Business and Operations
Is it time to text?
By Andrew Silver
By Andrew Silver
As smartphone applications continue to emerge, companies are spending
more of their marketing dollars on expanding by focusing on social
As smartphone applications continue to emerge, companies are spending more of their marketing dollars on expanding by focusing on social media campaigns. Is it time for independent pizzerias to get in on the action? A first step for those wary of the effectiveness of such 21st-century approaches may be to add texting to their marketing mix.
|Targeting today’s techies with a text messaging campaign is an affordable way to break into themobile marketing game. |
“To not have that channel is absolutely short-sighted,” says Gary Schwartz, president and CEO of the mobile marketing firm Impact Mobile.
Text messaging campaigns can reinforce and extend traditional marketing strategies, such as print or radio.
“Mobile is horizontal media that works in conjunction with other forms of marketing. It makes traditional media work harder,” says Schwartz.
Texting may be particularly effective in the fast food segment, as it can help customers who have an instant need for gratification.
Schwartz notes: “Mobile is the snack food of the impulse economy; it’s the decision on the run.”
How it works
In order to launch a text message channel, small businesses are recommended to first find a marketing partner. In Canada, companies such as Impact Mobile and Adenyo provide their customers with the proper technology and software and, more importantly, act as a liaison between businesses and mobile providers.
Michael Becker, managing director for the Mobile Marketing Association, says that one of the most important functions of a marketing partner is to provide its clients with access to a short code.
“This is the number that customers will text into. Small businesses will want to find a marketing partner who will allow them to share a short code.”
For example, Pizza Pizza uses the short code “pizza,” or 74992, as the number for sending out and receiving texts regarding specials, contests and promotions. Becker says that since short codes can be expensive (costing more than $1,000 per month to have your own) it is crucial for a small business to work with a marketing company that will allow it to share a short code. The marketing provider will be responsible for sorting the messages and rerouting them to the right place.
“The application provider is the expert. They will manage the relationship,” says Becker.
One of the key questions that any pizza shop will have before embarking on a texting campaign concerns where to find contacts. A texting strategy is futile without a database to text to.
Essentially, text messaging works on an opt-in basis. Unlike telemarketing or mail campaigns, small businesses cannot buy a list of phone numbers and then contact those potential customers.
“Mobile is an explicit opt-in channel. You have to invite someone to text in and have to have their explicit approval,” emphasizes Becker.
After a customer texts the pizzeria, the business would then reply, asking for explicit approval to contact them with promotions, specials, contexts, etc. Regarding privacy, if at any time the mobile customer wishes to stop receiving texts, he or she should only need text the word “stop” and communications will desist.
After partnering with a mobile marketing firm and acquiring a short code, you can get started on growing an opt-in list of contacts. The success of mobile marketing and text message campaigns depends on the strength of the small business’s opt-in list.
“You have to commit to building an opt-in database if you are going to attempt a mobile marketing campaign,” says Steven Gray, chief operating officer of Money Mailer.
Money Mailer, a leader in the U.S. direct mail industry, has found that using flyers to promote a business’s mobile channel can greatly help cultivate this list. Gray argues for a need to “promote mobile across every media spin. The stress is on multi-channel marketing.” Money Mailer even has a training program that helps its clients’ employees have better customer conversations about the mobile line.
Similarly, Schwartz adds: “Text is a key piece of your marketing mix, but it should be everywhere – on your boxes, in your store, on your slices, on your inserts, on billboards, in your mail.”
An easy way to successfully attract customers to text in to your short code is to offer them a special offer for doing so. For example, a pizzeria may offer a two-for-one special for customers who text “free pizza” to its short code.
Once you have a significant opt-in list to work with and the process is up and running you can begin sending out mass messages and promoting specials.
However, it is imperative for the small business to keep things simple.
“Crawl, walk, run,” says Schwartz. A text campaign can be a good entry point into a complex world of mobile websites and online ordering. Taking on too much too early can be costly and ineffective.
The Mobile Marketing Association’s Becker warns that when it comes to a more expansive Internet, Facebook and Twitter strategy “don’t get caught up in the hype. Text broadens your reach for the lowest cost impact to the business.” Developing a website for a mobile platform may be a waste of resources for a small business. Furthermore, developing something like a smartphone application can be very expensive, costing anywhere from $40,000 to $60,000, according to J.P. Casino, manager of mobile solutions at Adenyo.
“For a small business owner, text is definitely not outside of reach in terms of cost but messaging is a variable cost. To send around 1,000 messages per month you could pay as low as two to three cents each in the United States and as high as six cents per message in Canada,” says Casino. Each customer of a company like Adenyo or Impact Media will negotiate a package depending on that customer’s particular needs.
In terms of consumer costs, standard text messaging rates apply. There is no extra fee for texting to a short code, says Casino. For the small business, there are no charges for receiving incoming text messages, only for sending outgoing ones. And in terms of marketing effectiveness, text messaging seems to be viable.
“If you’re a small business, text messaging is the most cost-effective way to go,” says Becker. “Text will definitely broaden your consumer base.”
A shared short code can cost as little as $10 to $50 per month. In addition to this fee, the small business would also pay a fee per each message they send out, as well as a fee to use the mobile carrier’s network.
Gray from Money Mailer says that they have had “tremendous success with text messaging campaigns, with foodservice operations being particularly successful. Texting offers an inexpensive channel to allow customers to communicate with their consumer.” The significant thing about text messaging is that text is wherever the consumer is.
Customers always have their mobile phone on their person. Money Mailer reports a nine to 14 per cent response rate “almost from the time they hit the push button in the food category. The response is off the charts. And these are people that are actually placing orders,” says Gray.
Text campaigns can stand apart from other traditional forms of marketing because they create a direct line of communication with the consumer and open up a two-way dialogue. “Mobile is much more social than online or other forms of marketing,” says Schwartz. “It makes sense to leverage the same channel that consumers are using.”
The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) recently formalized a Canadian council to help accelerate the adoption of mobile marketing for its members in North America.
“We’ve been working in Canada to create a strong national presence and properly launch the MMA Canada Council,” said Michael O’Farrell, Country Manager, Canada for the MMA. “I’m pleased to be working with the MMA and all the founding members who are eager to work with industry, academia and alliances to maximize the opportunities for mobile marketers in Canada.”
In the impulse economy of food, pizza may be the perfect demographic for a text campaign. With the right mobile marketing partner and a committed strategy to cultivating an opt-in list, a texting may help bring in traffic and drive up sales.
“You can put a strategy in place that will blow the doors away on sales,”
says Schwartz. •
Andrew Silver is a Toronto-based freelancer writer.