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Mobile Marketing through Text Messages

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Dave Danikowski, owner of Wise Auto Clinic in Schaumburg, Ill., could feel he was missing out on an opportunity. Almost all of his clients—“if not every one,” he says—carry cell phones. Since even the most basic phones have text messaging capabilities, Danikowski thought that he could use that as a quick, easy, affordable and effective strategy to get marketing messages out to a broad group of people.

So, he implemented a text message marketing campaign in 2012. He works with a provider of mass text message distribution services, Clevertxt.com, to send regular marketing messages to a database of customers at a cost of about 5 cents each.

After customers receive vehicle services at the shop, Danikowski asks each one if they would like to signup to receive service or promotional communications via text message.

Within one year after implementation, Danikowski signed up more than 50 customers to receive the messages. He sends out promotions for special deals and offers, such as $16 oil change coupons every six months. Danikowski also sends service reminders, which has become his main texting strategy and where he’s noticed the most significant results.

Text messages represent can’t-miss marketing opportunities for the auto repair industry, says automotive marketing expert Brian Offenberger, owner of RightOn - NoBull Marketing based in Scottsdale, Ariz. Texting has become another strategy for shops to communicate with existing and past customers to build their brand names, boost retention rates and drive business. He says texting is among the most affordable, cost-effective and simple forms of digital marketing repairers can implement—and it’s the most desirable type of business communication for consumers to receive.

Success Rate

“If a shop wants to market well to its existing customer base, text messaging is the platform to be working with,” says Offenberger, who has led a number of industry seminars on the topic. “When it comes to marketing, text messaging is the preferred communication tactic among most demographic groups.”

For as little as 2 cents each, depending on your service provider, Offenberger says shops are able to send targeted marketing messages directly to their database of past customers. Shops can text business event promotions, coupons, special deals or service reminders.

He says the investment of a few pennies per customer can generate thousands in return. Offenberger is working with four auto repair shops, and says each location, on average, has raised work volume by double-digit percentages since launching the text campaign.

The effort is effective for several reasons, he says. Customers sign-up to receive the messages (a legal requirement), which means they actually want to get them. The message is sent and stored on a device that rarely is more than an arm’s reach away, and people tend to keep the same phone number for several years. In addition, he says consumers perceive texts from businesses to be more personal, less obtrusive, and less “spammy” than other tactics, like email.

The messages get noticed, too. Text messages average open rates of 97 percent within three minutes after being received, with click-through rates of more than 14 percent and redemption rates of more than 8 percent, according to the Direct Marketing Association. Comparatively, marketing messages distributed via email have average open rates of only 22 percent over the course of several days, with click-through rates of 6.64 percent and redemption rates of 1.73 percent.

“Generally, fewer businesses have a consumer’s direct cell phone number compared to their email address. Consumers might get 100 emails a day, but only 10 text messages. Those 10 texts stand out much more in their minds,” Offenberger says. “If you’re running an auto repair shop today, this is a no-brainer.”

Danikowski says 100 percent of the service reminders he’s sent out have come back in. He schedules pre-determined dates and times for the texts to be sent. For example, when a customer comes in for an oil change, he pre-schedules a service reminder to be automatically sent in six months time.

Find Assistance

Although anybody can send text messages to other people, Danikowski says text message marketing probably isn’t something you want to tackle on your own, and recommends working with an outside company like he does. Conducting a campaign on your own would require tedious work to manually enter dozens, or hundreds, of phone numbers, and that could also increase your chances of delivery problems.

Adam Braithwaite, owner of Great White Media, a firm that provides text message services to auto repair shops, says there are anti-spam laws that make it illegal for businesses to text without having a platform that allows consumers to opt-in and express permission to receive the messages. Customers must text-in a certain keyword to a text-shortened phone number, a message must be sent back to the customer asking if they want to join the list, and the customer must reply with a “yes.”

Offenberger says there are several companies nationwide that offer efficient text message marketing services to small businesses. Look for a firm that’s able to provide text message distribution, database management, text-specific shortened phone numbers, and other text functions such as unsubscribe features.

He says shops should be able to purchase texting plans through third-party providers for as low as $15 per month.

With that strategy, Danikowski says shop owners are only responsible for creating the concept of the marketing messages, and the text provider takes care of the rest without consuming any additional time.

Message Crafting

Braithwaite says shops could hire a firm to develop and manage texting campaigns on their behalf. But he recommends purchasing only a plan, and creating your own campaign instead.

“It’s easy to do, doesn’t take much time, and you control what customers see,” Braithwaite says. He offers several tips to help you create the right messages:

Brand the message. Include your company name.

Keep it short. Text messages should be brief and to the point. Limit the message to a maximum of 160 characters.

Consider your image. Think about how you want customers to perceive the business, and assess the ideal image you want to create in the messages you send. It’s a personal preference whether to word the messages more casually or formally.

Using abbreviated text lingo and acronyms portrays a more casual image, while using proper spelling and punctuation conveys a more formal image. 

Provide a Web link. Provide a URL that links to a specific mobile-optimized Web page for more information or details.

Switch it up. Special deals, offers and company announcements are great concepts to develop messages around. Customers also occasionally enjoy other things that provide value, such as vehicle maintenance tips. Make sure to switch it up. Customers like receiving discounts, but the offers can lose appeal if they’re sent too often.

Include graphics. Include a mobile coupon graphic that recipients can save to their phone. Make sure to assess the image before sending, however, because some graphics don’t always look great on mobile devices.

Best Practices

Before you get started, Steve Danikowski, president of mobile marketing firm InfiNet Marketing and the brother of shop owner Dave Danikowski, recommends a few best practices to help you launch a successful campaign:

Develop a recipient list. Discuss your texting process with every customer following a successful repair experience at your facility. Explain the types of messages they will receive, and directly ask if they’re interested in joining your list.

Promote the text number. Include your shortened text message code on all marketing materials, signage and mailings.

Send a message immediately. Send a special offer via text immediately after customers sign-up for the service. They may not use it right away, but the purpose is to get them accustomed to receiving, reading and storing the message on their phone.

Motivate action. If you send out coupons, make them redeemable for a short period of time—within two weeks after sending. The text should be something that motivates people to come in quickly.

Limit the frequency. Don’t overload recipients by sending messages too often. That leads to opt-outs. Send one or two messages per month. 

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