SMS technology for your business

Text messaging is one technology that has changed the way people communicate forever. It replaced the letter, the phone call and, in Zimbabwe, the e-mail. But, what can it do for your business?

In Zimbabwe, you can send a message for as little as seven cents. All current phones have internet capabilities, but will limited 3G and GPRS coverage, the text message still trumps social networking as a means of communication.

According to the latest figures from POTRAZ there are about six million active cell phone users in Zimbabwe and the number is growing. Therefore, it is easier and cheaper to reach your targeted audience than ever before via SMS. Below are some business applications of SMS technologies, most of which I am sure you are familiar with:

Bulk SMS

You compose one message and you broadcast it to 10,000 targeted recipients. How to get their numbers is very easy, but the fact is that you can target a market segment with clinical precision with just 160 characters is what matters. You can even let the computer do it for you. How? That is even simpler.

After composing your message and saving it on your PC, you will need just three things: a GSM modem, phone and a SIM card. You will also need a computer programme that will interface with your GSM modem. The next step is to copy and paste your message to the body of your SMS sending program, then add your recipients from your address book or database in the form of a text file and then click the send button. And you are done.

The messages will be placed in a queue as your GSM modem sends your messages. For 1,000 recipients it could take about 6,000 seconds working to have all the messages delivered. This will depend on the speed of your GSM modem, network availability and congestion of your cellular provider.

Make sure that the message is simple, direct, effective and calls for action on the part of the recipient, otherwise you have donated $70 worth of airtime to your cellular provider. According to Parreto's 80/20 rule, at least 20% of the recipients will read your message with interest.

Spamming concerns

Spam is a contextual word that usually applies to unsolicited emails. It has been around for a long time and we are bombarded by it when we sit in front of the television, look at billboards or listen to the radio.

After a while, we become desensitized to this kind of marketing.

With SMS marketing, you can target specific products and services to your niche market based on the needs of that particular market. SMS spamming is where you send unsolicited messages to recipients who might not be interested in buying your product. The other day I received a text message from Pioneer Seeds to buy high yielding seeds for low and high rainfall areas. I am neither a farmer, nor do I intend to be one. However, by forwarding the message to a farmer in Marondera, I have given that company potential business.

Phones can not filter out spam SMS and so it is prudent that you do not annoy potential clients. Your SMS campaigns must be highly focussed or else you will end up sending beer promotion texts to a group of religious members of a Christian setup.

Banks already use mobile marketing to let their customers know whenever a

transaction occurs on their account. The city mayor can remind his residents of refuse collection dates. Pharmacies can send out messages that a customer's prescription is due to run out in three days, with an option that allows the customer to text a “reorder” back to the pharmacy. The Veterinary department could remind farmers about the foot and mouth disease outbreak in specified regions of the country. ZimStat could remind people to get counted in the forthcoming 2012 census, and the list goes on.

Two way SMS

The set up is the same, but in this case the SMS system responds to specific input by the sender. It has what is called short codes and key words. A short code is a five digit number that you buy from your service provider. This is the number that you advertise in any form of media for people to respond to, whether by voting SMS or simply by texting the displayed key word.

How much do you charge for this? Well if it is a service that people are willing to pay for, you can charge any amount you want, as long as your advert is very clear that the SMS will cost that much. Some short code services could be free, especially if they benefit you.

Vanity numbers

You do not necessarily need a short code to deploy a two way SMS system, but you can with the use of a regular $1 SIM card bearing an easy to remember number like 077 770 7700. All you need is a PC, a GSM modem, an SMS system and, of course, air time. You can be up and running in less than an hour. Use of vanity or golden numbers as the one listed at the end of this article could boost your visibility when doing SMS promotions.

Sender ID branding

This is when that the space on each message, usually reserved for the mobile number of the originating mobile phone, can be replaced with the name or brand of the company sending the message.

So if I was to send an SMS to you, instead of getting +263713100000 in the from field, you would get the branded sender ID: NDLOVU. This can be used effectively to create brand loyalty.

A much simpler way to implement this is to outsource this service. Engage a company or an expert to do it for you. Concentrate on what you know and do best. It does not matter which industry you are in.

The festive season is around the corner, have you considered ‘out of the box’ text messaging technology to push your sales volumes up?

For more information contact Robert Ndlovu – Text: (071) 310 0000 / Call : (077) 600 2605

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