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Mobile marketing needs a great leap forward

Around the world, people are increasingly conversing using SMS, and making fewer and fewer voice calls, particularly in the youth market. A recent Washington Post article looks at how the “texting generation doesn’t share boomers’ taste for talk”. It is a fact that consumers are having interactive and fulfilling conversations via SMS.

So why are so few companies really engaging with their customers via this channel? Too often, the mobile component of a marketing campaign is tacked on at the end, rather than being carefully considered during the entire design process. As a result, the immense power of mobile marketing is being stunted, and the thinking has become one-dimensional.

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We know there is a rapid shift happening in how brands interact with consumers: from one-way, top-down communication, to an ongoing conversation between the consumer and the brand. Instead of broadcasting messages, brands need to focus on listening to consumers. By giving consumers a voice, brands have the ability to adapt their messages and products to give their customers what they really want.

So it’s clear, as a brand you need to join the conversation with your customers who are talking to each other via 160 characters. Yet so many mobile marketing campaigns are hinged on a once-off response from the consumer, with very little thought given on how to continue engaging with them.

Once a trusted personal relationship has been developed with an audience, the brand is in a powerful position to start soliciting feedback from clients on a range of topics, including:

  • their experience of the service provided,
  • their suggestions on improving the product, or
  • client recommendations on how to use the product.

Input can be responded to directly or published online and shared with the brand’s wider community. Loyal brand ambassadors can be identified and rewarded, by seeing their ideas implemented or via gifts or other benefits.

Imagine a situation where a food-related brand offers a series of free recipes via text, instead of simply running a “text-to-win” style competition. Suddenly, the ongoing engagement gives the consumer a compelling reason to opt into the communication, and allows the brand to build a trusted relationship with them, and then benefit from feedback and input from a loyal customer base. (If anyone thinks you can’t deliver recipes in 160 characters or fewer, take a look here).

Likewise, a sporting brand might offer customers a free weather service via text for customers on-the-go, and a financial services company could provide free market information in real time

Typically, SMS engagements are triggered via another channel, for instance a TV ad, display ad or billboard. It’s crucial the mobile marketing component be considered at the outset of a campaign, while it is being designed, in order to ensure this ongoing engagement. In fact, mobile marketing is the key to elevating a marketing activity from an isolated campaign to an ongoing conversation with customers and potential customers, via a medium of their choice.

The flipside to these benefits and the trust you can build up via this personal device, is the potential to do your brand massive damage if you get it wrong. Make sure you adhere to legislation and best practice around opting in and out of databases. Tell your customers what they are signing up for and then deliver on that promise.

The message is clear for brand owners: your customers want a conversation via a medium of their choice. Make sure your marketing team or agency has the skills, experience and understanding of the mobile space to design this engagement from the outset. Businesses that strike up the best conversations with their consumers are going to be the most successful at growing their customer base.

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