by Lauren deLisa Coleman
Calling all black business owners: Have you ever considered SMS marketing? As African-Americans over-index on mobile phone usage, this means of cost-effective reach might be just the thing you need this holiday season.
With all the uncertainty in our economy today, business owners have to become more savvy than ever when creating economical promotions that will help ring up sales during the busiest shopping season of the year. In an age where innovation creates impact, and constant change is the new norm, it may be time to re-think or rev up your sales strategy with a mobile component post-Thanksgiving.
SMS marketing benefits
What are the SMS marketing benefits?
Given the fact that our devices are always turned on, the mobile platform is a revolutionary way in which to reach consumers in a very inexpensive manner. Today, individuals are fast-forwarding over television advertisements viewed via DVR, quickly closing web banner ads, and opting for ad-free digital radio. Mobile is actually one of the most certain platforms with which to connect with the on-the-go consumer.
And if that consumer happens to be of color, then mobile is a must. African-Americans are still number one — over every other demographic in the United States — when it comes to mobile phone expenditures, feature usage, smartphone purchases and mobile video viewing, according to Nielsen Mobile.
However, one might not realize this from the current look of mobile campaigns, which tend to be generic. But this might soon change. Recently an advertising agency panel in New York City concluded by asking mainstream marketers to stop playing it safe and target people of color by investing in a greater demographic understanding of these mobile users through research.
Mobile SMS marketing: A golden opportunity
This void in the market is actually a golden opportunity for those who already understand this mobile demographic as their main consumers: African-American owned-and-themed businesses.
The challenge? Determining how best to harness the power of mobile marketing towards blacks, whether this is a first-time, or perhaps a sophomore, holiday effort.
“The easiest place to get one’s feet wet in mobile is an SMS campaign,” explains LeAnne Edwards, an account manager at Lnk. Agency.
“SMS simply stands for short message service or what we know as, ‘text 77888 to HOLIDAY,’ for example,” she says of the mobile marketing campaigns we are all familiar with.
SMS advertising benefits outweigh costs
“It’s rather simple for set-up, but the benefits run deep,” Edwards asserts. “Once the customer ‘opts-in,’ meaning he or she clicks ‘yes’ via the quick prompts received after the code is sent via the phone, one can send reminders, invitations to flash holiday sales, coupons and more.”
The marketing expert says that it costs just pennies per text. The number of sign-ups can be capped if budget is a concern.
“It is key to keep in mind not to send information too frequently, so that subscribers don’t begin to opt-out,” she warns, “but if you keep the information of value, this is a great way to engage with customers during not only the busy holiday season, but all throughout the year. Once you build this mobile database, it’s a re-marketing gold mine. We’d also suggest adding in a link to video within the SMS from time-to-time, not only to mix things up, but also because African-Americans actually out-index in mobile video viewing. It’s an untapped power for sales.”
SMS marketing ideas for the holiday season
Other experts degree that the coming holiday shopping season is a great time to both start an SMS campaign, or take any existing campaign you may have to the next level.
“Even if some companies have created successful SMS campaigns in the past,” says Sibyl Lindsay, a product manager at digital media firm Punch Media Group, ”the holidays are a great time to up the ante and create even more engaging messaging and integrate it more consistently within the overall communications. Naturally we suggest all our clients place the [‘text to’] code on all materials, even shopping bags and definitely include it within radio ads. African-Americans still out-index in terms of consuming live, terrestrial radio, so an integrated approach is key here.”
Additionally, because the service isn’t new to most consumers, marketers need to focus on creating messages that trump those they have experienced before — and will be concurrently receiving — with clever language that resonates with their different target demographics. How?
“The twist now, though, is to use different codes in different settings so that you can deliver even more relevant messages,” Lindsay adds. “An example of this might be using one particular code for, perhaps, a stand at a professional women’s conference — knowing that most of those respondents would be female — and craft messages that really resonate with that particular group of opt-ins in a slightly different manner from maybe a radio ad on a station that targets a youth, hip hopdemographic.”
SMS marketing: An extremely effective tool
“It won’t always be 100 percent, but you’d be surprised at the expansion of sales based on greater relevance of message,” Lindsay concludes. “It’s like someone speaking directly to you on a device that is already very personal. And compared to the cost of all other advertising methods, SMS really seems to take the prize.”
Indeed, SMS campaigns are being leveraged by the most innovative and efficient leaders in business today, while being affordable for businesses of almost every size.
African-American small business owners need to take note. Blacks are twice as likely as whites to start a business, and feel more optimistically about their ventures. Yet, African-Americans are much more likely to start firms using their own funds, despite having less personal wealth, and to be turned down when applying for business loans than whites.
Keeping this in mind, inexpensive forms of target marketing such as SMS are key.
Jumping on the SMS marketing band wagon
The holiday season is a perfect moment to either consider initiating or ramping up your mobile promotion to a demographic that is primed and ready for it. It’s the busiest shopping time of the year! And blacks are more likely to respond to your SMS ads and buy via mobile.
To recontextualize a famous mobile-related phrase, “Can you hear me now?” Will you be using SMS marketing to reach out to the African-American community this holiday shopping season?