Text for success: How Vibes Media is making the case for mobile marketing

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Challenge: Ten years ago, text messaging (or SMS) was virtually unheard of. Today, it's everywhere. "Texting" has even made its way into the vernacular, and many can hardly imagine a day without texts. Chicago-based Vibes Media has capitalized on this phenomenon and has infiltrated the mobile marketing market in ways that few companies have done before. Mobile marketing, a term used to describe two-way marketing via mobile devices, has been around since the early 2000s, and has since become a powerful tool used by companies to engage consumers and increase brand familiarity and loyalty. Vibes, whose biggest competitors include Enpocket and ipsh!, helped build text messaging as a tool for companies to interactively communicate with their customers via cellular phones.

But it hasn't always been easy to convince companies that text messaging was an effective marketing tactic with strong potential to add to their bottom line.

"It was an education problem," said Jack Philbin, co-founder and president of Vibes Media. "Mobile marketing is a new segment, and it becomes difficult to convince companies that this type of marketing is a worthwhile investment when people are uneducated about its benefits." Philbin touts mobile marketing for its ability to create an immediate call to action with results that are 100% measurable.

Nevertheless, Vibes still had difficulty convincing companies to jump on the mobile marketing bandwagon. "I've gone to meetings where executives are like 'why would I ever text when I can e-mail or use my BlackBerry?' Philbin said. His reply: "The proof is in the adoption." According to Philbin, there are only 5 million BlackBerrys whereas there are over 200 million cell phones.

Because many companies were unsure about adopting mobile marketing as a way of reaching their customers, it was Vibes' job to convince companies that text messaging was the marketing of the future.

"We have a sales team that goes out and talks with clients one-on-one," said the company's account director Cheryl Sanders. "We try to understand the hesitations that companies have, and then try to get them over that hurdle. We understand that they have tons of communication options, but we want them to also understand that we can make mobile marketing work harder for them."

When approaching potential clients, Vibes' sales staff give customized presentations on the benefits of adopting mobile marketing and presents data relevant to the specific industry of the client. "One thing we talk about advantages that mobile marketing has to offer," Sanders said.

Vibes provides companies with case studies, as well as with demographic information of the mobile marketing industry and its growth. Additionally, Vibes attends key industry events and also places ads in key publications relevant to their target audience such as Advertising Age and Mediaweek.

Vibes has also enlisted the help of a public relations company. "They are instrumental in helping keep us abreast of the mobile marketing industry," Sanders said. "They give weekly reports of the industry, identify key events to attend, try to get Vibes mentioned in the press and work with the owners to arrange speaking engagements."

Today Vibes works with dozens of companies and has implemented more than 7,500 text messaging programs in the U.S. To date, more than 11.5 million people have participated in these programs, sending more than 120 million text messages.

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