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15 5 Creative Ways to Use Text Messages in Marketing

Text Message Marketing

Ed Yourdon via Flickr

The mobile marketing category is this year’s red-hot topic. Of course, for some businesses mobile and text messages (SMS) are synonymous – and not always in a good way.


Anyone that has received a spam text message may view that evil activity as the only use of SMS and that would be a shame. The use of text messaging has skyrocketed. People now use it for basic one to one communication far more frequently than the telephone and this behavior calls for expanded thinking around the topic in general.

SMS may never really be that effective as a pure lead generation tool, like email or direct mail, but it is a very effective and convenient delivery mechanism for customers and prospects seeking specific actions and information. View it in that light and perhaps some creative uses leap to mind.

Newsletter sign-up

Using short code technology, a feature that allows users to text a word to a specific number to receive information, you can allow people to sign-up to your email newsletter. I like this approach because you can put the code on a business card or slide when speaking and make it very easy for people to subscribe with their phone on the spot.

The beauty of this approach is that you can marry mobile technology with your already established email technology and offline tactics and you create a marketing lead without the need to ever send another text to the lead. I’ve used EZTexting for this application

Real time appointments

Services such as salons, dentists and even restaurants can use text to fill gaps in the appointment schedule and offer busy customers the ability to come in now if it works.

This would certainly work for home service providers such as plumbers and window cleaners too. Imagine getting a text saying we could be at your home in thirty minutes.

You could also flip this around and send out a list of open times and let people pick one. A service like Mobivity is very easy to set up for this type of use.

Share your slides

I speak to lots of groups and without fail someone always asks if I’ll share my slides. I have no problem doing this, so I’ve started to set up a short code word for each event and I simply say text “event name” to the code and people get a message that allows them to download the slides on the spot while I’m standing up there in front of them. On top of convenience this still offers up a bit of wow factor for participants.

I’ve also used to this approach to gather instant feedback on a presentation by asking participants to text their thoughts on the event to a short code. TxtWire is another simple service that is very small business friendly

Instant polling

If you’ve ever attended a workshop or seminar that features polling hardware you know how cool it can be for a presenter to ask a question and then have the audience click their handheld controller to vote or make a choice.

The problem is that all those little RF keypads, receiver and software to integrate with your slides can add up to lots of bucks.

A number of web based technologies such as Poll Everywhere have cropped up of late making it very affordable to poll audiences by having them use SMS and their own mobile device.

You ask a question and then offer the responses via short code and watch the results populate your PowerPoint slide. For an event, this technology requires that there is a web connection available, but you can also use this in print or other environments to collect data.

Coupon distribution

Creating membership type levels where people can get special treatment or special announcements is a great way to build community.

You can use SMS to allow people to join your “first mover” club and then routinely send them coupons, gift certificates, special previews, and advanced education and information only available to club members.

You can also simply set up codes where people can request this week’s hot deal or special coupon. A tool like CellIt is a good place to learn more.

Bonus: Group Text

Don’t forget about the wave of group text services that are cropping up as a great way to communicate with your staff, customers, partners and suppliers. The key feature these services offer is that the group text becomes a conversation for all and most allow you to go beyond to text and add images (MMS).

You can create open groups that anyone can join, but I think the real power is in the private, controlled group. I’ve been using GroupMe and think it works well.

4 Shifting to the Third Screen

Marketing podcast with Chuck Martin (Click to play or right click and “Save As” to download – Subscribe now via iTunes or subscribe via other RSS device (Google Listen)

The Third Screen
The term used in the title of this post is the current favorite for those that write and speak about the growth of mobile devices in our everyday life. The mobile screen has now outpaced screens one and two, the TV and Computer monitor.

Focus on the mobile device has really picked up of late in marketing circles and will probably go down as one of this year’s hottest topics.

My guest for this week’s episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is Chuck Martin, CEO of The Mobile Future Institute and Director of the Center of Media Research at MediaPost Communications Inc and author of The Third Screen: Marketing to Your Customers in a World Gone MobileThe Third Screen.

I love the title of the book because it reinforces the idea that it’s not that marketing has change, the world around us has changed, and that requires a shift in how we apply our already stated objectives to this evolving space.

In this interview Martin sets the table for “why now” by sharing what had become overwhelming evidence that mobile behavior is overtaking pretty much any other kind of business and consumer behavior.

From a business standpoint there are some interesting aspect inherent in the current use of mobile – the buying intent of a mobile surfer is often very high. In some cases they are literally searching for a place to shop right now.

In addition, the size of the screen also changes the psychology of the surfer. Snack sized facts, ease of contact, laser sharp calls to action and minimal need for navigation – all things that might hamper a desktop visit – are an essential part of the mobile experience.

Mobile intensifies the importance of inbound marketing (being found) and couples it with the need for ease of discovery (just the facts mam)

I still get pushback from some small business marketers that can’t seem to get past the idea of spam text messages for lead generation as the sum game of mobile. Like much of the “Twitter is total waste of time” talk that emerged in 2008, there’s truth, hype and money to be made and lost in every new direction the Internet takes us.

Use this filter question as you analyze any new tool or direction: How could this help me do a better job serving the customers I already have? Figure that out and you’ll never be led astray.

I’ll share my thoughts on how small businesses should start viewing mobile and just how they might get started in tomorrow’s post.

You can listen to the show by subscribing the feed in iTunes or a variety of other free services such as Google Listen (Use this RSS feed) or you can buy the Duct Tape Marketing iPhone app. (iTunes link – Cost is $2.99) or

14 Are We Marketing in a Mobile World

Today I’m presenting at BlogWorld Expo in New York (#BWENY) on the topic of mobile marketing with Navin Ganeshan of Network Solutions. (I’ll share my notes on the talk tomorrow.)

Joshua Kaufman via Flickr

But here’s the thing – there’s really no such thing as mobile marketing. For that last few years I’ve been saying the same thing about social media marketing – really no such thing.

Marketing is marketing and job #1 for marketers the last few years has been adapting their marketing in a world that’s embraced social behavior.

I wrote my annual predictions for the year column for OPENForum and predicted that this year mobile would finally land – okay, not much of a stretch on predictions, but we are squarely in it and small business folks need to jump on board – but here’s the deal, here’s how to start thinking about it so that it makes sense.

There’s really no such thing as mobile marketing, it’s simply a matter of adapting your marketing to a world that’s gone mobile.