Yes, I said it: BULK SMS is dead.
By now, as a consumer, you’re probably annoyed by those SMS that basically amount to spam regardless of who sends them to you (unless it’s your bank, of course). As a marketer, you need to start thinking of performance SMS which can be measured and puts your contacts in a sales funnel, allowing you to maximize your investment and increase conversions.
In the early days of digital marketing, the focus was on traffic and views because, in theory, 0.5–1% of the traffic would be converted into customers. However, in the current marketing landscape, this is hardly ever the case. A lot more effort goes into conversion than traffic and modern marketing teams or agencies are pressed with conversion KPIs like new monthly customers, return customers, churn rates and ultimately revenue generation.
SMS is especially effective for conversion in the African market as it has 33% higher open rates than emails, however, it needs to be optimized or engineered for conversion which makes bulk SMS impractical for modern marketing.
“ SMS has an open rate of 98% and a conversion rate of 45%,The numbers don’t lie. “Brands that are actively running programs on the SMS channel are highly aware of that open rate, and that’s driven by the ROI coming back from this channel,” says Greg Murphy, Salesforce Mobile Product Manager “
So let’s jump right in
CONSUMERS FIND IT INTRUSIVE: Much like spam emails, unsolicited SMS can also spam mobile subscribers. Tools like Truecaller have specific features dedicated to identifying spam. Marketers keep sending out content that is 98% about selling or promotion, sending to unqualified leads and most SMS don’t include an unsubscribe option and even if they do, they make users jump through hurdles to opt-out
“Do Not Disturb” (DND) ISSUES: Let’s not mention DND regulation by telco regulators; now your SMS bounces, if a subscriber has the DND option turned on and this reduces the delivery rate by as much as 40–60%
NO WAY TO MEASURE: Bulk SMS services cannot measure open rate, click-through-rate and conversion rate by contacts, Fredrick Chegwe in article 5 Dos and Donts in SMS Marketing talks more on why you should measure
NO OPTIMIZATION: Again here comes a marketing concept that is key: the A/B test. How do you know which communication is giving you the best result? With the current Bulk SMS platform, this is clearly difficult or entirely unavailable.
LIMITED CONVERSION: The goal of every campaign is (or should be) to get a buyer to the end of the purchase or decision journey. A campaign is at best for reach or information when it doesn’t follow the user through the journey, making bulk SMS void in terms of conversion
Author’s Note: Do you think bulk SMS is dead? What have you noticed to make you say so? Tell me your thoughts on this in a comment or send an email
Here’s the interesting part: SMS is still powerful when you add the power of performance. Of course, there are still steps to take before you even get to this point of execution. We made the right choices for our campaign by:
Picking an approach (and sticking to it)
Prioritizing acquisition over reach
Choosing conversion over acquisition
Choosing retention over conversion, and
Choosing referral over retention
HOW TO ACHIEVE PERFORMANCE SMS
- Think Less Promotion, More Useful: I like the article by Heike Young on Is SMS Marketing Right For Your Brand? 6 Things to Consider. Instead of simply sending promotional texts, Greg encourages users to think out of the box. “Do you want an SMS message when your table is ready at a restaurant? Do you want an SMS when your Uber has arrived? Do you want an SMS when your package has shipped? These one-time messages are very valuable for the brand and the user
2. Opt-out Option: Include an (effective) option for users that want to unsubscribe. When you put an option to unsubscribe if they no longer want to see a message regardless if it is unsolicited or not
3. Workaround DND: There are two workarounds for DND, go through the process with NCC or an SMS aggregator or after your first campaign remove the contact that failed to form your contact list
4. Track Everything: Know how your communication is doing, know who clicked or replied your message and know who got to the final destination in your user journey. As your contacts interact with your communication you are able to move the contacts to the end of the journey with a different communication
5. Optimize, Optimize, Optimize: A simple change in communication can increase your CTR and your conversion however one way to check if your initial communication worked is to perform A.B test and optimize
BEST TOOLS FOR PERFORMANCE SMS
Is a great tool to create short URLs that allow you to tell how many people clicked on your campaign however the downside is you cannot tell who clicked on your campaign
Lead Generation Page
You need a lead generation page tied to your campaign to achieve performance marketing, use a lead generation page to capture contacts who clicked on your communication. You can use a web development agency to build landing or lead generation pages. I would personally recommend Ringier, an agency that has experience with such development
For tracking purpose, make sure you use Utm Generator to attribute your SMS campaign to the traffic from SMS however you can not optimize or re-market the contacts as they interact with the message.
This comes highly recommended as it allows you to send and schedule your SMS. With Tracksend, marketing teams can send messages, create short URLs, track messages by contacts, re-market contacts, A/B Test and measure conversion. I like to say it is MailChimp for SMS, WhatsApp and telegram campaigns. You can send an email with the subject “Performance SMS” to firstname.lastname@example.org to get up to 50% of subscription for 3 months and free 100 SMS credits from Tracksend.