Transformative texting

With 6 billion text messages sent daily in the United States, texting has seemingly become a national pastime. This is evident to any casual observer in a public place, where most people can be seen texting while walking, shopping, and even talking with friends.Imagine if these texts were not just about the cute guy in the coffee shop or the upcoming Justin Bieber concert — but consumers actually interacting with brands. Luckily for businesses, that day has come. Texting has evolved from facilitating small talk into a viable marketing strategy.Text message, or SMS (short message service), marketing is highly effective because customers and prospects opt in to receive texts from businesses. This creates the perception among subscribers that businesses are providing a welcome service rather than overtly marketing to them.In addition, approximately 95 percent of text messages are opened and read — a significantly higher open rate than any other form of marketing. This provides businesses with a rare guarantee that their marketing messages will be received.Integrating text message marketing into an overall marketing plan is relatively simple and inexpensive. Businesses can register for a five- or six-digit short code or choose to share one with another company. The short code should then be promoted across all marketing strategies — from websites, social media accounts and signage to marketing collaterals, direct mailers and print, radio and television ads.Prospective customers opt in by texting a message to the short code in order to receive information about the business and its products or services. Sign-on incentives, like discounts, coupons, product giveaways and contests are quite effective in garnering subscribers.SMS programs assist businesses with capturing phone numbers (and any other data voluntarily provided by subscribers) in order to build and maintain customer databases. Services like Ez Texting and Mobivity make opt-in texting affordable for small and medium-sized businesses.Trumpia is a SMS service that even allows users to select how they want to be contacted — be it by text, social media or email.Be succinctWith a solid subscriber list in place, businesses can text sales notifications, announcements about new products and services, and other customer-focused news on a regular basis. While it isn’t wise to bombard subscribers with daily texts unless you indicate that frequency in your advertising, restaurants have found success in sending text alerts about their daily specials.Alternatively, service providers often use texts to remind customers about upcoming appointments. Messages can also be tailored to certain customer groups, like boutique customers who only purchase accessories, or auto shop patrons who get oil changes but not repairs. This allows for targeted marketing efforts to specific aspects of a business that need a sales boost, while also connecting with customers about their interests.After building an impressive text message subscriber list, Armani nearly broke a sales record when it held an exclusive subscriber sale at its New York City location. Businesses of any size can follow this lead by offering subscriber-only sales and promotions. Loyalty programs and competitions that involve customer voting are other ways to boost subscriber interaction.When messaging subscribers, remember to be succinct — texts are limited to 160 characters — and lead with your offer to attract attention. In addition, resist the temptation to use abbreviated texts (e.g. “This $ale will b gr8!”). A more professional approach is most appreciated by patrons of all age groups.Lastly, always provide the option for subscribers to opt out of your text message list. This demonstrates respect for your customers and their privacy, and when utilized by subscribers, assists you in maintaining an accurate customer list.The unique customer interaction and precise campaign measurement that result from text message marketing make it a winning strategy. When integrated into an overall marketing campaign, texting has proven to build customer trust, loyalty and significant business revenue.Linda Fanaras, president and founder of Millennium Integrated Marketing, Manchester and Boston, can be reached at 877-873-7445 or