Michael Frausing
Jun 5, 2013

Winning in B2B SMS marketing

B2B marketers looking to build a deeper, more personal brand-engagement model and reach their target business audiences should not overlook SMS.

Michael Frausing
Michael Frausing

While many pioneering brands are starting to leverage smartphones and internet-enabled over-the-top (OTT) applications, they risk overlooking the potential of a multi-channel approach that includes the most universal and accessible channel: SMS. This is especially critical, as SMS channels have a 95 per cent open rate, with most text messages read within just 15 minutes.

Whether you’re the CEO of a global corporation or a small business on a shoestring budget, your mobile device is now a critical tool. The ubiquity and reliability of the SMS platform allows messages to be delivered to anybody, regardless of handset or network, making it an extremely efficient alternative to more traditional marketing methods. 

The mobile phone is often described as ‘the most personal device’, so it is vital to find ways to cement and augment this relationship on mobile. The busy, hectic lifestyles of B2B decision-makers give limited time to absorb information, so quick, dynamic bursts of information (up to 160 characters) instead of emails are preferred.

Here are some tips to make the most of an SMS marketing campaign:

1. Give your audience a choice

Since the mobile phone is a highly personal device it is essential that companies take a different and more cautious, tactical approach to B2B SMS marketing when building their contact and data lists. A company cannot simply buy a list of mobile numbers and start sending bulk marketing text messages, especially if it is a potential business partner—at least not without most likely alienating the receiver.

Any form of mobile marketing requires an opt-in database and consent, so it is important to find the right medium and incentive to persuade your target audience to opt-in. Tactics such as using short codes and automatic responses can be very effective, provided the customer has an opt-out option available at all times. 

2. Keep it simple

Many B2B marketers are used to using email communication as a monthly ‘round-up’ to get multiple messages to their customers or suppliers. However, with SMS marketing the golden rule is to keep it simple and singular.

This also allows your message to be easily identifiable. Just as you do today with email, your SMS messages can appear with your name or identity of your choosing. Instead of just appearing with your response number, you can use a custom sender ID to get instant recognition of your brand when you send a text message, perfect for messages that don't require a reply.

Dependent upon the SMS system you are using, your company name may not show up on the customers’ mobile phone. By also keeping the brand message simple and effective, customers will recognise and understand your message immediately—meaning you do not have to waste 160 characters identifying yourself.

3. Does your message have purpose?

The best B2B marketing messages usually include a call to action or a direct request. This is often a directive for the customer to act upon and interact with the company and gives an indication of what the customer is expected to do, such as downloading a product trial or viewing a video. This will make your messaging more compelling and drive up B2B engagement with your brand or company.

4. Leverage SMS to provide unique value

SMS marketing is the best way to push out time-sensitive product information, delivery confirmations, and service-related messages to an eager audience. The next step is to map the needs of your audience to mobile opportunities and leverage the use of SMS to provide value that your competitor is not.

The most popular type of SMS marketing message is the service message. Sending out reminders or appointment times, directions, delivery schedules, order confirmations and stock level updates are just a few of the service-type SMS messages that B2B customers love to receive. All are great ways to engage. SMS alerts can also be used to create dialogue with audiences by keeping them informed of items deemed important to them, their jobs, business changes, or reminders to join an event or call.

SMS alerts at events are particularly handy and can be valuable to enhance trade-show experiences by informing audiences of event highlights, conference schedules, announcements and networking occasions. To get the best results, messages must be relevant and targeted to avoid them opting out of future messages. So factors such as preferences, timing and content need to be taken into account. For example, a B2B SMS can be seen as spam or an annoyance if sent outside of working hours.

5. Make it measurable

Measurement is increasingly important to marketers, and a key advantage of SMS is the level of transparency it offers into results tracking. Enterprises now have the capability to see if a message has been delivered, read, redeemed, or deleted—and with a much faster response time than through alternative marketing channels.

The future of B2B marketing?

With the global advertisement market set to reach US$20 billion by 2015 (according to Gartner), and with Asia set to generate 35 per cent of it, all eyes are on Asia. Arguably, amongst the numerous mobile marketing options available today, SMS marketing remains a strong option in Asia. According to research, 90 per cent of users always read a text message immediately, regardless of who it was sent from.

For all the technological advances we have witnessed over the past couple of decades, mobile messaging has withstood the test of time, and its prevailing appeal should make it a natural choice for B2B marketers in any industry.

Michael Frausing is senior vice-president and general manager for Acision.

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