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The rise of SMS marketing – expert offers start-up guidelines

Wednesday, 5 September 2012 | By Michelle Hammond

Start-ups have been urged to consider text messages as a key marketing channel, after a report revealed 97% of text messages are opened – a far higher rate than email.


Chetan Sharma, a US-based technology and strategy consultancy, conducted some research on the rise of the humble text message as a means of communication for businesses.


According to the research, 97% of text messages get opened, and most are opened within four minutes. Meanwhile, 83% are opened within the hour.


Vito Grigorov, co-founder of Sydney-based start-up Slexicon, told StartupSmart SMS is the most “frictionless” way to communicate.


“When I say frictionless, it’s a medium that every mobile phone has the capacity to provide for,” he says.


Slexicon allows businesses to collect customers’ mobile numbers in-store.


“Then, through a simple phone call to us, [those businesses can] share offers and updates with their loyal customers via SMS and their online news feeds,” Slexicon says on its website.


Grigorov says unlike apps, everyone knows what a text message is, which is why SMS marketing is so effective.


“Only one in six people who have smartphones actually open up apps. Because of the fact that SMS is like a phone call, everyone knows what it is,” he says.


“You almost want to open it up and see what it is. It has that immediacy factor. Everyone has a phone but not everyone has a smartphone, so SMS triumphs over apps every day.”


SMS marketing is proving particularly popular among beauty salons, clothing stores and cafes. But according to Grigorov, every business can “crack the code” with regard to SMS marketing.


“A lot of bricks-and-mortar stores have a lot of foot traffic, so SMS brings a lot of physical customers into their store,” he says.


“Stores without a retail shopfront can still use SMS in order to attract customers by getting them to make bookings on the phone or directing them to their website.”


“No matter what industry you’re in, you should be able to draw traffic to whatever sort of offer it is.”


Grigorov believes businesses shouldn’t use SMS marketing more than twice a month, and should always include an opt-out function.


“You should, by law, have an appropriate opt-out function... by which people can opt out of the SMS and opt in to receive that message through a website, which still allows them to see that message but in a non-obtrusive way.”


In addition to discounts, Grigorov says SMS marketing can be an ideal way to promote value-adds. With regard to the message itself, Grigorov says it should always be kept short and sweet.


“Explaining who you are is the first thing, and describing what the offer is comes second. You should then be explaining the details of the terms, such as ‘one per person’ or ‘expiry date will be next week’,” he says.


“And make sure the address of the business or the URL link is accompanying the message because a lot of people will not remember who you are.”