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SMS (or Short Message Service) is the messaging protocol used for sending and receiving text messages on mobile phones. It is supported by all mobile phones, from the most basic to the smartest, and offered by pretty much all mobile networks and carriers worldwide.
Depending on whom you ask, only about 20 to 30 percent of marketing emails get opened. Compare that to the 99 percent open-rate reported by SMS text message marketers and you'll quickly see why so many companies are interested in SMS marketing.
But SMS marketing has its own challenges, both logistical and legal. While emails and email marketing tools are familiar to most modern marketers, the same is not true of SMS marketing. In this Buyer's Guide we answer some of the most pressing questions buyers of SMS marketing software have about the technology and about the tactic in general.
Read on to learn:
What Is SMS Marketing Software?
Sending a single text message is easy. Most people can do that with one hand while waiting in line for coffee.
But sending many well-timed texts to a select group of customers and potential customers and tracking and capitalizing on the results— well, that's a whole different ballgame. And it's far more difficult.
But it doesn't need to be, with the right SMS marketing software. SMS marketing software contains a collection of tools and applications designed to help your company get started with SMS marketing and, most importantly, do so in a controlled and scalable way. (While it can be highly effective, SMS marketing isn't without its challenges and potential downsides. More on those in the Key Considerations section below.)
SMS marketing software provides a platform that lets you design, deploy and manage your text messaging campaigns. The software is usually purchased as a cloud-based solution (also known as SaaS), meaning you can log in and use it from any computer. This also means you won't need to craft your marketing messages on your phone's tiny keyboard.
Common Features of SMS Marketing Software
|Mass text messaging||The core of SMS marketing software. It lets you send messages to large groups simultaneously. Most platforms help organize customers into smaller subgroups.|
|Scheduled messaging||Lets you send individual and group texts at predetermined times. Message timing is even more important with SMS marketing as it is with email marketing.|
|Message personalization||Helps automatically personalize text messages by replacing tags (e.g., #NAME) in your template email with the actual information for each individual recipient.|
|Shortcodes||The key words often used in promotions and advertisements, as in “Text shortcode to 12345 to enter." Shortcodes are used to organize incoming texts and help segment customers.|
|Automated responses||Provides basic automated reply functionality to confirm that messages texted from customers were received.|
|2-way messaging||2-way messaging identifies and collates individual message replies into separate conversations that can be tied to a database record, such as a customer's CRM entry.|
|Picture messaging (MMS)||Adds MMS functionality to the platform allowing customers and businesses to send and receive multimedia messages, like photos, videos and audio recordings.|
|Contest and polling tools||Provides basic tools and templates for running contests and opinion polls via text message. These are a great way to grow an audience and increase engagement.|
What Type of Buyer Are You?
The report "Two Types of Mobile Marketers: Which One Are You?" (content available to Gartner clients) makes a distinction between two types of mobile marketers. Appraising your business and its marketing strategy can help determine which SMS marketing applications will deliver the best results on investment.
- Mobile-extenders are companies whose primary means of communicating with customers is not via a mobile device. This includes most companies and especially those for whom “Mobile does not enable a unique form of connection to customers and prospects, but rather extends their existing connections to a different form factor."These companies typically find the basic functionality of SMS marketing apps sufficient.
- Mobile-centrics are companies that “take advantage of the distinct capabilities of mobile devices and networks to engage their customers and prospects in a unique and compelling way that is not possible using techniques derived from the desktop."These companies often have their own smartphone apps which they might choose to supplement with more advanced SMS marketing applications.
Market Trends to Understand
Apart from the strategic and logistical concerns of starting an SMS marketing initiative, there are also legal considerations. Depending on your location, there may be state and federal laws regarding whom your business can text and for what reasons.
In the US, the relevant laws are contained in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and also in the CAN-SPAM Act. While the latter originally applied only to emailed communications, some of its provisions have also been applied to SMS text messaging. You should seek legal counsel to determine if your proposed SMS marketing will comply with relevant laws. Any failure to comply can result in significant charges and penalties.
As general rules, customers should need to opt-in to receive SMS communications from your business. Similarly, there should be a simple and clear means to opt out of future communications. Many companies use special promotions and contests in order to grow their base of opted-in customers. It pays to get creative here and remember that consumers will be quick to opt-out if they receive excessive or unuseful, unhelpful messages.
Popular SMS Marketing Software Comparisons
Your Guide to Top SMS Marketing Software, January 2021
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