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SMS is a low-cost, low-entry must-have for micro and small businesses. 

Australians send more than 55 million text messages a day – that’s nearly three for every person in the country. And best of all, about 90 percent of these texts are read within three minutes and an estimated 97 percent of messages are opened – a far higher rate than emails.

With these sort of figures and with mobile messaging being the most prevalent form of communication in the world, it is no wonder that over the past decade, many small business owners have benefited from using SMS to communicate with their customers.

The low cost of sending an SMS is a major attraction. Added to that our addiction to mobile phones, and SMS becomes a crucial marketing partner.

The low cost of entry is ideal for startups or established micro or small businesses. Very few have access to the sort of funds required for conventional advertising. SMS is easy to set up and fast to use. You can send a message to all of your customers quickly and efficiently while not distracting you from the day-to-day running of your business.

The only decision you need to make is the format. Today there are several new forms of messaging (that are no longer text-only). Technology has evolved greatly and business people can now use more feature-rich forms of mobile messaging including SMS, MMS (multimedia messaging) and push notifications (through mobile phone apps).

Even though it is often touted as an old technology, SMS, in whichever format you choose to use it, is still one of the most powerful ways to connect with your customers. An estimated 52 percent of the population now have smartphones, but the best thing about SMS is that it can be viewed on all phones.

It is estimated that by 2016 business-to-customer messaging revenue is expected to exceed $70 billion. By the same time business-to-consumer messaging will overtake person-to-person text messaging.

The beauty with SMS is that any size and type of business can benefit from using it. In fact, I often receive comments from friends and colleagues that they are surprised when businesses don’t send reminder texts for appointments. Think doctors, mechanics, wedding dress shops, hairdressers – it’s often becoming the exception for businesses not to remind customers of an appointment.

For businesses, a missed appointment can be costly. Yes, the person can make up the appointment but for a motor mechanic, for example, he may only have a handful of jobs and may encounter some unwanted downtime. Add that up week after week, month after month and the lost revenue will begin to be a significant drain on your business. The cost of an SMS seems insignificant in comparison.

Many of these appointments are made several months in advance. We shouldn’t expect the client to remember 100 percent of the time. And we know they don’t!

A great example of how SMS can be used is Openmarket’s association with the Australian Cervical Cancer Foundation (ACCF) where we are creating Australia’s first SMS system to remind women every two years when they are due for their pap smear. At the moment they are reminded by their GP meaning if women move suburb, state or go overseas their details are lost in their individual GP’s records.

Because we tend to keep our mobile phone numbers for several years, reminding women about their pap smear via text message makes so much more sense. Shortly, women will be able to log in onto the ACCF website and register their details to receive their two-yearly reminder message.

Of course, the benefits of business-to-consumer SMS messaging can reach far beyond charity and healthcare industries. Over the past decade we’ve assisted clients from a broad range of industries – including education, telecommunications, consumer electronics, hospitality and retail. We’ve also delivered personalised SMS messages to spectators at events. By working across such a large scope of sectors, we’ve identified that regardless of corporate positioning, budget, and breadth of operations, business owners are curious about the benefits that mobile messaging can bring to the way they operate.

The content delivery opportunities for businesses are endless. From large-scale global operators such as Coca-Cola and Virgin Mobile that want to communicate en-masse to an entire market sector, to a local medical practice that just wants to improve the punctuality of their appointment times – the opportunity for building tailored solutions is unlimited.

With increases in technology, and in particular smartphone ownership and adoption, the method in which users engage with their mobile devices has changed dramatically.

No longer limited to 160 characters of plain text, SMS messages can now contain hyperlinks to external websites, map locations, YouTube videos and social media pages. Sophisticated phone technology enables users to view this rich digital content instantly, seamlessly on their device. By encouraging access to these digital platforms, businesses are able to further open communication channels between themselves and the consumer.

It is important to integrate mobile messaging into your overall marketing plan. It should not act in isolation. Use it to drive people to your website, in store or to like you on Facebook or follow you on Twitter.

Of course, you want your customers to eventually be your advocates. They will be if your offering is right. Be unique, be creative, be interesting. Have a clear call to action. That means being specific and concise about what you want the consumer to do with the information you have given them.

Now you have their awareness – you want their loyalty. Your contact needs to be regular (without being annoying). It also needs to be simple. McDonalds is famous for increasing the turnover of its stores by instructing staff to ask customers “would you like fries with that”.

So to conclude, SMS is a low-cost, low-entry must-have for micro and small businesses. Make sure what you are offering is relevant and interesting. Build a following through awareness and build your business through loyalty.

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Jonathan Morgan

Jonathan Morgan

Jonathan Morgan is the general manager of OpenMarket Australia, a global mobile transaction hub.

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