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Thursday, January 14, 2010

How To Use Email As Your Mobile Launch Pad

Brought to you by Wendy Roth

If you haven't yet considered incorporating a mobile channel into your online marketing program, now is the time. The good news is that you don't need to reinvent the marketing wheel if you've decided that 2010 is the year you take the plunge. Your email marketing program is an excellent launching pad to kick off an effective and integrated online campaign.

Mobile and email are natural partners. Mobile channels combined with email marketing can help enhance engagement, grow customer opt-in lists, and maximize audience touch points. However, mobile is not just email on a tiny screen. Don't expect to get success by texting the same message that you now email to your entire database. Messages need to be short, sharp, relevant, and timely.

Mobile messaging also gives you opportunities that email doesn't; you can reach your customers or subscribers quickly wherever they are, at the most optimal time.

Adding SMS to email
If you ever voted for an "American Idol" contestant by text message instead of the toll-free phone number, you've participated in the SMS (short message service) movement.

SMS uses short codes, five or six digits/characters in length, that can be either randomly generated or pre-assigned "vanity" codes. For example, the vanity code "LUVBBW" corresponds to Bath & Body Works' mobile marketing. Such codes are similar to toll-free telephone numbers, response URLs, or automated email addresses. (This FAQ from the Common Short Code Administration of the Wireless Association explains all aspects of short codes.)

Soft-drink and entertainment-based companies broke the SMS ice in the U.S., but retailers are beginning to catch on too. Here are three examples:

Build email lists via mobile: A health insurance company uses billboards and ads in buses to invite commuters to join its healthy living newsletter by texting their email addresses to a short code.
Use offline to build a mobile database: A bath-products retailer prints an invitation on its register receipt that urges customers to sign up via text message for mobile offers and tips.
Use email to promote SMS campaigns: A home-goods retailer invites email subscribers to text a message to its short code in order to sign up for its limited-inventory "deal of the day."
As with email, the invitation should be relevant and benefit-focused. Why should someone give up something as private as a phone number? The invitation must provide the answer, clearly and concisely.

SMS: Not just repackaged email
Going mobile does take planning and preparation, but once you create your program, you can simply modify it for different campaigns. Here's a quick checklist of steps:

1. Create your program. Develop objectives, strategies, and concepts. Decide how you will collect opt-ins and process opt-outs. Create a strategy that maps out which kinds of messages you send and how often, and goals for your program, along with how you will measure success.

2. Obtain short codes from an SMS gateway service provider. Order enough to cover all your needs, from opt-in to opt-out, testing, help, information, and other follow-ups.

3. Get carrier approval for your program. You must have this before you start broadcasting messages. A mobile marketing service provider can do this efficiently for you.

4. Create your promotion plan. Opt-out SMS doesn't exist, so don't go looking for lists of mobile numbers. Instead, use all your channels to promote your SMS program by listing it as an option on your web registration and landing pages, promoting short codes in email, and publishing them in display ads, on packaging, and in broadcast commercials.

5. Create your offer. Don't just repackage your latest email offer. Use mobile's unique characteristics of reach, interactivity, timeliness, and urgency to create campaigns around content entries, voting, polls, surveys, coupons, subscriptions, store locations/hours, product availability, donations, and promotion reminders.

6. Test before you send. Your mobile service provider can help you with this essential step.

7. Measure results. These should correspond to your campaign goals, such as the number of responses, entries, opt-ins, or offers/coupons redeemed.

Finally: Think before you leap
Before you delve too deeply in the mechanics of SMS messaging, consider how mobile messaging integrates with your company's vision, mission, and values.

Also, learn from mistakes. For example, we learned with email that people guard their inboxes and either resent unwanted messages or ignore them. Abuse of the inbox privilege leads to spam complaints, unsubscribes, or inactivity. Mobile phones are equally personal and private. People will resent uninvited messages on their phones even more bitterly than in their inboxes, especially if they have to pay per message or have them counted against monthly quotas.

SMS represents an exciting opportunity for marketers in various industries to reach new customers and enhance relationships with current audiences. Also, when mobile is integrated with other marketing channels such as email, marketers can expect to see enhanced results and increased customer receptiveness.

When done right, it's a win-win for all; the only ones who will lose out are the ones who don't try.

Wendy Roth is the senior manager of training services for Lyris Technologies.

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