The Green Sheet Online Edition
March 14, 2011 • Issue 11:03:01
Cell phones as marketing tools
As merchant services providers, it is important, especially in a changing economy, for us to look at any business climate as one of opportunity. Also, business continuity depends on growth through service and innovation, so it's essential to keep abreast of emerging business services and trends, in particular those employing new technology, because the offerings for the small to midsize business sector are changing in dynamic ways.
I am a believer in growing from within. Your client base can help you achieve that while providing a platform for even greater expansion. Existing clients can offer you support while also serving as your greatest sounding board before taking on something new. So, why not explore new opportunities with them?
Advantages of cell phone ubiquity
Recently, I became aware of a company providing marketing services entirely over the cell phone platform. It comes as no revelation that our reliance on the cell phone for personal use has grown exponentially, but for many, a marketing service utilizing the cell phone appears out of reach. But this is not the case.
Keep in mind marketing and advertising can be budget-busters for many small businesses. This is why I only present to my clients ways for them to spend prudently to get the desired results.
Nearly 86 percent of the U.S. population owns a cell phone, so it only makes sense that a business would relish the opportunity to reach customers through the one item never far from reach: the cell phone.
Text-message marketing and proximity marketing are two effective tools that use the cell phone to reach customers on the go, while also providing businesses the ability to penetrate their target markets more effectively - and for less.
The gentle learning curve
Before I was able to sell my clients on mobile marketing services, I had to spend time with a company that looked promising to make sure not only that support for the technology existed, but also that support for my clients and myself would be available. I chose Rapid Response Mobile Marketing Inc. located in Garden City, N.Y.
After a series of webinars and discussions with the marketing and technical manager assigned to my account, I was able to bring the service to some of my more tech-savvy clients. I want to point out the entire process from being a novice on this technology to being able to sell it - with great proficiency - was a matter of days.
The company's staff worked with me to set up the program's back-office support for each of my clients. I discovered my customers are eager for new technology, so it was an easy way to open the door, and they were intrigued with ways to reach consumers on the go.
A chance to tap new markets
While cell phone usage continues to grow among the overall population, it is one of the only ways to reach the preteen (tween) and teen markets. Teenagers are a powerful purchasing group. They spend a great deal of time on their cell phones, which are generally of better quality and sport more features than the ones their parents use.
One of my clients is a fashion boutique with five locations on Long Island targeting the tween and teen markets. We designed a program involving proximity marketing at one location as a test in addition to text message marketing at all locations. The program was so successful in the first week, the client immediately expanded it. A surprise benefit to the business owner was the ability to monitor how some locations were doing compared with others. Great market research data and increased sales have made them big fans of the technology.
Another client I introduced to the service is a chiropractor. He uses the text message marketing program, as well as the proximity marketing service.
The way it works
Text message marketing technology is truly innovative, and it works for any type of business. It provides an opt-in program for customers and prospects looking to receive offers and promotions directly via their mobile phones. Once they have opted in, establishments simply have to sit back and let business happen.
The text message program includes all supporting signage for tabletops and for larger areas like the front door or window. The signage invites customers to sign up to receive special offers and discounts by texting a keyword to a five-digit number, also known as a short code. The short code is much like a telephone number, but shorter. And it doesn't require country or area codes, allowing it to be used anywhere.
My chiropractor client uses the texting service to remind customers of upcoming appointments and inform them of special prices on services to fill the appointment book during slow periods.
The technology is an effective add-on service for my restaurant and bar establishment clients. For my retail clients, I recommend a text message about twice a month. For service-oriented businesses, once a week gets patrons coming through the door.
The service works for one of my restaurants by delivering customers during slow periods by sending text messages with incentives such as a free drink, free dessert with lunch or two meals for the price of one. When a message is sent out during specifically targeted times, the service motivates customers to react to such offers.
I often recommend my food and drink establishments use this program on a Friday afternoon or early evening during slower periods.
A new form of customer service
I typically help my clients decide on the type of messages to use and their content. From there, messages are sent out either in real time or scheduled for a future date through Rapid's password-protected, online dashboard, which allows users to view messages, track redemptions and send out bar-coded offers for scanning from cell phones at the POS.
The ability to provide clients multiple modes of marketing over the cell phone platform is an exciting business development. I encourage all to investigate it. Here's an astounding statistic by the Mobile Marketing Association: text messages have a 98 percent read rate. Simply put, messages are being read, and business is happening.
Steve Schwimmer has been serving the payment processing industry since 1991 and is the Long Island Director of Sales for Renaissance Merchant Services in Syosset, N.Y. Call him at 516-746-6363 or email him at