Is This the Golden Age of SMS Marketing?

I have this ominous feeling that we may look back on this period in the development of mobile marketing with awe and wonder. We may reminisce nostalgically about the time when open rates were over 97% and you could achieve response rates of 6,7 or even 10%.

My fear is that mobile marketing may be marching headlong down the same path that email did ten years ago. We were on the verge of an exciting new digital age, a marketer’s dream, where you could get your message into countless inboxes for more or less no cost. Now email marketing has turned somewhat sour; we seem to have killed the goose that laid the golden egg.

What a frightful shame it would be if text marketing suffered the same mortal blow. As we receive more and more text messages from companies, we will inevitably become jaded and response rates will drop. As our handsets become smarter, spam filters will allow us to block messages from anyone that is not in our address book. We are far more likely to unsubscribe from lists in an attempt to keep our inboxes under control.

This rather bleak forecast could well materialise even if sms marketing isn’t misused. As the channel becomes increasingly popular we are bound to receive more texts. The only impact this can have is to reduce the effectiveness of each individual campaign.

So can we avoid mobile marketing armageddon? I hope so. The key to sms marketing remaining effective is to ensure that companies follow best practice. The Mobile Marketing Association’s code of conduct document explains all the legal issues in their rather dry document. The most important part of  ‘best practice’ for any sms marketing campaign is operating a consistent unsubscription service, allowing consumers to remove themselves from the list at any time.

As an ex member of Bannatyne’s Health Club, I’m sent regular text alerts to try and tempt me to renew my membership. I’ve probably received 8 or 9 texts in the past 6 months and not one of them has given me the option of removing myself from their list. Not only is this maddening but Bannatyne’s are wasting money sending texts that I have precisely zero chance of responding to. Bad practice, wasteful and damaging to the Bannatyne’s brand. (I’m out.)

So as the mobile marketing channel matures, we’ll have to wait and see how it develops. My gut feel is that it will continue to remain the most responsive direct marketing channel available for the foreseeable future. I hope we can dodge the pitfalls that have plagued email marketing. Time will tell.