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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.

71 What Small Business Needs to Do to Get Ready for Mobile Marketing Now

We’ve been talking about the coming of mobile marketing for a long time now. I remember talking about it when I was doing work for one of first PCS carriers, Aerial Communications (now owned by T-Mobile), back in 1995 of version of blog

Mobile marketing has taken far longer to evolve than people imagined, but I believe we are on the doorstep of an evolution in marketing that will rival social media in terms of impact.

First off, what is mobile marketing really? To me it’s not a hot trend driven by some new killer technology so much as a realization of the fact that more people have mobile devices than land lines and those devices have evolved to contain the power of usability of multiple devices, including desktop computers. According to industry source dotMobi four mobile devices are purchased today for every personal computer purchased.

My current mobile device is a phone, email client, web browser, digital camera, video camera, digital recorder, music player, alarm clock, navigation system, compass, calendar, to-do list, flashlight, book reader, hard drive, guitar tuner, and four-track recorder.

People are using mobile devices for everything, including surfing and shopping for local businesses, products, and services. Marketers must now come to grips with the inclusion of this device as one of the considerations whether it’s to broadcast or be found.

In this coming year the buzz around mobile marketing will get very strong as big brands rush to create text coupons, iPhone apps, and offerings based on your phone’s current location, but most small businesses can play in the mobile game by simply making these subtle changes.

Read and learn

The first step to getting involved in mobile marketing is getting educated. These sites are a great place to start.

Search Engines

Bookmark the mobile versions of the major search engines and start learning how differently they return and display search results. This is an important area as mobile SEO will differ for now from traditional SEO and understanding the differences is a part of the game.


Mobile marketing may be more important to some industries or target market demographics initially than others. Restaurants and anyone trying to attract customers under 30, for example, have better jump in with both feet, but eventually the local accounting firm will need to master mobile marketing as well.

One of the first steps is to get a sense of how many people today are visiting and viewing your websites using a mobile device. There are many things that can be done to address the needs of this audience once you start to learn about them.

Mobile web analytics packages have become popular in recent years.

  • Google Analytics – This free tool does the job to some degree if you set-up a customer segment for a list of mobile browsers or screen resolutions associated with mobile devices
  • Mobilytics is a free tool that can track mobile site traffic and web application usage.
  • Bango – a paid tool that boasts the best accuracy and is a leader in this rather new field

Mobile Friendly Sites

While mobile coupons and location based offers may seem far off for your local small business, the fact that a growing percentage of web surfers use their mobile devices to view your website is here today. Creating a mobile version of your website must become a priority.

There are a number of ways to address this task. You can work with a designer to create a smaller, simpler site that involves mobile standards or you can employ one of the growing number of bridge tools that can convert your site. For now, the mobile site converter tools look very promising as a way to get a mobile version of your site immediately and also include some of the necessary SEO, sitemaps and analytics at the same time.

  • MoFuse – this paid service can convert your entire site and put it on a custom domain such as The good news is that you can get your blog converted for free.
  • MOBIFY – Another converter that offers a nice list of features for a monthly fee
  • EverywhereIGo – Nice set of features including form building and SMS functionality
  • WordPress Mobile Pack – Plugin that offers mobile functions for WordPress blogs

Tools like the ones listed above are a great solution right now, but I suspect, as mobile sites become the norm, web design firms and open source plugins will create mobile versions of sites as part of a standard package.

Auto detection – A word about mobile domains. Once you create a mobile site with its own URL you will want to make sure your server determines when a mobile browser in visiting your primary site URL and automatically redirects it to your mobile site. This way you won’t need to promote two separate URLs. This is standard in most mobile site converters, but you may need to add some code to the head of your main site to facilitate this step. Here’s some bonus reading on Mobile Site Detection.

Text Message Campaigns and Ads

Text messages get read – depending on the source, research suggests it’s over 90%. So, at some point, small businesses will need to embrace text message (also called SMS) campaigns. This new frontier will eventually suffer fatigue in ways the email enjoys currently, but done right, it is a powerful new tool. One very simple principle to get started – this is not another broadcast channel, it’s a way to offer useful information to people who want to receive it.

Choosing the right vendor and strategy is key to your success. Offering coupons, Text2Win, and SMS auto responder campaigns are a few simple ways to start building a Text Message database for future use.

  • Clickatell – whole business communications solutions using SMS
  • Mobivity – focuses on use of short code messaging – ie: Text DuctTape to win
  • Mobireply – very simple text message auto-responder
  • AdMob – offers mobile advertising opportunities for small businesses and web publishers

Mobile Apps for Smallest Business

Eventually you may feel the overwhelming need to create your very own mobile applications like those you see in the iTunes app store. You can hire a programmer to create a custom app or check out one of these low-cost simply builders. As users choose mobile apps over web based sites this is a tool that many businesses must consider even for content that is available on their main site.

Local Directories

One final thought and plea for you to get your company listed with the local search directories. A great deal of local search on the mobile device (ie: people looking for a local business to buy from) will happen around the local search directories that are powered with click to call, maps, directions, and coupons. This may be the highest priority if you haven’t yet claimed this real estate.

28 R U Collecting Mobile Phone Numbers Yet?

A decade or so ago the cry was to build your email lists. It’s still a very valid tactic today, but now is the time to start collecting those mobile phone numbers too. About 60 billion people have mobile phones and with each passing year the technology improves to the point where it may be the only portal of information for some folks.

First off, just like you wouldn’t spam with email, you certainly don’t want to grab mobile phone numbers from prospects and customers so you can send annoying messages. There are some great reasons to use text messaging however and smart marketers, including small businesses, are starting to discover them.

Services like Mobile Storm and Mobivity are making easy and affordable for small business to explore the world of mobile marketing. Pizza joints are sending out coupons via mobile for sure, but small businesses of every ilk are also creating campaigns for weekly tips, event updates, contests and members only content via mobile campaigns.

This is a very hot topic and one that’s not going away soon, so dive in and start learning.

I conducted an interview with Kim Dushinski this week for upcoming episode of the Duct Tape Podcast. Kim is the author of the soon to be released – Mobile Marketing Handbook. I’ve had an early read and this is a great resource. More on that.