When I mention mobile marketing to the majority of small to mid-size business owners I get deer-in-headlights looks. Most people don’t understand what it is or why they should care.

Mobile marketing allows a business owner to engage in an interactive way with prospects and clients. Think of how many people use smart phones to interact with each other and to search for businesses. Have I gotten your attention? With a market that is predicted by Gartner to reach $3.3 billion in 2011 and $20.6 billion by 2015, this is a tactic you may want to seriously consider.

Why Use Mobile Marketing?

Offering incentives is a great way to begin a relationship with a new customer and get their contact information. Offering them further reasons to buy from you will help you get a higher customer value and using SMS to deliver your messages improves the chances that your prospect will read it.

Text messages on average have a 95-98% open rate vs. email open rates, which typically are 20% or less. People always have their mobile phones with them and if they get a text message, they usually read it. On the other hand, people get so many emails (and spam blockers also block a lot of emails) so it can be difficult to get a good response rate.  Gathering cell phone numbers from your prospects is a great way to ensure your marketing messages get seen when you have future promotions.

How to Get Started with Mobile Marketing

How can you get started with mobile marketing? First, connect with a company that manages SMS databases.  Some you may want to research include BizM3, MobileStorm and Yep Text. Then, through one of these vendors, buy a mobile keyword (e.g., when you see “text ‘pasta’ to 5555” “pasta” is your keyword) and you pay for the text messages you send out or the size of your database.

Prices vary from vendor to vendor, so when choosing a particular vendor to help manage your SMS campaigns, you should consider several criteria to fit your needs, including:

• tools for measuring ROI such as flexible reporting
• detailed metrics on demographics
• campaign management tools that are easy to use
• message auto responders
• double opt-in capabilities
• advice on best practices
• APIs to integrate with in-house systems
• ability to support shared or dedicated short codes
• great customer support to help you with your campaign

Then, build a mobile landing page where you host the details of your offer and drive traffic to it. One company who can do this for you is Wizard Media.

Costs for developing a mobile landing page can range from $400-$800 depending on complexity and design work needed for the page.  They can also manage your mobile media buys to help you drive visitors to your offer and ensure that you stay at an acceptable cost per contact acquisition.

Finally, you want to add your offer to all of your marketing materials such as print ads and commercials, and if you are a brick and mortar business, place advertisements in your location about the offer. You don’t always have to give a coupon to generate an opt-in list either. You can get creative with contests and giveaways as well.

Managing Mobile

Once you have gathered opt-ins, it’s time to implement your strategy.

Obviously, you don’t want to send text marketing messages all of the time. That is spam and people will opt out. You want to do it sparingly and only when you have an event, something interesting to say or a super amazing offer. When done right, SMS marketing can drive significant new and repeat sales.

Double Down with Mobile Advertising

As mentioned above, one way to get exposure for your mobile coupon or giveaway is by driving mobile traffic to it. Mobile advertising is growing rapidly but it is still in its infancy. You can buy mobile traffic for as low as $.05 to $.20 per click, which is a cost-effective way to build a list or get exposure for a mobile coupon. Some advertising networks that specialize in driving mobile traffic include Google’s Admob, Jumptap, Mojiva, Inmobi and Buzz City.

With any marketing campaign, you want to monitor them closely and ensure that you are getting a positive return on investment (ROI). You will want to analyze your reports, split test and continue to try to increase response rates.

Trying a new technology can be intimidating, but I hope this is a good primer for you to get started with mobile marketing, as it is a trend that I believe is here to stay.

Have you tried any mobile strategies? Do you know of any companies that are doing a good job utilizing mobile marketing? Please share by leaving a comment below!