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Five common SMS marketing mistakes

Neiman Marcus struts its stuff via branded social

Cartier is using SMS

Brands and marketers are increasingly incorporating SMS into their mobile initiatives to engage and communicate with consumers. Here are some common pitfalls to avoid.

Industry experts agree that some type of SMS marketing is prevalent to reaching as many consumers as possible. Feature phones continue to dominate the market and many consumers can be reached on them.

“Education and making smart decisions are key to prevent mistakes form happening,” said Jeff Hasen, chief marketing officer of Hipcricket, Kirkland, WA.

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“The first place I would go is to the Mobile Marketing Association’s Consumer Best Practices document to learn the dos and don’ts of SMS marketing,” he said. “Second, I would read up on successful and not-so-successful programs on Mobile Marketer and other venues to understand what others have done.

“Third, I would seek out trusted providers. Remember, choosing purely on price will likely lead you to the guys in a garage who started a firm last Thursday. That is likely to lead to failure.”

Here are the five most common SMS marketing mistakes that brands and marketers should avoid.

No. 1 – Avoid not making your call to action prevalent
A simple call to action can be placed on billboards, magazine pages, TV commercials and just about anything else.

“It’s a head scratch as to why a mobile call to action isn’t prevalent in all integrated marketing communications,” Mr. Hasen said.

“There are so many benefits to doing it right – engaging consumers and turning passive activities into interactive ones, making your traditional and non-traditional dollars work harder, and being able to measure effectiveness in real time with such a simple tactic as using different keywords in different media,” he said.

No. 2 – Avoid using SMS as a one-off feature
Instead of using SMS as a way to have consumers participate one time, brands and marketers should come up with an overall strategy to build their databases and have consumers opt-in.

SMS helps build relationships.

Marketers should keep that communication open and send out relevant messages to keep consumers engaged and interested.

“Another mistake is to use SMS as a one-off rather than a key marketing strategy to opt consumers in to a mobile club for future engagement,” Mr. Hasen said.

“Do not let mobile sit on an island – include conversations about SMS early in integrated marketing program conversations,” he said.

Interview several mobile marketing vendors and ask for specific case studies that include results in your category as well as lessons learned.

Plan enough time to smartly create a campaign, allowing a period to obtain a short code and for carriers to review and approve a campaign.

Finally, understand that one of mobile’s differentiators is the ability to optimize a campaign in real time through metrics.

No. 3 – Avoid running a mobile marketing campaign based on price
There are ample examples of companies who spend around $100 on a mobile program through a shared short code only to be disappointed and down on mobile’s promise.

“Often, when marketers think about mobile ad dollars, SMS marketing is overlooked,” said Shawn Schwegman, chief marketing officer at ChaCha, Indianapolis, IN. “With SMS mobile marketing, brands gain extensive reach.

“It is key for brands to reach the right audience and maximize their reach,” he said. “By leveraging SMS marketing, marketers can achieve their goals.”

No. 4 – Avoid bombarding consumers with daily SMS messages
Once consumers opt-in, brands and marketers should take it easy with the amount of messages they send out.

Companies should keep the consumer interested, but not have them text the keyword STOP to opt out.

Value and timing are everything. It is important to understand the target audience and know what they will find valuable and when.

Brands and marketers should understand their market and choose an appropriate time to send the messages out and make it meaningful.

“Text messaging can be a highly effective marketing tool when companies leverage the personal and conversational nature of it,” Mr. Schwegman said.

“For example, branding campaigns may be the best approach to achieving online and traditional marketing goals, yet text messaging yields the highest response rates when approached as part of an interactive conversation with a targeted audience,” he said.

No. 5 – Avoid being generic
SMS messages should have a personal tone and feeling. It is about having that relationship with consumers.

Just like email or snail mail, if the letter is addressed to someone personally he or she is more likely to read it than a message addressed to “home owner” or “customer.”

Text messages are short, simple and personal and if a message is addressed to a person specifically, they are more likely to read it than if it simply says “customer.”

“We believe the best way to utilize text messaging is to view it as a live conversation in a personal environment,” said Cat Enagonio, vice president of marketing at ChaCha, Indianapolis, IN. “Brands will do best when they view it within the context of the medium.

“A key best practice is for brand marketers and agencies to understand the different mobile products and map their advertising into that which will yield the highest conversion rates,” she said. “Then, test, test, test.”

Best practices from Randy Atkisson, vice president of sales and business development at Sumotext, Little Rock, AR.

1. Think of mobile as an ongoing conversation with consumers and prospects. 

2. Look long term and use mobile to support and enhance other marketing programs. 

3. Use mobile to deliver the most relevant content and offers to each customer, where practical. Do not just blast the same boring offer to everyone on your list week after week.

4. Commit to building a mobile program, with the same overall goal of other marketing. 

Then lay out a strategy to build the database - think email incentives, circa 1998 - and begin to segment the audience, use a CRM perspective to develop dialogue. 

Use content and offers that excite, something they may not be able to get from another source, something special. 

Not necessarily deeper discounts or freebies, but early buying privileges, chance to vote for a new style or feature. 

And monitor activity as closely as possible to constantly refine strategies and messages, timing and variety.

Final Take
Rimma Kats is staff reporter on Mobile Marketer, New York


Associate Editor Rimma Kats covers media, television, research and social networks. Reach her at rimma@mobilemarketer.com.

Related content: Messaging, SMS, Jeff Hasen, Shawn Schwegman, Cat Enagonio, mobile commerce, mobile marketing, mobile

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Comments on "Five common SMS marketing mistakes"

  1. Andy Smith says:

    April 14, 2013 at 10:01pm

    Very interesting article. I agree with Dawn and Amit on the price issue. Find a provider with direct connections to the major suppliers and also find out what their message performance is.
  2. Dawn Rowley says:

    April 5, 2011 at 8:17am

    Good points well made. Especially on the quality of service and type of SMS provider you are signing up to. And you're right, can't think why the shortcode isn't used more as a call to action.
  3. Amit Nanda says:

    March 30, 2011 at 6:42pm

    Agree that picking a vendor on price alone is risky. But most industries get turned upside down by "the guys in a garage who started a firm last Thursday". Vendor selection based purely on price maybe a bad strategy but marketers should be open to innovation regardless of its origin.
  4. Patrick Young says:

    March 30, 2011 at 5:38pm

    If you do billboard or display advertising an easy to remember Short Code is a good tool.

    But only if the short code aggregator can set you up so the response comes from your SMS modem.
    All you have to do is setup the Shared Short Code to send the keyword responses to your PC, then have your PC signal your SMS software to send the response.

    The aggregator must specify they will not use the mobile numbers that respond to your short code in any way.

    You can lose control if you plan to use a Shared Short Code for a long period of time. If you promote a short code that is owned by someone else you can lose access to the short code at anytime without notice. Think about what could go wrong. Are there policies and procedures in place to protect you. If things take a turn for the worse, do you have recourse? Make sure an attorney looks over your agreement.

    Keep in mind mobile numbers with an opt-in are valuable. The main goal is to opt-in as many mobile numbers as possible. The owner of the short code controls the SMS gateway. They store every incoming and out going mobile number. Read the Terms of Service and privacy agreement carefully. Retain exclusive rights to your opt-in list of mobile numbers. Make sure you own mobile number is in the list. Verify the messages you pay for are actually sent. Make sure you do not receive messages on your Short Code from someone else. Better yet send all responses via your SMS modem.

    Anybody can use the same short code as you. When a Shared Short Code message is received, there is no way to verify if the message was originated by you. Protect your list of mobile numbers. For example a disgruntled former employee or ex-spouse could cleverly put you out of business with your list of numbers. All they would have to do is open an account with the same Short Code provider as you, then send messages to your list.

    I do not recommend using only a shared Short Code. Too many risks and limited abilities. As SMS Texting evolves you will find the keyword approach will become nearly useless. Sending bulk and group messages and keyword responders are just the tip of the iceberg.
  5. Patrick Young says:

    March 30, 2011 at 3:24pm

    Short Codes and Call to Action? That's it? That's all you got? That's not marketing. Marketing encompasses the entire operations of a business. Every department.

    What are the demographics of major US industries? 83% are small (less than 500 employees). 50% of these small businesses have 1-4 employees. 70% less than 10. How many of these business can afford $3,000+ a month for their own short code, $10,000 a month for a billboard, and $8,000 added to the personnel budget for an IT guy to keep it running? If the 3,000,000 business with 1-4 employees were to get a short code how many would get an actual ROI? Zero?

    How about a $1000 SMS solution for an SMS modem, SMS software, and a mobile optimized website? $2.75 a day for the first year pays the $1000. Then ongoing SMS expenses are less than $0.50 a day. Conservatively if this mobile effort produced only 10 more customers with only $100 profit a day, at a cost of $0.50 the ROI is 20,000%.

    The SMS software is integrated in to business operations doing tasks such as order taking, order confirmation, dispatch, customer service, quality control surveys, reservations, remote access, scheduling, reminders, employee communications, to name just a few. This not only improves operations but the customer experience as well. Now the customer mobile database grows opening the door to other opportunities to opt-in customers to a mobile advertising/marketing effort.
  6. Derek Johnson says:

    March 30, 2011 at 3:22pm

    It seems like you're saying that running a campaign through a shared short code has a higher chance of disappoint with a mobile program. I think it's the other way around for the majority of businesses. Most campaigns there is no reason for their own short code, it only increases the cost and makes ROI more tough.
  7. Claude Toussaint says:

    March 30, 2011 at 9:05am

    Mobile marketing is the wave of the future. Very soon laptop computers and desktops will be obsolete. You need to get on board today with your SMS marketing campaign so that you have enough time to streamline the process. Everything is going to be controlled by your phone. Pretty soon so don't miss out on the largest marketing platform available
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