Small Business

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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 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 29, 2014

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. 

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

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.

 

 

 

 

November 23, 2014

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.

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.