How to Create an Opt-In SMS Database

You may have great creative ideas for your new SMS marketing campaign and big ambitions for take-up of your latest offer. But no matter how flashy or creative your ideas, they will fall on deaf ears if your opted-in numbers phonebook isn’t up to scratch.

The phrase “everybody starts at zero” is well quoted for good reason. Even massive and very successful companies started somewhere; and that somewhere was basically an empty phonebook. It takes time and dedication to build up such a database. It can’t just be bought for a fistful of grubby fivers.

It should go without saying that buying lists of numbers is a no-no. But we’ll say it anyway: don’t buy lists of numbers. It is a short-lasting quick fix and most definitely not a long-term strategy. The response rate is low and you may well be acting without the law.

As with all data and marketing activity, there are of course regulations to abide by when collecting and/or storing data. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 cover the way organisations send direct marketing by electronic means, including by text message.

Here we take a look at ways to build an opted-in database of numbers that will meet both yours and your customers’ expectations. Be sure to have your marketing campaign ready to go. Don’t be thinking you need a great opt-in list before you start your campaign; the opposite is true. If it isn’t in place you simply won’t attract anyone to part with his or her number or details.

Below are suggestions for starting and/or growing your opt-in list of phone numbers.

1. Internet
Use your own website or someone else’s as a marketing portal for your call to action. If people are visiting your site already they are interested in your product or message. You must offer an incentive for people to sign up and hand over their data, so think about that carefully. This can grow your opt-in list quickly and effectively if your data capture form is easy to navigate and unobtrusive.

2. Social media
Of course. This is a very powerful way of building a list and should not be overlooked. You will most likely already have a facebook page set up for your product, service or brand, along with a twitter account. Again, these people who follow, comment or like your stuff are interested, so make the most of it and capture their details. Put a keyword or code out there and ask followers to text it back, meaning they are then opting in to your list. As above, do offer something in return.

3. Email/e-news
You may have a list of opted-in email addresses already, so use this as a good starting point for an SMS list building campaign. These people have engaged in this way, so potentially they will be interested in further offers and communications. Think about what you offer as an incentive and make sure your email title is inviting and promotes the ‘free voucher’ or whatever offer.

4. Competitions
Offering people the opportunity to win a reasonably high-value prize in return for handing over their contact details works a treat. This also promises entrants the chance to be part of a group or to featured above others who have similar interests if you win it. There are endless ways to put this into action, both through digital channels and print.

5. Newsletters and leaflets
Old school, maybe, but leaflets do reach a proportion of your audience who you may be missing through online means. Include a response keyword or code for those interested to text back to you, as an opt-in for further marketing communications. Can be effective if you business is building up local interest.

6. In person
We’re not talking ‘charity mugging’ type activity here where people are virtually tripped up on the street, but more personal interaction within your shop or stall, depending on your business. When looked in the eye and given the facts about how your text service could benefit a customer, he or she is more likely to say yes and opt in.

7. Radio advertising
Listeners are likely to react immediately to a radio call to action; otherwise they will have forgotten the number and the moment has passed. But radio is still popular and commercial and local stations make a good medium for local business advertising. Make the call to action short and simple and as easy as possible to maximise responses.

So once you have built and/or improved your opt-in list, its time to take notice of the Data Protection Act and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations to keep your numbers and data in good order. The Information Commissioner’s Office has some great information on how to deal with data.

Opt-ins do have an expiry date so keep a close eye on this. If you haven’t sent an SMS to your mobile database for a while it may be considered inactive. Times for expiry do differ so check what applies to your list type. Keep on top of it by sending reminders to customers to renew their opt-in preferences before they expire.