Text Message Marketing: Yay or Nay?

95 out of 100 customers who have opted into text messaging program open and read mobile messages within three minutes.

Well those are better odds than the 2 out of 50 Facebook users that any particular advertisement reaches. If that’s the case, given the audience reach, shouldn’t all companies switch their marketing focus to text messages?

This year, I took a free trial class at 9Round, a kickboxing studio in Milwaukee. I went with a school organization and did not realize the waiver I was signing would opt me in for text message marketing. In retrospect, I wish I had glanced over the fine print to see if message marketing was included, or if the company just does this on its own without any warning.

Now I do not like the idea of a company contacting me via text. My phone, my number, is a personal thing. It is my one way of contacting friends or family without being bombarded or distracted by advertising that is so often found on all social media sites.

But after doing research from a company’s perspective, text message marketing makes sense. It’s inexpensive, easy to carry out, and reaches a large audience in minutes. Mobile text messaging, the same 160-character dispatches first popularized by nimble-fingered teenagers, may be the closest thing in the information-overloaded digital marketing world to a guaranteed read.

New York Times wrote an article listing some rules when getting involved in text message marketing. They include:

  1. Don’t even think about doing it the illegal way. In other words, don’t spam consumers. But how often does a consumer have to receive a text for it to be considered spam?
  2. You have three options when asking consumers to opt-in to texts, including service providers and vanity short codes.
  3. Text marketing can be supported by traditional marketing. Emphasis the message brought to consumers’ phones through typical marketing, like online advertising or posters.

The following two rules peaked my interest, with the last particularly in regards to 9Round:

4. It is better to give than to receive. NY Times suggests offering consumers something in return of opting-in, such as sampler gift bags. Now something like that I can get behind. I would trade you my number if that meant free things.

5. Show restraint (and don’t get too cute). Even with texts, you are still a company and need to be professional. But exemplified by the included screenshot of texts my friend received, 9Round seems to have crossed that business line and gone right into friend mode. Can that also be a result of marketing through such a personal outlet? These texts are a little too aggressive and my friend has no desire to head back to the gym.

It’s easy to avoid marketing on forms where you know you’ll be contacted. But with 9Round, where I am signing a mandatory waiver in order to workout, I should not have to worry about my phone number being taken advantage of. I’m now hesitant about giving my real digits on all future forms. From a business perspective, text marketing can be a handy tool to look into. But you have to know your audience. You have to know if they will accept the texts or be discouraged because of them.

Is there an ethical problem when companies reach out to consumers via text? Is it a smart business move or will it discredit the company by infiltrating personal space? There are pros and cons for all types of marketing but how far across the line can a company cross before the actions become nonproductive?

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