Are SMS and Push Notifications Replacing Email?

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For as long as there has been email, there have been people predicting its downfall. I can’t tell you why.

Perhaps the early naysayers had a bad experience trying to make the jump to near-instant communication with their coworkers. Others may have jumped on the bandwagon after marketers got their hands on email and turned into a non-stop promotion machine. Invasive spammers certainly caused their issues but the email service providers have essentially eliminated that from our experience with email these days.

Every new technology since email has at one time or another been described as an email killer. None of those predictions is worth very much today.

That said, in a world with more ways to connect with people than ever before, companies should always question whether their preferred channels of communication with customers are still the right ones.

Companies Using SMS

Companies have been using some form of text messaging for marketing for the last decade. For people who found the intrusion of brands into their inbox, SMS was probably not the solution they envisioned. Nowhere is a promotional message more intrusive than on your phone, right?

But many consumers actually prefer the convenience the channel offers to email. In many ways, it’s more immediate, and more intimate. With brands you already have some connection to, an SMS can inspire action in ways an email won’t.

It’s most commonly used as a way to communicate with existing customers about special promotions or location-based offers.

Companies Using Push Notifications

Mobile apps opened up a whole new channel of communication that companies have been excited about for some time. Push notifications from apps come in the form of banners on the lock screen, drop down alerts on the home screen, and red dots above app icons.

They are announcements to the user that there is some action they need to take.

Push notifications were designed as a way for apps to communicate with its’ users when they were not in the middle of using the app. Rather than send an email or a text message, they can use the phone’s notification system to “send a message”.

Companies use these as a subtle nudge to get customers to engage with their apps more frequently than they otherwise would.

Is There Still Room for Email?

As you may have guessed from the introduction to this article, there is and always will be room for email. SMS and push notifications are good ways for brands to communicate with customers. But they supplement email, at best. They will never replace.

Email continues to be the marketing channel with the highest return on investments. No one is predicting that SMS or push notifications will take that honor anytime soon.

The Fine Line Between Annoying and Effective

Frequency. As in, what is the right frequency for my marketing communications? It’s one of the most common questions asked by marketers and small business owners looking to grow their sales. And for good reason.

There is a fine line between annoying and effective.

Effective frequencies increase the rate of sales by connecting with more people and converting them with your messaging. Annoying frequencies turn people off by messaging that is too frequent, causing them to unsubscribe, block, report spam, and otherwise damage your reputation.

The problem is, there is no sure way to know where the line between the two is.

The solution: test!

If your question is, can I contact people more frequently and will it lead to more sales, try it. Start with one additional message. If you are contacting them once a month, try twice. Measure sales compared to before and make a judgment. If that works, try three.

If your question is, am I contacting people too much and turning them off, try pulling back. Again, start with one message. If you are contacting them once a week, try once every other week instead. Measure sales and complaints and make a judgment.

The key point is that for every business and every offer this point at which you are messaging your prospective customers too frequently is different. In order to know for sure, the only thing you can do is test it out for yourself. And you should.

Give Your Sales Force What They Need

Sales is a crucial part of marketing. Too often we focus so much of our energy on advertising, and forget to pay attention to what happens when the advertising works. It gets people to visit or call, gets them to request more information, or research your products and services. But then you have to sell them.

Sure, in some industries, you rely on people to checkout themselves. You might not have a sales force. But in most you do, and it is a big part of the marketing team’s job to give that sales force the tools that they need to turn interested prospects into paying customers.

Here is a brief look at the sales cycle and what marketing can do to assist sales all the way through the process.

Beginning/Interest:

Your advertising generates interest. Activities on social media can generate interest. All efforts by the marketing team at this first stage should be intended to reach new prospects and start them down the sales funnel by piquing their interest.

You can create whitepapers or promotional material and use them to generate leads on your website. You can design your website to encourage people to email, or chat, or call, connecting them directly to someone on the sales team. You can create special offers and discounts that encourage people who otherwise might not shop with you to take an interest.

Middle/Selling:

At this stage, your sales team has leads in the queue. This is when the selling starts.

Sales people should be provided a variety of different assets to help them sell. A basic information packet, in the form of a PowerPoint or single document can be used to reach out to people initially. In addition, when prospects ask for more information on a specific area, the salesperson should have something to show them. This might include case studies and references from other clients or customers, a more detailed brochure explaining what you offer and how it works, industry research, etc.

End/Closing:

To close the sale, it is important to provide sales people with a certain degree of flexibility. At this stage, the ability to discount the price or create added value for the customer could mean the difference between a sale and a missed opportunity. Make sure salespeople know what they can do to close the sale, and what they can’t. And give them the proper answers to all possible customer questions.

All other aspects of your marketing might be dynamite, but if you can’t close the sale once you pique someone’s interest, your business will not succeed.

6 Ways to Personalize Your Marketing

Remember when “SoLoMo” was a thing? The passing trend of Social, Local, Mobile was really about companies trying to reach and serve a market of individuals.

At its core, the SoLoMo movement was about a shift from the idea of creating a great product designed for everyone, being everything to all people, to being everything for each person, or designing a unique experience to serve the needs of each unique customer or user.

And that’s where we pick up with personalization today. It’s not just using the person’s name in the subject line of your emails, although that is certainly a part of it. It’s about creating genuinely unique experiences designed to cater to each person and reach them more effectively and more directly.

Here are some examples of how we can use personalization in marketing:

  1. Customize your web pages to individual search terms, so that a visitor gets an experience on your site that caters to their needs or wants.
     
  2. Customize your email follow up based on the interests or needs of each user, ie. the product or category they have expressed interest in by adding it to their cart, visiting the product page, or expressly asked about in a form.
     
  3. Create two different website experiences, one for new visitors and one for people who are returning for a second or third time.
     
  4. Allow people to create customer accounts on your site and edit the way they interact with your site when they are logged in, ie. a custom dashboard.
     
  5. Direct mailers can use what we know about a prospect to customize the mailing, ie. name, geographic region, area of interest, age, gender, etc.
     
  6. Create retargeting campaigns that speak to prospects’ interests expressed by the pages they visited on your site or their interaction with other ads.

Keep the conversation going - share your personalization tips in the comments below.

The Absolute Worst Thing Your Marketing Team Can Do

Marketing teams have a lot of responsibility these days. They get a lot of the credit when things are going well, and a lot of the blame when things are not. And I think that is very fair, given the job we have to do.

But there is one thing your marketing team might be doing that is destroying any chance that your company has for continued success. What is it?

Keeping to Themselves.

The marketing team has a responsibility not only to plan and execute the marketing strategy for the company, but to communicate that strategy to other departments within the company and ensure those other departments execute as well.

The worst thing for any marketing team is when they do a killer job crafting a brilliant campaign to drive more customers and more sales, but the sales team or the customer service team drops the ball. But even then, the blame should start with the marketing team. Because if they don’t do a good job communicating the marketing strategy to those other teams, how can they expect them to execute?

When taken from the customer’s point of view, marketing is more than just the advertising. It’s the entire experience from first touch, to sale, to use of the product or service. And that experience must be consistent in order to be effective.

A sales team that undercuts the marketing message, or a service team that fails to make people happy after the purchase can damn a great marketing plan.