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Buyer's Guide

by Craig Borowski,
Market Research Associate
Last Updated: March 24, 2017

Given the ubiquity of smartphones and tablets, it’s easier than ever for marketers to reach customers on the move. These mobile devices are ingrained in our everyday lives, and features such as location tracking and push notifications make them the ideal platforms for delivering messages that enable conversions and build brand loyalty.

For these reasons, SMS (short message service), or text message, marketing software is becoming one of the most versatile and effective tools companies can use to connect with customers.

In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know for implementing mobile marketing strategies in your company.

(Click on a link below to jump to that section.)

What Is SMS Marketing?
Common Functionality of Text Message Marketing Software
Mobile Marketing Software Deployment Options
Market Trends to Understand

What Is SMS Marketing?

SMS marketing is a term often used synonymously with "text message marketing" or "mobile marketing." (You'll see us using those terms interchangeably in this guide as well.) All refer to marketing messages that are delivered to digital mobile devices, such as cell phones or tablets. SMS marketing software can facilitate the creation, routing, deployment and tracking of these messages to maximize their impact.

Many different kinds of messages may comprise SMS marketing. Here are a few examples to help you imagine the many possibilities:

  • Special offers. Retailers can send customers promotional offers (e.g., discounts on goods or services) directly to their phones. These messages are especially effective when sent while customers are in or near the business that sends the offer.
  • Polls. Companies can encourage people to vote in custom polls to better understand buyer habits, measure brand awareness, engage with audiences and more. Recent research suggests respondents prefer completing surveys on mobile devices versus regular desktops.
  • Contests (“text-to-win”). Running a contest is a great way to promote your brand while collecting a large volume of phone numbers for future campaigns. Just ask mobile users to text a keyword to a specific number so they can enter to win a prize.

A retail offer being drafted and sent via Salesforce's mobile marketing solution

A retail offer being drafted and sent via Salesforce's SMS marketing solution

With SMS or mobile marketing software, your company can easily create campaigns like the ones we highlighted above and more. Keep reading to find out how the technology helps companies interact with new and existing customers through their mobile devices.

Common Functionality of Text Message Marketing Software

Of course each solution is different, but there are a few core functions that most mobile marketing platforms will perform. Here are some of the most common capabilities among mobile marketing solutions:

Mass SMS/MMS messaging and templates SMS (short message service) or MMS (multimedia messaging service) messages can be created using the software’s templates and sent on a large scale in a matter of seconds. Most software vendors allow users to personalize templated messages.
Two-way messaging Customers can respond to your company’s text messages with follow-up questions or feedback, giving your staff a chance to assess the customer’s needs and respond appropriately in the same message thread.
Location-based triggers Marketing software can use the GPS capabilities in mobile devices to help you reach customers in strategic locations. For example, mobile alerts can be triggered automatically when customers are within a targeted, pre-defined geographic area.
Mobile keywords Customers can text a specific keyword to a number you’ve provided, and the software will send an automated response and save their number in your database. This is frequently used in “text-to-win” scenarios.
Contact management It’s critical that your marketing solution lets you create and maintain a list of contacts. In many systems, the customer database is searchable and customizable.
Reporting and analytics Some solutions offer dashboards with charts to illustrate how many people are interacting with your messages, including their demographic information. This allows marketers to assess the success of a particular text message marketing campaign.

Mobile Marketing Software Deployment Options

This type of software can be implemented in one of two ways:

The type of deployment you choose will depend on your organization's needs and, of course, your budget. For example, mobile marketing can be part of a multichannel marketing strategy that combines more traditional platforms (e.g., print and broadcast) with digital ones. Tracking performance across all channels is more seamless if all your data is stored in a single, integrated system. Because they include additional applications, these systems are typically more expensive than best-of-breed alternatives and require monthly subscriptions or the purchase of a perpetual license.

Buyers with limited budgets or those with existing software that doesn’t yet offer text message marketing apps are probably best served by stand-alone products. Such vendors typically don’t offer license agreements. Rather, they price their mobile marketing platforms on a monthly subscription basis or charge a flat rate per message sent.

Market Trends to Understand

As you get closer to choosing a SMS marketing tool, there are a few market trends you should consider:

Opt-in and opt-out. Companies are required by the FCC to obtain consent from mobile users before sending them SMS marketing materials. For example, a customer is considered to have “opted in” to your text messages if they voluntarily text you during a text-to-win contest. However, you must ensure customers are easily able to “opt out” of receiving your communications (e.g., by replying “Stop” to your latest text).

Mobile marketing via wearables. Smartphones and tablets aren’t the only mobile devices out there. As wearable technologies such as smartwatches and activity trackers rise in popularity, companies will increasingly look for ways to optimize marketing messages for those platforms as well. If your company is already incorporating wearables in its marketing strategies, you'll want to look for a software vendor that's thinking about them as well.

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