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Better calls-to-action, content propel next-generation SMS segmentation

With some brands now amassing a sizable SMS database, marketers need to put in more marketing muscle and churn out content that is segmented towards specific groups to keep the momentum going around mobile messaging.

SMS is a tried-and-true tactic for marketers in driving time-sensitive messages that have close to a 100 percent open rate within minutes. However, the number of alternative messaging options available nowadays means that marketers need to work harder to make SMS work in conjunction with email, print and in-store efforts to get the most out of the medium.

?The newest strategy we?re starting to see is marketers who understand that they need to segment their customers and that the mobile customer isn?t one single customer type,? said Alex Campbell, co-founder and chief innovation officer at Vibes, Chicago.

?Our more advanced customers are using SMS acquisition techniques to build a more strategic mobile database,? he said. ?They are segmenting customers before they get them to opt-in so they can better target messages to those customers.?  

Driving better opt-ins
To better understand which marketing tactics work best in acquiring SMS opt-ins, Vibes has coined a new metric, called acquisitions per thousand impressions or APM.

In a report from the company, in-store marketing was deemed the most effective tactic for collecting SMS opt-ins, pulling in a 2.3 APM followed by email at 1.6 APM.

When it comes to tactics that are not working, TV, Web and social had the lowest APMs.

Per Vibes, thank you follow-up messages can also be effective in getting consumers to opt-in to programs when the brand is already top of mind. 

According to the research, the average APM without a sweepstakes or incentive brings in .5 new SMS subscribers per thousand impressions that promote the SMS database.  

This number jumps to 3.1 when a sweepstakes or incentive is layered on top of an acquisition campaign. Marketers average 4.1 APMs when both tactics are used in conjunction with an SMS-building effort.

Vibes? data underscores the growing importance that marketers need to place on rethinking traditional marketing such as in-store signage to include a mobile component. 

Regardless of which channels should be used, savvy brands have begun eyeing how to collect consumers? information as quickly as possible in all actions leading up to and after a sale, per Eric D. Lazar, vice president of mobile development business at HelloWorld, Pleasant Ridge, MI.

?For those brands using an enterprise ESP or partnering with CRM database service, requesting a consumer's email or loyalty number in the initial opt-in exchange can allow the brand to match all the historically acquired information on that customer, including his or her user?s profile and purchase habits, to the cell phone number,? he said. ?When a marketer takes the time to do this tactic upfront, the need to later send the consumer to a mobile optimized profile page or try to build the profile of SMS customers through extensive back and forth exchanges is mitigated.?

Once a consumer is opted into the program, marketers can then look at open rates and conversions that are tied to a mobile phone number to track a campaign?s effectiveness. 

Figuring out top-notch content
According to Guy Borgford, senior account director at Hipcricket, Bellevue, WA, the first step in segmenting a mobile database is figuring out what types of content consumers want to receive.

For example, a casino?s guests come in for a number of different reasons, including nightlife, gaming or food.

Therefore, the call-to-action should reflect something that is relevant to that particular activity. Alternatively, the casino could ask consumers what they are interested in immediately after signing up for an SMS program.

One of the simplest ways to do so is to mix up the keywords used to drive opt-ins.

Starbucks? Frappuccino summer promotion this year is another good example of how keywords signal a consumer?s intent for opting-in.

The coffee giant?s campaign revolves around an SMS program that doles out fun content to push the cold drink. Different keywords are appearing via SMS, in-store, social media and through the brand?s mobile payment application to encourage sign-ups (see story). 

Since launching in April, Starbucks has started incorporating trivia questions to drive consumers to social content.

For example, one trivia question sent last week included a list of two facts and one lie. Users were prompted to text back which option they thought was false. Each answer corresponded with a link to Starbucks? Tumblr content, which is regularly being added to throughout the summer.

Since SMS is not the newest mobile marketing tactic, marketers who have already built up sizable databases will likely find that creating this kind of creative content could pay off in getting consumers to routinely interact with the SMS program.

?None of this segmentation matters unless you?re backing it up with engaging and valuable content,? Mr. Borgford said. ?Dividing your audience is just step one.?

Final Take
Lauren Johnson is associate reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York