SMS campaigns: Everything you need to know
SMS campaigns have gained a front-row seat to almost every marketer’s customer communication strategy – and for good reason.
Here we highlight what an SMS campaign is, popular campaign ideas, best practices, and how you can set up your own.
What is an SMS campaign?
An SMS campaign is a series of text messages businesses send to customers to influence engagement or provide support – usually created to boost SMS marketing results. These messages can be automated and triggered by an action – for example, when an order confirmation is sent to a customer that opted-in to receive SMS order updates.
There are different types of SMS campaigns, including outbound and inbound (or one-way versus two-way) campaigns.
Outbound SMS campaigns
The first thing most people think of when someone mentions SMS marketing are outbound campaigns. We immediately think about various types of promotional content that can be sent to customers. A general rule of thumb is that outbound campaigns aren’t meant to generate responses but rather to influence action.
And it works. According to TechJury, 80% of coupon redemption in the US will happen on mobile phones.
But, because of the personal nature of SMS, outbound SMS campaigns are hard to get right and can easily be interpreted as spam by your customers. For example, outbound SMS in the sales process can lead to conversion gains of more than 100%. However, sending messages before establishing contact with a lead or prospect can adversely affect conversion rates.
Inbound SMS campaigns
Unlike outbound campaigns, the main goal of an inbound SMS campaign is to generate responses. With that in mind, to run an inbound campaign, you’ll need a number which your target audience can reply to. This can either be a virtual long number or a short code. Once you get a number for your inbound campaigns and gather customer opt-ins, setting up an inbound SMS campaign can be easy.
Support ticketing is a good example of an inbound SMS campaign. In fact, 60% of consumers want to reach support via messaging. Enabling your customers to reach your customer service agents via SMS can reduce calls to your call center, increase response rates, and decrease wait times.
6 SMS campaign ideas
When looking at both outbound and inbound SMS campaigns, there are countless ways to engage customers. Here are just a few SMS campaign ideas to consider depending on the nature of your business:
Welcome or onboarding messages
Set up an onboarding SMS campaign by sending welcome messages to new customers that opt in. Include a link to your website or app to encourage them to explore your products or services – and introduce them to your SMS contact number.
Coupons and special offers
Send customers time-limited offers, coupons, and discounts with a link to your website or app to browse your products or services and complete their purchase.
Card updates and reminders
Send an SMS reminder to persuade customers to revisit their cart and complete their purchase. Include offers on the items they left or provide a new discount such as free shipping on their order.
Shipping and delivery notifications
One of the easiest ways to engage customers via SMS is through order and delivery updates. Everyone wants to know when their order has been shipped and when it will arrive at their doorstep. You can include their order number, links to track their package, and real-time updates as the order makes its way to the customer.
Gather customer feedback through short surveys. Send a link to a mobile-friendly web survey – or engage customers with two-way SMS, enabling them to answer your survey questions directly in the chat.
Here’s how to set one up using the Infobip platform:
Eliminate long call center queues by enabling your agents to support customers through two-way SMS. You can redirect callers to SMS as an alternative support option to minimize their wait time – and enable agents to help more than one customer at a time through text messaging.
SMS campaign best practices
When creating any type of SMS campaign, start by assessing your business goals, as the campaign could have an impact on how people view your company and affect various aspects of your business communication.
For outbound SMS campaigns, it’s extremely important to gather opt-ins and update your contact lists on a regular basis to ensure maximum effect. But that’s just the start. Take concrete action by measuring, organizing, and improving your campaigns in real-time. The tools you’re using should provide fully customizable performance dashboards and overviews – and give actionable data needed to boost campaign effectiveness and offer content tailored to each customer.
For all your inbound campaigns, analyzing delivery and response rates is key. Having a provider that enables you to configure responses for inbound SMS campaigns on both the keyword and number levels means you’ll be instantly communicating when it matters most to your customer.
Below are a few more SMS campaign best practices to keep in mind if you want to yield results:
Track URL clicks
Send out shortened URLs and track who and when they clicked on them. Use this knowledge for more precise targeting in your subsequent marketing efforts, and make sure you only deliver what’s relevant and meaningful for your audience. You can also see the type of operating system the receiving phone is running on and use that to create a great user experience.
Collect opt-ins through different channels
Collect opt-ins from customers through your website or app. Set up the options at key touchpoints such as at checkout, when a customer is creating an account, in the preferences section of their profile settings, or as a pop-up during their second or third visit.
You can also promote your SMS marketing channel through QR codes on social networks to encourage customers to opt into your campaign to receive special deals and updates.
Segment and target audiences
Deep analytics, audience segmentation, and proper targeting give you the option to set up campaigns that provide the right information to the right customers at the right time. This will give your SMS campaigns a personalized approach that increases engagement and response rates.
Abide by rules and regulations
Rules and regulations can seem complex, variable (by region and by carrier), and need to be carefully navigated. In the simplest terms, carrier and industry rules ensure that people only receive the SMS communications they want from businesses.
As a brand, this starts with knowing whether your proposed program has an acceptable use case.
Many countries have Do Not Disturb (DND) lists that will block incoming commercial messages. Violating DND lists with commercial messages can get a sender into serious trouble.
Marketing traffic is highly regulated in many regions. In a number of countries, you can’t send campaigns that are political, for alcohol or tobacco, or violate a country’s moral code. In India and France, you can’t send marketing messages—even if people opted in—between certain hours of the evening until morning.
Around the world, there are different rules governing what is allowed in a marketing message and how it’s regulated. You need to be sure that all your subscribers give you explicit permission to send them promotional materials. If you do not have permission to send marketing materials, the fines for sending SMS spam can be substantial.
If you run afoul of the rules, your messages could be blocked, and you could be banned from sending messages or fined. Most rules are easy to navigate and work within, but a messaging provider is your best resource to help you plan campaigns and messages that stay well within the rules.
Use the right number
Each country has rules for what type of number can be used for two-way SMS campaigns. In some countries, you must use a short code; in others, a virtual long number (VLN) is okay. You need to know in which countries you need which type of number and if your provider can offer two-way SMS in that country.
A virtual long number has 11 or 12 digits and can receive messages from all MNO partners. VLNs are often used for people to opt out of a marketing campaign or any kind of campaign where the short code is not required (like transactional messages from banks). Virtual numbers have country and network codes, so they can be used to send or receive messages anywhere in the world (as long as MNOs have established roaming agreements).
Short codes are generally 4 to 6 digits long. Short code lengths differ from country to country, and they don’t have a country or network code. Because of this, they only work within the country they were created for. For example, a short code created in the U.S. can’t be used in Canada or Mexico (even though they share a common system of area codes and exchanges for long numbers).
The answer to short code or VLN isn’t always cut and dried. Sometimes VLNs are perfect for a two-way SMS campaign, especially if a short code isn’t available or is too expensive – but your provider needs to know when you can and can’t use VLNs.
Tap into analytics and reporting
Accessing data and analytics around your campaign can help you adjust for better results in the future. Proper analytics and reporting tools can give you the insight you need to increase ROI on your marketing efforts.
Without in-depth reports, you may not know your conversion rates are low, let alone what to do about it. Given the differences in delivery chains, technology, and cultures around the world, every campaign will likely require some tweaks until it’s just right.
You need data aggregated from both operators and marketing software to make decisions and optimize your campaigns.
How to run an SMS campaign
Knowing the ins and outs of SMS campaigns is a good first step – but how do you start setting one up and running it?
Ideally, you’d send your messages directly through a mobile network operator (MNO), who would deliver them directly to its customers. That’s the shortest possible route, but it’s not feasible.
B2C SMS messages aren’t typically sent directly from an operator to its customers. Intermediaries are used between the business and the carrier to send messages to customers. In fact, a whole classification system exists to explain the different routing possibilities.
A Tier 1 provider is a company that has a direct connection to an operator. If you want to send messages to customers served by that operator, using a Tier 1 connection is probably your best option. Tier 2 is where a company sends messages through a Tier 1 connection and then to the operator. Tier 3 services mean three companies are involved in the transmission, and Tier 4 means four are involved.
Each time you add another link in the chain, you increase the chances of a message not reaching your customers. Messages are delivered in large batches, with the possibility of a few being dropped each time they’re moved down the line. How many? It can vary widely from country to country and connection to connection. This is why it’s best to have the shortest delivery chain between you and your customer.
Longer delivery chains are also typically more expensive for companies to use. Each participant in the chain is paid for its services, so even though it’s a less efficient, less reliable method – it often costs more, too.
Having a Tier 1 provider can also drastically improve your deliverability and open rates.
Supporting A2P messages requires an investment in hardware and software to manage messages that originate from one number but are sent to hundreds of other numbers at once. When an operator doesn’t have the A2P technology needed to support your traffic, a messaging provider fills the gap benefiting both sides of the ecosystem.
For example, an operator may try to send an A2P message to a customer whose phone is turned off when the message is sent. The message, in that case, isn’t delivered. In systems that fully support A2P, the operator’s SMS service resends the message a few times before “giving up.”
Successful SMS campaigns
Get started with SMS campaigns
To ensure a successful SMS campaign, you need a partner who can help you navigate market regulations, provides insights on a global level, understands country-specific regulation requirements, and provides the right tools and platform to manage your campaign from setup and sending to reporting.
As a Tier 1 provider and leader in global omnichannel communications, our experts help brands around the world set up winning SMS campaigns that convert.