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Small businesses texting: effective marketing method?

Posted by Jason Keith  December 18, 2012 11:09 AM

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If one was so inclined, with all the notifications that come with smartphones, someone could set it up to "ding" every few minutes with something. Phone messages, texts, Facebook updates, Twitter updates, AP News feeds, software upgrades, gaming activity - the list goes on and on.

For me personally, I make it a point to turn off all of these distractions so that the only time my phone makes noise is when I get a text message, or someone is calling. That ensures that I check it, assuming that it's coming from someone relatively important with a message that I want to see. But last week, when I got a text message from my local dentist, telling me that I am due for a bi annual cleaning, I was a little taken aback. The first thought that went through my head was, "oh jeez I need to schedule that, I AM due for a cleaning." My second thought was, "hey wait a minute, I don't remember opting into text message marketing from my dentist."

I've talked about a lot of marketing channels from social media to direct mail, email and websites. But one that I haven't gotten into is one that hasn't truly taken hold yet: text message (or SMS) marketing. This was another avenue once cornered by large businesses with big budgets, but has since become accessible to local small businesses. The benefits are obvious in terms of reach and viewership. There is no "spam" filter for text messaging, so it comes through regardless. And with most phones, a preview is shown right on the front screen, meaning if one looks at the phone the message is received. Links to deals, coupon codes and discounts can all be sent via text, with shortened links as well as branded messaging.

It's effective, which is why it's taken off and there are now a number of small companies that offer text messaging packages for under $100 a month. In a recent story published by SnapGiant, there were some eye opening statistics around text message marketing that included:


  • Mobile coupons receive 10 times higher redemption rates than print coupons.

  • 16% of smartphone users made a purchase because of a marketing message received on their phone.

  • 50% of those surveyed reported receiving text messages from retailers and making a purchase as a result.

  • Mobile ads perform 4-5 times better that online ads in key metrics such as brand favorability, awareness, and purchase intent.

  • 90% of text messages are read within 3 minutes of being delivered.


However, unlike a lot of other marketing channels that may be considered a little less intrusive, like email marketing and social advertising, SMS marketing hits people right on a device that they use numerous times every single day and carries a level of privacy that's protected, sometimes vigorously. What any small business will have to weigh is whether or not the risk of annoying or alienating a customer is worth the potential revenue that will be generated as a result. Much like email, there's a fine line between being promotional and effective and being overly aggressive.

There are also clear guidelines set forth by the FCC as well as under the existing CAN-SPAM act that should be followed. Although most vendors that any small business works with should be in compliance with these laws.

Like any marketing channel, it needs to be tested and measured to see how effective it will be. It's important to measure the frequency, message, offers and sales that are generated. If done correctly, it can provide an easy avenue for your customers to purchase. But if done incorrectly, it could alienate loyal customers and drive them away. Ensuring that existing customers are opting in to SMS is very important, so they're expecting the messages that you will be sending.

Have you tried SMS marketing as a small business? Have you found it effective or would you be hesitant to even try it?

This blog is not written or edited by Boston.com or the Boston Globe.
The author is solely responsible for the content.

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About this blog

Jason Keith has been working for and with small businesses in the New England area for more than 10 years, specifically small, micro businesses. Born and raised in Massachusetts and a former journalist, he provides a unique perspective on the issues facing small businesses locally and nationally.To reach him directly email jasonpkeith@gmail.com.

This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here are the author's alone.

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