John Ozimek, associate director at Mi liberty

John Ozimek, associate director at Mi liberty

When was the last time you actually read a bit of direct mail that dropped through your letterbox? I’m guessing that unless it was directly relevant to you, or packaged in a way that caught your eye, it went straight into the recycling box without another thought. But I bet that whenever you get a text or something sent to your phone, you look at it. These days, a phone is an extension of us; keys, credit cards and mobile phone, the three things you never leave home without.

What’s happening more and more is that businesses are dropping the old methods of keeping in touch with me and instead targeting my mobile. Why not? It’s simple, easy and direct, and if I don’t like it, easy to opt out (unlike with direct mail, which seems to follow me around the world).

Above all, for the businesses that are smart, it’s pretty much the cheapest way of building a marketing campaign there is.

Notice that I’ve not called it mobile marketing. Of course, that’s what it is; a vital part of the mobile marketing mix. But in an industry that’s as partial to a bit of hype and hyperbole as mobile is, mobile marketing to me conjures up visions of MMS, video and mobile internet campaigns that do all kinds of brilliant and interactive things. All great, and things I passionately believe in. But the truth is, for most businesses, those kinds of campaigns are simply not relevant – yet. For any business large or small, SMS marketing has to be the starting point. Not only is it proven, effective and cheap, but crucially, it’s something that every single consumer will understand and instinctively know how to respond to.

Look at it another way. The Mobile Data Association, which tracks mobile data usage in the UK, announced that UK subscribers sent a staggering 78.9 billion text messages last year. Despite the UK nearing saturation point and voice calls becoming virtually free, text usage is still rising fast. A chunk of that rise is coming from companies using text as a marketing and CRM tool.

For example, Juniper Research estimates that the use of SMS-based coupons will increase by 30% over the next couple of years. And as the technologies used for mobile marketing campaigns become more mature, the cost of creating and running campaigns will continue to drop, further driving adoption. Think of it as a ripple in the ocean; it starts off small, but as it gains momentum as it travels it becomes a wave that’ll easily bowl you over if you’re not ready.

So, the 1p marketing campaign; where does that fit in all this? Now that you’ve read this far, I’ll hold my hand up. I lied. It was a catchy headline to get you interested. In fact, it’s less than 1p, so I rounded it up. Hope you won’t hold it against me.

The truth is there are now dozens of webbased services that offer the ability to create and manage SMS marketing campaigns for a fraction of a penny per message. They allow you to both send and receive, so it’s possible to create a dialogue with your customers in a way that’s just not possible with direct mail. Examples of SMS marketing I’ve received recently include my dentist reminding me to book a check-up, my doctor confirming an appointment, and the mechanic I use telling me they are offering a discount to existing customers. All directly relevant to me, all useful, and all using mobile in a way that benefits both of us.

If you’ve ever used a spreadsheet program, then you can be up and running with SMS marketing in a matter of minutes. At Mi liberty we use it as a way to keep in touch with our most important media and client contacts; sending them invites to events, links to maps and addresses of interviews, or asking their opinions on how we can do a better job. What’s brilliant about it is that it’s such a flexible and immediate tool, so it can fit to virtually any business need, with a bit of imagination.

Yes, it’s unglamorous, but if you are serious about marketing your business, it’s too effective to ignore. In a strange way, I actually think more of businesses that reach out to me via SMS, as it makes me feel like they understand me as a customer. And that means that when they send me something I’ll probably act on it; that could be a reminder, an offer or just a ‘we haven’t heard from you for a while…’ message. It brings something personal to the relationship that builds trust and loyalty.

That’s why when I talk to clients about what mobile marketing can do for them, this is where I always start. I’ll happily help them create cutting edge campaigns using mobile video, web, location and more – but the humble SMS is always the starting point.

And all for less than 1p – that has to be the marketing bargain of the century.

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