Often enough, a good marketing campaign is like preparing to play guitar in front of a huge crowd. Practicing, experimenting, planning, scheduling, practicing some more. In the final analysis, however, you just to have to put your carefully selected notes out there and hope they strike a chord with your audience. Now that I’ve led you down the Greasy Garden Path of Awkward Metaphors, this story is about Taylor Guitars, the El Cajon, California-based guitar company that has been making some of the world’s most popular guitars since 1974. It’s also about how this company, without any of its own storefronts, used a combination of SMS marketing, Adobe Campaign software, Twilio cloud communications and, yes, Munvo products and technical expertise to strengthen its relationship with both finger-pickin’ consumers and guitar-hawkin’ franchisees.
We’re warning you now that there will be some technical terminology along the way, but don’t worry: we’ll walk you through it.
Like playing a good guitar riff, developing an effective direct marketing campaign is all about choosing the right combination of gentle pressures and applying them in just the right order, in just the right spots. [Last guitar metaphor, I promise.]
Convincing and compelling communications are the heart-plucking [sorry] chord progressions [sorry again] of any marketing campaign. When it comes to techniques for reaching the largest possible audiences, no shift has been so tectonic as the one that led us from direct mail and printed brochures to email and Short Message Service (SMS) campaigns. In 2012, Arthur Middleton Hughes compared direct mail with email, and succinctly described the stark difference in costs:
ROI = [(Profit from the sales) – (dollars invested in marketing)] / (dollars invested in marketing) …The in-the-mail price of third class (bulk rate) direct mail (including printing, addressing, and postage) is about $600 per thousand. The delivery cost of e-mails is about $6.00 per thousand. This includes the creation of the e-mail and the delivery costs…In this example, every dollar invested (cost of mailing) with direct mail produced $4.45 in return on the invested dollar. For e-mail, the ROI was $18.33 for every invested dollar.
While direct mail continued to show some advantages when it came to maintaining audience attention and gaining conversions, the sheer economy (and blinding speed) of email could not be denied.
The choice between email and SMS campaigns is not nearly so stark, but it does appear decisive. Both channels are cost-effective, fast, engaging and accessible, especially when each is optimized for those now-ubiquitous smart phones. Both channels offer immense marketing opportunities, but choosing which medium is right for your campaign can be a challenge.
Let’s get down to the nitty gritty.
SMS vs. Email
Studies reveal that typical email campaigns can count on about 30% of recipients opening a given email. That may not seem too bad, until you discover that a full 98% of SMS messages get opened, usually within the first 15 minutes following delivery. Similarly, while emails have a click-through rate of around 7%, SMS messages consistently convince approximately 36% of recipients to take that extra step towards conversion.
Before you jump on the SMS bandwagon and start thinking up clever Keywords, Short Codes and Multi-Touch Upsell campaigns, however, keep in mind that few campaigns are entirely successful the first time out.
Today’s companies usually strategize for longer-term engagements using drip-marketing and other forms of content nurturing. This means engaging customers with multiple messages over a defined period. With automated email campaign platforms like Adobe Campaign, brands can issue up to 30 email campaigns per month, while brands using SMS initiate more like 5 campaigns each month.
Time for an example.
Tailoring Taylor Guitars
I probably don’t need to tell you that purchasing a guitar is a very personal, very tactile experience. To put your good money down, you’re going to want to press the neck and pluck the strings. So how does Taylor Guitars – the world’s largest guitar manufacturer by sales volume – take advantage of all that digital marketing offers?
Cameron Walt is Taylor Guitars’ Digital CRM Manager, and the company’s sole Adobe Campaign expert. He and two colleagues handle all digital marketing initiatives for Taylor Guitars, and have been the impetus behind the guitar company’s transition from a solely hands-on, face-to-face marketing experience to including digital campaigns. Rather than relying almost entirely on independent dealers and in-store sales staff, Taylor is ready to deal more directly with guitar aficionados, while rigorously maintaining personal interactions.
“We’re after that final five feet in the purchase funnel,” Cameron says. “Our dealers and sales reps are still the rock stars when it comes to customer interaction, and we have a healthy online presence, but when it comes to that final in-person guitar sale, we wanted to figure out a way to be part of that in-store experience without disrupting that personal interaction. That’s when we engaged Munvo to help with a robust SMS campaign.”
If you’ve ever been in the market for a guitar, you know the experience. Go into a music store, large or small, and the walls are covered with shiny new guitars, some of which are Taylor’s. But guitars are not like other products; you don’t get a spec sheet with a guitar, you just take it down and play it. There might be a price tag (FYI: Taylor’s most popular model, the 1814ce, retails for around USD$3500), maybe a barcode, but the rest is up to your fingers and ears.
Taylor Guitars decided to use Adobe Campaign to create a SMS campaign as what Cameron calls a “product extender”: a quick and easy way to instantly discover more about whatever axe has caught your eye.
“We wanted to create something that would help consumers and sales staff to quickly find out more about particular guitar models, on-the-spot,” says Cameron. “We know our customers will only make their final purchasing decision when they hold and play the guitar, but by giving them an easy way to get the facts about a specific model, we hope that will increase the chances they’ll walk out of the store with a Taylor.”
SMPP to REST = Munvo
Munvo was on-hand to help Taylor with all things Adobe Campaign-related, including Cameron’s desire to use the more flexible Representational State Transfer (REST) protocol in place of the more ubiquitous Short Message Peer-to-Peer (SMPP):
“REST is far superior to SMPP for the kind of conversational SMS communications that Taylor was after,” explains Andrew Didinchuk, Senior Adobe Architect at Munvo. “It has very low latency, you can communicate directly from Adobe Campaign and you’re able to execute very complex logic for the processing of inbound messages.”
Unfortunately, Adobe Campaign does not support REST-based delivery communications straight out of the box. Fortunately, we could provide Taylor with our own SMS Connector to bridge that gap.
SMS Connector fits right into Adobe Campaign, enabling you to use REST for sending communications to Twilio, a REST-based service provider for sending SMS messages (we’re already working with additional service providers). It processes outbound requests, both in terms of one-off messages and larger batches, as well as pulling status information on those messages, making it easier to determine if your messages are delivered or not. SMS Connector is also able to receive, process and store inbound requests in real time when customers text you.
Taylor (and Cameron) are very pleased with the results so far:
“We’ve achieved on-demand product information for both our customers and our dealers,” explains Cameron. “We’ve really sewn up that last 5 feet in the funnel. What’s more, this has augmented our support for the staff in the music stores. They’re more confident, knowing more in-depth information is just a few phone taps away. And from our side, there is minimal maintenance required, now that it’s up-and-running.”
Taylor Guitars are currently in rollout phase, with no less than 150 dealers interested in adopting the new SMS system.
In this case, at least, SMS appears to have prevailed over email. For more on Taylor Guitars, SMS, Adobe Campaign and Munvo’s SMS Connector, check out our webinar: “Combining SMS Marketing and Adobe Campaign to Better Connect with Customers.”
In parting, we recommend everyone forget about all that macho stuff and learn how to play guitar.
 Hughes, Arthur Middleton. Strategic Database Marketing: Fourth Edition. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012. Pp. 50-52.