January 18, 2011
How To

Mobile Drives Email List Growth: How to use SMS and relevant content to add opt-ins

SUMMARY: People interested in your content are pre-qualified as interested in your email newsletter. Providing multiple ways to opt-in can add subscribers -- even from printed materials.

See how Scotts Miracle-Gro combined print pamphlets, SMS short codes, sports marketing and email to add more subscribers. Of people who requested content, 40% also subscribed.
by Adam T. Sutton, Senior Reporter

Scotts Miracle-Gro announced a multi-year partnership in early 2010 with Major League Baseball, making the consumer lawn and garden brand the official lawn care company of American's pastime.

"There is a huge intersection in people who follow baseball and people who do their own lawn care," says Keri Butler, Director, Public Relations, Scotts Miracle-Gro.

Scotts' marketing team wanted to maximize the value of its new partnership and test new marketing ideas. The team crafted a campaign that gave fans in stadiums free lawn care guides that include SMS short codes to request another guide or sign up for Scotts' "Lawn Care Update" email newsletter.

"About 40% of those people who text in to get the [lawn care] guide also requested to be part of the email service," says Mindi Staley, Senior Specialist, Interactive Marketing, Scotts Miracle-Gro. "It was a big learning experience because it was really the first effort. Now we have a baseline to go off of."

Here are the six steps the team followed to design the campaign:

Step #1. Work from an established partnership

In addition to a partnership with MLB, Scotts established sponsorship agreements with eight teams, including the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs, which granted in-stadium exposure for its marketing teams.

The amount of coordination required for this campaign would have been cumbersome for a one-off effort. However, by building it on a foundation of established partnerships, the team ensured that the necessary lines of communication were familiar and well-established across organizations.

Other benefits of Scotts' partnerships included:
o Ability to sell grass seed varieties labeled as those used in specific ballparks
o Use of team and MLB logos in marketing and products
o Sponsorship of a premiere attraction at the MLB's All-Star FanFest
o And other benefits

Step #2. Tie free content to email program

Scotts' main email marketing newsletter helps customers use lawn and garden products more effectively. Since not all climates are alike, subscribers receive information targeted by region and interest. Emails feature seasonal reminders for seeding and fertilizing, care schedules, answers to frequently asked questions, and more.

For this campaign, the team created high-quality print pamphlets that offered consumers regionally-specific lawn care information, as well as:
o Product images
o Coupon for $1 off a Scotts purchase
o Baseball team's logo
o An SMS short code to request another copy or sign up for Scotts' email newsletter.

The team intended to distribute the pamphlets -- called "Groundskeeper Guides" -- at baseball games across the country. Each was localized for the region and designed to be small enough to fold and fit into a fan's pocket.

- Incorporate partnership benefits

The pamphlets featured relevant team logos, and most importantly, lawn care tips directly from each ballpark's grounds keeper. These details further increased the pamphlets' relevance to the fans.

Step #3. Enable content requests via SMS

SMS messages are one of the most popular mobile features in the U.S. with 72% of users sending them, according to Pew Research Center. Scotts wanted to integrate this widely-used technology into the campaign.

By texting a keyword such as "baseball" or "guide" to the pamphlet's provided short code, fans could request an additional copy of the pamphlet be mailed to them (not via email). The SMS message they received in response:

"Thx 4 requesting ur free groundskeeper's guide! Reply ball space email address (ex:ball mlb@mlb.com) & b emailed a link.Txt H 4 help. Std rates apply"

After responding, fans received an email with a link to a landing page (see creative samples below). Email subject line: "Your Groundskeeper's Guide Request is Here"

- Getting an SMS Short Code

Short codes, also called Common Short Codes (CSCs), are typically five or six digits long, which makes them easier for consumers to remember and dial than standard telephone numbers.

You can obtain a short code from an SMS service provider or you can lease them directly from the Common Short Code Administration (CSCA). The CSCA leases codes on a three-, six-, or 12-month basis. The fee is a non-refundable $1,000 per month for "select" codes and $500 per month for random codes (see links below).

Step #4. Request opt-ins on landing page

The landing page included a simple form to accept fans' mailing addresses. The page's design matched that of the email (see creative samples), and also asked fans if they wanted to opt-in to Scotts' email newsletter:

"Would you like to receive promotional offers and tips sent right to your inbox monthly through the Scotts Lawn Care Update?"

"We wanted to make sure we were getting people onto that list who wanted to opt-in and not just getting everyone who wanted a groundskeeper guide," says Staley. "This way the consumers who really want [the newsletter] get it, and our list is more engaged."

Step #5. Also enable newsletter opt-ins via SMS

The team also allowed fans to text keywords such as "Email" to the short code to sign up for Scotts' email newsletter. After texting the correct keyword, fans received the following SMS message:

"Thx 4 ur interest in Scotts Lawn Care monthly email. Reply LAWN [space] email address (ex:LAWN mlb@mlb.com) 2 complete signup. H help Std rates apply"

After following the instructions, fans were added to Scotts' email database.

Step #6. Distribute to trained sports marketing teams

The team launched this effort at each of the eight stadiums with which it had partnerships. Scotts' sports marketing teams and regional representative were on hand to distribute guides as fans entered the stadiums, and also to put them in the games' programs.

"We were not handing cartons of these to the [baseball] teams and saying 'give these out.' We were giving them out," Butler says.

Overall, the marketing teams did not follow a universal calendar to issue the guides except during major baseball events, such as Opening Day, the All Star Break and the World Series. The number of dates the brochures were issued varied across stadiums.

Mindi Staley will participate in a mobile marketing panel next week at the MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2011 in Las Vegas.

Useful links related to this article

1. Guide-request email (with image of guide)
2. Guide-request landing page

MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2011

Members Library: Integrated SMS, Social and Email Promo Capitalizes on Weather Event: 5 Steps

Pew Internet: The rise of apps culture

Common Short Code Administration: Obtaining a CSC

Partnership Press Release

Major League Baseball

Scotts Miracle-Gro

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