SMS is just the beginning for far-reaching mobile marketing

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In a slow economy, marketing and adver­tising budgets are often among the first to be “restructured” or “scaled down” by companies. However, marketers should view these times as a strategic opportunity to reach consumers in new and alterna­tive methods, specifically mobile SMS marketing, said Mike Romano, VP of SmartReply, a voice and mobile market­ing services provider.

“It's a relatively inexpensive channel to get involved with,” he said. “For the cost of one full-page ad in the Sunday newspa­per or a magazine, you can get a mobile pilot program going for six months. If you think about it in those budgetary terms, it starts to make sense to reallocate.”

While still evolving, mobile has the potential to be a key channel for customer reach. With options such as DVR, satellite radio and movies on demand, consumers “can block out most marketing messages at home,” Romano explained. “Mobile is the last frontier.”

While that doesn't mean that mobile will displace direct mail or e-mail market­ing, Romano added, but he believes that within two to three years, mobile will be on equal budgetary standing with other marketing channels.

Romano said marketers who use mobile should take advantage of its unique ability to reach people.

“What I like about mobile is the ability to deliver messages when the customer is most likely to make a decision,” he said. For example, a grocer can send out a text message reminder near the end of a work day reminding people that prepared rotis­serie chickens are on sale at a time when they may be making a dinner decision.

Mobile also can use geo-targeting, such as a retailer sending out messages about a sale to customers who live within a certain distance from one of its stores.

Further, with the advent of smart­phones, mobile lends itself to a greater interaction between brand and consumer, said Ian Swanson, CEO of Sometrics.

With phones that can do more than just receive text messages, marketers can engage consumers in different ways, such as mobile games and video ads. As touch­screens gain popularity, advertisers can further engage potential customers, such as with surveys.

“The mobile space is much more advanced in terms of how it can get in front of users,” Swanson said. “Advertis­ing and data are merging; I think that's the future.”

As with any other marketing method, Romano stressed you must be deliver­ing relevant messages to consumers who want them. With mobile, he said, it is very important that everyone in your database has at least double-opted for offers.

“Like with e-mail, there is potential for this channel to be abused,” he said.

But with a good mobile database, response rates are three to four times that of direct mail, and one to two times that of e-mail, Romano claimed.

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