emotion done with a little more style, and a cool retro flourish.