Making text marketing messages pay off big

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While e-mail continues to be the most widely used b-to-b marketing communications channel, marketers are recognizing the benefits of using such other digital channels as mobile and are creatively integrating them into their marketing campaigns.

From increasing webinar attendance and driving booth traffic at trade shows to offering special promotions, surveying customers on product ideas or leveraging customer care notices, text messages—the kind commonly known as SMS, for “short message service”—are powerful ways for b-to-b marketers to communicate with their customers.

Also, with the increasing use of texting, customers are expressing their preference for messaging across digital channels. Marketers understand that appropriate responses to these preferences will drive future brand loyalty and customer lifetime value.

What matters most is the appropriateness of the channel choice. A text message is inherently a one-to-one form of communication. Its personal nature means that customer permission and content relevancy are not optional. Further, the interactive nature of text messaging means its use is about dialogue, not monologue, and that follow-on messages may be as important as the initial one.

The challenges of coordinating communications across multiple channels are not to be underestimated. Here are some pointers for marketers to consider as they look to integrate mobile text messages into the marketing mix:

• Take a customer-centric approach. Focus on capturing customer preferences about the types of text messages they want to receive, compared with e-mail and other channels. As you interact with the customers, build out their profiles with other topics appropriate to text messaging.

• Respect the customer's permission. By granting you permission to communicate via text messages, customers have expressed their trust and confidence that you'll use this personal medium as they expect. Think carefully about message relevancy, and don't violate it. Remember that every text message you send is a test of the value exchange and your ongoing permission to use the medium.

• Enhance the customer experience. Think creatively about how you can use texting for important, time-sensitive messages that improve service and customer care. These might include such things as account notices, advisory alerts and itinerary changes—relevant communications that will enhance the customer's experience with your brand and contribute to loyalty and lifetime value. If appropriate, piggyback these transactional notices with a relevant marketing up-sell message.

• Construct a friendly, fulfilling environment. Text messaging has obvious limitations in length and its plain-text nature, so you'll want to direct the customer to landing pages where you can deliver a richer experience. Just remember that texting is a real-time medium, so the customer will expect real-time responsiveness.

• Find the right platform. Choose a messaging solution that can manage multiple communications on a single platform. Also, understand that while messaging may be popular today, customer communication behaviors are evolving, so you'll want a platform that's extendable to other forms of digital messaging, such as those with multimedia content (MMS), instant messages or social media messages.

Making effective use of the mobile channel will enable b-to-b marketers to enhance customer loyalty and lifetime value, as well as realize important short-term revenue through up- and cross-sell opportunities. By using these best practices as a guide, marketers can open up new ways to communicate with their customers, strengthen these relationships and increase bottom-line profitability.

Dave Lewis is CMO of message management company Message Systems. He can be reached at [email protected].

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