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That’s not actually a mobile messaging solution

By Ron Cariker

RonCarikerLast year I wrote a blog called "The long and the short of mobile marketing for your dealership." The point of the blog was to explain how there are two distinct types of mobile marketing for sending text alerts to your customers. One of those was a full 10-digit phone number a software company may provide designed to message customers one at a time. The other solution was a short code leased to a mobile marketing company by the carriers and provisioned and monitored by those same carriers; it allows you to send hundreds or thousands of messages in seconds. Take a quick look back at that blog post for some of the technical explanation if you need a refresher.

I don’t assume everyone in the powersports world read that blog, but I’ve come to realize there are many out there who still need to understand how to decide the best fit for their mobile needs. I’ve been contacted no less than a dozen times in the past month alone with questions from dealerships about software companies claiming they offer a mobile messaging solution that’s already built into their system.

Rewards programs, CRM providers, email providers, website providers and others say they can send text alerts to customers from the same system you’re already using with them. Technically, this is true. Unfortunately, it’s NOT the full story or the best solution for what dealers need to be completely successful with a mobile strategy.

The providers offering mobile should be commended for at least attempting to help dealers. But when some of the most coveted, successful features of messaging fall short with these companies, it adversely affects your ability to provide your customers with a truly mobile experience that suits them.

Here are some very specific things to consider when you look to start sending messages to your customers through a mobile platform.

Is sending messages one at a time enough?

The systems that can send messages for you one to one for customer support can be completely successful. If the vendor’s platform allows you to send a customer a reminder about service or a parts order and you don’t need any guarantee of delivery, then that will most likely work. And the customer will certainly appreciate this simple method of communication. Think about your doctor’s appointment text reminder you get.

But sending one at a time is only a part of the many amazing features of mobile messaging. You must make sure your vendor allows you to respond back to each customer one-to-one through the system as well. This will allow you to capture and store the conversation your staff has with each customer. This will eliminate the need for staff to use personal cell phones for this communication.

But once you start using mobile as part of your day-to-day operations, doesn’t it make sense to go further with communication and now send customers messages to increase real sales and drive door swings? You can’t do this with a system that only sends messages one at a time.

Can you send mass messages to all your customers with immediate delivery?

Virtually all these companies trying to squeeze mobile into their exiting platforms cannot offer mass messaging capabilities. Using a full 10-digit phone number to send from is a huge issue for carriers. Carriers will not support delivery of these bulk messages, nor will they provide reporting back as to the success of messages delivered, so when you want to send a message to 1,000 or 5,000 or 10,000 of your customers on your mobile list, there’s no guarantee these software solutions can deliver on this promise.

I recently consulted with a dealer that tried one of the rewards companies’ mobile solution with immediate failure. The dealer had more than 10,000 customers opted in to its mobile club. When the dealer uploaded and attempted to send a bulk message, the majority of messages took hours to be delivered. And those were the ones that got sent at all. So if the dealer truly needed to communicate something important in a timely manner, this vendor could not accomplish this.

Messaging customers is great, but what else can you do with a mobile strategy?

Sending mass messages or one-to-one messages seem pretty straightforward, and you can most likely find vendors for either or both of those needs. But don’t feel like that’s where mobile marketing ends. Here are some solutions dealers are using today to make mobile a profitable part of their business:

  • Coupons with redemption and tracking capabilities;
  • Mobile-friendly webpage building;
  • Unlimited keywords and contacts;
  • Import current customer information, such as the unit’s make, model and year, or demographics, etc.;
  • One-to-one messages for service, parts, birthdays and more;
  • Unlimited target lists to pare down your data to better communicate with customers’ specific content just for them;
  • Automated message personalization;
  • Mobile sign-up forms for your website;
  • Mobile kiosks for customer sign-ups and loyalty rewards;
  • Legally-compliant methods to invite your current customers to join your mobile club;
  • Validate your customer phone numbers as mobile or land lines;
  • Conduct customer surveys and offer trivia contests.

As I previously stated, messaging customers one-to-one can be incredibly useful and effective. And it may be the only thing you ever want to do as a dealership for mobile messaging. But if you want to keep your customers up to date on all things happening with your dealership, drive sales, collect customer feedback and much more, you need more than what those vendors are offering. And if you know what the potential for mobile is you shouldn’t be “testing out” a solution that provides only one small part of mobile messaging on your customers, should you?

I recently heard someone say that many dealers fall into two categories: enthusiasts or business people. If a dealer is overly enthusiastic, he or she may not be doing due diligence on something as vital as a mobile solution for his or her business success. If a dealer is too driven by just the bottom line, he or she may lose sight of the culture and customer service that reinforces the shared love of riding. I like to think you can be both and should be both to be successful. And mobile done with the many things I’ve outlined above can allow you to be both and more. Share your love with customers through messages about your events. And add significant revenue to your bottom line with targeted, well-crafted messages. It is all much more possible and affordable than you realize.

Ron Cariker is owner/president of 7 Media Group, a diverse mobile marketing firm based in the U.S. and the leading mobile provider for the powersports industry. Ron and his company have worked with over 100 dealers across the U.S. for the past 6 1/2 years. 

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