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The RoBlog
Friday, July 30, 2004
Marketing: Using SMS to Capture Ad Response
Here's something that occurred to me the other day. There's nothing I can do with it at this point, so I thought I'd just throw it out there.

Capturing Your Advertising Audience
The Problem
You’ve paid good money to get your message in front of the right offline eyeballs. You’ve got your call to action, and you’ve been on the ball enough to include the address of a relevant web site where people exposed to your ads can go to continue their experience with your brand and, most importantly, opt in to an ongoing email campaign where you wow subscribers regularly with customer-focused, brand-appropriate content.

But something continues to nag you. You’re response rates are in line with what you’d expect. Maybe even a little better…but…you can’t help but wonder if there is a way to capture more of those people who see your ad.

And why shouldn’t you? The joy of the Internet age is that you can use your traditional media advertising to draw potential and actual customers into an ongoing dialog with you where you can increase their affinity to and recollection of your brand, deepen loyalty, and drive purchase and/or escalate consumption frequency. Yay!

The Solution
Ok, you’ll probably want to sit down for this. It’s a big one.

With all of these SMS-capable phones in the pockets of consumers pretty much all of the time these days, an acquisition method that can tap into SMS as a means of opening an ongoing dialog with a consumer could tap a very large market of individuals interested in extending their relationship with your brand beyond the ad they are being exposed to, but don’t have immediate access to a computer.

I know, you’re thinking “Welcome to the modern age. SMS was so American Idol-ago.” Yes, it’s true: American Idol made a big splash with their SMS-enabled voting process. Viewers were lured in large numbers to extend their commitment to the program by not just being a passive participant, but by voting in a manner that was even easier than the kind of phone-in voting that’s been popular since the 1980s, if not before. It captured the viewer’s imagination, made them feel they had more direct influence on the show, and gave them an excuse to use the gadgets on their fancy portable phones. No doubt about it, American Idol opened the door; but, to date, no one has walked through it.

Picture a world, if you will, where getting more information about something you are seeing or hearing about is as easy as sending an SMS message to a phone number. Want the information to appear in your email box instead? Include your email address in the body of the message and away you go. What could be easier?

Want to get the daily/weekly specials from your favorite restaurant when they’re released? Send a message to their subscription number.

Want to find out who the guests will be each week on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart? Send an SMS message to their subscription number (conveniently displayed during the show’s offer to get free tickets).

Want to get Circuit City’s monthly newsletter for home theater pro wannabe’s? Send your email address in an SMS message to their subscription number.

Get the idea? When your favorite brand is saying something you want to hear more about, you can just whip out your cell phone and subscribe to more information on the spot.

The idea could even be extended to things like newscasts. Want to find out more about a particular news story as the information breaks? Send the article ID and your email address (or not, if you want the news in SMS form) to the news program’s subscription number.

The Process
A person is exposed to a marketing message.

That message includes a call to action for SMS users (potentially among others, like phone or web).

The person, interested, sends an SMS message to the listed number, either with, or without their email address in the body of the message.

An SMS gateway accepts the message and routes it to the appropriate location for processing.

The message is parsed for an email address, and the number, with the email address if included, is added to the company’s list for the current campaign.

If an email address is specified, a verification email requiring a click to confirm is sent to the email address.

The next time an SMS update is sent as part of the company’s campaign, a message is sent to the person, unless they included their email address.

The next time an email update is sent as part of the company’s campaign, a message is sent to the person if the included their email address.

The Challenge
The biggest challenge to this approach will be educating the message recipient about what the SMS option means and how to use it. Some enterprising companies hoping to capitalize on the early adoption of this process will have to use a fair amount of their messaging space letting potential users know the benefits of the system, and just how easy it is to use.

Likely a standard way to present the SMS call to action will also have to be developed so that a message recipient will recognize it immediately for what it is.

Good idea--is anyone doing it yet?
Not that I'm aware of, and certainly not on any large scale.
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