When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Texting

Alastair Shortland, CEO and Founder of SMS marketing company txtlocal, argues the case for SMS marketing in tough times

SMS marketing is proving just the tool for shrewd businesses look for innovative new media strategies to keep themselves ahead of the game during the economic downturn. SMEs feeling the pinch are searching for ways to cut marketing spend without compromising results. Its now more important than ever for businesses to improve efficiency, reduce waste and produce targeted responsive marketing campaigns and digital media such as mobile are proving the ideal solution ensuring much needed return on investment.
In this article, Id like to outline six key areas where mobile marketing can shine for any business.

1. Direct Response Advertising
For businesses feeling the pinch, return on investment is the key to ensure profitability. Its now more important than ever to ensure advertising produces results, and while costly advertising campaigns may be great for raising brand awareness, they are not always the best option for businesses looking for quick sales and ROI. Targeted bulk text campaigns to a qualified database, coupled with a strong call to action, can prove powerful in reaching impulse buyers at just the right time to entice a purchase.
The key to using mobile for direct response lies in the fact people carry their phones with them wherever they go, and so there is no more powerful way to reach people than by their phone, and with 75% of people reading their texts immediately, the direct impact can be huge. Statistics from the Mobile Data Association (MDA) show that response rates for mobile are four times higher than other direct marketing media such as direct mail and email, and at only a few pence a text,  and no production costs, a simple text message is a fraction of the cost of other direct marketing media.

2. Customer Retention Marketing

Anyone with a qualification in marketing will know that long term clients are the most profitable. Its now more crucial than ever to ensure that businesses retain the customers they already have. Keeping customers will not only save businesses money, but will make them money. According to a report by The Logic Group, loyal, longstanding customers account for over 50% of a companys annual sales. They are also higher value customers, happy to pay premium rates of around 30% to 50% more per transaction. For this reason, a CRM program is crucial, and regular communication via email and mobile is a great way to helping maintain communication. Of course, no one wants to be bombarded with endless SMS marketing campaigns, but a friendly personalised offer or promotion at just the right time will do no harm to your relationship and could provide just the push you need to increase sales.

3. Viral Marketing
Viral marketing includes any strategy that encourages individuals to pass on marketing messages to others, and with virtually the entire UK population owning at least one mobile phone, its little wonder that mobile, like the web, is recognised as a great viral marketing channel. 
With people looking for bargains, text is proving more powerful than ever. Texts are the ideal viral marketing tool, capable of reaching far beyond the initial recipients. Good offers and promotions are often shared amongst friends eager to spread the word of a good bargain. If businesses send out tempting offers and promotions, then its only human nature that people will want to share them, and it couldnt be any easier or more convenient to pass on a good tip to a friend than via a quick text. Also, people genuinely like receiving texts from friends. A survey conducted by txtlocal found that a whopping 94% of texts received by people are opened and read, which offers great opportunities for marketers.

4. Integrated Marketing

Mobile works best when integrated with other larger campaigns, and therefore its important for it to be integrated into all marketing communications material, such as newsletters, websites, e-marketing, POS, outdoor, TV and radio, in the same way a telephone number or email address would be included. This gives customers and prospects another medium  by which to get in touch with you, and one which many may view as easier than phoning or emailing. With a quick text, people can easily register their interest in a product or service. E.g Text BROCHURE + your email to 60777 All inbound opt-in details are stored in your online account for further contact.
A punchy Shortcode is easy to remember and quick to respond to.

5. Lead Generation

So the question is, how can marketers obtain good quality leads at a fair price? The tightening economy is sure to put lead generation tactics in the spotlight, as businesses search for ways to generate new leads. Mobile marketing campaigns enable businesses to build their own opt-in database of contacts at no extra cost, simply by publishing the mobile response mechanism on all marketing communications material. This is a much more practical way of operating than buying in cold call data from a broker. Displaying a Shortcode should start to become standard practice for every business looking to generate warm leads to market to.
Just recently, one Txtlocal customer, a sandwich shop in Telford, grew an optin list of 1,500 customers in two weeks just by putting up an A4 display in their window.  This was free. They then paid 40 to send a text message to everyone on the list, and tracked a 49% conversation rate on a 2-for-1 offer.  They claim that it surpasses any marketing they have previously tried:  a 40 spend generated 400 profit on just a single promotion.

6. Measuring and Tracking Results
During tough economic times, it is more important than ever for businesses to implement marketing strategies that are trackable and measureable. There is no point investing in advertising if its not properly monitored. Its important to track where sales are coming from, then analyse the statistics and drop whats not working in favour of what is. It doesnt cost anything to monitor where people heard of a business, and SMS text promotions such as 2-for-1 offers, free entry texts and buy one get one free promotions are easily monitored via visual or coded redemption mechanics. 
Its also easy to monitor other aspects of text campaigns, such as how many texts are opened, bouncebacks, unsubscribes and clickthrough rates, all of which also need to be accounted for when monitoring campaign success.

Mobile marketing set for growth
Mobile marketing strategies are still unfamiliar to a vast amount of SMEs, but at Txtlocal, we have witnessed firsthand the growth in mobile marketing and are confident that the trend is set to continue.
As marketing budgets are streamlined, marketers need to push their case for value for money from advertising and marketing spend and move more towards more measurable, ROI-focused media such as Internet and mobile marketing. Mobile tactics such as Shortcodes and text messaging should be integrated into larger marketing campaigns as an aid to increase mobiles potential in terms of sales, lead generation and campaign measurability.