Wary integrated marketers should look carefully before leaping into SMS (short message service) marketing. It may feel like the Wild West of the new mobile frontier, but there are still rules that must be followed. If you go off half-cocked without knowing the boundaries before you hit “send,” you could end up shooting yourself in the pocketbook. Learn from these expensive mistakes others have made so you won’t have to repeat them:
1) Spamming Your Customers
Don’t abuse the medium. Simply having someone’s cell phone number does not mean you have permission to text them. They need to opt in. Then once you have permission, you need to maintain it. Don’t forget to give people the option to opt out within your message, every time.
2) Forgetting Disclaimers.
Your message should always include the standard caveat that “message and data rates may apply.” Remember, some people don’t have unlimited texting or data. If you send a link that takes them to a video, they could easily exceed their limit. Don’t upset your customer! Be diligent about following the rules and respecting the recipients of your messages.
3) Meager Incentives to Opt-in.
Give your customer a reason to want to text in and give you their phone number. It could be a free report or valuable information for a B2B audience. For a B2C consumer audience, the incentive will usually be some type of discount or offer.
Be aware that the same offer in an email may not work on cell phones. People guard their cell phone numbers more than emails. You need to make it worthwhile for customers to give out their cell phone number.
4) Mobile-unfriendly Destinations.
Your audience is going to view your message on their mobile phone, so send them a link to a webpage that has been optimized for mobile devices. Be sure your message works on a small screen by testing it first.
5) Using the Wrong Text Message Provider.
Businesses looking for a texting company need to know whether the provider is using a good system. To do so, it helps to understand the difference between SMTP and SMS. According to mobile marketing expert Jean-Michel Bernstein of Emarcom, “Some providers use SMTP, or email protocol. Although it costs less, your message could get blocked as spam. SMTP is like a non-toll road, there’s lots of traffic and messages are not guaranteed to go through—SMTP has a 60% failure rate! If a provider offers unlimited texting for a flat rate, this is a red flag! It means they’re basically sending emails to cell phones.”
When a carrier sees a large block of messages (e.g. 100+) going out via SMTP, they may block all the messages. However, your test message will go through because it’s only a single message.
Be sure your SMS campaign goes out on the cell phone carrier’s data network. By using the data network, you guarantee the message will be delivered within 60 seconds. Using the data network costs 3-5 cents apiece.
6) Buying Lists of Phone Numbers.
This is our last big no-no. Never buy a database of cell phone numbers from a list provider and then use it to send out text messages. Cold call if you must, but don’t spam people. If you violate an anti-spam law, the penalty could result in a fine of as much as $175 per cell phone number, per incident.
You’re just going to have to build up your list of cell phone numbers the old fashioned way. Expect to spend 30 to 60 days developing a sufficient cell phone number database. Give people a good enough incentive for giving you their number and your list should have no trouble growing.