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SMS marketing: a buyer’s guide

A mobile phoneSMS marketing can be incredibly effective. But there’s more to it than just sending texts — from handling responses to personalising messages. So how do you choose the right SMS provider? Dan Parker offers some valuable advice

Businesses are increasingly turning to SMS as a simple and cost-effective marketing tool to boost their awareness, customer service and importantly, revenues. Whether it’s an e-commerce business updating customers on the status of their order, a hotel confirming reservations or even a veterinary clinic reminding customers of their pooch’s annual vaccine, the technology is quite simple and familiar too — after all we’ve been using text messages for years.

So choosing a company to assist with this should be easy too. Right? Well, there are a few points to consider when searching for a reliable provider.

Sending SMS messages via reliable networks

The routing of your SMS messages can have a serious impact on your campaign. Sending messages via overseas connections can be unreliable with numerous delays, if received at all (trust us, we tried once. It sucks!). Sending via UK Tier-1 networks means your messages will be sent in the same way as your usual mobile SMS.

Paying for your SMS campaign

Some providers sell blocks of credits rather than blocks of SMS messages. You’ll need to check this, as often messages to the UK can be more than one credit — therefore the price per message will be more than first thought. The majority of SMS providers will require payment in advance for blocks of messages. Make sure you know the real cost!

Receiving SMS message replies

Marketing campaigns are all about getting responses, that’s the first rule of the marketing club. As such, it astounds us how few providers offer any kind of response handling mechanism. You’ll probably want to receive replies at some stage — whether this is a call-to-action or to handle un-subscribes (for instance, to opt-out, reply 'stop'). Look for the additional costs for receiving replies or setting up a number to do so. Some companies bundle this altogether to make it really easy — other companies will offer you the ability to piece it together yourself. There are plenty of options to suit your requirements.

Delivery reporting

Very few companies now have additional charges to receive delivery receipts. However, it’s worth checking — you’ll want to know which numbers are no longer in use and those that are.

Try the messaging service out first!

This is all about personal preference. You should have the ability to try out the software beforehand with a handful of messages. You may like to integrate SMS into your website; be able to send the occasional SMS from within your email; schedule messages or even personalise each and every one. Whatever the requirements, it is worth making sure the software behind the system is easy to use and makes your message sending a success.

Trust your instinct

Does the company have a reputable customer base? Do these customers seem happy with the service? These are things we all think about when making any purchase, and it’s no different here. Whether you are a seasoned hand or a SMS newbie, you may require some additional support with message ideas now and then. It’s definitely worth testing this out right at the beginning — simply ask the question.

Dan Parker is an expert contributor to Marketing Donut and the managing director of SMS Marketing specialists FireText Communications.

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