Video Deep Dive: Taking Advantage of SMS in Local
Mike Blumenthal

This is the 4th installment of of 2016 of our Deep Dive Into Local series in 2016. For the week ending Monday, February 1st, Mike Ramsey and Mike Blumenthal shared their thoughts about the previous week in local. The complete video, including links and commentary on critical happenings of the previous week is posted in the Local U forums (paywall). In the second half of that video, they take a deeper strategic and tactical dive into one interesting area that caught their attention during the week.

In this discussion, we look at how local merchants might use SMS for marketing, customer support and loyalty.

Mike B: Lastly, and this will lead into our deep dive, there was an interesting article at Street Fight Magazine. Let me call it up on my phone so I have it here. “Seven Ways Local Merchants Can Use Messaging Apps to Their Benefit.” We’ve seen, as you noted in the opening report, that Facebook has been making strong and aggressive efforts to sort of control messaging as a business platform. There’s always this issue anytime a new technology comes out of rent versus owning it. SMS is a great publicly available and everybody has it where you can literally own your own channel. This article gave some really good ideas on doing that. Did you get a chance to glance at the article, Mike R?

Mike R: Yes, I did. I thought some of the interesting things just back to the issue of Facebook versus SMS, the hardest thing is people have Facebook.

Mike B: Well, the other thing though is they have SMS. They have a phone.

Mike R: Yeah, yeah, they do.

Mike B: They’re coming into your store. You can create a unique customer relationship with them. One of the ideas, for example, is summoning help on site. How many times are you in a grocery store and you can’t find the frickin’ matzo? They moved it this week. They moved it last week. They moved it the other week. Even the people there don’t know where it is. Having somebody that acts as a resource, you could just text them: “what aisle is the matzo in?”.

Mike R: And basically put up text signs all over the place saying have a question, text X number, compared to have a question hit us up on Facebook and hit us in the message app I like that. I think that there are a lot of opportunities there. It just goes down to the same challenge that people have with their own platforms again which is that people feel more comfortable on big social platforms. So its a lot more work ingetting them to sign up to specific thing.

Mike B: Well, again, this idea number six was using messaging for reputation management. Not only do you put big signs up that say ask any question, you put big signs up, have a problem, text us. You’re promised an immediate response. This is both a private channel and a trusted channel. Again, you have to disperse a text number readily to your clientele. But it’s private. It’s personable. It’s a connection that you can’t have when you’re using Facebook as a platform.

Mike R: You also don’t have to worry about notifications. A lot of people don’t necessarily notice the notifications. For instance, point five in the article talks about sending timely reminders. I love when the local services, like for instance a hair cut, dentist, doctor appointment, etc. they hit you up maybe a half an hour beforehand. The benefit to SMS is that you will always get the SMS reminder, whereas if it comes through some other app to a person they might have notifications disabled. They might not have them as high frequency as you would get through SMS.

Mike B: Right. One of the other ones was turning off hours into profitable hours. The idea is that if you’re in a highly trafficked area with a lot of walk by traffic and you’re closed at certain hours, you could put a big number in your window that says, “Do you have a question about something? Text us.” Again, it would distinguish you from everybody else and provide you both understanding and a way to connect with customers when you’re not there.

I see giving some thought to SMS as a critical platform for people figuring out. I would recommend reading the article and implementing as many as you can. Some of them require special technology, timely reminders for example. It’s obviously best if it’s integrated with a scheduling system.

The last one, which I thought we could close it up with this, is partnering up on messaging promotions. Partner with another local business, school or church and drive traffic to each other. For example, a coffee shop could promote their business at a movie theater by advertising a text call to action on all movie screens. Text our number to get a coupon for a free cup of coffee at Place X. It’s an interesting way of leveraging some of these local medias in a way that again creates a very direct and personal relationship.

Mike R: I saw more people doing this a few years back. We would see these text numbers all over the place. Then, it transitioned to ‘like us on Facebook.’ Going to your point, now when I see people saying hey like us on Facebook, I just think you’re wasting your call to action because you can’t own that nor will you ever. Even if they like you, you’re never going to reach them without paying. Proving that point, maybe it’s time to switch back to that where we see Facebook not mentioned at all on any of these local ads anymore and they bring back the good old 41411 text now.

Mike B: Well, I don’t think you can abandon Facebook anymore than you could abandon Google. As much as you can minimize their reach into your pocket and using organic available tools, the better off you’ll always be.

Mike R: Steal traffic from Facebook. Don’t give them traffic. That’s the way I look at it.

Mike B: Exactly. Well, with that we’ll close. I think that’s a great way to close. All right, thanks for joining us again. Sorry for the technical difficulties. Bye bye.

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