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How marketers can avoid becoming SMS spammers

  • Written by Alexander Mahr, VP Account Management and Customer Success, Acoustic Asia Pacific and Japan

While the past two years have been a challenging time for Australian consumers and businesses, on a positive note, the pandemic has placed a greater emphasis on the importance of effective communication. Australians have undergone a great deal of change, and are now so comfortable with our mobile devices, that many of us prefer interacting with businesses through SMS over face-to-face interactions.

As a result, the landscape is now perfect for the use of SMS marketing.

However, SMS spammers have noticed the same trend. Over the last two years, consumers have also experienced an influx of SMS spam. A recent survey revealed that 98 percent of Australians received some form of unsolicited communication over the course of a six-month period, with 71 percent of communication deriving from text messages.

There are two types of SMS spammers: one we’ll call the ‘carpet bomber’ and the other a ‘direct route’ spammer. Carpet bombers will send out impersonal messages widely, similar to the politically-driven texts Australians received late last year, in hopes that 1 of the 1000 people messaged will end up spending thousands on their goods or services.

Direct route spammers on the other hand are more sophisticated. They tend to understand what offers they’re sending out, know what their expected click-through rates should be, what the long-tail should look like, and what their return of investment (ROI) is going to be. They’re still widely sending out impersonal messages, but they tend to do it through grey routes—a cheaper way to distribute bulk SMS by piggybacking off the vulnerability of mobile phone networks—and aren’t aiming for just one big spender.

By taking a look at how other types of SMS spammers operate, we can work out what “best-in-class” SMS marketing should look like. Read on to discover the best practices for SMS marketing that will differentiate your campaigns from those of SMS spammers.

SenderIDs Matter

To start, let’s address the first thing your recipient will notice, the SenderID.

There is a marked difference in outcomes when you send an SMS with a SenderID of your business name, compared to sending from an unknown longcode (mobile number).

Similar to people screening calls from numbers they don’t know, consumers don’t like opening messages if they can’t predict the contents. By properly branding your SMS identity, consumers will feel more comfortable opening and engaging with the message.

Target the right audience

Audience segmentation is a constant priority in marketing, and it’s no different for an SMS campaign.

Regardless of what you’re marketing, you need to look at whom you want to target and send them an offer that’s relevant. Ideally, this is something relevant to their past purchase history.

As an example, if you’re sending out a campaign for a pet supplies retailer, you don’t want to get caught sending dog food offers to customers who have previously only purchased items for cats. Getting hyper-focused on your audience always yields the best results—the more targeted and focused the offers, the better the response.

Keep your messages short

While working on your SMS campaign, think about why you’re making use of the channel, and how customers interact with the channel.

Typically, a text message should be less than 160 characters, so keep your message short and to the point—you’re asking the recipient to read it immediately. People expect succinct content telling them things they want to know right now, and don’t necessarily need to think about.

In contrast, email content is designed to be viewed later and is given a greater space allowance. If you want your content to be thoughtfully reviewed, send an email. If you want your consumer to know, remember, or immediately respond to something, send a text.

Campaign across your channels

Often the best use of your SMS marketing isn’t in a stand-alone SMS campaign, but one that you run across channels.

Each channel alone will generate specific response rates, and when you combine them into one campaign, they support each other to increase your response rate.

As previously mentioned, SMS messages and emails yield different reactions from consumers. Depending on the purpose of your SMS, and your overall campaign, you can complement the consumer experience by following up on your initial message through the alternate channel.

This means if you send an SMS message to a consumer following a purchase, you can send a follow-up email on either the same day or a consecutive day to enhance your message and increase your response rate.

Conduct tests

Companies have a lot of questions to ask themselves once they start using SMS. How many messages should be delivered? What’s the best time to send out? Why did different campaigns generate such vastly different results?

The answer to all of these questions will come from trial and error. Test across different times and days, because you won’t know what the optimal time for your campaign and your audience is until you test!

Be strategic, not spammy

Because SMS marketing is more expensive than email marketing, and because the impression it presents to consumers holds a higher impact, it can be tempting to try to find the one optimal campaign and send it out to the entire database.

This is a mistake. Rather, you should be strategic and considerate with your marketing.

Send out smaller campaigns more often—imagine a drip-feed, not a firehouse. You don’t have to reach out to your entire database with big one-off campaigns; it’s best to work off small, hyper focused segmented audiences, and send the 1:1 comms.

At the end of the day, SMS spammers are interested in the immediate impact or the initial link click, without regard for the relationship-building potential that SMS marketers can tap into.

If you can follow all of the above, you’ll be well placed to get the results you’re after, while strengthening your company’s customer relationships.

Remember that—ultimately—you’re having a conversation with an individual, not a mass group, and you’ll be on the right track. Make it personal, timely and valuable and SMS marketing will amplify your results.

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