SMS is here to stay: three golden rules of text message marketing

Last updated: 20 March 2014

New studies from the ITU (International Telecommunication Union) and mobiThinking have recently further underlined the longevity and enduring appeal of SMS messaging: both for consumers and also, therefore, marketers.

The ITU’s research showed that, at the end of 2011, there were 6 billion mobile subscriptions worldwide, equivalent to 87% of the world’s population. Mobithinking, meanwhile, confirmed that SMS is still very much at the top of the tree when it comes to interaction between billions of these devices. 8 trillion SMS messages were sent in 2011 and were also the most lucrative form of mobile messaging, which will continue to be the case for at least the next five years.

This is in contrast to some analyst predictions, which claimed that SMS would by now be on a downward slide, having lost ground to OTT (over-the-top) messaging services such as BlackBerry Messenger, WhatsApp and, more recently, Apple’s iMessage. In fact, smartphone owners continue to value SMS, citing ‘speed of delivery’, ‘reliability’ and the ability to send to groups of people as key reasons why they continue to use the service, according to a study conducted by Vanson Bourne.

This is great news for marketers, as SMS remains the most effective way of marketing to consumers via the most personal medium on the planet. But, as with any marketing activity, there are ground rules that should be followed to ensure your efforts are as successful as possible.

Here are our three golden rules of SMS marketing:

1.      Ask for permission.

Opt-in’ is the first and most important rule of any mobile engagement strategy. If consumers opt in to your service it shows that they trust you to deliver messages which are relevant and unintrusive, and ensures that those messages are far more likely to be read. Once you have buy-in from the consumer you can get to know them better, understanding their preferences and expectations, making the content you deliver even more relevant.

2.      Rules of engagement.

Your relationship with consumers should be a long-lasting one. As with any dialogue there are basic rules that must be observed, such as respect, trust, confidence and loyalty between a consumer and your product or brand.

–        Privacy: respect your customers’ right to remain anonymous

–        Relevance: respect your customers’ choices – what they like and dislike, what they expect from this relationship

–        Transparency: respect the trust they place in you. Tell them who is talking to them and what the relationship is about.

–        Reward: offer tangible rewards (promotions, discounts) to create trust, and this in turn will create intangible yet invaluable benefits for you (personal recognition, brand affinity)

3.      Manage the complete consumer lifecycle

This lifecycle runs from awareness, to conversion, to loyalty and retention. Your service needs to remain relevant at each stage, taking into account that expectations of consumers will continue to change.