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How to secure consumer opt-ins for SMS campaigns

By Jeff Thode

In an increasingly mobile-centric consumer culture, marketing organizations continue to search for ways to engage the mobile consumer with targeted marketing offers.

SMS represents a promising but complex marketing platform. While major brands have embraced mobile marketing to strengthen customer participation and satisfaction, campaigns are executed at the mercy of the wireless carrier networks, especially their stringent consumer opt-in requirements.

There are several tactful, effective ways to approach marketing via SMS that meet carrier opt-in requirements and increase customer satisfaction. Securing and maintaining opt-ins is the first, most important step.

How to generate opt-ins
An SMS opt-in is a consumer?s permission to be contacted by the business via that channel.

The classic carrier view of this is an initial Mobile Originated message from the consumer to the business, and that is still the preferred form.

Such an SMS opt-in can be generated through the same promotional activity that delivers other calls to action, including:

? In-store signage
? Point-of-sale promotions
? Couponing
? Packaging overlays
? Print, outdoor or broadcast advertising
? Statement messaging, statement stuffers, house ads or door hangers
? Services discounts or incentives

Alternatively, companies can secure opt-ins for SMS without a consumer originated message, through:

? Post-call survey to secure consumer opt-ins to add SMS to the customers? communication preferences.
? Email to promote or cross-promote access via SMS
? Adding SMS to contact preferences on a Web portal
? Amending or revising service agreements to include an opt-in clause provided it is voluntary via check box or initialing
? Retail or non-retail incentives around couponing, seasonal promotions, events or holidays
? Statement stuffers, print messaging, contact center scripts and automated voice applications

How to meet opt-in requirements
As part of any opt-in process, carriers require a clear, auditable data trail before any campaign will be approved.

Any mobile subscribers contacted as part of that campaign should be identifiable within the opt-in list.

Sending commercial messages to subscribers who have not participated in the opt-in process is grounds for campaign termination by the carriers.

Likewise, a clear opt-out process must also be available.

Even in cases where customers take their number from one carrier to another (?portability?), all SMS opt-ins are considered voided and must be renewed before further commercial messages can be sent.

From the carriers? point of view, it is the commercial sender?s responsibility to maintain opt-in and opt-out records.

This information should be available upon request and failure to produce them is grounds for campaign termination by the carriers.

As requirements can vary over time on a per-carrier basis, businesses should be prepared for changes in compliance requirements even after a campaign has been deployed.

Though some vendors now offer ?pre-screened? opt-in lists, it is yet unclear if these meet carrier requirements due to lack of the required specificity.

Extending value of opt-in programs
Customer-managed contact preferences provide an advantage in customer satisfaction.

When all communications channels are serviced from a single source, organizations can offer customers dynamic preferences that are sensitive to time of day, day of week, weekends, holidays and emergencies.

The same tools that manage the opt-in process can readily manage a dynamic contact list spanning multiple media.

This provides a useful customer self-maintenance portal, ensuring that communications efforts are more targeted, more efficient and finely tuned to customer preference.

Mobile marketing and SMS, in particular, offer compelling opportunities to expand marketing reach to mobile workers, to younger generations of consumers and across time-shifted transactions.

A strong opt-in process and well-designed communications can enable marketers to fully leverage SMS campaigns that not only comply with opt-in regulations, but also drive new revenue opportunities and more loyal customers.

Jeff Thode is director of product management for interactive messaging at CSG Systems, Omaha, NE. Reach him at .