The SMS Marketing Blog

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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.

SMS Do-Over: The App That Lets You Delete Sent Messages

 

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You know the feeling. You’ve just hit ‘send’ on an incendiary/embarrassing/meaningless/meaningful (delete as appropriate) SMS and really wish you hadn’t. You’d give anything to delete it from the recipient’s phone.

Well now you can do just that – and you don’t have to give anything at all. Free text messaging app Wiper is generating ripples of excitement amongst online privacy advocates – but does it really work?

In short, yes. It may not be the smoothest messaging interface out there, but it does what it promises by allowing users to make calls, send texts and – most importantly – wipe messages that have already been sent. A pleasingly retro eraser animation scrubs the erroneous message and sends a notification to the recipient letting them know what’s happened.

The Wiper team are still working on solving the problem of screenshots; thus far, a recipient can still grab an image of the conversation, effectively nullifying the app’s primary function. However, Wiper will send you a notification to let you know a screenshot has been taken. At least you can prepare yourself for whatever shades of hellfire you imagine will rain down on you for your SMS slip-up. 

Wiper’s kill-switch takes the idea of text messaging as an ephemeral form of communication one stage further. The ex you ill-advisedly texted after a few beers may not be able to ‘unsee’ what you wrote, but at least they can’t show their friends or humiliate you by uploading it to social media. One tap, all gone.

But Wiper’s raison d’etre is about much more than destroying embarrassing tittle-tattle. CEO Manlio Carrelli sees privacy as one of the ‘big issues of our time’ and wants to bring the ideals of data protection to the general public.

Which is all well and good, providing we can trust yet another promising tech start up with our personal data. The app is not open source. We can only take the developers’ word that they will decisively destroy information from their servers once the erase command is given. With data protection such a high-profile, sensitive issue, a little cynicism has to be expected.

That said, the app makes a decent fist of allowing users to have freewheeling conversations just as if they were talking one-on-one, in person, with no fear of their words coming back to haunt them. You can also share YouTube videos instantly, simply by clicking on them from within the app. For the data deletion skeptics, this feature is probably more attractive than Wiper’s headline function. 

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. 

SMS Can Drastically Improve the Cost Effectiveness of Your Collections Process

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In the past, collections agencies have utilized automated calls and effective agents to receive payments from the overdue accounts of borrowers. These days, we have the advantage of automated digital options, including email and apps to help remind customers of their bills. One method has risen to the top recently, though – the SMS authorized payment. 

Due to the explosion in mobile traffic, lenders are turning to SMS as the principal way to reach the bearers of overdue accounts. Everyone has a mobile phone, and since they tend to carry them at all times, this has made the method of SMS authorized payments very attractive to lenders. Collections agencies are now reporting that SMS strategies for collections have the highest rate of successful repayments.

 

Reduction in Expenses

The benefits to lenders are clear. SMS authorized payments reduce costs for the lender, while providing a superior customer experience. Studies show that SMS payments cost lenders about one-quarter of the amount required for automated voice services, and only a tenth of what it costs to pay an agent to secure collections.

 

Customer Preference

In addition, customers prefer digital contact with lenders rather than with a direct agent. There are many reasons that borrowers lean toward digital contact: Agents can be more difficult for customers to interact with, and digital methods are less embarrassing and intrusive for borrowers.

Provided that a lender abides by all privacy laws while leaving preferences up to the customer, most customers will choose to pay through interactive SMS correspondence. Options must be provided for each borrower: should a customer decide to pay using another method, the lender should work to allow for these changes. As always, any and all payments must be allocated by the collections system, regardless of method.

 

Integration 

SMS technology is also one of the easiest methods to incorporate into established collections systems. Once receiving the SMS past due alert, the customer can pay by phone or click through to the website in order to create a payment plan, chat with a live agent, and schedule future payments. It is on the website that the customer should be given the option to manage their payments through SMS authorized payments according to their schedule. These preferences should include the best way for the lender to contact the borrower as well. Creating ease-of-use online will drastically impact your opt-in text list.

All in all, SMS authorized payments are the wave of collections’ future. Consider the benefits to your agency, and the peace of mind you will provide for customers. 

3 Ways to Get More Punters with Mobile Marketing

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Punter (noun) British, informal : customer

SMS messaging is the most effective marketing method for bars. It lets you target specific customers with bespoke promotions, maximize your ROI and grow that all-important contact list.

The beauty of using mobile marketing tactics for bar promotion is the receptiveness of a willing audience, primed to engage with businesses via their smartphone. According to a recent YouGov survey, 75% of smartphone users prefer to receive promotional material in a text message. It’s a flexible medium capable of sending short, succinct information containing links to rich content. SMS is the perfect gateway to the meatier elements of your marketing strategy.

Here are five reasons why text message marketing is a good way to grow your business:

Immediacy

More than 90% of text messages are opened and read within a few minutes. That includes commercial SMS which, unlike email, requires opt-in consent from users. For that reason, texts are trusted sources of information. Let’s say you run a promotion via email. You need to announce your latest drinks special at least a few days ahead of time. What if your bar ends up packed with punters who did not receive the email? There was no need to run the offer and you’ve failed to maximize your profits. With SMS marketing, you can turn a slow Monday night into a busy one by issuing a last-minute deal. Now, you’re only reducing prices when it makes sound financial sense to do so.

Entertainment Promotions

If you run a live music program, you’ll know how effective it can be at drawing in a crowd. But bands are notoriously unreliable, and schedules can change with only a few hours notice. SMS messaging keeps your punters abreast of all the latest changes to the lineup, so even if someone pulls out, you can minimize the negative impact of disappointed customers.

Geo-Targeted Promos

One of the most powerful weapons in the mobile marketers arsenal, geo-targeting is a highly effective strategy for attracting nearby business. For bars and restaurants, geo-targeting is particularly useful, as you can quickly identify which opt-in customers are in the area, devise a promotion that will appeal to them, and get them through the door. This technique is especially useful on weekend nights; people are already out (often in large groups) bar-hopping with no real destination in mind. Geo-targeting allows you to attract passing trade during busy nights by offering an unbeatable drinks promotion. Again, make the offer time limited and punters are more likely to make a snap decision. With your nearby promotion, they’ll do the math and realize that spending the next couple of hours in your bar will save them a bundle.

SMS message marketing is highly effective for a fraction of the cost of other forms of advertising. A strategy can be devised and implemented within minutes. Reaching an audience in such a short space of time simply isn’t possible with more traditional ad mediums like radio and print. If your bar still doesn’t have a mobile marketing strategy, get one going in time for the festive season and your business will have a very merry Christmas indeed…

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.

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.

6 Thanskgiving Ideas for Restaurants

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Thanksgiving is a tricky time for restaurateurs to negotiate. Many eating establishments simply close for the day, unwilling to compete with the home-cooked fare being prepared in homes across the country. 

For most restaurants, that’s probably a fairly sensible idea. But just because you’re closed doesn’t mean you can’t capitalize on the holiday. In fact, by giving your staff the day off and minimizing your overheads, and helping customers prepare for their family Thanksgiving meal, your business could turn a bigger profit closed than open. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some top tips for making the most out of this year’s Turkey Day.

Make Dessert

With so much food to prepare for the big day, the idea of outsourcing some of the culinary responsibility is very appealing. Why not use your expertise to sell desserts or side dishes to customers as a way of relieving the pressure? Take pre-orders so you know exactly how much you need to order, and ask customers to pick their dishes up on Wednesday before 2pm so you can close early, safe in the knowledge you’ve made some extra cash.

Provide Supplies

In the same vein, you can make the most of your unused assets when closed for Thanksgiving. Offer chairs, tables and utensils at knock-down rental prices. Even if you throw in the washing up, your costs will be minimal. 

Offer a Seasonal Incentive

Take a holly leaf out of Christmas’ book and run a promotional schedule that counts down to the big day. Starting the Sunday before Thanksgiving, offer customers a 20% on wine one day, a half-off coupon for entrees the next, and so on up until you close. It’s a good way to generate more business to see you through the Thanksgiving slump.

Christmas Meal Vouchers

With Christmas around the corner, why not tie in your Thanksgiving promotions to the upcoming holiday season? Unlike Thanksgiving, it’s not uncommon for people to eat out on Christmas Day, so offer a deal on the latter that only applies if they buy before the former. Use the opportunity to entice customers to sign up for text alerts – it’s one of the most effective mobile marketing tactics there is.

Takeout Deals the Night Before

Again, you are well-positioned to alleviate the pressure on Thanksgiving cooks by eliminating the need for themcto make dinner the night before. Offer mobile coupons for takeout boxes on Wednesday November 26. Even if you don’t usually offer a takeout service, it’s a winning mobile marketing strategy; you can make a selling point of the service being a one-off, never-to-be-repeated deal.

Close for the entire weekend

Here’s an interesting one. It might seem counter-intuitive to close shop for the days following Thanksgiving, but it can work wonders for staff morale, bringing them back to the restaurant with renewed energy. Remember, most people are thinking about retail - not restaurants - on Black Friday, and between shopping for deals they’re working their way through all the leftovers. Instead of risking a quiet couple of days, close on Friday and Saturday and return with a bang on Sunday for the start of the Christmas craziness.

 

 

 

 

The Weirdest Thanksgiving Marketing Ideas

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If Halloween heralds the start of the Fall/Winter spending bonanza, and Christmas marks the climax, Thanksgiving is the comfortable middle age of the season; it’s not always easy for retailers to capitalize on Turkey Day. Unless you’re in the catering industry, there’s no guarantee of a healthy revenue increase. Halloween has costumes and candy. Christmas has gifts and decorations. Both require lashings of mulled cider and other boozy delights.

Thanksgiving is a comparatively quiet time for consumers, which means you have to get extra creative with your mobile marketing strategy. To help you out, we’ve come up with some truly weird and wonderful ideas to help your business through the holiday with a healthy profit, and set you up for the Yuletide madness that kicks in on Black Friday…

Break a Record

With so many bizarre world records out there, breaking one is not as hard as you might think. If you’re in the footwear retail business, why not try shattering the Guinness World Record for the longest line shoes, which currently stands at 10,513 (heel-to-toe)? After all, you have access to plenty of resources, and you can tie in a giveaway for people who attend the event. For more seasonal records, try plucking three turkeys in less than 11 minutes and 30 seconds, or persuading a willing employee to break the world record for the longest hug (currently standing at 24 hours and 33 minutes). The more relevant to your industry the better, but whatever record you attempt it’s a surefire way to generate free publicity.

Cranberry Bucket Challenge

Riding coat-tail on a wildly successful meme is one way to tap into the online zeitgeist. If you can give it your own twist, even better. Arguably the biggest viral success of 2014, the ice-bucket challenge is so simple it can easily be modified – as Charlie Sheen proved with his version in August. Give it a Thanksgiving spin by encouraging staff and social media followers to dump Cranberry sauce over themselves. It’s messier (and more expensive!) than ice, but it’s also a lot more colorful and crazy. 

Mobile Turkey Hunt

Incentivize your online followers to sign up for mobile alerts by offering a festive bundle of prizes to anyone who can find a stuffed turkey in a major city (stuffed with fabric, that is, not hazelnuts and sage!). Run a 48 hour turkey hunt, and send periodic clues via text message to participants. The first to send in a photo of the bird wins. Not only is it a slightly off-the-wall mobile marketing campaign, it will grow your contact list and set you up for future efforts.

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.