The coffee break guide to SMS

12 minute read

If you want to engage with people when theyʼre not by their computer,then mobile/SMS is an ideal choice.

Why use SMS marketing – in a nutshell

SMS has become one of the most popular methods of communication and the mobile phone is the worldʼs most ubiquitous consumer device, so if you want to engage with people when theyʼre not by their computer, itʼs the ideal choice.

While you might think Apps are the big trend, in fact they only represent 8% of the market, compared to 87% of people using SMS messaging. SMS has the widest reach of any mobile technology by a long way. (Statistics – mBlox). 62% of UK retailers donʼt use SMS, yet 44% of retailers expect mobile revenues to overtake online sales in the coming years – so thereʼs a huge gap in the market for SMS promotions, for all kinds of businesses. (Statistics – mBlox)”

SMS is the ideal way to reach out to contacts with short time-sensitive messages. Whether itʼs a reminder or a special offer, targeted SMS messages will get straight to your audience and are practically guaranteed to be read.

Coffee break guide to SMS

Some easy ways to started

– Set up a text-in service to let visitors to your restaurant register at their table.
– Send out SMS alerts to remind customers of appointments they have with you.
– Reward your best customers with SMS vouchers that they can redeem in store.
– Ask customers to text and vote for their favourite product, location, menu item etc.
– Use a text-to-subscribe service to email interested people more information about your products, directly from your adverts.
– Place different text-in keywords on your adverts to track response rates.
– Send guests directions and a reminder on the day of your event.

There are two different ways that you can receive SMS messages for your mobile marketing programme.

Which number to use?

A shortcode is a short (5 digit) number. These are easy to remember and quick to type in, but are country specific so canʼt be used internationally. Dedicated shortcodes are also expensive to run, so they are normally used on a ʻsharedʼ basis.

A long number (also called an MSISDN) is a standard length number (like a normal mobile number) which people can respond to. Unlike a shortcode, these work internationally, however itʼs not as easy to remember.

 And keywords…

Keywords are used with shared numbers, or when youʼre running multiple campaigns on the same number. A keyword is the first word in the message the user sends and is used to determine what happens next. A sub-keyword (the second word in the message) can also be used to further refine the actions.

How to create an SMS message

SMS messages are composed of two parts:

– the sender information – either a shortcode or mobile number, or a text string up to 11 characters long;
– the body of the message, which is up to 160 characters of text. Longer messages can be sent using a process called ʻconcatenationʼ which links multiple messages together.

If the sender information is set to text rather than a number then the recipient will not be able to reply to the message directly.

How to build your contacts

The first step in SMS marketing is to get people to ʻraise their handsʼ and opt-in to hear from you.

As with email marketing, permission is essential and youʼll need to ensure that every person you contact has asked you to. Your contact list should be composed of people you have had contact with previously – e.g. customers, people who have enquired about your company or people who have explicitly requested to hear from you.

You may already be familiar with email marketing but feel that SMS marketing is the next step.

Why not create an email encouraging current subscribers to also sign up to your SMS campaigns? This way youʼre already contacting people that you have a relationship with and the likelihood is that youʼll get people interested who would rather hear from you via their mobile, especially if you have something good to say!

Things to remember
– Permission! Just like email make sure the people you are contacting have asked to be contacted.
– Never purchase lists of mobile data.

4 quick ways to build your lists

– Email current subscribers with details of how to opt-in to your SMS marketing.
– Place a subscription form prominently on your website, including a field for their mobile number.
– Place your text-in details on your website and on promotional materials.
– Ensure that every form you use to collect mobile data asks people if theyʼd like to receive updates from you via their mobile phone.

Itʼs important to view SMS marketing as developing an ongoing relationship with your contacts. Itʼs a two-way thing and you have to give your contacts something in order to get back what youʼre looking for (be it sales, donations, referrals or even loyalty).

Some key planning pointers

– Have a specific goal that you would like to achieve from SMS marketing – even if itʼs not directly quantifiable.
– Make a plan of action for specific communications youʼre going to send out and what the reason is for them.
– Ensure each message has a real benefit for the recipient. Theyʼre opening a text and it needs to be worthwhile, so things like discount vouchers and useful information could be beneficial.
– Discover when the best time of day and day of week is to send your messages. While this may be trial and error, if you are for example promoting a club night then a text message a few days beforehand may be suitable.
– If you have a number of different target audiences spend the time creating a campaign for each group. This will help you start building the best possible relationship, as messages will be seen as more thoughtful and relevant.
– Give your mobile subscribers a reason to anticipate your next message. Relevant content and sending at the optimum time will help achieve this.

Things to consider when designing SMS

– Size is important. Short is sweet. Within your account you can send a text up to three messages long (called concatenated SMS), but if itʼs going to be that long the content needs to be good. If you can make it short and to the point, the response is likely to be better.
– Include personalisation. Youʼll need to know more about your subscribers but if you can address the recipient by their first name you can increase your response rates.
– Check, and double-check your spelling and grammar – no one wants to see mistakes, especially when an SMS message is so short! Include a clear call-to-action for your recipients.
– If you want subscribers to be able to respond to you, make sure you include a response number. However, if you want subscribers to recognise itʼs you, make sure to include your company name.
Make sure your content is truthful and not full of ʻifsʼ and ʻbutsʼ. Make sure your message is concise and clear.

Just like email, make it clear and easy to unsubscribe:

Include an option for people to unsubscribe. While it may not be what you want, giving people the option is better than having angry subscribers who canʼt figure out how to unsubscribe from your messages. Recipients will be able to unsubscribe by texting STOP to your shortcode. This is a legal requirement and something we handle automatically. Donʼt worry about including unsubscription information in every message but try and include it regularly.

And, finally: Test, test, test! Send previews to your mobile phone so you can be confident that the message is what you want to send.

Sending your campaign

– Timing is everything. If youʼve sent an SMS campaign before, check to see when people are actually opening and reading them. You may find that altering the time improves your result so have a think about the optimum time to send.
– Make sure you can measure your results and gauge success. Delivery rate, responses and unsubscription information is available for you to examine.
– Once youʼve sent a campaign things donʼt stop there. You need to make sure that you learn from every interaction with your audience.
– If youʼve got access to statistics you can ensure that every campaign you send is better than the last.

Things to watch out for:

Delivery rate. This will tell you how accurate your subscriber information is – and tell you who you arenʼt able to reach. What response did you get?  If youʼre sending campaigns that are dependent on responses assess how much of a response you got. Was it what you expected?

CBG to SMSYou can download the Coffee Break Guide to SMS Marketing as a PDF file from our website. It’s free.

Download the PDF here.