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Strategy and Transformation

Relationships and Texting… and Marketing

You probably know comedian Aziz Ansari from his acclaimed TV series Parks and Recreation and Master of None, but have you read his sociology book? In 2015, Ansari partnered with (actual) social scientist Eric Klinenberg to pen Modern Romance, a New York Times best-seller that explores our quest for love in the age of smartphones. Armed with a comedian’s keen sense of observation, Ansari explores how the search for a soulmate has come full circle from the arranged marriages and matchmakers of our parents’ and grandparents’ generations to the algorithm-fueled Match.com-makers of today.
For marketers, Modern Romance is a great look at how text messaging has become our go-to channel for communication. Texting provides key benefits for our ever-busy, increasingly cluttered lives. It’s asynchronous, meaning that you can lob a message over to someone without regard for whether they are reading it at the exact time you send it. This also reduces anxiety, as you don’t run the risk (God forbid) of having to talk to a REAL PERSON, which something like a phone call might require.  
Texting is emotional and impulsive, and easy to send and receive via a few quick keystrokes and glances. Email is a more considered and verbose medium. Texting serves you in the moment. And those moments are numerous. A 2015 Forrester report estimated that people pick up or glance at their smartphones 150 to 200 times per day.
The use of texting will likely grow, as mobile popularity increases. In 2017, the average US adult will spend 2 hours, 25 minutes per day using mobile apps, according to an eMarketer report. That’s 85% of their mobile time spent in apps, not on the mobile web. This doesn’t mean you should build a branded app to reach your audience. According to the same report, the top apps people use are for listening to digital audio, social networking, gaming, video viewing, and messaging – categories which typically aren’t covered by branded apps. Of those activities, messaging platforms have overtaken social networks with 20% more monthly active users, according to a 2016 Business Insider study.
But there is a way for brands to participate in the texting lives of their audiences. Messaging is no longer reserved for our personal relationships. According to research by Twilio, a cloud communications platform that provides solutions in this space, 90% of people surveyed want to communicate with their brands via messaging.
You probably already get texts from brands, especially in the healthcare industry, and maybe your own company texts its consumers. But are your messages the equivalent of “Wsup?” Some brands send me SMS texts like the following:
“Ur mobile offer for 20% off 1 item in-store OR online is here!”
Wow. Imagine you met a potential suitor and exchanged phone numbers. Then, they send you a text message to grab a coffee:
“Ur offer to get 1 drink with me Fri OR Sat let’s go!”
At first, I don’t mind, and it’s nice to get the coupon when I’m in a shopping mindset. But more often than not, when I receive that text, I’m not in the mood for a new kitchen appliance. How can brands break out of surface-level, Netflix and Chill-type interactions and start developing real relationships with the people who trusted them enough to give them their phone number?

Text Message Marketing Tips

1. Don’t be generic.

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Your message should demonstrate that you know something about the person on the other end and that you recall your last interaction. Use their purchase history to increase the relevance of your message.

2. Be of service.

Surprise the recipient with an offer to help them (not YOU) in a relevant fashion. That doesn’t always mean a promotional offer. Backbase, a digital banking platform, will send a message to remind a borrower of a missed monthly payment. Instead of sending a scolding ALL CAPS message, the system offers to help execute payment on the spot and put the borrower back in good standing.

3. Make things easy.

Don’t string someone along across several texts, only to require them to open a browser and log into your generic, one-size-fits-all portal so they can then find their way to a secure messaging center. You may believe that your industry’s privacy regulations prevent you from communicating outside of your secure .com environment. But look to companies like Relay, whose clients include the likes of Blue Cross and Citizens Bank. They’ve figured out secure, two-way communication between highly-regulated brands and their customers to deliver the seamless experience of texting a good friend.
The rules for building relationships between two people also apply to building relationships between consumers and brands. Brands aren’t people, but they can’t forget that their consumers are. People who expect – and deserve – more from their relationships.

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Michael Newberry

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