Email and SMS: Driving Synergies Through Integrated Programs

The digital landscape has evolved rapidly over the past several years, affording strategic marketers a wealth of opportunities to communicate with customers and prospects in new and exciting ways. Mobile marketing channels now have significant scale and reach, with 91 percent of all U.S. residents using mobile phones daily. In many global markets, handheld devices and smartphones are even more ubiquitous.

One of the most valuable lessons that marketers have learned as digital channels develop is that smart integration between channels often pays huge dividends. Marketers who operate in silos are missing out on opportunities for strategic cross-channel promotion. Marketers who execute campaigns that leverage the unique benefits of SMS and email can realize synergies and create engaging cross-channel experiences that reach consumers when they’re most likely in-market and in the channel that’s most convenient and valuable to them at the time.

Various forms of mobile marketing gained traction over the course of 2010, including SMS, MMS, mobile web, apps, mobile ads and other emerging location-based technologies. Of these emerging channels, SMS is one of the easiest to deploy and offers a few key advantages, including reach and measurability. Marketers, brands and publishers looking to reach audiences on the go are allocating additional resources in 2011. In fact, research firm Mind Commerce predicts that investment in mobile marketing will be a $50 billion business by 2014.

Because SMS marketing is in its relative infancy compared to more established channels such as email, it’s not only critical for marketers to test strategies and tactics diligently, but also to learn from past challenges and leverage best practices that are driving a flood of recent SMS success stories.

Successful SMS initiatives should be integrated into other channels and viewed as part of a cohesive marketing strategy. Many marketers and brands have found success including SMS updates as an option when consumers are signing up for newsletters, deals and other forms of content. Additionally, an emerging best practice is to leverage a SMS short code (a five-digit or six-digit number that consumers text to interact with brands) as a regular component of their corporate brand, listing it right alongside or in place of their website URL.

It’s also critical that SMS marketing be a channel for two-way communication, not just a one-way push of information. One tactic being employed by brands and publishers is automating predefined message streams. Just like triggered email messages, marketers can use short codes to create dialogs with consumers. For example, breaking news can be offered as an incentive to sign up for SMS messages. Once signed up, marketers can automate the delivery of a thank-you response and a sequence of communications based on subscriber actions over the course of three days to four days.

As a component of a well-integrated campaign, marketers need to be careful to play to the specific strengths of the channel. SMS is an ideal tool for breaking news updates, campaigns that include a voting or polling component, and trying to reach audiences while they’re on the go — e.g., local flash sales. Once integrated, SMS can be measured in many of the same ways you measure email: delivery rates, click rates, bounce rates, opt-ins, opt-outs, etc.

As digital channels continue to rapidly expand in the direction of mobile, marketers will increasingly be tasked with uncovering innovative ways to provide value to audiences who aren’t sitting at their desks. Those who are able to deliver this value will be creating important differentiators for their brands and positioning them well to capitalize on the tremendous opportunities afforded by mobile technologies.