SMS bulk marketing certainly seems to be the marketing platform du jour, and with good cause. As far as direct marketing goes, text marketing offers unprecedented penetration, with recent research showing that a full 98.6% of all SMS messages are read within 20 minutes of being received.

Given that there is no longer a prohibitively high cost associated with bulk mobile messaging, why are so many businesses failing to fully capitalise on such a lucrative opportunity?

The audience is listening

The New Zealand mobile market is currently in a very good place, boasting an extremely healthy penetration rate of around 108%.

But while mobile phones are now considered an indispensible part of daily life, a recent survey found that 74% of users felt their favourite brands are not using mobile marketing to engage with them. The audience is listening it seems, but few businesses are saying anything.

If you need more evidence, the same survey found that 58% of those consumers said they would engage those brands on their mobile if they were presented with an attractive offer, deal or coupon. A further 45% said they had referred their friend to a product or service as a result of receiving a mobile ad.

Trust is the key

So how does one go about engaging the new mobile audience?

When it comes to starting the conversation, nothing beats a friendly, non-confrontational ‘opt-in’ exercise before making your pitch. Security concerns are still front-of-mind for mobile users, so it’s important to make your first contact with potential customers as reassuring and non-intrusive as possible. Showing your recipients that they are in charge, and that all communication is on their terms, sets the stage for a relaxed and open dialogue.

And it’s a delicate balance: a 2011 survey found that 88% of consumers didn’t want intrusive ads pushed on them, but 74% of those same respondents were happy to opt-in to a marketing campaign if the incentive was there. The lesson here is that it pays to start the conversation off right.

Make it personal

Any text marketing service worth its salt will offer personalised messaging. Details such as first name, last name and gender are the bare minimum for creating a one-on-one feel with the recipient and should come standard with your bulk mobile messaging service.

Furthermore, you need to make it about more than marketing, at least from the customer’s perspective. Txt-based campaigns give you the opportunity to create a range of interactions, so don’t just pitch your deal; build the relationship. Free information, polls and appointment reminders not only allow you to subtly guide your audience in a certain direction, but also build trust by making ‘no strings attached’ contact, a welcome respite in a world of the never-ending digital hard sell. 

One perfect example of the personalised, soft-sell approach is inviting a select group of your best customers to pre-sale event or making a discounted offer on an item before it’s available to the general public. It’s a great way to build a sense of exclusivity and community around your brand, while still putting dollars in the bank.

Be ready to back up your pitch

If you’re urging customers to come into your real-world store to buy, be ready for them to hit the web as, or even before, they do so.

A 2012 survey from the National Retail Federation found that 47% of consumers had used their mobile devices to check customer reviews in-store before making a purchase. Similarly, 32% of consumers have changed their mind about a purchase as a result of looking up information about the product via their smartphone. Making key information available via your own enterprise app or mobile-optimised site will give potential customers the information they need to feel comfortable about laying down their cash.

Fundamentally, mobile consumers are empowered consumers and failure to provide them with the information they need to feel comfortable making a purchase may see them go to a retailer that does.