Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Text “WhoCares?” to 66863

Is Text Messaging Relevant for B2B Marketers?

(this post first appeared on Destination CRM)

There is a lot of discussion about whether text messaging is relevant in a B2B marketing environment. We’ve all seen the stats on the use of text messaging within younger generations, and there is a sense that this will lead to an inevitable rise of the relevance of text messaging for B2B marketers. I would, however, contend that the opposite may be true, and that text messaging may never become relevant in a B2B environment.

Why Text Message?

First, let’s look at why text messaging is popular. It is a simple, quick form of communication that is readily available on any device, and usually is very economical. It does a tremendous job of being both real-time (you can get a message right away) and also asynchronous (but you don’t have to respond right away). This, combined with the desire to constantly communicate, has made text messaging a dominant communication mode for teenagers and twenty-somethings everywhere.

Does this Translate to B2B Marketing?

The question though, is whether this form of communication translates to B2B marketing well enough to be relevant. It helps to look at three main differences.

1) Devices: your average executive or manager in a business does not use the same devices as a person in Generation Y. Often, they will be using a Blackberry, an iPhone, or another smartphone. These devices are enabled with many forms of communication, including email and the web, as well as often being full-featured application platforms in themselves. On this application platform, a variety of other communication mechanisms, like Facebook, Twitter, and Foursquare continue to evolve.

2) Communication Style: in a B2B marketing context, the communication is significantly different from the personal communications of Gen Y on their mobile phones. First, in the vast majority of cases, the individual is interacting with an automated system developed by the marketing organization, rather than a person. Second, the communication is usually about requesting information or entering a contest – a point in time interaction – rather than the back-and-forth of teenagers planning an outing or gossiping on the day’s events.

3) Content Richness: with this style of communication, we also see a richer style of content being used. When a business buyer is compelled to enter a short code, it is often to receive an interesting and valuable piece of content. It is very rare that an offer of sufficient value only requires a few hundred characters of text.

Each of these differences removes a major reason to use text messaging in a B2B marketing environment. The audience can, in today’s environment, usually be expected to have a mobile device that is capable of significantly more communication capabilities than just text messaging. Likewise, the point-in-time interaction with an automated system, combined with the richer content experience desired, further push us to leverage the richer capabilities of our audiences Blackberrys, iPhones, and iPads.

Mobile Thinking vs. Mobile Devices

This is not to say that mobile marketing is not relevant, it very much is. However, a separation needs to be made between “mobile thinking” and “mobile devices”. Mobile marketing is about having a compelling offer that can be presented to a business person where they are at that moment – at a tradeshow, an event, or just passing by a billboard – and compel them to take an action. This is both challenging and highly relevant in today’s marketing world. However, nothing requires the marketing thinking in that mobile campaign to use specific device technology such as text messaging and short codes. In today’s environment, there are much better ways to accomplish all the required goals with the modern devices we all carry.

But what about the Teenagers?

Each generation who enters the work force brings with them new ways of interacting, new norms, and new approaches. This generation will be no different. However, much of the change that impacts the business world is in a way of thinking, rather than a specific technology. MySpace demonstrated a new cultural norm in how we communicate and keep in touch with friends, but the underlying technology quickly lost ground to Facebook. A similar trend is to be expected with mobile. A cultural norm of always being connected, and interacting with the world through a mobile device is clearly part of the current generation, but exactly what devices and what technologies can be expected to change quickly.

Rather than associating mobile marketing with text messaging and short codes – its current incarnation – better to put effort into mobile thinking. In all likelihood, the best and most effective technology a person will used to respond to the offer will be a shortened URL, Facebook fan page, or a technology yet to be popularized.
Many of the topics on this blog are discussed in more detail in my book Digital Body Language
In my day job, I am with Eloqua, the marketing automation software used by the worlds best marketers
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Anonymous said...

This short code does not work

Steven Woods said...

Yes... the title is just a title, not a marketing campaign with an enabled short code..