By Dr Pieter Streicher, managing director of BulkSMS.com
By now, most companies should have woken up to the fact that if they want to stay in business for any length of time, permission-based marketing is the order of the day. In other words, get permission from customers and potential customers before marketing to them. What companies might not yet realise, is that SMS can be key to gaining this permission.
In the past, the worst-case scenario was that an unwanted communication from a company would simply be ignored. Nowadays, however, consumers have the ability – thanks to social media – to name and shame unethical companies. Hardly a day goes by without someone in the South African social media-sphere complaining about spam. These complaints via Twitter, Facebook, blogs and other public platforms are hardly surprising, given the massive increase in noise individuals are experiencing thanks to the rise of cheap and ubiquitous digital communication channels.
Thus it is critical that businesses put an emphasis on permission-based marketing communications with their customers and prospects to avoid serious damage to their reputations, and possible litigation.
Ideally all companies should have a single location, probably online, where customers can state their communication preferences and update their details across all channels, in order to receive the valuable information you have offered to send them. This puts the control back into the hands of the customer, further enhancing the trusted relationship between them and the brand. Pragmatically, if companies don’t get their customers permission to contact them, someone will do so as an intermediary and brands will be forced to work through them to reach their customer base.
As well as gaining permission to contact a customer or prospect, companies should also provide insight on how and when customers prefer to be reached, and then build these preferences into their marketing campaigns across all channels and especially SMS. It is neither here nor there if an email arrives at 3 am, but if an SMS is delivered at 3 am the recipient is likely to be unimpressed. In addition, thanks to the Consumer Protection Act, people now have the ability to take legal action if companies don’t honour their preferences.
If an opt-in culture permeates a business, and companies truly offer value to their customers and are honest about the nature of the communications their customers are signing up for, a very valuable trusted relationship can be built between companies, their customers and their future customers.
As mentioned, SMS is a fine way to initiate this type of communication, but all too often the ball is dropped after the first engagement, making the customer database worthless. Once a company has started an SMS conversation with a customer – whether via an in-store promotion, on-package competition, TV ad or at an event – the engagement needs to be extended via a subscription to a VIP club, offer discounts and vouchers, provision of useful information or any number of other value-based offerings via a range of communication channels, including SMS.
Holding an ongoing conversation via SMS is expensive, however, for both the consumer and the company. So while all digital marketing campaigns can and should be tracked, the cost of SMS makes it imperative that this channel be tracked closely, preferably in real time and per keyword, to identify where maximum return is being generated and to refine campaigns in order to avoid needless expense.
Make sure your bulk SMS service provider offers this ability, and also has the capacity to cope with large volumes of SMS traffic, especially if you are using TV as a channel to drive SMS traffic. A third factor to bear in mind is complying with the various WASPA advertising rules pertaining to SMS messaging – which your service provider should be able to advise you on as well.
Today, the companies who succeed are the ones that have built the most solid, trusting and valued relationship with their customers and future customers, where the individual has control over the relationship. To get this right, brands need to be respectful, deliver value and follow through on their promises – then track what the outcomes are and respond to an ever-changing environment.