SMS Marketing

Short Message Service (SMS) marketing is a fast growing and more recent addition to the range of direct permission marketing which can be used to build a stronger relationship with customers i.e. relationship marketing .

SMS Marketing allows you to use the mobile medium and wireless networks to communicate and interact with your target audience(s). In short this means that you can send SMS text messages containing your marketing messages to an opted-in list of mobile phone numbers.

The Market and the Infrastructure

In Europe there is 1 mobile phone contract for every 0.8 people, most UK adults have a mobile phone, and at least one third of UK adults own a smartphone. At least 96% of all of these mobile phones are capable of receiving SMS messages. Research figures from Ofcom show that 97% of the text messages are actually read within 5 seconds of them being received, and other figures shows that SMS messages are read within an average of 4 minutes of them being received, and an average of 1 in 3 people say that they respond in a positive way to (opted in) text messages promotional messages.

These figures coupled with the fact that we tend to take our mobile phones with us wherever we go means that using this medium can allow your marketing messages to at least be seen very almost immediately by a very large proportion of the target recipients.

The Advantages of SMS Marketing


  • People can be reached wherever they take their mobile phone, and whenever they next check their mobile phone (which is likely to happen frequently).
  • Messages are received almost immediately and require little effort form the recipient to view i.e. no logging in like email, no opening letters.
  • SMS (text messaging) has the widest reach of any mobile technology.
  • It works well for short messages and messages which are time dependent / sensitive.
  • When the message is received can be timed more precisely than other media e.g. letters or email.
  • You can also test and measure which days / times/ message types achieve the best results.
  • Responses can be tracked and measured e.g. figures for opening and response rates.
  • SMS messages can be personalised.
  • It can support brand building.
  • It can help to build relationships with customers (particularly existing ones).
  • Messages can be organised and sent very quickly and frequently if required.
  • There is a good ROI.
  • It is very cost effective e.g. large numbers of people can be reached at a low cost.
  • No ‘physical’ raw materials are required e.g. no paper, envelopes or stamps, so there are lower costs, now physical waste, and it’s environmentally friendly.


Some Disadvantages


  • It is only really suitable for short messages.
  • There may be a negative perception of marketing messages sent by SMS e.g. recipients may be wary of it and may see it as spam.


The Opportunities for and Uses of SMS Marketing?

SMS Marketing is best used short messages, but these messages could link in with and relate to all manner of other marketing activity.

SMS Marketing messages could be:


  • Alerts for appointments, meetings, calls, webinars etc.
  • Asking customers to vote for something e.g. favourite products / products options.
  • Customer competitions (linked to promotions) e.g. SMS to answer a question.
  • Alerts of all kinds e.g. start and end dates of promotions, new / latest offers.
  • Customer reward information e.g. SMS vouchers / voucher codes.
  • Reminders e.g. of bookings that have been made for them, upcoming events etc.
  • Messages which direct customers to the website, blog, social media pages e.g. for new products, offers etc.
  • Important short news bulletins and announcements.
  • Sending directions e.g. for an event.
  • Introductory offers.
  • Information for staff about internal events / news.


How Can You Begin Using SMS Marketing?

Firstly, a good list of mobile telephone numbers is needed. It is not advisable to buy in list due to the issues of recipient permission being needed and possible list quality / integrity issues. Using / building your own list is preferable and it is generally cheaper, easier and more productive to market to existing customers.

Some important things to remember about SMS Marketing include:


  • The network carriers set have guidelines and best practices for this type of marketing, as do the Interactive Advertising Bureau and the Mobile Marketing Association.
  • You need the permission of each person that you contact via SMS Marketing i.e. they need to have agreed / opted-in / asked to be contacted.


Secondly, you need to plan your campaign carefully, e.g.


  • Have clear goals and / or objectives.
  • Make sure that each message that you send has a clear part in the plan, and offers some real value to the recipient, is concise but contains your main messages.
  • Target and tailor each message to each target group / segment of recipients.
  • Give your messages a call to action, a reason to respond, or a reason to look out for the next message.


How To Make It Happen

You either use an SMS Marketing company / professional to do the work on your behalf, or many people now use online software solutions they can access from their own PC that allow them to manage and measure the whole process. These programs are similar to email auto-responders. Examples include Textburst, Firetext or Textmagic
& also Gap Marketing Services “Text For Customers” 🙂 

Prices for these packages is likely to be per text with the amount per text decreasing as the amount of text messages sent increases – typically 5p per message for small numbers of SMS messages sent dropping to 4p per message for large bulk amounts e.g. tens of thousands.

Other Important Details


  • An SMS Marketing message should contain the following things:
  • The name of the organisation / company sending the message.
  • An email address or a number for recipients to respond to (if that is the call to action). This could be a ‘shortcode’ number or a long (MSISDN) number. A shortcode number is a 5 or 6 digit that’s easy to remember ad type in. These are typically expensive and therefore companies have the option of sharing them. They also can’t be used internationally / they are assigned to specific country. The long (MSISDN) number is a normal length number that can be used internationally and is less expensive than a shortcode number. It is however more difficult to remember.
  • An option for recipients to unsubscribe – typically by typing STOP to the shortcode number.


Additional Information


  • Proximity Marketing allows message to be broadcast to mobile users who are in a specific geographic area – a kind of geo-targeted SMS Marketing. This system relies on GSM technology.
  • Location Based Services also allows targeted advertising messages to be sent to the mobiles of people in a specific geographic location. This uses GPS tracking.


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