Seven Steps to Successful SMS

There is no doubt that a well thought-out and fully-compliant SMS campaign has the power to build positive and long lasting relationships with customers. The whole process takes seconds, but what businesses need to understand is that those precious seconds can make or break a relationship with a customer.
But there’s no need to panic – the steps for creating a truly effective campaign are achievable. We have put together a seven-point guide to help ensure that you create a successful SMS marketing campaign from start to finish.

Buying data vs. building data
Buying data is not an approach that we would recommend, and not just because of the potential legal issues. Why would you want to waste money on marketing to people who aren’t interested in your services, and who potentially considered your communications as spam? In addition to this, you can’t actually use data that’s more than six months old, unless it’s being used for an anniversary-type service, so again, don’t waste your money. Granted, acquiring new customers can be a difficult task, and as a result, many businesses do opt for buying customer data from specialist data providers. But our advice would still be to build your own opt-in database, using a short code, paper or online forms, QR codes, or collecting them manually. Remember to always include your opt-out path in the messages you send.

Clear call to action
When conducting an SMS campaign, you only have 160 characters to work with, so make each one count. Get to the point straight away by keeping it short and sweet. Keep your messages fresh, and avoid sending the same messages to the same people. The benefit or reward to the recipient should be clear from the outset; if the customer is confused by the marketing that they receive, it will have a negative effect on the relationship that will be hard to restore.

Make it meaningful
The blanket effect is a thing of the past, or it certainly should be. No message should ever be unwelcome. Last year the AdReaction report from Milward Brown found that consumer experiences were falling short of expectations, and that brands needed to up their game. As the power of SMS evolves, elements of an effective SMS campaign multiply. Today, a successful marketing campaign needs to consider not only the person, but also, the moment and location, as well as developing integrated campaigns that use display ads to drive traffic to a mobile-optimised website or app.

Make sure you use an SMS platform with a mail merge feature, and insert names, appointment times or other details into your messages. You can also brand your message by setting the Sender Name on the SMS message as your company name for maximum impact.

Timing is everything
Put simply, timing is essential for a good response rate. If you consider that 97 per cent of messages are read immediately, SMS couldn’t be a better way to instantaneously interact with your customer. However, bear in mind that your marketing message will only be responded to if the reader has time to do so, and if the offer is relevant to the time of day, so think before you send. Similarly, don’t bombard your recipients with the same message in short intervals or worse, send duplicate messages to the same recipient.

Measurement is the key to success
The beauty of SMS marketing is that you can measure how successful each campaign has been, and this can help you plan future campaigns. Choose an SMS marketing platform which can give you the ability to track open rates and message delivery information. Digging deeper can truly help you analyse the ROI and effectiveness of your campaign. Once you have your results and KPIs such as sales and traffic, use it to improve future campaigns. Learn from your mistakes and grow your SMS marketing and communication.

Compliance is key
Staying completely above board is critical when it comes to compliance. Disregarding the basic guidelines and taking shortcuts will put you at risk of facing a monetary penalty, or worse, a lawsuit.

Make sure that you keep up to date with relevant regulators, authorities and networks; these will differ depending on the type of campaign or service you wish to run. If you wish to run an SMS marketing campaign, you will need to adhere to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) guidelines, for example. The ICO provides independent advice and guidance about data protection and freedom of information.

You will also need to make sure that your campaign is network compliant. And if you are planning to run a premium rate service, you will need to make sure that you adhere to guidelines set out by UK regulator PhonepayPlus, in addition to ensuring network compliance and complying with the ICO’s guidelines.

It sounds like a straightforward point to make, but it’s surprising how many companies neglect such regulations. Here are some key points to consider:

  • If you have had no prior commercial relationship with a person, you will have to obtain their permission to communicate with them by email or SMS text message.
  • The permission has to be actively and knowledgeably given – i.e. the user must tick a box or actively opt-in by performing a specific action
  • You must clearly identify the sender of the message
  • You must provide a valid reply address
  • You must make it easy for recipients to unsubscribe from future communications
  • Always ensure that you provide clear and accurate pricing information, honest advertising and service content appropriate and targeted promotions

You’re not alone
It’s fair to say that you probably don’t have the time to hone a deep understanding of compliance requirements, but brushing it to one side is certainly not the answer. Brands and agencies should use a trusted partner or technology provider to help and support them understand compliance requirements and make sure that they stay clear of potential lawsuits. Moreover, this allows brands and agencies to focus on what’s more important: customers and content.

James Harrison is UK country manager at Oxygen8