Mobile Marketing: How to Use Text Messaging for Small Business

Mobile Marketing with Text Messages or SMS has increased by leaps and bounds over the last few years as  a new channel for small businesses to reach their customers.

Almost everyone has a cell phone capable sending and receiving texts, right? Sounds like a great way to communicate with your customers. And it is, but it is also quite  important that they want to read your messages.

What about spam? The reason SMS campaigns are not considered spam is that text messaging as a marketing tool is policed by the Carriers themselves, violators are simply blacklisted from the network . The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), has established guidelines and best practices for mobile marketing.

What are the Benefits?

Some of the unique advantages of mobile marketing:

Timing is Everything – Since messages are sent instantaneously (and can be scheduled), they can  be used strategically. Hours before a new software release, Valentine’s Day promotions, when concert tickets are on sale. You get the idea.

An Arm and a Leg? — Low Cost.  SMS campaigns are far cheaper than direct mail. It’s more compatible to email than regular mail.

They will Read It — One of the SMS requirements is having customers opt-in to your message list. The difference, with a text campaign, you are required by carriers and the MMA to obtain customer permission via double opt-in before you can send messages. This may seem like a burden to the marketer, but it is in fact a benefit. Recipients who opt-in want to receive your message and this greatly increases the effectiveness.  Unlike email, 90% of SMS Marketing Messages are actually read by the recipient.

Push or Pull?

SMS campaigns will generally be Push-Pull or CRM Strategies:

  • Push – This is comparable to email marketing. You have a database full of customers and promotional information is sent to them.
  • Pull – This is a promotional campaign where other media is persuade a customer to send a text. A radio spot or other collateral will offer some prize to those that text in with a keyword, at the same time opting-in. Note, that in this case the interested customer initiates the SMS relationship.
  • Customer Relationship Management (CRM) – These types of campaigns offer information to customers that promotes brand loyalty by enhancing the value of the service or product. The customer can send a text request and gets back, say the last three songs played on your favorite station or when an automatic payment was made.

How Does it Work?

Customers opt-in by sending a message to a short-code, usually a 5 digit number and a keyword you set up with a SMS messaging provider. Customers must also have the ability to Opt-out, usually by replying with STOP to your text.

So in order to communicate you have to get them to opt-in first. Here are some common ways of doing that:

  • Printed Material – Use your short code and keyword in print ads, brochures and other printed material.
  • Word of Mouth – At public events, be sure to ask people to opt-in to your list.
  • Web – Provide opt-in information on your website, social media site and blog.
  • Email – If you do email marketing, include information about your text service and sign-up details
  • Direct Mail – Any direct mailing you do with customers including invoicing should have opt-in instructions for your text messaging service.

Getting Started

Having a dedicated short code is quite expensive and not effective for small business. This means you will need to use a self-serve SMS Marketing site that provides shared short codes. You select a plan for a monthly fee.  Here are a few:

  • TextMarks (41411) – They’ve been around for a awhile and are quite popular with small businesses. They also have an API to SMS-enable web applications.
  • Mozes – Focused on the music and sports industries. Also a social networking site.
  • Sumotext – Full service platform, SMS alerts, innovative mobile giving programs via short codes.
  • txtsignal – If you anticipate have a small list of recipients, they are quite reasonable.
  • BLI Messaging – Full service provider, with optional services like email marketing and fax broadcasting.

Most of these have free trials, so take advantage.

Creating your Campaign

Once you have a list of recipient waiting to hear what you have to say, what next?

SMS Campaigns can be used by virtually any business or organization.  Think about your Business targets and from your customer’s point of view. Less can be more. Too many messages and customers will opt-out. It is also important to consider the precise timing advantage you have with this channel.  Here are some ideas:

  • Sending limited time special offers
  • Coupons
  • Alerts – change of venue or cancellation
  • Reminders and invitations
  • Last minute information – rate changes, travel delays, balance notifications


Use SMS Marketing to expand awareness of existing promotions, introduce new products and services, and driving sales of existing ones.

So to wrap things up, SMS Text Messaging can be a very effective  item in your Digital Marketing toolbox. Cost of entry is low, ROI could be large. Why not give it a try?


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