‘Send me a text please’ say 33.67million mobile users.

OK, so I’m old enough to remember the day I received and sent my first ‘text’ message (or SMS).  It was in the late nineties, the phone was a Motorola, and although it made me giggle, I had no notion at the time of how my mobile phone would morph into my mobile marketing department that was open for business 24/7.  I also remember sending my first email too – but let’s save that for another day.

And so, in the intervening years, with creeping insidiousness, mobile technology has gripped us tighter and firmer that any python ever could. And every month – no, every day – my mobile phone can do more. And demands more. Of me, and my time.

Any organisation worth it’s salt has a whole department dedicated to the mobile phone, all charged with ‘developing the channel’ to help the marketing a sales performance figures rocket. Within the communications industry, we are encouraged to talk about m-commerce, not just e-commerce.  Our websites must be responsive, and our marketing mix must make the most of whizzy things that pop up and massage or customers through the sales funnel.

But stop. Hang on.  When did you last get a text from a brand or organisation that was more than a dentist appointment reminder?  I genuinely can’t remember when SMS was last used as a channel to reach me as a customer. 

But the statistics say that we are ready to receive.

There are 33.67million mobile users in the UK that have ‘opted in’ to receive text messages from brands and businesses in 2016, which means the SMS universe for marketers in the UK is 3 million people larger than Facebook’s audience.”  (source: Text Local)

I don’t make any apology for sounding like a stuck record when I bemoan our rush to find the gold in them there hills of dizzy digital advances and shiny new stuff.  Every day, we ignore more golden opportunities back at base camp.

Our customers are telling us that it’s a channel they wish to receive our marketing messages in, and yet the best most organisations can do is use SMS for a hair appointment reminder.  My hairdresser is brilliant at it.  And I always read her text message, and whilst she is being useful to me, she is also keeping her brand in the forefront of my mind.

My challenge to every organisation, brand and communications agency out there is to stop, and LISTEN to what the customer is telling you (all 33.67million of them!).  Then get creative.  SMS could be working so much harder, but it’s not seen as sexy, it doesn’t win industry awards. All it does at the moment is ‘ping’.  And that’s it – the excitement is over.

By 2020, apparently, the number of customer opting in to SMS as a preferred method of communication, will have increased to 48.65 million. It’s a growing channel, and yet we continue to send emails, or post a Tweet, or serve up a link on Facebook – in the same way that all our competitors do.

Let’s keep this between ourselves for now, because we don’t want everyone rushing over to SMS. But there is a massive opportunity for someone here to really steal a march and gain a huge competitive edge by getting this channel to work for their customers.

Oh, and before I finish – do you know what the really brilliant thing about SMS is?  You own the data!  If Facebook disappeared tomorrow, so too would all your followers…all those ‘likes’ gone just like that!  Whoosh!  All that hard work.  Always, always be the master of your own destiny when it comes to owning your customer data.

SMS. It’s the future. You heard it here first