Text-Messaging Apps Help Marketers Expand Their Reach

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Text-Messaging Apps Help Marketers Expand Their Reach
Text-Messaging Apps Help Marketers Expand Their Reach

Direct marketers continue to pursue relationships with customers through mobile phones—and for good reason. A recent Gartner report says that by 2017 mobile apps will have been downloaded more than 268 billion times, generating more than $77 billion in revenue. Facebook's $19 billion acquisition of the world's largest messaging application, WhatsApp, has prompted an increasing number of marketers to take a closer look at text-message marketing.  “In environments for people who are always on the go, mobile is the primary device,” says Robin Bordoli, VP and general manger of partner ecosystems and new markets at Marketo.  Bordoli adds that for customers who opt-in, SMS marketing remains one of the best ways for marketers to make a timely, direct connection and provides troves of customer data.

Consider these four key elements of SMS marketing as it continues to change the marketing landscape.

A new frontier

For marketers who are looking to reach customers outside of the U.S., mobile applications such as WhatsApp—and similar applications such as Telegram, WeChat, and Kik—provide a major opportunity.  WhatsApp has become a household name in countries such as Brazil and India, where SMS comes at a much higher cost than in the United States. In the U.S. unlimited texting is included in most data plans. WhatsApp costs users a mere 99 cents per year, opening the door for users worldwide. So innovative marketers who want to reach audiences outside of the U.S. have more opportunities.  Although initially made for the iPhone, WhatsApp also has a version for older flip phones, which grants marketers access to millions more potential customers.

Get to the point

With messaging apps, marketers have the opportunity to perfect their craft of pithy communication.  Direct messages urge marketers to deliver a message that is compelling with few words.  One continuous text message is limited to just 160 characters. At first glance, the challenge may seem to limit marketers' creativity.  But to the contrary, they have the opportunity to underscore one key point with their messages.  “Be good at writing copy,” Robin Bordoli says. “Know that what works in SMS doesn't necessarily work in email. Write specifically for the direct messaging channel.”  Promo codes, links to coupons, sale alerts can all be done through concise direct messages.

The perfect audience

Direct messaging enables marketers to reach highly targeted, niche audiences.  Additionally, recipients are opt-in customers who want to receive messages from the company.  So, the customers most likely match the target demographics, and are engaged with that brand because they've signed up to receive messages. Additionally, marketers have actionable data about those customers, including location and device type. 

Most important, messaging app users are highly engaged with mobile in general.  The average 18- to 24-year-old user sends and receives an average of about 110 texts per day, or more than 3,200 per month.  Add another 1,200 a month from users who are 25 to 34 years old, according to the Pew Research Center.  Consequently, opt-in customers are highly likely to view marketing-related text messages. 

The bigger plan

SMS marketing should be part of a larger, integrated plan Marketo's Bordoli explains. “SMS is an important channel.  But set up programs that are multichannel, and then include direct messages.” Bordoli says text messages and mobile channels should always be included in a marketing campaign. “Mobile is a critical component to every campaign. It's not optional. But always think of mobile as integrated.”

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