03/27/2010 02:43 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Text Heard 'Round the World: Marketers Embrace Mobile Messaging

Personalized mobile interaction, which includes text and picture messages, has become one of the most popular ways on the planet for people to communicate, and its growth is staggering. According to a report from Tomi Ahonen Consulting, the number of global mobile messaging users has climbed to more than three billion, and 76% of all mobile phone subscribers actively send and receive SMS text messages. Three billion messaging consumers translates to twice the number of television sets in homes, two and half times the number of people using email, and three times the number of computers on the Internet.

This phenomenal growth represents an amazing opportunity for marketers, but what are some of the most important practices to keep in mind when developing mobile messaging campaigns?

Gaining Access to a Consumer's Mobile Device is an Intimate Invitation

Individuals store their contacts, check their email, and visit favorite mobile sites directly from their phones. Having a consumer opt in to receive updates or learn more about a brand via mobile messaging is only the beginning of the marketer/consumer relationship. Treat it like gold and understand that each opt in is a privilege and not a right. To this "Get to know the Mobile Marketing Association's Guidelines; follow them carefully or risk being banned

Let's face it. There is very little that a brand can communicate in 160 characters, so marketers should utilize mobile messaging as a gateway that facilitates access to the brand and to more information. Include brief detail on the reason for the message (e.g. great offer, sports scores, the latest weather), then leave room for a direct link to your mobile site. This is the best way to further engage on-the-go consumers with your brand while providing instant analytics on response rates to plan future campaigns.

Relevancy is Key and Fatigue is Ever-Present

When consumers opt in to a brand's mobile messaging program, relevancy is absolutely critical. If they choose to receive messages about weather, be sure to send them local forecasts. If sports scores are what you're offering, make sure the consumer's favorite teams are included in the message. This does not mean a marketer cannot add on sponsor messages and other promotions, but relevant and timely content should always take the lead.

The same thing goes for subscriber fatigue. Send too many messages, and your opt-in friend will soon be your opt-out enemy. Breaking news 15 times a day can be overwhelming, so consider one or two messages a day instead.

Leverage Tie-Ins to Other Media Channels

To further add value for the consumer and promote your other marketing channels, prompt the user to tune in to your television show or go online for more information. 2ergo recently launched a program with National Geographic Channel for its Dog Whisperer TV series that sent mobile messages with a dog training tip and reminder to watch the show two hours before each week's episode. The program received kudos from its subscribers for timely and relevant communications.

Learn from Your Subscriber Base, Immediately

O2, a leading UK mobile operator with 18.4 million customers, implemented a wide-reaching mobile messaging strategy with 2ergo that enabled the company to send regular SMS, MMS and email updates on special offers, new products and other relevant campaigns to its subscriber base. Thanks to the immediate responses typical with mobile and other detailed tracking metrics, O2 now understands that certain demographics respond best to SMS and MMS between 6pm and 9pm, after finishing their work day. By leveraging this deep insight into customer behavior, they have seen response rates between 30-65%. Executives with the company believe that mobile messaging has led to reduce costs and more informed customers, which ultimately is reducing churn.

Mobile Marketing Offers Great Value

The current economic climate is driving smarter business, fueling the growth in mobile marketing and mobile customer relationship management (CRM). Business is responding to market conditions by spending less on TV, outdoor and print in favor of the mobile as it's a less expensive, highly targeted and more measurable marketing channel.

Smart marketers will keep these best practices in mind with each and every program they choose to deploy in this mobile world.

Feel free to contact me directly to discuss further:

Chris Brassington
CEO at Starfish Consultants