27 July 2010

SMS Marketing – Play By The Rules To Get it Right

by belinda

SMS marketing and the law

If you’re using SMS marketing systems such as TextMagic to communicate with your customer database, you’ll already be sold into the huge benefits of how mobile marketing helps you speak more directly and efficiently to your target audience. However, as with all methods of marketing, it’s vital that you maintain a level of responsibility for your activities, particularly when sending information direct to an individual’s mobile phone – and keep within the law.

We’re all familiar with the concept of spam – the generic term for unsolicited bulk messaging – and it’s likely that most of you will already have junk mail filters set up on your computer to avoid receiving unwanted communications which you’ve not signed up to or have no interest in. The world of email is rife with spam, and we all know how annoying it is – not to mention potentially dangerous, should a link through prove to be to a website which compromises the security of your computer system.

So, spam is annoying and immediately sets you against the company and its products. At least there are systems in place within email clients to filter out the worst of the spam. With SMS marketing, there is no such filtering system in place – which is why it’s even more important to ensure that you never spam your customers.

How do you get it right – and make sure that your SMS marketing communications are not only welcome, but effective? And what differentiates a great marketing communication from spam? Here are a few tips to help you get it right.

1. Not your customer? Get their permission first. Perhaps the most important rule for SMS marketers to remember is that, if you’re planning to roll out an SMS marketing campaign to individuals or businesses which you have no prior trading relationship with, you must gain their permission to do so first. This permission must be obtained by the individual or business actively agreeing to receiving communications – for example, via collecting information from visitors at a business open day or via a page on your website where they have to actively tick a box.

This permission must be able to be easily proven and clear to the individual as to what they’re agreeing to – so for instance, collecting business cards at an event which you then add to your SMS marketing list doesn’t quality for ‘opting in’. One final thing – you can’t use the same communication method to ask if individuals would like to opt in – so you can’t send an SMS to ask if they’d like to receive SMS messages.

2. Let your customers choose the way you speak to them. Simply put, that means putting the customer in control. You should always provide a simple ‘get out’ clause for your customers to de-register for SMS marketing communications, whether that’s on your website, via a ‘STOP’ textback service or additionally, even in person via telephone or at your premises.

Get this right and you’ll be creating a core marketing list of targets which are receptive to your SMS marketing systems and will actively respond to them; get it wrong, and you may be liable to prosecution. Take the case of Visit Britain, who are currently at the centre of a US class action, following complaints about alleged spam SMS messages being sent to students’ mobiles; by sending unsolicited SMS messages, you may well be putting yourself at risk of similar prosecution.

3. Unsubscribe or further target? Unless you’ve got a great existing analysis of your customers’ buying habits, it’s likely that some of your SMS marketing messages may not be of interest to your entire target group – which may well drive the unsubscribe request. That’s why it’s sensible to drive potential unsubscribers to your website, where you can offer them either the choice to fully remove themselves from your SMS marketing list, or alternatively choose the type of messages they would like to receive.

For instance, your customer may only be interested in receiving money-off incentives or sale notifications; alternatively, they may only wish to receive information on a certain type of product. Box clever and use every chance you have of engaging with your customer as an opportunity to find out more about what they want from you as a business – again, putting them in control.

4. Keep SMS messages regular – but don’t overdo it. Your communications should be regular enough to keep your business at front of mind, but not so often that you end up frustrating your customer and therefore falling into the ‘spam’ trap. If you keep in mind that every SMS marketing message should have a clear reason or event to publicise, and you don’t send messages just for the sake of getting your name in front of the customer, you’ll find that you immediately start to reduce the potential for spamming – and that your customers will find your communications informative, useful and will act upon those clear call to actions that every marketing message needs.

So – by following a few simple rules, you’ll ensure you stay on the right side of the law, keep your customers – and potential customers – happy, and very importantly, ensure that the investment you put into your SMS marketing campaigns is well targeted and has the best chance of success.

By using an SMS message system such as TextMagic, where your spend is easily tracked and managed via the Pay As You Go system and no contractual requirement, you’ll be fully in control of your marketing budget. Not only that, with a variety of different easy-to-use TextMagic communication methods, such as Email to SMS, Web to SMS and the downloadable SMS Software, there isn’t a simpler or easier way to roll out those SMS marketing campaigns.

So now you know how to avoid SMS spam and keep your customers happy – what are you waiting for?

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