Many hold the incorrect assumption that SMS is strictly a one-to-one communications channel. In reality, it’s been transformed into a revolutionary communications tool that can engage customers and prospects in a whole new realm of interactivity and engagement. Many people underestimate the many ways in which SMS can be used to drive business and businesses are uncertain where to start, what campaigns to build, and the legal and consumer-oriented ramifications of using SMS are.
Choosing the correct code, short or long, and obtaining a code is the first step towards building your SMS marketing capability.
A short code is a five- or six-digit number that acts as the “address” to send and receive SMS. The most common purpose for a short code is reaching a large audience, quickly. Short codes are used as vehicles that carry out mass marketing functions and produce unmatched ROI.
Short codes are marketing-oriented and can reach a large audience quickly but can be costly to acquire and maintain. Although, if you are looking to use SMS for marketing purposes, the role they serve is irreplaceable
Short codes work with a series of keywords that act as the bridge between the code and the various campaigns that run off it. To access a contest or poll, for example, users would text “VOTE” to a short code, whereas texting “SUBSCRIBE” to the same short code would access a subscription-based campaign.
A long code is a 10-digit code that expands SMS capabilities to two- way communication, internally and to consumers. Long codes do not have the speed or capability to act as a mass marketing tool, instead, the main use cases for long codes tend to be transactional.
Pricing for long codes vary by provider and the type of number you would like to utilize, but generally tend to be less expensive than short codes. Long codes are available as local or toll-free numbers. Local numbers would be beneficial for a small business that is looking to establish its local presence but are limited in messaging speed and may be subject to additional fees for out of state customers if applicable. Toll-free numbers would be more effective for a larger business that may not have a physical location, want to use their current toll-free number, or are looking to be perceived as a global business.
Similar to short codes, long codes also work with keywords. An example of an active keyword assigned to a long code is demonstrated with appointment reminders. Some doctor offices will send appointment reminders as a way to reduce missed appointments. In this case, the recipient might be asked to reply with “Confirm” to confirm that they will make it to their scheduled appointment.
To help make your decision a little bit easier, here are the advantages and disadvantages of each code:
- 24/7 access
- Recall – Short codes are easier to remember
- Reach a large audience, quickly
- High costs
- Long provisioning process
- Strictly regulated
- Short set-up time
- Cheaper operating costs
- Loosely regulated
- International capabilities (toll-free)
- Difficult to remember 10-digit code
- Room for user error
- A limit of 250 SMS messages per day
- Long codes can be treated as “burner numbers”
There is an abundance of opportunities when it comes to using SMS to drive revenue or improve communications, but they all depend on what goals you’ve set for your business. Let’s take a look at some examples:
- Subscriptions. Offering unique content that’s only available via mobile devices is a great way to build revenue, especially if it becomes a value-based add-on that complements your existing products and services. Building a community around mobile content enlists a viral effect and grows subscription-based mobile revenue exponentially. (Short Code)
- Using link-based calls-to-action. Drive traffic to your traditional Online offers and promotions using calls-to-action strategically placed in SMS messages you send to your targeted mobile database. This is a great way to get your products and services noticed by an audience that may otherwise not have seen it. The immediacy and high open rate of SMS results in higher than average click-throughs to online properties, especially if the recipients are using smart phones that can allow them to visit the site with only a click. (Short Code)
- Limited time offers and promotions. Offering attractive limited time offers to your mobile subscribers is a great way to drive quick revenue. Promoting “today-only” or “special pricing for mobile customer” offers is a very effective way to build business by invoking a sense of urgency. (Short Code)
- Mobile coupons. One of the best uses of SMS to drive revenue is through the use of mobile coupons. Traditional coupons have always been, and will continue to be, very popular among consumers. Providing mobile coupons or “digital coupons” ensures customers always have them in their pockets, ready to redeem when the time is right. Like SMS-based limited-time offers, SMS coupons are a very effective way to drive revenue by creating a sense of urgency. Simply offer a mobile coupon that promotes a killer offer while having a short-run expiration date. (Short Code)
- Alerts. As events take place there is new information that might need to be communicated. When this is the case, the ability to reach a large number of people quickly is imperative. (Short Code)
- Employer communications. For larger organizations, communicating messages to your employees can be a difficult task at times. Some members of the organization might not check their emails as frequent as they should, others may simply forget. The fact of the matter is people usually have their phone with them, but you can have your phone and not see your emails. However, SMS messages clears this issue as people do not have to open an application to see a text message. Viewing a text message is a as simple as checking the time on your phone, which greatly increases the chance of an employee viewing the message. (Long Code)
- General B2C Communication. Communicating with consumers via SMS can be very efficient for transactional activities. Sending receipts, delivery updates, appointment reminders/confirmation, surveys, and the list goes on. A courier company could inform a customer on the status of their delivery. A bank could update their clients on their account balance. (Long Code)
- Sales. Generating and maintaining leads has evolved to include a more proactive approach. Sales teams can use SMS to communicate with potential leads. Some of the use cases include one on one communications, meeting requests, confirmations, and reminders (Long Code)
Obtaining A Code & Compliance
Obtaining a short code and a long code consist of the same methods. You can either utilize a third-party SMS provider or go straight to the source. All short codes in the U.S. are registered and maintained by the Common Short Code Administration (CSCA) which was created to standardize short codes to make sure they work across all carriers operating in the U.S. Short codes can be leased for three-, six- or twelve-month periods. In contrast, long codes are not submitted to carriers and are not required to undergo an approval process. Obtaining a short/long code through a third-party SMS or mobile marketing provider is encouraged because all the work is done for you, and it’s usually integrated into a platform that allows for instant use of the code(s).
Once you have decided on the code(s) that suit your needs and obtained the code(s), it’s time to start building your database of mobile contacts. No matter the type of campaign, opt-ins are required to maintain user-privacy best practices and regulation. This means before implementing any type of campaign, you must obtain explicit permission to send messages to users by way of collecting opt-in information.
To obtain explicit permission to send to new subscribers, compliance policies require an opt-in message to be sent. The opt-in message should include sponsor program name, support information, HELP instructions, and STOP instructions.
Long code compliance is slightly different from short code compliance with the first difference being in the opt-in process. Short codes require an opt-in message, while Long codes only require an opt-in message if the message content is automated. Since long codes can be used to manually send messages, these manual messages do not require an opt-in message. Despite the flexibility for the opt-in process, long codes are required to have automated responses regarding the following areas:
- Help response
- Stop response
- Unstop response
Maintaining compliance for your database is essential in order to avoid any issues with your code.
Once all compliance policies have been met, you can begin growing your mobile database. It is important that your customers, subscribers, and potential subscribers can easily identify any numbers associated with your business and know how to reach you.
The best way to advertise a short code is through digital and print advertising. Advertising any short code campaign through signage in a high traffic location is a great way to increase opt-ins. Be sure to clearly state the purpose of the short code, whether it be for sweepstakes entry or for a coupon. You do not want customers texting a sweepstakes entry for support. In compliance with best practices, a long code should be displayed on property and all communication channels, digital and print. Be sure to educate your subscribers on the uses for your long code, customer service 2-way communications and/or transactional.
There are a multitude of factors that go into driving revenue via SMS. As you can see, the key is careful planning combined with a high degree of creativity. Take a close look at your business, identify what revenue centers are most important to you, and design a campaign that addresses those areas. SMS can produce a level of ROI that’s largely unmatched by other marketing channels. The key is simply to shift your thinking with regards to how consumers are able to interact with your brand, then marketing to their specific needs. That’s relevant marketing, and that’s growing your business.