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11 SMS Marketing Best-Practices for Better, Results-Driven Text Messaging Campaigns

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Today's consumers are mobile. They're always on the go, sending and receiving messages of all types. As a marketer, you can meet the increasing mobile expectations of your consumers with the basic practices I've outlined here.

These fundamentals provide a solid foundation for how to communicate with mobile subscribers appropriately and comfortably using SMS marketing.

1. Provide above-and-beyond value via "positive disruption." Offer exclusive offers to create a sense of exclusivity. Avoid sending offers and information that consumers can find in your emails, print ads, or on your site. Consumers are extremely connected to their phones and text messages are reserved for their inner circle. If they let you in, make it worthwhile for them.

2. Consider the conversation. As marketers, we know what we want from consumers. Take a step back and consider what the consumers may want to receive from your brand. What types of messages would consumers like to receive? What useful information can you provide? How can you make it easiest to obtain? According to ExactTarget's Channel Preference Study, 15% of consumers prefer to receive financial alerts via SMS and 25 percent of consumers prefer to receive travel alerts via SMS. Another strong use for SMS is customer service.

3. Do not disturb. Don't send promotional text messages after 9 PM or before 11 AM to avoid annoying those who go to bed early and those who are late risers. When a consumer opts in to receive your text messages, request time zone information; and, accordingly, send your SMS in waves to ensure you are optimizing the interaction.

4. Timing is critical. The "when" in the mobile mantra is very important: Consumers expect a marketer to provide information when they want it, how they want it, no matter where they are. Optimize sending time by considering when consumers want to hear from you: for example, just before or during prime shopping times in the case of retailers, and right before mealtimes in the case of restaurants. Also, don't send a promotional message to customers with an in-store deal outside of regular store hours. Review your mobile site and app usage times for intelligence about ideal times.

5. Provide value first, capture data second. Get to know your customers. Right now, you may not know anything besides their phone number and that they want to receive SMS messages. Marketers can gain data along the way (for example, time zone), but don't make data capture your primary objective. Intersperse data capture requests with high-value messages.

6. Monitor opt-outs per send. To gauge content value, calculate opt-out and delivered rates for each outbound campaign. Compile the percentages in a spreadsheet and learn from those what sort of content generates rates above and below your average.

7. Have your trigger ready. Do not begin to collect SMS numbers until you can send an immediate confirmation to the subscriber's phone. If that trigger message follows weeks or months later, consumers may no longer be interested and you may potentially lose a significant portion of your reach.

8. Gather preferences at opt-in. On your full-site opt-in page, request all the critical information and permissions you need. Request time zone and city code (see No. 3 and No. 4 above), critical segmentation data, and specific program permissions. If you add program down the road, you will need to get new permissions, so the more comprehensive you can be at the outset, the less work you are creating for your subscribers later.

9. Consider the total mobile experience. While planning your campaigns, ensure you are optimizing the customer experience by linking to mobile sites. Don't send your customers something that requires printing or opening an email to retrieve. If consumers have to enter information, consider using a social log-in, such as with Facebook, which makes it easy for them and gives you a wealth of data.

10. Collaborate to get the best content. Find out what other departments are developing so you can deliver the best of the best content to your customers: a great video on YouTube, a giveaway on Facebook, an event, a VIP opportunity. Additional benefits include accolades from your colleagues, who will appreciate the extra reach that SMS delivers.

11. Move to a numeric vanity short code. Though most marketers will start with a shared short code, consider getting your own short code as you build a robust program. Brief, logical, common keywords get used quickly, and vanity short codes represent a commitment to a great program. Remember that most users aren't texting on a telephone keyboard, so the digits that spell out a name are far less useful than an easy-to-remember number, such as 12121 or 88888. Also note that if you're using a shared code, a STOP text returns a menu of opt-out options, not a global unsubscribe.

* * *

You want to succeed in mobile, which means not only acquiring and onboarding new customers but also engaging them with more data-driven messaging.

Building out your SMS marketing campaigns creates a huge opportunity not only to engage consumers on their phones but also to apply the insights you gain for your cross-channel campaigns.

(For additional insights into optimizing mobile campaigns, check out the 4 Stages of a Smart Mobile Strategy.)

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R.J. Talyor is vice-president of mobile products at ExactTarget . Reach him at

LinkedIn: R. J. Talyor

Twitter:  @rjtalyor

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  • by Fatma Noureldeen Thu Sep 5, 2013 via web

    @rjtalyor : Thank you, it is really to the point, and the last 2 points are actually of a high added value for me :)

  • by Gracious Store Fri Sep 13, 2013 via web

    Modern customers are on the go with the mobile devices, so marketers have to be where their customers are, so marketers need to give their customers timely and needed updates without annoying or overwhelming them with unnecessary emails or information

  • by Evan Thu Jan 9, 2014 via web

    Do you have any suggestions on companies to use for such a campaign?

  • by Katie Anderson Wed Mar 9, 2016 via web

    I think something that people neglect to do is really try and collaborate to get the best stuff out there. Since you are going to send something in a mass message, there are going to be a lot of different kinds of people receiving it, so you need to make the wording acceptable to all. Talking with a professional, and getting their input, as well as the input of others, will help make sure you've got all your bases covered.

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