Mobile Marketing for Small Business and Entrepreneurs

Earlier this week I attended a fascinating seminar put on by the Maine Marketing Association on mobile marketing. Specifically, Andrew Newman of talked about how businesses can reach out and connect with people through SMS (short message service) on their cell phones. Although I’ve heard horror stories about how Starbucks will text you as you stand in front of a competitor’s coffee shop (too Orwellian for me to even fathom), that wasn’t the discussion today.

We focused on the type of approach you might see on American Idol or
ESPN, when you text "WINNER" to 12345, or something like that. I
definitely don’t see this as a model that will work for all
businesses…really, does anyone want to text flyte to get a message
back on our SEO specials of the day?

However, any business that does some other type of advertising, such
as tv or radio ads, outdoor signage, etc., could provide additional
information to prospective consumers by providing an SMS code. I could
certainly imagine For Sale signs with "Text 31MainSt to 12345" to get
more information on a house that someone passes. Or texting a
restaurant to find out what the daily special was.

I’ve cleaned up my notes from the meeting below, but you’ll find
them "as is." If you have any questions, I’d hop over to and talk to those guys. Even though Andrew said he was
as much student as teacher, he definitely seem to have a grasp on the
potential and pitfalls of mobile marketing.

Mobile Marketing: Why is this important?

  • Millions have chosen cell phones, specifically text messaging, as preferred communication

What is SMS (short message service)?

  • Allows short messages (160 max characters) from one cell to another
  • aka "text messaging"
  • now cells can communicate w/internet
  • sometimes can include files such as images, ringtones, mp3s
  • short codes: 5-6 #s; long codes 10 #s

How does it work?

  • User initiates relationship by sending text message to short or long code #
  • Cell carrier delivers message to aggregator (aggregators are
    required to convert cell message (SMS) to ones and zeroes of computer
  • Aggregator delivers message to server
  • Server takes the appropriate action based on program
  • Back to aggregator > Back to carrier > Back to user
  • Server can also take other actions, such as sending an email, deliver a file, etc.

Premium vs. Non-premium services

  • Premium charges users for service
  • Non-premium has no charge from provider, only carrier charges apply

Ethical sms?

  • Should it be opt-in or opt-out?
  • What’s industry standard right now? (Still being developed; carriers keep on top of providers)
  • There is a type of double opt-in; message back can include a request to opt-in further

Possible uses of SMS:

  • Raffle: Text to 12345 and get a chance at $20K
  • Voting
  • Text to retrieve file (i.e., ringtone)
  • Info updates (text flight # to 12345 and get gate and flight status)
  • Subscription style updates: text to subscribe
  • Event updates: ebay bid
  • Product or service info (good if people are on the road, i.e., real estate?)
  • Promotional updates on demand: text soup01 to 12345 and you’ll receive text message w/soup of the day
  • Delayed autoresponder
  • Promotional updates by subscription
  • Recruiting

Pros & Cons

  • Pros:
    • Cost: after implementation cost of operating a program are low relative to other mediums
    • Costs include code leasing, aggregator costs, cost/message ($.10 – $.20)
    • Quality of impressions
    • Speed w/which message can be updated
    • Less spam, not like email
  • Cons:
    • Fear of being spammed
    • Development of program if not using 3rd part can be significant
    • Implementation time: development is followed by provisioning
      (permission to access their network; this tends to be a royal pain in
      the ass)

Where is this going?

  • Consumer
    • More people will be comfortable w/the medium
    • Confidence will build among users that the are secure from unwanted content
  • Technology
    • Cell phones continue to evolve, adding new technology
    • There will be standards (eventually) as we see in video, HD
  • Standards will result in widespread use of multimedia
    • The market
    • Will explode
    • 5% – 12% of budgets dedicated to alt. media will shit to mobile in 2008
    • spending will increase

Notes on Cost and ROI:

  • Random short code: $500/mo
  • Chosen short code: $1,000/mo
  • Can you resell codes? (He thinks not.)
  • What is the ROI? (No numbers yet…he provides some feedback on how many people call.)
  • What other costs are there?
  • What happens when someone texts a "wrong message" to a code? (404 error message)

Rich Brooks
Mobile Marketing Neophyte

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