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Marketers using texts to reach customers

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By Christopher Brooke, Reporter

HILLSVILLE — If a business is having a slow day, Robert Turbyfill suggests sending out an instant mobile coupon.

That's what Turbyfill does if his dealership, Twin County Ford, isn't getting enough service appointments in a day's time.

To boost interest, he can turn to his other business endeavor — a messaging service geared to local “mom and pop” shops.

Turbo Advertising and Marketing can send out an announcement of, for example, an oil change special to bring more customers through the door.

It's geared to generate quick responses from the people who sign up for the database by cell phone message. Turbyfill essentially considers this a "mobile coupon."

In this economy, people are looking for specials and savings. Turbyfill has used the Turbo Advertising alert system to tell people in the database about deals on vehicles and service specials.

A well-timed message may make people change their dinner plans at short notice, if they learn about a special that appeals to them.

This is a way businesses can speak directly to their customers, Turbyfill said. In this case, it's the customers who have signed up for the messages.

Advertisers will also know the impact of the message, because they need to show the cashier the text message to get the discount.

It's the same kind of technology that TV shows like “American Idol” have used for years to collect votes, Turbyfill notes.

Local businesses that have taken advantage of the alert service include TasteeFreez, Chestnut Creek Coffee House, Roy's Diamond Center, Chapters Book Store, Horton's Supermarket, Professional Networks, The Galax Smokehouse and RJ's Pizza.

People cut out coupons, but then they forget them and leave them at home, Turbyfill said. It's natural for people to carry their cell phones along.

"They've always got their cell phones — they don't leave home without them."

Turbyfill wants to avoid saturating the market, so customers don't get too many messages and get annoyed by the service.

He advises clients to send out a message about once a week.

Ron Passmore of The Galax Smokehouse admits he was skeptical at first, after being approached about the texting service. Now he's a convert.

"That's probably one of the biggest contributions to our surviving the winter," he said.

Restaurants do the most business on the weekends, but that's when all the snow fell during the winter, Passmore explained. So, the barbecue restaurant used the text messages to get customers in during the week.

They sent out specials like the fried chicken and two sides on Wednesdays and a lot of “two can dine for $19.99” deals, he said. The restaurant saw a consistent 10 percent of their message recipients show up, which translates to about 50 customers per text.

"I'm glad I didn't miss the boat," Passmore said.

For more information, visit turboadvertisingandmarketing.com.