Mobile Matters Lessons: How to Start Your Mobile SMS Strategy

Michaela Markley Picture

by Michaela Markley | Last Updated: Jun 4, 2020

You need to have your mobile strategy outlined (and preferably documented!) before you start collecting a single mobile phone number. This means you can’t start getting mobile opt-ins while you wait a few months or longer to figure out how you’re going to use them. We enjoyed speaking with Guilda Hilarie, Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Salesforce, (formerly Senior Product Manager, Marketing Technology at Aetna), on the Mobile Matters Podcast and she had some major do’s and don'ts to think about when analyzing your mobile strategy. With SMS (Short Messaging Service) having open rates near 98 percent it’s pivotal to figure out how SMS can play a part in your mobile strategy. Let’s dive deeper into what you need to be aware of when preparing a SMS mobile campaign.  How to Create a SMS Mobile Strategy Creating a strategy around your SMS mobile campaigns is crucial to success. Your strategy must be thoroughly thought out and planned prior to even thinking about applying for a short code. You need to have a team that thinks strategically about how this channel will help perform the action you are hoping for - whether it’s confirming an appointment, purchasing a product, etc. This channel needs to be handled carefully because it is a very personal channel along with being highly regulated. You need to remember this is a place you are connecting with your party/audience. You don’t want to lose them in such a personal channel.  When putting together your SMS strategy you need to keep these four items in mind:
  1. What Do You Want to Achieve With SMS -  It’s important to know what the goal is for your SMS strategy. Is there a specific action you want your consumer to perform? Are you wanting your customers to be aware of something new? Are you wanting them to click a link to perform an action? Making sure you know what your CTA for your SMS campaign is crucial.
  2. Who Are You Targeting With SMS - Remember that SMS is a very personalized channel and thus it’s important to understand your different target audiences. You may be running one campaign that needs to meet three different personas with 160 characters or less. Start by identifying the personas you will be targeting during your campaign and how their messaging will differ. There is nothing worse than an unpersonalized SMS message from a company. 
  3. What Are You Offering Through SMS - If you want to text your consumers you better make it worth their time. You may be offering a discount to current customers, running a competition, updating customers on sales, etc. Whatever it may be, you need to make it obvious to the consumer what the purpose of the message is. 
  4. How Often Are You Sending a SMS Messages - Make sure not to overuse this highly personalized channel. Most consumers do not want to see 2-3 messages a week from your brand. Will you be sending out messages weekly, monthly or quarterly? Create a content calendar and customer journey to understand the why behind each SMS  and what should trigger a SMS message.
It’s important to note that SMS and mobile can (and probably should) be integrated within your cross-channel marketing program. For example, if you are a contractor looking to confirm appointments with your clients have them opt-in for email, SMS, or both to confirm appointments a few days prior to the date. Your first two attempts may be through email because that’s what the client preferred, but if you have the opt-in to text them, your third and final request for confirmation could be through SMS. When integrating with other channels just make sure you know where your CTA will be. Is it within the email you send or the SMS message?  Process of Obtaining a Short Code We started out by figuring out what your mobile strategy needs to look like and what decisions need to be made upfront. Once you have your SMS mobile strategy in place, you only then can start to think about obtaining carrier approval for a short code. The reason you must have a strategy in place prior to applying for a short code is you will be asked to provide sample messages to the carrier. Once you have sent them through for approval you should try to not modify them. You wait patiently after you submit your short code application and most importantly DO NOT TOUCH anything once you’ve sent in the approval. The US Short Code Directory breaks the process up into three parts. 
  1. Leasing Your Short Code - In the U.S., you can lease a vanity or non-vanity short code. A non-vanity is a random five to six-digit number you will be given by the Short Code Registry. It could be any mix of numbers but it is available at a lower cost than a vanity code. A vanity short code is a five to six-digit number that you choose (ex: 611611). The benefit of a vanity short code is that you can choose a number that is easy for your audience to remember. 
  2. Submitting Short Code Application - Next, your team will need to submit a short code application. This is a lengthy document containing questions about who you are and how you plan to use the short code. This document can be lengthy and oftentimes companies use an SMS Aggregator to help submit the application on the business’s behalf. If this application is denied it can majorly slow down the process, hence why many brands rely on a trusted third party to submit the application. 
  3. Short Code Provisioning Process - Lastly, your application will go through the short code provisioning process. (Buckle up because this will be a long ride). This is where every single carrier will review your short code campaign messaging examples included in your application and enable your short code to send messages to phone numbers tied to that carrier. This process can take 6-12 weeks and varies greatly by carrier. Waiting during this part of the process can be extremely frustrating. You’ll also want to make sure you keep your SMS campaigns in line with what you submitted in your application. Carriers are known to audit your short code messages and can disable your ability to send SMS to their customers at any time. 
Measurements for Your Mobile Strategy It’s always important to know what you will be measuring to determine success prior to launching.  Below are the top three metrics you must be tracking:
  1. Opt-Out Rate - There will always be a handful of subscribers that will opt-out during a campaign but it’s imperative that you keep a pulse on this metric. They could be opting out simply because they no longer need your service or product. However, if your campaign begins to have a high opt-out rate it should raise a red flag and your team should start investigating. Is the messaging wrong? Are you sending too many messages? 
  2. Click-Through Rate (CTR) - If your SMS message has a link within. What is the percentage of consumers clicking on the link directing them to a new location? This number will help you understand how many consumers are engaging with your content. The higher the CTR the higher ROI!
  3. Conversion Rate - This number will indicate the percentage of customers who are taking valuable action by responding to your call to action. Most often, your conversion rate is connected to some type of purchase decision (however it doesn’t always have to be this way - a phone call, reply, sign-up, etc would work.) Having a conversion rate tied to purchase decisions will allow you to have hard numbers to bring back and prove the ROI of the SMS campaign. 
Whichever KPIs you use to measure the success of your campaign, it is important to keep a pulse on the metrics to make sure changes are made timely and appropriately. 

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