Building an SMS Marketing Campaign

Our mobile phones are never far from our heads – or even our hearts – these days, making this marketing channel a very personal one. For this reason it’s essential to treat anyone who opts-in to your SMS list as a very loyal customer indeed.

Whether you are building your database of phone numbers from scratch or growing your opt-in list, a great marketing campaign is the common denominator for success. An SMS campaign shouldn’t stand alone, incorporate it into your overall marketing strategy to ensure goals are met and messages are consistent.

Building a good campaign takes thought and planning; the execution is almost the easy bit! Trust is very important and your opted-in customers need to feel special and that they can trust your campaigns to be on target and in line with what they signed up for.

To get the most out of your SMS marketing activity, we’ve put together some top tips on how to build a good marketing campaign.

1. Determine your goals
Before you do anything else, decide what you want your campaign to achieve. Build your opt-in list? Increase your average order value? Direct eyeballs to your webpage? Tell them about a must-attend event happening on Friday? Once your goal is agreed, make sure your campaign is integrated with other marketing activity happening at the same time, and that your messages are consistent.

2. Do your research
Find out what makes your potential target audience(s) tick. What are their likes and dislikes? Many online tools are available to marketers to help determine this and what would be an appealing incentive to a particular group. Social media channels can be useful for this. Facebook offers an Audience Insights function to see what overlap there is between, for example, people who like pizza and those who work in IT.

3. Clear call to action
Make your call to action simple and clear within your design. Do not bury it or anything else important in the literally teeny-tiny small print at the bottom. Use this as an opportunity to extend your reach among customers/potential customers and to continually engage with your loyal base of ‘optees’. SMS activity is driven by two factors: a keyword and a short code (the text back number). Don’t make the mistake of putting your keyword in quotes – “FREEMONEY” – respondents will add these in as technically instructed and their responses will not register!

4. A valuable incentive
Plan your offer well to ensure you have something tempting to dangle in front of customers by way of incentive. It has to be something that will tempt them to part with their phone number or take up your offer. Perceptions are changing and initial reluctance to give up mobile numbers in exchange for ‘advertising’ texts is turning to a positive – if the offer is genuine, trusted and has value. Lower value offers, such as vouchers to save on a particular service or meal, work well to build opt-ins. Once opted-in, try a BOGOF or higher value money-back approach, such as £10 off when you spend £50 or more. Exclusive offers for ‘special’ customers – such as having gig tickets offered in advance – work well for selected groups.

5. Nurture your numbers
To continue your success you must grow your numbers as well as get to know your existing customers better. You can then split your groups according to preferences and interests and target each group with a specific message to increase relevance and response rates.

6. Personalise
We all like to feel special. If a marketing piece is at least topped and tailed with your name and is of relevance, the response rate is instantly improved. Attention to detail pays off so make sure your database is well maintained and you spell names correctly! SMS services can personalise messages significantly as long as the information is already entered in your phonebook.

7. Timing of texts
Due to the immediate nature of SMS marketing, timing is everything. If you want to draw attention to a special promotion happening at your shop on Thursday evening, sending out your SMS message on Monday morning will have little effect and a hundred new texts will have eclipsed it by the time your event is actually happening.

8. Frequency of messaging
The first rule is don’t bombard people. The opt-in option is a delicate balance and people will very quickly opt right out again if they feel their phone or privacy is being invaded. But once you have your audience engaged, do keep gently reminding them you are there, by offering regular targeted, personalised, good-value offers.

9. Play by the rules
Don’t ever forget that permission is required to send out SMS marketing messages. Text recipients must have knowingly opted in to receive your communications, and therefore ‘only with consent’ is a good mantra. Your messages must also comply with data protection and electronic communications legislation. Identify yourself as the sender in each message. Include a STOP option for every SMS you send, which is a valid opt-out short code. And remember that opt-ins expire, so keep on top and remind people to renew their interest before they’ve dropped off your list.

10. Measurement
Measuring effectiveness is an essential element of an SMS campaign, as it is for any marketing or promotion you carry out. There is no one-size-fits all approach, what you measure depends on what your initial aims were. Monitoring your list growth rate each week (or as appropriate) is a basic indicator – make sure you check which campaigns are most/least effective. The redemption rate of your voucher or take-up of the offer for each campaign should be monitored for effectiveness.