When I say the term Inbound Marketing, you instantly think of creating content that is helpful and informative, making your leads' and customers' lives better, faster, and easier by simply delighting them.
While seeming radically different, SMS and Inbound have more in common that you'd think. When SMS is viewed through the "Inbound" filter, B2B SMS Marketing can be tremendously effective. How so? Read on--this is the tale of two reputations.
Apples to Oranges
First, let's make a comparison. Email is a significant part of Inbound Marketing and B2B Marketing Best Practices. Email is considered spam when unwanted, unsubscribed, or contextually irrelevant. However, when email is used to deliver relevant, helpful, valuable, or informative content along with including links to blogs, videos, and landing pages to those whom have requested to receive such information, email becomes the workhorse of inbound marketing.
And what about SMS? It's considered spam when unwanted, unsubscribed, or contextually irrelevant. However, when SMS is used to deliver relevant, helpful, valuable, or informative content, along with including links to blogs, videos, and landing pages to those whom have requested to receive such information, SMS becomes the workhorse of inbound marketing.
Hmmmm, looks like all we did there was to change the word "EMAIL" to "SMS" and "IS" to "COULD BE". Are you beginning to see SMS in a different light?
A Closer Look
Next, lets compare the opt in, or subscribe mechanisms, requirements and the legality of both email and SMS.
Email in the USA is governed by the CAN-SPAM Act which was enacted by the FTC in 2003 and drew correlations between unwanted "marketing" and "pornography". Here are guidelines in detail:
- The FTC defined and regulated Commercial Email or Business Email as that which includes Commercial Content that advertises or promotes a product or service.
- The FTC further defined other NON REGULATED types of email such as Transactional or Relationship Content, which is alerts or notifications like payment receipts, shipping notifications, or updates about an already agreed upon transaction.
- Lastly, the FTC defined "other" content as that which was neither of the above, such as simply replying to a customer query. The CAN-SPAM Act requires that the recipient must OPT IN to receive commercial email messages and have the ability to easily OPT OUT.
SMS in the USA is governed by the FCC TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) Act of 1991 which has been amended several times to include direct references to SMS. The most recent change is coming as of the time of this writing and goes into effect on October 16, 2013. The FCC defines three types of content:
- Transactional or Relationship
The FCC simply requires OPT-IN via either a double opt-in SMS process or through subscribing via an actual or web form that complies with the E Sign Act of 2000. In summary, the opt-in and distribution rules for email and SMS are nearly the same. Seeing a pattern here?
So why might you consider using SMS? First, think about this: 97% of American Business Professionals are within 3 feet of their mobile phone 24 hours per day and look at it on average 150 times daily (Source: Morgan Stanley, Technology and Internet Trends).
B2B Companies that utilize inbound marketing methodology use email to send contextually relevant content to segmented lists of prospects and customers that have legally subscribed to their list. Considering the frequency that individuals use mobile devices, SMS may be used for the same marketing tactics with an even greater success.
Plus, once you have gained the permission for SMS, you are directly connected to the customer almost 24 hours per day, and as the infographics below shows you, you may enjoy read rates of 98% and URL click-through rates of 19%. That's a LOT of CTR.
When time counts (and let's be honest, when doesn't it?), SMS is the best solution considering the average response time for email is 2 days and SMS is only 90 seconds.
The Current State of SMS
Even with all this incredible data, many B2B companies and large brands have stayed away from delivering web content including URL's via SMS due to a patent troll that claimed to hold patent on the delivery of URL via SMS.
Good news here too! Recently, a federal court threw the troll's claims out of court. Judge Darrah shot down the patent claim, determining that the patents in question were exhausted by virtue of having already been licensed to the mobile phone companies that produce handsets.
“The doctrine of patent exhaustion is designed to avoid double recovery by a patentee, promote the orderly administration of patent rights, provide an efficient method for determining the termination of a patent monopoly, and promote fair competition,” Darrah asserted in his opinion. “To permit the patent holder to recover multiple times on the same patent by selling licenses to the patents piece by piece (or claim by claim) is contradictory to these policies.”
So what have we learned? SMS is just like Email but better when it comes to inbound and content marketing delivery. SMS will not replace email, however, when added as a channel, it will only increase your conversions. This is similar to how adding Twitter to your LinkedIn Strategy will increase your reach and conversion.
We have learned that we can utilize SMS as a method of instant alerts of notification to our customers regarding shipping, scheduling, webinars, appointments, updates, and more. We have learned that we can deliver URLs legally without worry about patent issues to deliver valuable calls to action that lead our prospects and customers to mobile friendly landing pages, video, and forms.
C'mon, Everyone is Doing it!
Lets take a look at how some large B2B Companies are already using SMS in their Inbound or Customer Focused Marketing Strategies:
Many are KINGS of INBOUND as they are B2B Media Content Publishers like Bloomberg where they offer fans to be updated with real-time financial news from Bloomberg.
Others are involved in trading of company stocks like Etrade who states Smart Alerts are messages that help you stay connected – in real time – to activity in your accounts and in the markets. For instance, you can find out when your bank balance falls below a certain amount, or when a stock's price or volume hits a target you've set.
Airlines like American Airlines, who cater to the business traveler, allow their travelers to get up-to-the-minute airline flight information from American Airlines delivered by text, voice or email. Logistics companies like UPS offer programs like UPS My Choice® Delivery Alerts, which they claim to be helpful via informing you about your UPS deliveries so you can plan your day.
Other B2B brands use SMS for things like delivering video, app downloads, blog delivery, pr announcements and customer delight alerts.
In closing, don't be scared of SMS, it can be better than email if you use it properly as a content communications supplement or as a means of customer delight.
TJ Kirgin is the second generation CEO of Anchor Communications an Inbound Marketing Agency and founder of Anchor Mobile a Mobile Marketing Software as a Service Provider to Ad Agencies, Marketing Companies and other partner resellers. His passion for sales and marketing optimization fuels his team to deliver measurable ROI to their marketing clients. TJ recently began teaching Inbound Marketing to local marketing pros in St. Louis MO.