Text Messaging Boom Hatches New Business

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Self-professed serial entrepreneur Brad Beasley is always on the lookout for a new business opportunity.

He found that opportunity 2 1/2 years ago, watching mobile phone usage skyrocket across the country. The trend led Beasley to launch CrossLink Media to capitalize on the boom. CrossLink is a software and services company specializing in mobile marketing applications.

Beasley says he knew that mobile communications was going to be the “next big thing.”

“It already is big, of course,” he says. “But I think it is still just scratching the surface of where it is going to go.”

Presently, more than 50 billion text messages are sent every month just in the United States. About 18 percent of mobile phone users do not have a landline at their home, while more than half of those who do prefer their mobile phone as a primary communication device.

What CrossLink Media does is provide its clients with a simple way to reach out to this broad market in an effective and inoffensive way.

The company’s proprietary software allows consumers, media companies and advertisers to interact in real-time using a consumer’s wireless phone. The program is Web-based and is as simple to use as sending an e-mail, Beasley says. Companies can use the platform to engage customers and communicate one-on-one rather than via mass marketing with traditional media. But the most important aspect is that it is entirely optional, Beasley says.

That means people must opt-in to the program in order to receive any of the marketing materials being sent out.

“No one gets our messages unless they opt-in to the program and we also make it easy for them to opt-out,” Beasley says.

Beasley, whose background is in business development, says he came up with the idea for the program and then contracted with an overseas software development company to develop it. He also worked out agreements with major carriers such as AT&T and Verizon to offer the service.

“We provide all the connections to the carriers and deliver a turnkey solution to our customers complete with technical support,” he says.

Beasley says it is no surprise that mobile phones have become a prime target for marketers looking to connect with potential consumers.

“People don’t leave their homes anymore without their phones,â” he says. “It has become like an electronic leash for most of us.”

Movie Time

The opt-in feature was a key feature that attracted Santikos Theaters, one of CrossLink’s most recent clients. Meghan Vincent, director of communications for Santikos, says in just two months they already have 2,000 people who have opted to receive the company’s promotional messages and it is resulting in a high rate of redemption when they send out coupons or promotional offers.

“It is good to know that we are not spamming people,” Vincent says. “We are reaching people who want our messages and who are clearly in our demographic group.”
Santikos regularly sends out $1-off coupons for concessions at its local theaters and the response has been tremendous, Vincent says.

“Last week, we had our first promotional blast where (for one day only) we offered a free movie,” she says. “At the time we had about 1,500 people in the club and we had more than 80 redemptions. That is a huge rate of redemption compared to traditional mail-outs.”

To opt-in to the program, a consumer only has to text a particular word, like “Santikos,” and a code number. Then they can receive the promotional offers and be connected to a mobile Web site that allows them to check times and locations for movies showing at Santikos theaters.

“We think there is a big incentive to opt-in to the program, especially when you are standing in line at the concession stand and it allows you to immediately receive a $1-off coupon,” Vincent says.

Beasley notes that online coupons are environmentally friendly because they require no paperwork and can be redeemed just by showing your phone to the cashier who records the code number on the display.

Military Applications

CrossLink scored its biggest contract to date this past April when it was awarded an exclusive mobile contract with the Army and Air Force Exchange Service (AAFES) to provide text-based mobile coupons across military installations throughout the United States

“In today’s world, virtually everyone uses their mobile phone for more than just talking,” says Chris Peterson, senior restaurant business manager for AAFES. “CrossLink Media’s mobile coupon program should provide a convenient way to distribute timely and relevant offers to our members and their families.”

The addition of AAFES to its client roster has significantly boosted CrossLink’s revenues, Beasley says, but he declined to give specific figures.

“During our first year, we were in research and development mode,” he says. “Last year our revenues grew by a significant percentage and this year things are going in the right direction.”

Beasley says he has several pending contracts with local restaurants and retailers. He also says the AAFES Human Resource side has expressed an interest in the service and is considering using it to send out job alerts and local-specific weather alerts.

“It is pretty exciting,” he says. “This technology is only limited by your imagination. I really think we are just on the surface of what is possible.”

Beasley came to San Antonio in 1989 to work for the Spurs basketball organization. He has already founded and sold two other companies’ Alumni Group and Black Diamond Products.

But even though Beasley is always scouting for that next big business idea, don’t look for him to be selling his new company just yet.

“This is a fun business to be in and I have no desire to get out of it anytime soon,” he says. “I want to continue building the business for the foreseeable future.”

San Antonio Business Journal – by Mike W. Thomas

Source: San Antonio Business Journal


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