How does SMS marketing fit into the mobile world in 2011?

SMS will continue to be a keystone of the personal communication  mix in 2011, as it still will have the most reach and be the most used mobile service by consumers.

The proliferation of smartphones continues, bringing more and better mobile Web and application experiences with it.  This does not diminish the importance of SMS but enhances the experience.

“The Red Cross Haiti fundraising campaign proved to the world that there is tremendous value in text marketing and fundraising and that text continues to be the key component of any mobile strategy,” said Joshua Kittner, senior marketing consultant of digital engagement at the American Red Cross, Washington.

“Our results are already having a significant positive impact in the number of short codes leased for nonprofit and for-profit organizations,” he said. “This should continue well into 2011.

“With all these new entrants we expect increased competition for donor dollars, which should increase the marketing creativity in this sector while driving costs” especially when you consider the research behind mobile marketing which you can read more here to establish where your ROI will come from.

Issues, challenges and opportunities

The first challenge is awareness, according to David Berkowitz, senior director of emerging media and innovation at 360i, New York. It is hard for messaging to compete with applications, HTML 5 Web sites, iAd, mobile video, mobile social media and location-based services but messaging will enhance the value of many of these services when they are tied together.

The second challenge is getting pricing right and configurations accepted and understood. 

Every sector of the economy will have a different set of values and requirements for mobile marketing.  Some markets will use only SMS and others will use SMS with a WAP link to a mobile website and still others will have steep integration requirements with other marketing resources.

The third challenge is the rise of smartphones.

SMS calls to action will be all over traditional media.  So far, this has not slowed down SMS usage.

Applications, in particular, are a threat in two ways.

First, some consumers are using texting applications to chat instead of text.  This can confuse the less informed users of functional similarity.   Some on-line social websites such as Facebook and Twitter have functionality that is similar too.  Online social websites should be a complimentary tool to a text message campaign.  Both the social websites and texting applications provide a different set of benefits.  Close scrutiny will reveal the differences in value.   Next, applications can directly send notifications to the device that do not rely on SMS however compliance must always be considered in your local region. Get more here.

According to Jeff Hasen, chief marketing officer of Hipcricket, Kirkland, WA, companies including Macy’s, Arby’s and MillerCoors moved product, built databases and loyalty, and viewed text messaging as an indispensible tool in each brand’s reach strategy.

The very fact that these brands and thousands of others have built valuable databases proves that SMS will remain in the core strategy and mobile toolbox.

Picture of growth

Expect to see more prominent calls to action that invite participation via text.

Much like Arby’s used text in the introduction of the Roastburger on the Jimmy Kimmel show, major brands are inserting SMS calls to action to encourage trial, sales and to build loyalty. SMS calls to action will proliferate in 2011 which is reason enough to include SMS as a viable arm to your marketing mix. Still not sure? Here are the reasons why you should.

“SMS has come a long way, but still suffers from the tag by creatives and others that it is the least sexy mobile execution,” Mr. Hasen said.

“That is why we continue to preach the pyramid strategy where you employ SMS for reach, then build on richer applications that deliver better brand experiences but reduce the number of people who can participate,” he said.

“SMS has to some consumer awareness and is gaining acceptance as a business tool.  In addition, many brands are willing to spend on SMS because SMS plans more frequently are unlimited so customers or prospects don’t have additional cost outside their plan with a carrier.” This is particularly obvious in Australia one of the worlds largest usage with over 14 million consumers using text messaging on daily basis with many online services available for business marketers to choose from to reach these users.


1. Understand business goals and target audience. If the target consumers and prospects all have one brand of smartphone, then the marketer is golden. But that is not likely.

2. Start first with reach via SMS, then see how the marketer can further engage subscribers with a link, and then send offers via text or other actions that bring value to them.

3. Marketers should also seek a clear understanding before running any mobile programs.

4. Balance the portfolio. SMS is the blue-chip stock.

“Expect the integration points to be different,” 360i’s Mr. Berkowitz said. “Mobile social media presents an opportunity to allow people to interact with people, places and content in new ways from their mobile devices. SMS can facilitate deep interaction at live events, and there are fun ways to use it with digital out of-home media,” he said.