You are here

Permission and conversation in mobile marketing: Separating value from spam

With recent figures suggesting that global smartphone shipments are projected to hit 958.8 million this year, the demand for phones continues to increase sharply worldwide - regardless of specific economic status. This is none more true than in the UK as both accessible and powerful mobile phones flood the market, catering for users of all levels.

However as smartphone proliferation continues to impact the pockets of both young and old, the sheer amount of mobile users means that spammers have a wider audience to attempt to connect with. If you're a mobile phone owner with a UK handset, the chances are you've been at the receiving end of an unsolicited message informing you about a false PPI or accident compensation claim.

These types of messages are spam - pure and simple. These messages are sent to sequentially generated lists of mobile numbers, usually transmitted through banks of SIM cards in breach of the network operators Fair Usage Policies. Typically, one of these messages arrives in a phone's inbox and, usually after a quick glance, they are sent straight to the delete folder. Many people incorrectly associate with these types of spam messages with SMS marketing. In fact, the two could not be further apart.

Permission-based SMS

SMS marketing expert Text Local is keen to highlight the vast differences between the two. It believes that PPI spam messages are "intrusive, unwanted and damaging" to both mobile phone owners and the SMS marketing industry itself - whereas true SMS marketing is based on gaining permission and building relationships.

"Take, for example, a fish and chip shop," claims Text Local's CEO and founder, Alastair Shortland. "They can generate a list of opt-in mobile numbers by publishing a keyword and shortcode combination on all their marketing material (shop window, posters on the walls and count, t-shirt, caps...etc). Over time, they would grow a pure opt-in list of customers that have chosen to receive communications from that business."

Immediately, it's easy to see the difference between the two. SMS marketing is based on permission and its overall foundation is built on a two-way conversation between customer and business. Through building a permission-based list, businesses can rely on the fact that these customers have invited personal contact from a business that they know, love and trust.

Types of messages

After opting in to an SMS service, what type of messages can a customer expect?

Alastair serves up an example: "The fish and chip shop can send a message on a Tuesday afternoon saying: 'Special offer tonight. Show this message for a free drink with any order - visit our specials board at http://shorturl/. Many thanks, Jim. Reply STOP to opt-out.'"

The introduction of a call to action adds depth to the message and, as the people who have opted in to SMS marketing messages typically want to hear about offers and extras, delivers additional value.

Text Local's managing director Darren Daws notes the 'reply to STOP' addendum is an essential aspect of any messaging for both the customer and the business, adding that opt-out "works both ways.

"Remember a text opt-out is just that - you can still market to them by email, post etc.," he explains. "All the customer is stating is that they don't want to receive texts from you. It means that, in the future, you won't annoy a loyal customer who doesn't want you to text them, so you save money and don't annoy those customers."

The perfect text message

Of course, it is advisable that businesses do everything in their power to keep their customers happy. There are a number of ways to optimise customer engagement (call to actions, SMS-only offers, segmented messaging) but is there a way to create the perfect text message to satisfy all consumers?

"There is no such thing," clarifies Darren, adding that each message will be different for every customer at any point in time. Simply, the key to crafting the perfect SMS is to send messages that don't waste customers' time. There's no "magic science" - just avoid pointless messages. Alastair adds the best messages are reserved for greatest offers available to a business. Common sense dictates that businesses should only send something that is relevant to the recipient, and "not at a frequency that will cause annoyance to the brand." 

You've heard it from the experts - there is a Grand Canyon-sized gap between unsolicited, one-way spam messages and permission-based SMS marketing. While spam messages are trivial, unwanted messages that only serve to annoy, opt-in messaging can provide value, build loyalty and open up a two-way conversation between business and customer.