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Every so often I will see a word as if for the first time, and suddenly appreciate that ‘stressed’ is ‘desserts’ spelt backwards, or that ‘listen’ is an anagram for silent. This little feeling of appreciation was what I got when I started observing how SMS marketing not only affects but shapes the ever changing landscape of the Marketing Industry.

And while we are exploring its role, let us also put some prerequisites in place. For a marketing communication channel to be effective, it has to be targetable, have a high delivery rate, be non-invasive, is cost-effective and of course be measurable. So we are about to find out how SMS marketing measures up.

The number of text messages sent in Singapore fell from 23billion in 2009 to 13billion in 2014. With such a decline, why are consumers still being marketed to via SMS so regularly (Statistics Singapore, 2015)?

The immediate correlation we can make is to the rise of instant messaging apps. The more people use instant messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Line messenger, the less SMS messages are sent. But remember, correlation does not necessarily mean causation. While this doesn’t explain why we are receiving more SMS messages, it does shed light on the start of the matter.

You see, what I put forward are 2 key points. Firstly, instant messaging apps have become a platform we use to communicate with our network of friends and relatives. So much so that it has become a space for private and group discussions. On the other hand, SMS is where we would get either marketing messages from companies, or from technology laggards. The people who belong to this group are those who have not adopted the new idea of instant messaging apps yet. They make up about 16% of the population (Diffusion of Innovations). This is the same group that cannot be reached via the most recent communication channels – giving SMS an early upper hand.

With these 2 propositions, we can see that if a marketing message is delivered via the platform we deem as more personal, it is exceedingly likely to come across as invasive to the user. Leaving Marketers with the alternate choice of marketing via SMS – This allows the same message, sent to the same device to acquire a different response from us, the recipients. Simply because it was not intruding into our ‘personal space’.

And with this, SMS establishes itself as a viable channel for customer communications. With the perks of high deliverability and wide reach, it can be used to convey messages reliably.

Devoid of glitzy graphics or fancy embedded QR codes, its utility is evident from even the consumer’s point of view. We see this in the assortment of SMS messages we receive regularly from various businesses. Most of which we brush aside, but the ones which capture our attention and offers value gets a good shot at nurturing a new loyal customer and improving brand awareness.

For many new businesses, Mobile Marketing provides precisely what they need – a practical Launchpad for reaching out fast, to bring in its first wave of clients effectively. Even more so if the broadcast is targeted and bolstered by precise timing with a highly relevant message. With the advancements in telecommunications technology, service providers have the ability to target clusters of subscribers in specific locations, giving (SMS Marketing) capabilities beyond the prerequisite of basic ‘targetability’. Allowing messages to be sent to a targeted group of people who are in strategic locations in real-time.

Just imagine what it can do for turn-up rates in events and participation rates in lead generation campaigns. A personalized greeting to a qualified audience, followed with an offer that is relevant to the interest and location of the recipient is inevitably going to make the best out of any marketing budget. This will garner optimal results, and better yet, fresh leads, than trying to squeeze the same list of customers over and over again till blue in the face.

And since it is about reaching out to the same group of people repeatedly, marketing to the same list is not going to do anything much for branding after a certain timeline. This leads us to the point of SMS database rentals – Whereby companies have the option of having their message delivered to targeted users of a telecommunications company’s extensive contact list under the wing of their already trusted presence (Eg. From SingTel to you: Enjoy 20% off XYZ brand today). This type of SMS marketing lends credence to young companies that have not yet established themselves as trusted brands by associating themselves with already trusted names. The ideas is that if XYZ brand is good enough to be promoted by this reputable company, it must be good enough for me also.

So when building reputation and exploring new cutting-edge methods to bring businesses to newer frontiers, lest we forget proven methods which have withstood time and is still being utilized by the most successful businesses.

The truth is, SMS is just one thing. But if used cooperatively with other marketing mediums, it becomes many things indeed. From small scaled marketing campaigns such as a florist business reaching out to home owners in its vicinity, to an island-wide food delivery campaign appealing to the working class during lunch hour, SMS succeeds in providing the reach quickly.

And back to the topic of how SMS Marketing affects the ever changing landscape of the Marketing Industry. I’d say its role is in enhancing the peaks by improving the performance of marketing activities by creating strategically placed touchpoints, and it also fills in the valleys where communication is lacking in. Seems like it is here to stay, at least until we find a similar application in our smart devices which sits in the goldilocks’ zone of familiarity and distance – a remarkably small region we can now look at, and have a new sense of appreciation for.

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