Secrets & lies: SMS marketing

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Last week, wireless carrier T-Mobile made news when it sent out an e-mail saying it would be raising the rate it charges businesses to send bulk SMS messages. The reported increase is a mere quarter of a cent, but the move, which will go into effect Oct. 1, according to sources, prompted outraged e-mails and blog posts. Clearly, marketers see the benefit of sending SMS messages, especially since, according to the report “2010 Cell Phones and American Adults” from the Pew Internet & American Life Project, Americans like texting. According to the study (based on 2,252 telephone interviews with adults 18 and older conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International in late April and in May), 72% of all Americans send and receive text messages.

After all, businesses can now rely on SMS service providers—the equivalent in this case of e-mail services providers—to send out bulk messages. Of course, marketers still need to come up with the creative as well as any landing pages and Web content that would go along with such messages, which is why Landon Covington, director-hosted production, managed services at Alterian Technology, provided a secret and a lie to help marketers jump on the SMS bandwagon.

Secret: Any SMS marketing message should have a link or call to action that only requires one click.
Whether it's a clickable phone number that dials your salesperson directly or a Web link that takes someone to a special mobile landing page, mobile calls to action should be instantly engaging and relevant. “You want to make sure that when someone clicks through they don't have to go anywhere else,” Covington said. “I recently got a text message from a tech company, and I counted 11 clicks from where they originally sent me to where I had to go to make the message link.”

In the case of a URL, make sure all landing pages are mobile-optimized. Never send your prospect to your home page to root around for the offer or product. It will only frustrate them, and when you're dealing with a small mobile screen, frustration levels may be higher to begin with, Covington said. If you've given someone a coupon code, make sure it prepopulates any Web form so the person doesn't have to look back at the text to find the code. “Right now, marketers aren't thinking in a mobile mindset,” he said. “They are going to have to do that to make SMS marketing work.”

Lie: You don't need an opt in for SMS marketing.
The Mobile Marketing Association has specific guidelines that say content providers must obtain approval from prospects and customers before sending commercial SMS or MMS messages, or other content, Covington said. Those approvals should explain that text messaging may create a financial liability for the recipient and should contain a clear opt-out method, typically texting “STOP.” Meanwhile, different carriers have their own opt-in requirements. For example, T-Mobile requires a single opt in for most marketing but a double opt in for all “premium-rated, automatically recurring service.” Since there is such a disparity in regulation, Covington suggested adopting a standard double opt-in policy—whether a prospect signs up via the Web or texts to sign up.

And one final note: Many businesspeople have company cell phones that may not come with a texting plan. With tech marketers soliciting cell numbers on every Web page and during signup for things like webinars and white paper downloads, it can be easy to forget that not everyone can participate in SMS marketing. “Don't forget about e-mail marketing,” Covington said. “Collect whatever the prospect is willing to give.”

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