SMS (short messaging service) is starting to emerge as an important part of the marketing mix because of its nature as a cost-effective vehicle that yields high-response rates while offering a broad reach into the community.
That is the word from Doug Mattheus, marketing director at Nashua Mobile.
He says that an increasing number of South African businesses, large enterprises and SMEs alike, are using SMS marketing to acquire and retain customers, sell and promote products, and re-enforce branding efforts.
Much like Internet-based marketing, SMS allows companies to get involved in a dialogue with their customers rather than merely beaming messages down to them. Studies of SMS marketing in Europe have shown that SMS marketing yields an average response rate of between 10% and 15%, no doubt thanks to the interactive and immediate nature of the cellular channel.
"One of the biggest advantages SMS offers is its immediacy. Once a company has set up an SMS-based messaging system, it can send out personalised messages to its customers within minutes if the need arises," says Mattheus.
"Most consumers nearly always have their cellphones with them and frequently check for new messages, so marketers can also be certain that most of their customers are getting the message quickly. It is also cheap and convenient for a consumer to tap in an immediate response to the message."
Because of its immediacy, SMS is particularly well suited to sending time-sensitive information such as promotions and specials that have a limited time span, information bulletins and offers to enter competitions.
SMS also mixes well with other media. Instead of going to the expense of setting up a hotline to deal with customer queries or responses after a print or broadcast campaign, companies can simply provide consumers with a number to SMS. This approach has worked well in a number of TV and radio competitions, for example.
Cellular service providers such as Nashua Mobile offer SMS gateways that can process thousands of SMS messages in an hour. Not only does the use of SMS help to keep the costs of gathering information low, it also prevents losing respondents who never get around to posting off that envelope or who hung up in frustration after being kept on hold by a call centre.
Viral marketing is another spin-off that companies may enjoy from a successful SMS marketing campaign. If a user is impressed enough by a message or promotion, he or she may forward it onto friends who in turn send it on to other people on their contact lists, says Mattheus.
"Companies that integrate SMS with their customer relationship management systems can apply the technology to even more sophisticated applications. For example, companies can reap inbound SMS messages and use them to update customer databases," says Mattheus.
Mattheus says that SMS marketing should always be permission-based since spamming customers and prospects will damage a company's brand.
Messages should always contain the name and contact details of the organisation that sent them.
"Unlike sending e-mails, sending SMSs is not free. As a result, SMS spam has not grown into the nuisance that many consumers may have anticipated.
However, consumers find unwanted SMS messages even more intrusive than e-mail spam since they cannot simply filter it out with," he adds.
The Marketing Federation of South Africa has drawn up an SMS code that provides a good guideline on how marketers can use SMS in a professional and ethical way (
http://www.smscode.co.za/</a>). The code advises companies against sending messages to users who have not given them permission to use their numbers for marketing purposes, except when the consumers have prior relationships under which they could reasonably expect to receive communications from the sender of the message.
For more information contact Mimecast South Africa, 011 447 0655, fax: 011 447 9687, firstname.lastname@example.org