Where do I start with my bulk SMS campaign? Your business how to guide

SMS is ideal for businesses looking to reach their customers, regardless of their product, service or offering. Whether sending 100 messages or 100,000, it works for business of any size. Text messages offer a unique reach not possible with other forms of mobile marketing, which are usually reliant on internet connectivity and clever smartphone devices. Providing high conversion rates for a low cost; it may be surprising how just 160 characters can make a huge difference.

That said, beginning an SMS campaign from scratch can be a daunting prospect. With plenty to think about, it can be hard to know where to start, how to best go about it and whether you’re staying on the right side of the law. This article will guide you through the important topics for an SMS marketing newbie.

Getting started with bulk SMS – setting goals

Before doing anything it’s important to know what you hope to achieve from the campaign. Set yourself goals and make sure you have a solid understanding of them. Will the primary goal be to improve attendance rates for your surgery by sending appointment reminders, or increase footfall in your shop on a certain day by offering discount codes? Equally it could be ensuring members of your community receive important information, or to engage with existing customers and encourage repeat business.

It’s also important to ensure that your expectations are realistic. For example, while SMS open rates are roughly around 98 per cent as an industry average, it would be unrealistic to expect profits to increase by 500 per cent overnight. Refinement can help to eke out continual improvements here.

Building a mobile subscriber list

Possibly the hardest part of the campaign is building up a subscriber list. The key is knowing your target audience; make sure those on your list are actually likely to be interested in your product – for example if you are a local café based in Folkestone there is very little point in marketing to people in Dublin. Targeting the right people is part of the challenge but worth the effort, as effective marketing will always be more successful when the right people see your message.

When building up your database it’s essential to follow best practice guidelines. Sticking to the rules means asking permission. You can’t just add in details from business cards picked up at networking events, unless you specifically got permission from the individual.

The Information Commissioner is responsible for ensuring all businesses follow these guidelines. However, Alastair Shortland, CEO of Textlocal, explains that it really is very simple to stay inside the law: “As long as a business is sending messages to customers who have chosen to receive them and they offer a simple opt out path (reply STOP) then they are compliant.”

So how can you build up a list? Well, there are numerous ways. If you have a bricks and mortar business then making the most of signage, leaflets, receipts and in-store advertising is a great place to start. Utilise short codes, which are specifically designed to be easier to remember than traditional long mobile numbers. Your customers can text the short code and automatically be added to your database. It’s a great idea entice them with an offer, as giving people a reason to sign up will vastly improve the number of opt-ins.

Adding a sign-up form or widget to your website and social media pages is also an excellent way to gather details; add a mobile number field to your website’s contact form or any other sign-up sheets you might use. Sometimes even just asking nicely can do the trick; suggest in your message that customers share it with their friends and you might be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Including an incentive is a key way to encourage people to sign up to your list. Make your customers feel that they are part of an exclusive club by providing discounts, special promotions or competitions. We’ve put together a handy guide which explains how to build your database in more detail.

How SMS works for business

Text marketing is easy to manage, as messages can be written and sent from a computer, straight from your desktop. Data can be easily imported into Textlocal’s Messenger service which allows you to efficiently manage your campaign.

Opting out is easy for customers and simple for you – with numbers being automatically excluded from your campaigns once they opt out. Think about the frequency of your messages too. Too many messages and your customers will feel bombarded and likely turn off or even unsubscribe, too few and you will lose awareness. The best option is to only send texts when you have something to offer, whether it’s an update, discount code or reminder. After all, you can text as often as you like provided each message is relevant and informative.

Texts can be scheduled so you can plan your campaigns in advance. In addition the option for staggered sending can help you keep on top of the responses.

With inbound numbers, customers can have a two-way conversation with you, if you wish, offering a unique level of easy interaction. Measuring and reporting is also available, helping you to truly see the effectiveness of your SMS campaign.

Writing the right text message

The most important thing to decide before you write your SMS is what you want the customer to do as a result. Do you want them to reply, come in to visit or go to your website? Being aware of this before you type anything will help ensure your message is clear and allow you to make the most of your character limit.

Be clear who the SMS is from; make sure your company name appears in the message. If you don’t have a Sender Name set up, then it is essential this info appears in the text message body. Personalise the message too where possible; mail merge features allow you to add in receiver names and other information.

Offer value in the message – try to think about what the recipient will get from it. This can be a special offer, important information, a competition or a discount. Including a strong call to action will guide your customer into taking the action you desire.

Always make sure to proof read and spell check your message carefully before pressing send.

And finally…

Remember, Textlocal’s advisers are available to answer any questions and guide you through the process. Starting out with a bulk SMS campaign needn’t be tricky and with bundles to suit your business SMS communication can become a breeze.