SMS Text Message Marketing for Trade Show Management
SMS text messaging marketing, or SMS marketing, has many applications in the consumer sector where local businesses, such as restaurants and eateries, promote special products and services to their potential customers. But it is not as often used in the industrial sector or in the business-to-business community. However, there are situations where this form of advertising can be used creatively to communicate quickly and effectively. One of these applications is in conference/trade show management and promotion.
Conventions, trade shows, expos, and conferences have three basic marketing challenges:
The greatest benefit of using SMS marketing technology for the trade show industry occurs a few weeks prior to the show and during the show. For example, build a list of subscribers in the weeks leading up to the exhibition, inviting exhibitors and attendees to text in a specifically chosen keyword to the SMS service provider's short code. Trade show management can continue the promotions to opt-in on-site with signage and announcements over the speaker system.
With many thousands of attendees roaming the floor of the convention, one of the on-going challenges during the show is announcing events in a timely and efficient way. These events could be special exhibitor promotions, trade show contests, the location of a conference or seminar, and a myriad of other show happenings. Brochures and flyers are expensive to produce and most people do not carry them around with them.
SMS marketing techniques can be effective at trade shows because most participants do not have quick access to the web while walking about. However, almost all attendees have smart phones that they carry and are easily accessible. Surveys show that 95% of text messages are read within a few minutes of receipt. That kind of communication tops all others out there. The same 160-character word bite, first popularized by nimble-fingered teenagers, may be the closest thing in the information-overloaded digital marketing world to a guaranteed read.
SMS marketing services are usually run off a short code, which are are 5 or 6 digit numbers that have been assigned by all the mobile operators in a given country for the use of brand campaign and other consumer services. Due to the high price of short codes of $500–$1000 a month, many small businesses opt to share a short code in order to reduce monthly costs. The mobile operators vet every short code application before provisioning and monitor the service to make sure it does not diverge from its original service description.
In most cases, small to medium size trade shows/conferences, and even large ones, should opt to use an SMS service provider which will use shared short codes and manage the collection of double opt-in cell phone numbers. The service provider will be usually a SaaS (Software as a Service) web-based company which has developed an infrastructure to collect numbers, send out the messages and takes care of other back-end functions. The provider also manages all the activities with the short-code providers and keeps up with required regulatory requirements. The collected numbers are stored in the service provider's database and are later used to send information, announcements, or special offers via text message to those who opted-in. Government regulations and industry organizations now require double opt-in and a seamless way to opt out of receiving these marketing-related text messages. Spam has been an issue in the past but is much better regulated to prevent this unwanted activity.
The keys to using SMS marketing effectively are to have a good messaging strategy, stick with best SMS practices and use the services of a trusted and reliable SMS service provider. A thorough understanding of the capabilities of the SMS service provider's platform is important. Support is another issue ... some provide more than others. It is better to spend some time choosing the right SMS partner at the beginning of the project as migrating the database to another vendor later can be gnarly.
Here is what a typical SMS marketing campaign could look like for a show with 20K attendees and 1K exhibitors.
Three months before the show:
One month before the show:
During the show:
Using the SMS service providers system to announce:
The typical costs depend on the SMS service provider, some with varying weight given to the number of messages sent per month and number of keywords. Other providers may offer a flat monthly rate for using their platform plus a low-cost per message fee. Their business models vary all over the map so it is important to understand the price structure. Some SaaS platforms offer more features and have a more elegant dashboard interface ... so it is important to compare all aspects of the service. In any case, as a rough guide plan to spend about $500 to $1,000 per month during the duration of the campaign.
Here some basic items to look for from a provider:
Collecting phone numbers and building the list:
Marketing and Engaging with Customers:
The SMS service provider system usually allows for sending scheduled messages and to send last minute messages directly from a cell phone.
One interesting feature is the ability to devise exhibitor up-sell messages. These can be sold to exhibitors as a package of messages that highlight a particular exhibitor theme. The variations on this service are many. These exhibitor sponsored messages to specific subscriber groups can be an additional source of revenue.
As the database of subscribers is built up, the trade show owner will be able to generate new streams of revenue by delivering text-based exhibitor offers as well as making future show announcements.
If you want to raise the bar and step-up communications with both attendees and exhibitors, consider setting up SMS marketing campaigns for trade shows. Help guide the attendees where they should be, when they should be there and send immediate communications to all participants as necessary. This medium has entered a new age and exhibition managers should look at this medium more closely.
If you need assistance with an SMS marketing campaigns, both strategic and/or tactical, contact Steve Szirom via our contact page for a confidential review of the project.