It’s no secret: Mobile is on the rise and driving today’s hyper-connected consumerism. For retailers looking to drive engagement with their customers in today’s fast-paced world, SMS is a powerful tool. Think about it, smart phones go everywhere, even the bathroom,  and the moment a consumer hears the SMS notification or sees it pop up on the their phone, they are very likely to read it. In fact, up to 78% of consumers “report texting at least once per day.” There’s a lot of value in SMS, but like any marketing channel there are a number of things to consider before launching your program.

We’ve put together a three-part series designed to help you navigate the path to launching your own SMS program. In this post, we’ll explore how to lay the groundwork that will get you out of the gate quickly and effectively.

Mobile Marketing Strategy

Defend Your Program

Much like with email marketing, you need an explicit opt-in from a consumer before sending them SMS communications. Unlike email, though, there isn’t a CAN-SPAM law enforcing it. Rather, it’s just a general best practice that has been agreed upon by the digital marketing community. In an effort to avoid stringent government oversight, marketers have banded together and formed the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA

The MMA is a global resource for mobile marketing and expertise. Before we launch SMS programs for DEG client partners, we make sure that the program meets MMA best practice guidelines such as capturing an explicit opt-in and including STOP and HELP keywords in every message. Many major mobile communications providers request MMA compliance, and some won’t transmit non-compliant messages. Many SMS providers will help you navigate the regulations and meet carrier compliance standards, however.

Keep in mind, while the MMA is the global resource for mobile marketing guidelines, it is not a governing body. Different countries or regions will have their own marketing and privacy laws and it is your responsibility to understand them before moving forward with SMS.


Define Your Program

After you have a handle on the logistics around sending SMS and made sure that you’re meeting the legal and best practice guidelines, it’s time to define your program. We strongly recommend that you put well-defined plans in place for using this new communication channel prior to launch so that you are able to engage your audience from the very beginning. You don’t want to wing this because once someone opts out of your SMS program, it’ll be extremely difficult to win them back.

Here are a few questions to get you started in your planning:

  • Will you leverage SMS for cross-channel communications? For instance, can a subscriber opt-in for email over SMS?
  • Will a short code or long code better suit your needs? (Hint: It’s highly dependent upon the type of campaign you’re trying to execute)
  • How will you incorporate a call-to-action to opt-in for SMS communications in your current marketing channels, both online and offline?
  • Will you provide an incentive for opting-in for SMS?
  • What does the content calendar look like for the next couple of months? Be sure to incorporate a mix of promotional messages, surveys to progressively profile new subscribers and engage with them via SMS, and value-add content related to the products or services you offer. MMA guidelines suggest you should explicitly state how many messages a subscriber can expect to receive and at what frequency, so try to stick to the schedule.

We’ll dive deeper into these questions and more in parts two and three as we look at acquisition and engagement campaign strategies.


Determine Your Program’s Success

If you haven’t noticed yet, while highly complementary when integrated effectively, email and SMS are unique channels and require a unique approach. So it’s no surprise that you can’t rely on the standard email success metrics of opens, clicks, read-through rates and the like which may lead up to a conversion. Opens can’t be tracked and links in SMS messages require a pricey license.

Instead, leave it up to specific desired actions, which may vary by campaign or message. For example, in the progressive profiling survey approach mentioned above, success is easily measured as response rate. What’s more difficult to measure is the value of that response rate. Pick a key preference attribute that is particularly helpful in tailoring a unique experience for your user and find a clever (not creepy) and natural way to ask for it. (Note: By not directly rewarding the response, you may avoid crossing the sweepstakes line. Sweepstakes are definitely effective, but those are tricky waters to navigate.) Reward respondents by using that newly provided information to craft a targeted and personalized message, experience, or offer in any and all of the channels you interact with them in.

Other measures of success may include an increase in email opens or conversion rates when accompanied by SMS, decreased calls to help desks with an SMS FAQ menu, or usage rates of an existing product or service value add such as a bank balance auto-responder.

Now that we’ve explained some of the basic steps you need to consider, stay tuned for part two (Building Your Database) and part three where we’ll provide tips on how to acquire SMS subscribers and some fun ways to engage them.


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