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How to get the best out of SMS

SMS messaging is second nature to mobile users – a received technology that people understand. It is also quick, easy, low cost and as a business communications tool its star is still rising. To put the value of SMS to businesses into perspective, the research firm Infonetics estimates that SMS marketing spend globally will reach $8 billion by 2016.

SMS has retained its value to businesses despite the emergence of instant IM applications such as Skype, WhatsApp and Viber. Instant messaging may have great applications for the consumer market but it falls short as an effective tool for businesses. This is due to the fact these applications can only support person-to-person (P2P) messaging and completely excludes the use of application-to-person (A2P) messaging, which allows businesses to send messages directly from their systems to a targeted database.

In addition, brands and marketers can adopt some of the features users associate with IM services for SMS-based campaigns. This includes the incorporation of graphics and web content into SMS messages, attached as embedded URL links. One way to gain value from an SMS campaign is to use a plain text SMS with an embedded link as the call to action driving customers to other online or social media brand related experiences and touchpoints. 

SMS messaging enhances marketing and advertising campaigns because it provides direct, instant communications to a customer’s mobile phone. Any business looking to develop a marketing campaign should certainly consider SMS as an effective, easy to use and high return on investment communications tool. Here are 5 tips to get your SMS marketing campaign off the ground:

1. Design appropriate SMS marketing campaigns for your target market

There are two ways of engaging with customers through SMS messaging for a marketing campaign; either an outbound campaign, where you send a message to a targeted database of customers, or a promotional campaign, where customers are prompted to initiate contact with your business via SMS message. The former is geared to engaging with targeted customers on your database, while the latter is a good way to initiate interest via advertising in various media (print, billboards, television or online) from new customers. An SMS marketing campaign needs planning and you will gain more out of a campaign if you have clear goals in mind for your business;  whether it is building a customer database, driving footfall in-store, promoting a new product or creating conversations about your brand.

2.  Permission based marketing is vital

A SMS campaign should always target a list of customers who have opted-in to receive marketing related communications from your business. You do not want send a potential customer spam or irrelevant information. This means that when you ask a customer to provide their mobile phone number during a commercial transaction or interaction, they indicate explicitly that they wish to receive marketing notifications to their mobile phone. Before implementing your campaign it is best to be familiar with the relevant SMS marketing regulations. Furthermore, when it comes to mobile marketing, industry best practice dictates businesses should build their own customer list rather than purchasing a third party list of contacts. It should be remembered that any list you purchase will not contain any opt-in customers.

3. Managing your customer list

The management of your customer list after each SMS marketing campaign is crucial to keeping your list up-to-date and compliant with SMS marketing regulations. If a customer opts-out from your list you need to honour this request and not send them further marketing communications. It is important to keep a list of opt-outs and frequently cross reference it with any live database to ensure you don’t end up sending them spam.  

4.  Sending relevant and personalised marketing messages

When composing an SMS message, make sure the information is as straight forward and concise as possible. If you feel your message can’t be conveyed through an SMS, then your campaign is probably best run through another digital channel. However, if your campaign is suited to short, snappy promotional messages and you are sending messages out to a permission based database, then you must personalise the message as much as possible. Personalisation is not only about including a customer’s name, but may also be targeted in relation to a customers purchasing patterns.

5. Mobile marketing metrics to measure campaign effectiveness

When designing your SMS marketing campaign, be mindful of what metrics you are looking to measure when determining a return on investment through the mobile channel. Metrics help you improve marketing strategies and fine-tune campaigns to be more effective. Here are some metrics that will assist you in measuring the effectiveness of your mobile marketing campaign:

  • Delivery rate is a measure of your reach and the percentage of messages that were successfully delivered out of the total number of customers who were sent a marketing message.
  • Open rate measures the percentage of how many customers engage with the SMS message after receiving it. To monitor an open rate you need to have a call to action, for example, a customer needs to reply via SMS to the marketing message.
  • Opt-out rate is the percentage of customers who reply with a stop request to opt-out from receiving further marketing communications. High opt-out rates require an evaluation of whether the SMS marketing campaign was targeted at the correct audience or if the content of the SMS message itself was not seen as offering value to potential customers.
  • Conversion rate is that percentage of customers who received the marketing message and fulfilled the campaign objective, for example, they viewed your website page, liked your Facebook page or followed your business on Twitter, contacted your business via email or telephone, attended your event or made an in-store or online purchase.