If you are a teen, you use SMS more than Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, Pandora and Twitter. You use it more than any other social network. SMS dominates your social life.

That’s why companies using SMS can put teens in the palm of their hands.

highschoolgradsSource: Niche

Day-to-day, 52% more teenagers text than browse Twitter. For marketers, this means that they can reach up to 52% more millennial customers by implementing SMS as opposed to a tweet-based campaign. Simply put, marketers an SMS campaign increases marketing reach more than any other social media channel.

To understand SMS’s success, think of it as the mp3 of communication. While mp3 audio and SMS messaging may not offer the same bells and whistles of other formats, they provide unbeatable simplicity and universality.

Fortunately, marketers are taking advantage of SMS today. Below are just two examples of SMS campaigns that produced tremendous results. 

Moreover, it’s important to note that these campaigns aren’t reinventing the wheel. They are successful because they draw on one key ingredient: the widespread reach of SMS and its ability to produce results. 

1. National Cancer Institute reaches more teens with helpful SMS reminders

text1By reminding teenagers via SMS to stay smoke free, the National Cancer Institute (“NCI”) doubled its average quit rate from 3% to 6%. As the campaign becomes more data driven, personalized and multi-channel, the quit rate will only continue to increase. SMS has proven to be the most effective channel for changing customer behavior.

To be specific, the National Cancer Institute illustrates two key best practices for effective SMS Marketing:

  1. Content: NCI texts teens phrases containing the second person “you”, i.e. succinct and encouraging language. “You” establishes comfort and mimics communication teens might see from their friends. Brevity is crucial because teenagers won’t read long texts (unless given an extremely compelling incentive). Encouragement works given the personal nature of a mobile device. Marketers looking to improve the language of SMS Marketing should use A/B splits to analyze the effectiveness of several content types to reveal the messaging that produces the highest yield.
  2. Interactivity: The campaign asks for a response, which provides an avenue for conversation. First, the teen becomes more engaged, as s/he receives more reminders to stay smoke free. Second, the different options add personalization to tailor messaging to the teenager’s current state of mind.

Imagine yourself as a teen who hears a ringtone the moment you are about to buy a cigarette. You open the text, and read the encouraging words. Reminded of your progress and your drive to quit smoking, you leave the gas station and walk home. 

Thanks to SMS, this hypothetical situation has become, well, not hypothetical.  Texting is so powerful because it allows marketers to reach teenagers at the right place, at the right time. 80% of Americans carry their phone with them 22 hours a day. SMS open rates exceed 99%. More than any other channel, SMS provides immediate and guaranteed engagement. Companies can use that engagement to incite action.

2. DoSomething.org’s Gives Teens a Glimpse of Life as a Parent

cta-phoneInfograph from DoSomething.orgExample text from DoSomething.org’s pregnancy text campaign.

For 24 hours, DoSomething.org’s Pregnancy campaign sent SMS messages to participants detailing the thoughts of a “baby.” 

In order to increase the number of participants, DoSomething.org partnered with the YouTube celebrity group SMOSH, which filmed their 24 hour experience and encouraged viewers to text SMOSH to join the campaign. In just 3 weeks, the SMOSH video garnered 700k views and over 52,000 signups, setting a record.

DoSomething.org demonstrates 3 best practices every  marketer should learn from. 

  1. Use incentives and a referral system. Referrals are nothing new, especially not in social media, where people constantly share articles and videos. However, many shared posts are ignored, or never seen. SMS’s high open rates ensure that teens will engage with anything “shared.”
  2. Partner with a well known entity to drive more subscriber growth. This is effective because cell phone numbers are so personal; nearly 100% of teenagers have one cell phone number. Because SMOSH is a well known and trusted celebrity group, teenagers are much more willing to participate.
  3. Write SMS-appropriate messages. Indeed, babies certainly do not text. However, by adhering to SMS culture, Dosomething.org made the campaign natural, comfortable, and therefore compelling.

To be clear, the key takeaway illustrated by companies like NCI and DoSomething.org is not to abandon other forms of mobile marketing. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram still command over a sizable percentage of the teenage population. Instead, marketers need to grasp the success of SMS campaigns and understand how to drive SMS results. The investment needed to create a compelling company-to-customer SMS campaign may be slightly more complicated than creating a Facebook page, but the rewards are that much greater.

Today we take a rare personal moment to congratulate our very own VP of Marketing, Kane Russell, on earning a top industry honor for his visionary marketing leadership.

The 40 Under 40

After several rounds of tie-breaking judging, Kane was selected as a Direct Marketing News 2014 40 Under 40 Award winner. The annual award recognizes “young, standout marketers whose work has already left an indelible mark on their organizations, clients, and the industry as a whole.” Internally at Waterfall, we’ve witnessed this since Kane was in his 20s (ahem), so it is especially rewarding to see his efforts be recognized by such a large audience today. Pretty impressive.

Kane will be joining an elite group of award winners for the awards ceremony on Tuesday, September 30 in New York, and a full profile of his accomplishments will run in the November issue of Direct Marketing News and online.

To learn more about the awards and access the entire list of winners, please visit: http://www.dmnews.com/under-40-and-overly-ambitious/article/360508/.

Direct Marketing News is a resource for innovative marketers looking for insight into results-driven strategies and trends to propel multichannel marketing forward. The publication’s team of professional journalists and key industry columnists and contributors provide daily online news, analysis, case studies, and blogs on everything from Big Data, marketing automation, and retail, to integrated strategies, email, print, social media, and hot creative campaigns. They’re on Twitter @DMNews

IT Business Edge recently posted our thoughts on how to develop a strategy for mobile customer relationship management, or “mobile CRM.” Pretty cool, as we published our insights as a slideshow, titled “Four Steps to Implement Mobile CRM the Right Way,” which you can download and reference whenever needed. 

In the slideshow, we break down the process of implementing mobile CRM into four actionable phases:

  • Crawl – basic steps brands can implement near term to launch foundational mobile CRM capabilities.
  • Walk – processes for simultaneously launching mobile CRM across multiple mobile channels.
  • Run – how to integrate mobile campaigns and data in order to generate personalized content.
  • Fly – insight into triggering marketing campaigns according to individual customer actions and activity.

There’s also a bonus slide on how to “Soar” (we won’t give it away, so please see the presentation for more details). Any questions, you can let us know by posting to the comments.

Follow IT Business Edge @ITBusinessEdge and us @Waterfall.

Waterfall Interns

Waterfall Interns (cleverly) posing in front of a waterfall at the San Francisco Japanese Tea Garden.

As a member of Waterfall’s 2014 intern class, I have to say that interning in tech has been one of the most exciting and educational experiences of my life. Yes, I know that sounds cliché, but what can I say when it’s true? When I walked in the door on my first day, thoughts were spinning everywhere in my head: How am I going to keep up with the fast-paced nature of Silicon Valley (mobile, for example, is constantly changing – just take a look at Waterfall’s self-service MMS)? What kind of projects do interns work on? Am I even at the right office?

My concerns soon subsided and I now confidently say that I wouldn’t want to spend my summer any other way. Within these past few weeks, I’ve worked with passionate and inspiring people, learned the ins and outs of mobile marketing, and even participated in a world cup pool (despite not knowing anything about soccer). Starting out as a new intern can be incredibly daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. I’m still learning every day, but here’s a bit of wisdom I discovered – keep these in three thoughts mind and you’ll be set to go above and beyond as an intern at any company.

1. Stay Curious

Every Monday morning during the all staff meeting, Waterfall’s San Francisco and Austin offices go over key presentations covering topics such as platform analytics or client data insights. As much as I learn during the meeting, I never cease to be inspired by the introspective questions that the team asks afterwards; people are always intellectually curious and eager to learn more.

Curiosity in the office is a key characteristic that permeates tech companies – there’s always more to learn and room to grow. More importantly, curiosity fosters an environment where interns can truly thrive. Everyone is willing to help, emphasizing collaboration and support within the office. In the past few weeks, I asked every question I could think of, whether about general life advice (“How do you transition from college to the professional world?”) or Waterfall specific (“How do Lookbooks fit into an overall marketing funnel?”). By constantly asking questions, I set a strong foundation that I can continue to build upon for the rest of the summer. It doesn’t matter if you’re asking client services about case studies or discussing philosophy with professors at school. No matter what the context, always be curious and build your knowledge. At the end of the day, growth comes from learning as much as you can, from as many people as you can.

2. Take (smart) risks

During my first week, Waterfall VP of Marketing Kane Russell told all the interns, “Make mistakes this summer. Just don’t make the same mistake twice.” One of my favorite parts of working at Waterfall is the freedom and ownership we have over our projects. I reluctantly admit that I thought interns had to do a few coffee runs here and there, but this myth was debunked after I came to Waterfall. Here’s a word of advice to fellow interns: believe that you can make a tangible impact (even if it is your first internship!).

For example, one project I’ve been working on is a key client database analysis to interpret various correlations in financial metrics and platform use. Having ownership means my colleague and I can really be creative and insert our personality into the project deliverable – it means we can take risks. Waterfall challenges me to be innovative and thoughtful, and to explore different perspectives to come up with the best solution possible.

The tech industry is incredibly fluid and flexible; there’s freedom to experiment, especially for young people. I compare taking risks as an intern to directing a movie: there’s already a storyline, but it’s up to us to bring it to life. Every morning, I look forward to coming in the office. I have the confidence that I’ll be able to do meaningful work and, of course, overcome the inherent risks and challenges.

3. Know the Office

It’s always fun to grab lunch with someone on the team and listen to their personal perspective. I leave every conversation with another viewpoint or interesting tidbit that I can add to the arsenal of knowledge acquired throughout my internship. I’ve been able to slowly build a comprehensive view of the company by talking to everyone in the office. With each interaction, I get to see a little more about how all of the departments work together and how the puzzle pieces fit to make Waterfall whole. Regardless of whether I’m asking about features on theplatform or looking to get some office ping-pong tips, people without a doubt contribute to Waterfall’s amazing culture. It’s a good idea to get to know them – as you never know what you might learn.

I still walk through the same door every morning, thoughts spinning through my head. Now, however, I’m asking myself different questions: What are the newest trends in tech? What challenges am I tackling for my projects and how do I overcome them?  How am I going to take what I learned today and use it tomorrow? That’s what it takes to be successful.

Yesterday, we were happy to announce a mobile industry first: self-service MMS for use by enterprise mobile enthusiasts everywhere. Marketers can now send pictures, audio and video directly to their customers’ mobile inbox, which comes with a 90+% open rate and near-instant response time. 

Those following Waterfall since the beginning know that “ease-of-use” brings us an immense amount of pride. Since our company’s inception, we have set out (and believe we have succeeded) in bringing a solution to market for users of all technical abilities.

With MMS in particular, “ease-of-use” carries some weight. On one hand, we had to make the marketer experience seamless. For example, we made sure that the process of adding content from a computer or smartphone eliminated any risk of users selecting the wrong file type. On the other, we had to make sure the customer experience had zero hurdles. With so many disparate device types and a myriad of wireless carriers, MMS requires a deep understanding of the greater mobile marketing industry. Fortunately, we’ve been around the mobile block enough times to know our way around.

With this latest iteration of MMS, we believe we’ve perfected the experience of delivering multimedia content to customers. In addition to the self-service user interface, marketers also have the benefit of comparatively high throughput, device detection, API integration, A/B split tests and everything else you might expect from an enterprise marketing solution.

Below is a screenshot showing how you can add an image while also personalizing the message with first name and email address. But don’t take the image’s word for it, please reach out to see a demo. You can also experience MMS for yourself by texting the keyword WFWF TUDOR to the short code 10958 (Commercial MMS campaigns run with standard one word keywords of course, no prefix; you need the WFWF prefix – with a space in a middle – in this case as this is a test short code).


Cool right? Any questions, feel free to post to the comments.

You can also read full details about Waterfall’s self-service MMS solution in the press release.

With the rise of mobile channels for marketing and the increased use of mobile phones for ticket purchases, it’s a wonder that performing arts companies and theaters are sticking to traditional media. Only 7% of arts marketers have a mobile marketing strategy even though 60% of marketers overall believe that mobile drives ROI. While TV and print ads may have worked in the past, adding an SMS component creates compelling mobile interaction to bridge the online and offline (not to mention being cost effective for budget conscious nonprofits). Email newsletters, popular in the theater world, should be promoted with mobile (where people read most email anyway). Furthermore, the introduction of MMS is critical for performing arts marketing, which is so visually centered.

To illustrate how mobile can drive customer acquisition, let’s take a look at the marketing efforts of 5 performing arts groups and the potential they have to grow with mobile marketing.

The Lincoln Center, located in Manhattan and home to world-renowned institutions such as The Juilliard School, Metropolitan Opera and School of American Ballet, has done some mobile experimentation. In 2007, the Lincoln Center ran a trial SMS campaign in partnership with Verizon that offered coupons to encourage audience members to participate in So You Think You Can Dance style voting during the Midsummer Night’s Dream series. Though this promotion increased their customer list by 500 members while growing ticket sales, no similar efforts followed. In 2011, The Lincoln Center launched an impressive mobile app, which allowed users to add performances to their wish list and stay up to date on events in the area. Success has yet to be determined.

Personalization and targeted use of data is what effective SMS and MMS marketing does best. To increase engagement, the Lincoln Center should promote a text call to action to download the app and notify customers who choose not to download about upcoming shows and purchased tickets. The ability to integrate with push notifications in the app and provide a passbook solution for purchased tickets would better convert leads. Additionally, utilizing a mobile kiosk at community events will get people to opt in to a campaign and continue receiving targeted promotions.  You can’t go wrong with cutting edge techniques to grow your audience in a vibrant cultural center such as New York.

Houston Ballet is one of the central pillars of the Texas city’s culture of Theater and Dance and has long been recognized for its creative marketing efforts by the American Marketing Association. Today, Houston Ballet reaches its viewers via Facebook (30k likes), Instagram (5.5k followers), HoustonBallet.org, television ads, telemarketing and direct mail. Marketing is a central focus for the company; it offers a host of marketing internships and asks dancers to take turns running social media accounts. They have not, however, rolled out a comprehensive mobile marketing campaign – yet.

For example, by utilizing polls and MMS, Houston Ballet can continue to build fan support through trivia and sharing pictures on social media. One challenge for the marketing team is fading public support for ballet. While some wealthy patrons may be older and less well versed in mobile, a large part of the market is composed of young boys and girls who are learning to dance. These days it would not be out of place to see a 10 year old glued to her smartphone, waiting to be picked up from ballet class. Since mobile is prefered by young people, targeting this demographic would be a long term investment towards increasing public support for the arts. Houston Ballet runs community events such as free performances at The Miller Outdoor Theater, so broadcasting through mobile would be an easy way to get people exposed to ballet and likely to purchase tickets in the future.

Source: instagram/houstonballet

As a student at the University of Texas at Austin, I have had the opportunity to enjoy world class entertainment on campus through Texas Performing Arts. Marketing efforts include large scale posters and flyers around campus for comedy shows, Broadway musicals and string quartets . A mobile strategy would help encourage more students to purchase subsidized season passes as well as keep patrons outside of the university coming back. Additionally, you can collect donations via SMS directly after a show when enthusiasm is high. A text-to-win campaign incentivizes subscription, and notifications provide information about ticket sales and parking. Another great way to build lists is by incentivizing people to share with friends by entering their name an additional time. An ideal time for this is before shows and during intermission when your audience is captive. Due to the diversity of offerings at Texas Performing Arts, the Lincoln Center is a good model. With a strong focus on students, you can remind younger generations that supporting the arts is fun and important while creating lifelong audience members.

The internationally acclaimed Cirque de Soleil has been innovative in their shows as well as their marketing efforts. From a streamlined mobile website to click through ads run on Pandora, they are finding new ways to engage with viewers. One mobile ad campaign took users straight to a call with the box office to buy tickets, which was too aggressive for some. With a focus on loyalty programs, Cirque de Soleil has also incorporated a mobile SMS club with location based services that distributes pre sale tickets and engages customers when they are in Las Vegas. Implementing MMS will enrich the program by sending out wallpaper and other visually engaging images and gifs. Mobile campaigns translate the philosophy of creating dreams and fantasies into direct dialogue and choose-your-own-adventure trivia series incorporating emojis based on a call to action on a program.

Source: m.cirquedusoleil.com

Perhaps the most successful and popular theatrical performances in the world occur on Broadway, yet high production costs make filling seats a priority. With highly passionate viewers, 66% of whom are tourists who prioritize Broadway on trips to New York, allowing for two way engagement is key. People love to share opinions about musicals through polls and provide suggestions through a conversation stream. SMS and passbook promote merchandise, always an important part of theater culture, especially with tourists. In the age of hashtagging, theaters become part of the conversation with mobile and track followers across social media platforms. The Foxwoods Theater playing Spider-Man recently targeted passersby by sending out short promotional videos and directing people to Ticketmaster when the box office was closed. Additionally, using location based services or specific keywords for each show, notifies viewers when intermission is almost over and patrons when last minute tickets are still available. The customizability of mobile marketing strengthens brands providing long and short term ROI.

Mobile is a great way for the performing arts to reach the much needed younger demographic so that they will become lifelong patrons. It also provides community building and increases word-of-mouth promotion. Mobile infuses marketing with the creativity and personal connection of a live performance.

It’s that time of year again! No, not beach time. Well, at least not for us. But it IS our favorite time… conference season featuring mobile marketing madness!

Two of our industry’s biggest events are just around the corner, and we are counting down the days:

  1. July 13-15, Hilton Head, SC
    An exclusive, invitation-only think tank, the annual Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) Mobile CEO & CMO Summit brings together top mobile marketing leaders who are accelerating the marketing transformation through mobile while tapping the power of stronger consumer engagement to drive business growth.
  2. August 17-20, Lake Tahoe, CA
    MediaPost’s Mobile Insider Summit brings together the best minds in the mobile marketing industry to share ideas and discuss the new technologies and tactics behind successful campaigns. And the best part? The afternoons and evenings are reserved for outdoor networking adventures and decadent dining.

Be on the lookout for live updates on Twitter via @matthewsilk. I’ll be posting my take on top sessions for those who can’t make it to the events in person.

For those attending, please let us know. With great locations like Hilton Head and Lake Tahoe in the mix, we might even be able to hit some sort of beach after all.

Let me share an entry from my diary to set the stage for this post…

“June 12, 2014 7:00 AM — $7.00 in rewards dollars from CVS on the printed paper receipt after checkout. I know I am going to lose that slip of paper or forget to use it before the expiration. Why can’t they automatically add it to my loyalty card and just debit from my next purchase. I hate rewards that expire, but we do live in a capitalist society so at least send me a weekly or monthly reminder via text before expiration to nudge me into the store. I will still be mad at you for expiring the rewards you baited me with, but at least you made an effort.”

I am not your average mainstream consumer as I live, eat, sleep mobile every day. But, brands can do a lot better than the above experience. All joking aside, there’s been some debate about if and how mobile coupons can drive in-store traffic and increase response rates. For us, there is absolutely no question. Our retail and QSR customers are seeing mobile coupon redemption regularly eclipsing 45 percent — more than double that of any other channel and three times higher than the average redemption rate across all other distribution methods.

This week, Yankee Group released data on the consumer adoption and overall interest in using mobile coupons. The data is clear: 91 percent of consumers are interested in using mobile coupons.


The opportunity for marketers is huge. With companies reporting double the redemption rate of traditional coupons, it seems like an obvious addition to any mobile marketing initiative.

Read Yankee Group’s perspective on how to get mobile couponing right if you are interested in exploring more on this topic.

In case you missed it, recently published mobile marketing statistics raised some eyebrows around our industry. Here they are: 

  • The majority (66%) of consumers have received a text message or mobile alert from a company or brand within the last six months, but fewer than half (45%) found that message to be useful.
  • Of that 55% “not useful” group, 52% found messages to be intrusive or spammy, 46% said the message was not relevant to their interests and 33% said the message didn’t offer any value.

I always get a kick out of the headlines when these types of perspectives come out. Attention grabbers like “mobile alerts aren’t useful,” or “mobile delivers the wrong message” are useful to for just that: grabbing attention.

For those marketers, however, that want to understand the key takeaways behind these findings, here’s what I would say:

1) Find Strong Mobile Providers

I can’t stress enough this enough: companies looking to do mobile have to work with providers (here’s a free PDF guide to vetting mobile vendors) that do the following:

  • Focus on mobile messaging. There are some mobile marketing companies that get caught up in the hype. They lose themselves trying to do too much, whether running mobile advertising campaigns, building mobile apps, acting as design shops – whatever. Mobile messaging technology is not a cake walk. You need a provider that grasps the nuances of industry necessities like compliance, throughput, session management and CRM. To use an analogy, think back to your college student days. How many classes could you have realistically taken while still cranking out a high GPA? Those that try to do mobile messaging with a ton of other stuff on top just cannot sustain the required (at least in the enterprise space) 4.0.
  • Build a foundation from data. To reiterate, providers that solely push flashy campaign features miss the mark. In mobile marketing and messaging, you cannot be a jack of all trades, master of none. Data, as it relates to segmentation, targeting and personalization, has to be a core competence for a vendor and company to execute successful mobile campaigns.

The benefit of working with effective mobile messaging providers is significant. Strong providers create value by executing metrics like redemption, unsubscribe and open rates far beyond other channels. Weaker ones introduce the risk of alienating consumers and forfeiting profits. Simple as that.

2) Understand That Mobile Is a Consumer’s Most Personal Device

The degree to which mobile infiltrates the consumer experience cannot be overstated. Perhaps because we all have a similarly intimate connection to our mobile, we forget the ramifications this relationship has on marketers’ responsibility to consumers. Remember these two points:

  • With great power comes great responsibility. See our recent “Data Show” analysis to review the hard data (and appropriate citation to Uncle Ben), but marketers have to understand that a mobile device’s personal nature makes it extremely sensitive to (let’s call it) “bad” content. Mobile, though similar, cannot be treated exactly like its email or direct mail predecessors. A certain degree of care has to be a part of marketers’ outreach strategy, with personalization and targeting holding beyond prominent importance.
  • Customer Lifetime Value. These three words should be the main focus of every mobile marketer’s OKR. By acquiring mobile customers, marketers have direct access to loyal brand advocates with 3-10X the lifetime value. Capturing this value, however, comes down to executing outreach with a long term view. Marketers that adopt mobile for short term wins will lose out exactly as you might expect for an ultra-personal device.

By working with strong providers and grasping mobile’s personal nature, marketers’ customers will immediately see utility in mobile messaging. This demand is the reason that the messaging industry as a whole has demonstrated consistent list growth and ongoing investment with minuscule YOY churn. When you consider everything in messaging right now, whether rapid SMS/MMS growth, investment in mobile by all ESP/CRMs, explosion of Push in last three years or the introduction of beacon-based messaging programs, I have to imagine that marketers will figure this all out sooner rather than later.

Any other takeaways you noticed? Please post them to the comments.