SMS: are you getting the message?

Emer Ryan
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On: 1 Feb 2018
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For marketing-savvy businesses, SMS is no longer an afterthought on the media plan.

As a highly targeted, personal and cost-effective means of building and maintaining a customer relationship throughout the entire sales life-cycle, it has earned its place in any marketing mix. Though only if the right messages are sent at the right time to the right people.

Many businesses have been including SMS marketing in their media planning for several years. What’s changing – or should be – is that now it’s included right from the start of planning, rather than being added on as an afterthought. There are two reasons why priorities have changed.

  1. Firstly, consumers are coming to expect an ongoing personal conversation with the companies they do business with.
  2. Secondly, SMS automation is making this far easier and more cost-effective to do.

A customer is for life, not just for winning.

It’s well-known that the cost of recruiting new customers is many times that of retaining existing ones. It’s also well-known that it’s a far greater challenge to maintain a customer’s loyalty if their only touch-points with your business are at the time of purchase or when they have a complaint or a repair requirement. This is why building marketing life-cycles for customers is important. They should begin at the moment of purchase and continue throughout the product’s life until it’s time for repurchase – when they begin all over again.

Starting with a “welcome” SMS, a campaign can successfully maintain contact through a mix of messages. Depending on the product, basic relevant information like service reminders can be supplemented with “care” messages (how to get the most from your product), special offers, and cross-selling messages for related products or services. The advantage of SMS automation is that sequences of messages – their timing, frequency and targeting – can be executed without the need for time-consuming human intervention, and without the risk of human error causing you to miss key messaging dates.

The elephant in the room.

With SMS, as with any form of digital marketing, the shadow of GDPR looms large and cannot be ignored. From 25th May 2018, marketing directly to customers using personal data such as their mobile number may be in breach of GDPR and could expose you to the risk of prosecution and a sizeable fine. It will no longer be lawful to market to customers in this way even if you provide them with an opportunity to opt out. You must obtain explicit consent to contact them.

If you are not able to gain their permission at the time of purchase, making a clear opt-in option available on – for example – the customer account page of your website will at least give you a second chance to gain their permission and prevent the opportunity from being lost forever. You should also provide an equally accessible opt-out facility.

The effort required to be GDPR compliant and to enable digital marketing will be well worth it. According to The State of SMS 2017 – a white paper from IMImobile – by 2020, 48.7 million consumers will have opted in to receive business SMS. Consumers are exposed to hundreds or thousands of advertising messages every day, most of which are ignored. Yet the white paper reveals that 90% of SMS are read within three minutes of receipt.

By the simple fact of being relevant and delivered right to the consumers’ fingertips via their phone, an SMS achieves remarkable cut-through and memorability. Add marketing segmentation to your armoury and it can be even more cost-effective.

Getting your data right.

Ensuring your customer database is up-to-date isn’t only important for GDPR. It’s also essential for making your SMS marketing campaigns work hard. An above-the-line campaign is like using a shotgun. An SMS campaign using a clean customer database is like using a rifle.

An above-the-line campaign is like using a shotgun. An SMS campaign is like using a rifle.

For example, a hearing aid manufacturer was able to sharpen the targeting of its SMS marketing campaign in three ways.

  1. Using a database from Three, they were able to target only people over 65. In other words, they concentrated their efforts and marketing budget on those most likely to be suffering some hearing loss.
  2. They refined the audience further by messaging those who lived near their retail outlets.
  3. The SMS campaign was split tested between a group of people who tend to use SMS more than they make voice calls, and a group who make more calls than use SMS. A greater use of SMS demonstrated not only a propensity to receive and open messages, but also implied the possibility of hearing difficulties.

The result? A ten-fold greater response from heavy SMS users compared with heavy voice call users.

Of course the quantity and quality of response depends not only on the quality of the database but also on the relevance and timing of the SMS. Content which is not useful will be ignored. Too many messages will irritate. Too few will not maintain a relationship. Get all the factors right and SMS could mean Simply Marvellous Sales for your business.


3Communicate is a self-service tool that allows you to communicate professionally with your customers through bulk SMS while managing all data in one simple CRM.