How Does SMS Marketing Compare?
I was asked recently by a client about why a mobile SMS campaign would be useful to them when they were already aggressively using e-mail as a promotional tool. “Isn’t e-mail better,” she asked. It’s a legitimate question, and one we, as consultants, should be prepared to answer. Why should clients add another cost to their already strained marketing budget when they’re using e-mail effectively?
I gave many reasons as they relate to this particular client’s target audience, but ultimately, I told her, SMS isn’t necessarily better or worse than e-mail, it’s just different. And the differences should always be considered to ensure that your approach to mobile marketing is educated and set up for success.
There are a number of things to consider, which I have addressed below in further detail:
- Who and how broad an audience am I trying to reach?
- What am I trying to communicate to my audience and what do I want my audience to take away from the experience?
- How much money and time do I have to spend?
GENERAL USAGE STATISTICS
To further explain to my client how SMS is different, I laid out the following stats (have I mentioned how much I love stats?) passed along from our good friends at Rip Road and established (mostly in 2009) by AdMob, CTIA, Mobile Marketing Association, comScore and Nielsen Mobile Research. Keep them in mind when thinking about SMS (and other mobile marketing tactics) for your company:
- 234+ million Americans have cell phones (that’s almost 85% of the U.S. population).
- An average of 42.7 million Americans, roughly 18% of cell users, actively used smartphones between November 2009 and January 2010.
- SMS is the only universal mobile platform, available on over 98% of all cell phones.
BRIEF COMPARISON OF MOBILE CHANNELS
iPhone Apps: In the United States, roughly 6.4 million, or approximately 2.6% of all cell phone subscribers, use an iPhone. iPhone users download an average of 11 apps per month.
Social Media: Of smartphone users, 30.8% accessed social networking sites in January 2010. Social media on mobile is one of the fastest growing communication channels, but it still requires a smartphone.
Mobile Web: Only 18% access the mobile Web from their phones.
E-mail: Only 15% of all cell phone subscribers access e-mail on their mobile phones.
Text Messaging: Nearly half, or 48%, of all cell phone subscribers send and receive texts. There are more than 100 billion text messages sent in the U.S. each month, more than voice calls made.
THE BRAND EXPERIENCE DIFFERS GREATLY
Furthermore, the way the public consumes information through each mobile marketing channel differs greatly so it’s important to decide what and how you want to communicate to your audiences so you can then determine which channel is best.
Point About, a DC-based iPhone app development company that has quickly become a trusted mobile counselor, provides the below “Mobile Pyramid” to illustrate the differences in experience and messaging between SMS, mobile Web and mobile apps.
Notice that while SMS marketing has the widest distribution, the brand experience is fairly shallow. Conversely, iPhone apps offer very rich brand experiences, but have a very narrow reach. If we add e-mail and social media to this pyramid, the order would probably look something like this:
RICHEST EXPERIENCE/NARROWEST DISTRIBUTION
LIMITED EXPERIENCE/WIDEST DISTRIBUTION
As smart phones become increasingly pervasive, this model may need to change but for now we find it to be a good reflection of the current environment.
RICHER EXPERIENCE TYPICALLY MEANS MORE TIME AND MORE MONEY
It’s also important to note that generally speaking the richer the experience (the higher you move up the pyramid), the more costly and time intensive it is to develop and maintain.
Custom iPhone apps, for example, can take months to design and build and will typically cost you between $25,000-$150,000. Whereas e-mail and text campaigns can take only days to set up and will cost you a mere fraction of what an iPhone app will cost.
TYPES OF SMS MARKETING THAT WORK WELL
Here are a few types of communication that we’ve seen work well for clients using SMS:
- Time-based promotions (e.g. restaurant promotions sent just before lunch time)
- Location-based promotions
- Event notices
- Exclusive offers
- New product updates
- News alerts
I offer you these take-aways about SMS to consider when formulating your mobile marketing approach:
- SMS marketing can reach a broader audience than other mobile channels.
- The ultimate brand experience is superficial at best.
- It is typically less expensive to develop than other mobile tools.
- It is relatively quick to set up and maintain.
- It works best for simple promotions and updates that provide quick value to your audience
Feature photo courtesy of Samantha Celera – Flickr Creative Commons.