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SMS 201: 6 best practices for SMS implementation and success

SMS 201: 6 best practices for SMS implementation and success

SMS is quickly becoming one of the best channels to personalize communications and build lasting connections. With more than 97% of the US population owning a cell phone that’s viewed on average 52 times a day, sending messages via text to customers not only enhances engagement, it can boost conversions and significantly improve customer satisfaction. But, there’s a right way to do it to achieve maximum opt-ins and ensure you’re in compliance. Here, we outline 6 best practices for SMS implementation success.

Review your business

The first step to launching a successful SMS program is to prepare and review your business. What are your initial use cases for SMS? How will your customers be engaging? What is your plan? Begin collecting customer information to assist in launching your SMS program and prepare for using SMS as a new channel. Keep in mind any vertical or industry nuances that could impact how you use SMS.  

Prepare your contact data and keywords

Next, prepare your data, segmentation parameters, and your keywords. Consent messages need to be considered. What will your opt-in/opt-out message contain? If applicable, what will global help and stop messages contain? All of these messages need specific language, and in some cases, brand information. Next, decide how you will capture consent for SMS? Will that be via a web form or a text-to-join program? Will it be over the phone or by using a paper form? Whichever method you choose needs to be mocked up and presented to the aggregator for review (more on this in step 4 below).

The consent program needs to listen for the keywords that you’ll use as part of the text to join program. The telephone message needs to be programmed into the interactive voice response (IVR). If you're going to be using that method of consent, then both aggregator and carrier approval needs to be carried out. When the consent methods are published, the terms and conditions and privacy policy published online and the use case and brand information have been accepted, you wait for the activation of the code. Once the production traffic is permitted on your code, the next step is to test the outgoing traffic, the incoming traffic and any two-way use cases you intend to put in place.

Overview opt-in process

There are a number of different opt-in processes. Determine which ones are best for your business within your industry and your vertical. Any opt-in method you choose needs to contain specific compliance disclaimers, and the SMS program name and description needs to be listed. The fact that messaging data rates may apply, the message frequency of the program, the customer care information, the opt-out instructions, and the privacy policy and terms and conditions all need to be included on your web form or any other communications that you’re using to promote the text-to-join program or the script that a telephone operator is delivering to your customers. For example, a QR code may be used to link to a web form for signup. The web form would contain all of this specific compliance language for submitting the web form.

Carrier Approval Form

The Carrier Approval Form is a very important step in SMS program implementation. It isn’t for the faint of heart, and that’s the reason why you may want to work with a partner on this. Look for a partner that has experience doing this with many customers across different industries, that knows and understands the nuances within each industry, and can help you decide which code type (dedicated short or long code or alpha sender ID) to use. The partner should help you bring all the elements together within a single document and present that to the aggregator. The form should contain example messages for the traffic type. If you’re going to send promotional and transactional types of messages, examples of both need to be included on the form as well as your terms and conditions URL and privacy policy URL—where they’ll be hosted—and then all of the opt-in methods and mockups provided.

Where does SMS fit in your customer lifecycle?

Whether SMS is for customer acquisition, or top of the funnel branding, SMS is a great channel to be helpful to customers and timely in the moment. From a lifecycle perspective, it fits really well in an always-on strategy. SMS can be used at each point in a customer’s lifecycle, to make sure that you are maximizing that touch and getting the conversion and the metrics that you need.

Measure performance

For SMS programs, click-through rate is the most important metric to measure performance.  According to Gartner, the average SMS response rate is 45% compared to 6% for email. If that’s not compelling enough, businesses that adopt omnichannel strategies see 91% or higher year-over-year customer retention rates. And, companies that deliver consistent cross-channel marketing experiences realize a 14.6% year-over-year increase in annual revenue. One more for you: Brands using three or more channels in one campaign earned a 287%* higher purchase rate. Clearly, making SMS a key part of your marketing efforts has the potential to significantly increase customer engagement, conversions and enhance the overall customer experience.

Pro tip: If you’re using Bitly to shorten links in SMS messages, keep in mind that in certain parts of the world this can affect your delivery rate. Lean on your vendor of choice to supply some method of link shortening so if anyone clicks the link in an SMS, you can track and report on that behavior. It’s important to capture all of the clicks and even use those clicks to trigger follow-up messaging or reminders within your overall customer journey.

If you missed our SMS 101 webinar covering the benefits of an SMS strategy, view it here or read our blog: How to create an SMS strategy that drives conversions.

To view our SMS 201 webinar, visit here.

If you'd like help implementing a successful SMS program, please contact us.

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