Can dealers use SMS in their marketing plans?

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We see people doing it everywhere. In restaurants … at little league games … driving on the freeway. People are reading and fingering those small hand-held devices that have seemingly become a way of life.

Let’s face it — technology has turned the cell phone into a device with the power of a mini-computer. Their popularity is exploding. Given all that, could this be an effective tool for marketing boats and marine services? It’s worth examination.

For obvious reasons, this trend has been labeled “mobile marketing.” In short, we’re talking about texting — sending and receiving messages between cell phones. The capability is now standard in all mobile phones. And, as with all technology these days, there are providers and programs to help execute what’s being dubbed Short Message Service, or SMS.

John Jantsch, author of “Duct Tape Marketing,” is a digital technology marketing coach, and his “Duct Tape Marketing” blog is a Forbes favorite for small business. He contends SMS should now be a part of every marketing plan. While some carriers are already adding multimedia messaging services, an upgraded version of the SMS featuring multimedia, including texts, pictures, audio and video clips — the most commonly used SMS — is the right place to get started.

According to Jantsch, there are two primary ways of using SMS. First, in what might be called bulk sending, you have a database of opt-in mobile subscribers, and you send them messages. Second is a mobile generated request that relies on what is called short codes — text “get more info” to 22345, for example. A combination of both provides the greatest flexibility.

SMS can be used in a variety of ways. One is Text for Info. Jantsch says this is a service every small business can start using first. A hub of information that people may want to receive is set up so they can request it via mobile device — “for more information on our upcoming events text ‘Event, A1Marine’ to 22334.” Another example: Promote limited-time specials available only via text, or have a “Members Only” service or content only for mobile members.

Since dealers are using more and more customer events to maintain customer contact, another good use of SMS is to promote events by offering updates, reminders and follow-ups via an SMS campaign. It can create an up-to-the-minute feeling, and text messages can add last-minute surprises and heighten the event buzz. An important reminder, however: The people in your SMS database must have opted in. Spam is out!

The fastest way to get up and running with text campaigns is by employing a mobile SMS provider. TextHub, Cellit Mobile Marketing, EZ Texting and 4INFO are a few. According to mobileStorm Go, 95 percent of all cell phones have SMS capabilities, and on average, text messages are read within four minutes.

Clearly, SMS has become a tool that’s at least worth further investigation to see if it does fit into your dealership’s marketing program.

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