Dr Pieter Streicher, managing director of BulkSMS.com, says too many companies are trapped in a broadcast-only marketing paradigm, which results in annoyed customers and loss of brand equity in the market. The use of SMS as a marketing channel is often regarded in a poor light, as a result.
However, Streicher points out that personalised, permission-based SMS marketing holds great advantages for marketers, and not just because of the technical advances that have made the practice easy and manageable today.
How marketing has changed
Let’s take a look at how quickly and dramatically things have changed. Only a decade ago, marketers had little choice over how they communicated with customers: TV, radio, cinema and print were the primary one-to-many communication channels. Fixed-line telephones were the best way to reach people on a one-to-one basis.
Communication channels abound
Fast-forward to today. The price of telecommunications has dropped and the options for reaching individuals have increased. Is it any wonder that we balk at the thought of listing our email address or mobile phone number in the modern day equivalent of the phone book?
Instead, we embrace walled gardens such as Facebook and other social media where we can control who can communicate with us.
Brands stuck in a broadcast-only world should sit up and take notice of the fact that even though we do guard our privacy fiercely, we do also allow brands into our walled gardens.
These are the brands that resonate with us, share useful and targeted information, ask our opinions and answer our questions, and most importantly, respect our privacy. We want special treatment from the brands we do allow in: this could be as simple as being the first to know a piece of news or to be told of an upcoming sale.
We’ve become used to asking and receiving only the information that we want to see, when we want to see it.
Personalisation is expected
Even the brands who are getting this customer experience right could take it a step further. Take loyalty cards schemes for example. Rather than just asking for permission to contact a customer, ask the customers what information is of interest to them.
So perhaps I want to hear from a chain store about the food offers, but not the clothing sales. Not only will the brand benefit from the goodwill created from sending this targeted information and the increased impact of these targeted messages, they will also save money by not sending customers irrelevant information that simply gets ignored.
Spam as a sales repellent
If this isn’t incentive enough for brands to embrace permission-based marketing, consider this: consumers’ tolerance for unwanted marketing communications has dropped dramatically and for very good reason too.
Digital communication volumes have increased, think about your email inbox and the balance between legitimate and unwanted email, as well as sifting through increasing numbers of unwanted direct marketing messages. It now costs consumers time and money to remove themselves from email and SMS lists.
Rather than suffer in silence, consumers are increasingly harnessing the power of social networks to name and shame companies that disregard their wishes to opt-out from a contact list.
This allows people to compare notes and out the brands that persistently offend consumers. This type of online exposure negatively impacts on a brand’s reputation.
Getting permission is non-negotiable
Brands can’t afford to treat permission-based marketing as an administrative nuisance. They should rather see it as an opportunity to re-connect with their customers, learn about their requirements and initiate valuable conversations.
The tools exist to make this both easy and affordable to do. With the move away from broadcast-only channels of communication to interactive mediums of enabling conversational marketing such as SMS messaging or via social media campaigns, large and small companies have the opportunity to target their niche markets affordably and effectively without resorting to cold calling.
Find out what customers want
The bottom line is that in order to succeed in this world of digital media that is increasingly accessed via a cellphone, brands need to change their broadcast mentality, respect consumer privacy and come to understand why consumers resent unwanted communications so much.
Brands need to start learning about the information their target audience does want and see permission-based marketing as not something to be ignored but as an exciting and cost-effective opportunity to connect with their customers and grow their brand equity in their target market.