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Message out on SMS service

THERE are 19 million active mobile handsets in Australia and 27-year-old Andrew Dalton wants to get a message on all of them. Just last year he established mobile marketing company, Sales Management Systems (Int’l) Pty Ltd. The letters SMS stand for short message service, three letters that won’t be lost on anyone with a mobile phone; and that’s the basis of the business. “The attitudes of 20 to 35-year-olds have changed the way companies market to them and others. They are hardened to the traditional advertising and marketing strategies, but regard SMS and related mobile technologies as an integral part of their daily lives. Marketers need to get familiar with the way they communicate,” Mr Dalton told WA Business News. The mobile and SMS industry was developing at such a pace it was hard to keep up. And that is why Sales Management Systems was created. Mr Dalton’s belief in the future of mobile marketing gained clarity during four years as regional development manager with a large company that specialised in marketing via online web site development and search engine optimisation. In discussions with a florist client, he suggested an SMS-based automated reminder system for the industry. It would be a hit, Mr Dalton was assured. In early 2005 he developed FloraConnect, with which florists could enter their customers’ details into a specifically designed database, which would send an SMS reminder seven days before any important occasion. Customers could reply, asking the florist to contact them to place an order. Sales Management Systems was formed in June 2005, and to fund his new venture he attracted the support of friend Grant Repacholi and his business partner Darren Hands, both financial advisers in Bunbury. The deal provided a meagre $20,000 budget to market FloraConnect and apply that business model to a suite of related industry specific products, all SMS based. The budget also included travel expenses to establish a network of resellers and the provision of product sales training. The problem was two fold. A brand new technological product and lack of marketing capital. “Our products can tend to challenge a business’ traditional way of thinking and can often take them out of their comfort zones. It can be difficult to find businesses willing to be the first to try new methods and technology,” Mr Dalton said. But, given the lack of marketing capital, that was the chosen route – to find a florist willing to trial run FloraConnect and then use the business as a case study to attract other paying clients. The trial in Bunbury was a runaway success. The subsequent case study, testimonial, word of mouth and the targeted placement of free media in the industry’s own publications, has given FloraConnect a pre-eminent position throughout Australia. “I am a firm believer in the sniper approach, not to try to be everything to everybody,” Mr Dalton said. “We narrowed our focus and made our products industry specific. This gave us the leverage to really get the most out of the industries we chose.” Sales Management Systems has since created a range of other SMS applications for the commercial sector, serviced by a national network of resellers. These include Text Tours for the real estate industry, with which people can send a code displayed on a ‘for sale’ sign to receive instant and detailed information on the property they are looking at. The same code can have an e-brochure on the property sent to their inbox. SMS Broadcast allows latest product information, specials or new developments to be sent to individuals, groups or entire databases. Mr Dalton said the company’s expansion was also being facilitated via a number of strategic business alliances. The latest of these is with Breeze Tech, a leading international wireless mobile marketing technology provider, to exclusively distribute its Bluetooth proximity-based marketing products in WA. Breeze Tech’s technology enables a mobile to download a lunch voucher or special offer from a restaurant or billboard, or a virtual tour from a real estate sign. The system is based on small transmitters that can send videos, audio, images, e-vouchers and e-brochures to other Bluetooth devices such as mobile phones over a distance of 40 metres. The small transmitters can be installed almost anywhere, including shops, billboards, product displays and exhibition stands. Blockbuster Video will soon have the technology installed in one of its Perth stores. Sales Management Systems makes its money via the set up costs and a small percent from each SMS sent through its applications. Because of its largely on-line operations the company has few overheads. It has a shared office in Bunbury and a small office in Subiaco. There are only two employees, Mr Dalton and an account manager, for product support and training, plus the reseller network. “We supply the product, training and marketing material, and our partners provide the clients. It’s pretty much an automated, online business,” Mr Dalton said.

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