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Guide to Best Practices for SMS Marketing

You don't want to be that business do you? The one that doesn't follow SMS marketing best practices, merely because they didn't know there was even such a thing that existed? Well here's your chance to save face, because the good people at℠ has the following SMS marketing best practices information especially for your campaigns.


Best Practices: SMS Marketing for Alcohol


Are you a business that may be advertising alcohol in your SMS marketing campaigns?℠ discusses the five best practices for alcohol and SMS marketing as set out by the Mobile Marketing Association.


A lot of people enjoy alcohol and text messaging, but when you put them together there are certain rules that you have to follow, especially as a business when you’re doing a SMS campaign. There are actually five different rules that you have to follow to make sure you’re in compliance for your business.


  1. The first one: “Soft alcohol” is okay. So beer and wine, that’s completely fine.

  2. Number two: “Hard alcohol” – the shots, the mixed drinks, things like that – you can only send SMS campaigns to places or to SMS campaigns that are verified. What that means is like a nightclub or a lounge that checks ID at the door, where you’re advertising inside the promotion or inside the venue, which this means that let’s say I’m a patron and I come in. I can’t see any advertising outside, but when I walk inside and my age has been verified, then I can opt in to the text message campaign. Then you as a business owner can send promotions about hard alcohol to me via text message.

  3. Number three: No promotion of use. You can’t run a campaign to invite people to drink alcohol, i.e. “Hey, come in tonight to drink.” This would be considered a big time 'NO-NO" with MMA and the carriers.

  4. Number four: No mention of over-consumption. This one is pretty obvious, but it’s worth saying. If you’re a nightclub, you don’t want to say, “Come in tonight and let’s get hammered. Take shots.” That’s something you don’t want to say in a text message. Again, you can talk about hard alcohol. You can talk about the deals that you guys have. You can’t mention the promotion of use or the over-consumption.

  5. Number five: You can’t have alcohol prizes. You can’t say, “Come in tonight to win free beer or win free shots.” That’s against the rules too.


So those are the five different rules that you have to follow when you’re combining alcohol with a SMS marketing. If you do these though, you’re going to protect your business and make sure there aren’t any problems down the road.


Text Message Marketing Campaign Opt-In Policies


Both the Mobile Marketing Association and the CTIA require that within every opt-in message, there are certain requirements.℠ has the five different requirements and why they are important for any SMS marketing campaign. Have any questions about these requirements or any others created by the Mobile Marketing Association or CTIA? Let us know on our Contacts page and we can help you decipher these mobile marketing best practice guidelines.


What happens when a customer opts in to an SMS campaign, and what do they receive back to their mobile phone?


Actually, there are five things that are required by the mobile phone carriers, really to protect the customer, and each process is explained thoroughly. What’s great is if you’re using an SMS provider, like℠, you don’t need to worry about any of these, because we handle it all for you. The process is all automated. So let’s go through each process:


  1. The first one, when somebody texts in to join an SMS campaign, they’ll get a message back, and in that message it will say, number one, the service description. This means, what campaign did you opt in to, and what are they sending you? Is it news alerts? Is it discounts, promotions, alerts? Whatever it is, you’ve just got to give the customer some kind of idea what they’ve opted into.

  2. Number two, you have to put “message and data rates may apply.” The carriers, the Mobile Marketing Association, the CTIA, and regulatory bodies require this process.

  3. Number three, you want to display, in that message that the customer receives, the frequency of messages. This is key to protecting the customer, because they need to know how many messages they’re going to be receiving from your business. So, one per week, one per day, one per month, one per year. You just have to tell the customer how many messages you are going to be sending them.

  4. Number four, customer support info. This is pretty easy, actually. All you have to do is, in the message, say, reply or text help to the short code.

  5. Number five is opt-out info which is one of the most important items. You have to make sure the customer feels comfortable that at any time during the SMS campaign they can opt out of the SMS campaign. Any SMS provider has to allow stop, end, quit, and unsubscribe. Anything sent to the short code with those words will automatically opt them out. So you want to remind the customer by putting in the message, “Reply stop to opt out.”

So, if you’re following all five of these rules, you are following what is set up by the carriers, the Mobile Marketing Association, the CTIA, and you won’t have any problems.℠ has you covered.


Text Message Marketing Advertising Guidelines


When advertising any SMS marketing campaign, a business needs to be aware of industry best practices.℠ breaks down the five pieces of information required when advertising any SMS marketing campaign.℠ shows exactly how to advertise your SMS campaign. There are a few things, actually five things, that are required by both the CTIA, the MMA, and the carriers to be present in any advertising. So let’s go through those five things.


Here is a ficticious campaign that is doing a great job of advertising Text CUPCAKE, which cupcake is the SMS keyword, to the short code, 68398. Then, all the stuff below it is the stuff that is required by all of those organizations and the carriers. So let’s go through those one by one:


  1. The first one, which I think is one of the most important things, is message and data rates may apply. You have to tell people that, if they’re not on a text message plan or they’re not on a bulk unlimited text message plan, that they will be charged standard messaging rates. Now, again, that’s a small percentage of the United States that doesn’t have a text message plan, but you want to be very, very clear about what they’re opting in to and the responsibilities of opting in. Usually, what I say is put that below the short code down here.

  2. Then, let’s look at it, “to receive exclusive discounts monthly.” There are actually two things that are included in this phrase. The first one is “exclusive discounts.” All those organizations and the carriers, what they want to display is they want to say what they’re opting in to. Again, just text CUPCAKE to 68398, it doesn’t make any sense. Why the heck would I want to text CUPCAKE to 68398? You have to be very clear in your advertising about why they should actually do that, and this advertising does a pretty good job – to receive exclusive discounts.

  3. The third part is monthly, and what this is, is it tells the customer or the person that’s opting in to this campaign how frequently the messages will come. Again, this could be daily. This could be weekly. This could be monthly. This also builds a lot of trust with the customer. Hypothetically, let’s say it said, “Text CUPCAKE to 68398 to receive exclusive discounts.” As a customer, I might not be okay with opting in to that campaign because I don’t understand well, how many messages. I don’t want to receive messages every four hours about cupcakes. I only eat cupcakes, maybe every week, maybe every month. I don’t want to receive cupcake discounts every single day or every five hours. Again, this will actually increase the opt-ins if it’s appropriate to the discounts that you are offering.

  4. Then, at the very, very bottom here, there are two things you want to include. “Opt-out, text STOP.” Then the second one is, “Terms and conditions, text HELP.” Let’s go to the first one, “Opt-out, text STOP.” This is just making sure that people understand that when they join the campaign, at any time during the campaign they can always reply STOP to the short code, 68398 and automatically be removed from the campaign. They’ll never receive another message again. Again, this is going to increase opt-ins because people feel comfortable. They say, “Well, I’m going to test this out, run it for a couple weeks, but if I don’t like opting in to this campaign, I can get out at any time.”

  5. Finally, the last requirement is the “Terms and conditions, text HELP.” You can actually do two different variations here. You can actually put a link to the terms and conditions of the campaign, or you can just tell them to text HELP. Most of the time I recommend the terms and condition text help. It’s a little easier. It’s a little quicker. It makes sense because it’s on the mobile phone. A lot of people don’t have a laptop that they can pull up a website and the terms and conditions. Plus it’s shorter, and with an ad, with all the stuff that you have to include in there, it does make it a little space conscious.


This is what is required by both the MMA, the CTIA, and the carriers whenever you do an advertisement, whether it’s on the Web, whether it’s in print, Facebook. You want to include all this stuff, both because your phone rules, but also you want to build trust with your customers. You want to make sure they understand what they’re getting into and the things you’re offering with their SMS campaign.


Avoiding the Bait & Switch Technique


A common and costly mistake made in SMS marketing is using the bait-n-switch technique.℠ breaks down how the bait-n-switch technique works and why this isn't a good idea for any SMS marketing campaign.


One of the most frustrating things in the SMS marketing industry is a tactic called "SMS bait and switch." This is how it's used and why you don't want to use it for your own SMS campaign.


Here's an example. Let's say you're running an SMS contest and you tell people, "Hey, I'd love for you to enter my contest, text WIN to a short code, like 68398, and you'll be entered into my contest." Well, sounds like a great deal. So I get out my phone and I text WIN to the short code and automatically I receive back "Thanks for entering." Awesome. I entered the contest. Whoa, what is this? "You are now subscribed to weekly deals." That's what we call bait and switch. You just flipped it on them, pretty much, and said, "Look, enter a contest, now we're opting you in for future deals and promotions." Not good.


Here's what you want to do: you want to, again, advertise, "Hey people, join my contest, text WIN to a short code." And you want to send back a message, obviously, that says "Thanks for entering." But then, instead of just saying, "Hey, now I'm going to send you future messages," you want to let them have the option of opting in for future messages. Again, you don't want to bait and switch them. First, you want to have them reply "deals". "Deals" is the keyword that opts them in for future alerts. So now, once they text message "deals," now they know that they're being opt in to receive future text messages, unlike this one.


There's a way that you can get around it, but unfortunately too many look for ill advised shortcuts. Instead of just saying, "Hey, enter my contest, text WIN," you can say, "Enter my contest, text WIN, in addition you'll receive future text message alerts," something like that. That's another way to avoid the whole bait and switch thing. Hopefully this helps. It'll make your campaign more safe, and plus, it won't anger your customers.

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