SMS Best Practices!

I was grabbing a quick meal before catching a flight and I saw an ad to join a text club for special offers! Since I eat here every once in awhile, I thought I would sign up. I scanned the QR code to join and got a screen that was very vague. I wasn’t even sure it had worked.

Finally, after waiting over one month, I got my first offer. The offer is 1/2 off regular priced appetizer with a purchase of 2 beverages from 7 p.m. to close and it was only valid for 5 days. Luckily, I saved the earlier photos, otherwise, I would have no idea who the offer was from.

After a class discussion and a review of the MMA Best Practices document, I have learned that after opting-in to a recurring program, a confirmation Mobile Terminating (MT) message must be sent to the subscriber containing, at minimum, the following information: a) Service description, b) Additional carrier costs (e.g. Msg&Data Rates May Apply), c) Frequency of messaging, d) Customer support information (HELP), and e) Opt-Out information (STOP). I only received the STOP in this message, plus the offer isn’t enticing enough to bring me back by 5/20.

Based on this experience and a recent class discussion, here are a few items that will help your next SMS campaign succeed.

The SMS campaign must;

  • Align with business goals
  • Offer a strong value-proposition
  • Have a clear call to action
  • Offer a quick pay-off
  • Contain mobile-appropriate content
  • Provide good UX
  • Provide users with instructions (i.e. How to opt out or help)
  • Include staff training (esp. customer service)

Upon reading a recent report (Data Analysis of Quick Service Restaurant Mobile Marketing Programs) published by Cellit, a leading provider of mobile marketing solutions for the QSR industry, I would like to share my learnings and hope that you can integrate them into your next SMS campaign.

In the report, Cellit asks, “Why is mobile marketing becoming a must-have tool for QSRs? Like any marketing technology, the main reason mobile marketing is gaining traction is the ability to generate consistant, measurable results. Mobile marketing is an ideal way for QSRs to build customer loyalty, generate instant demand during off-peak times, increase customer spend per visit and increase customer visit frequency.”

To help QSRs learn the best ways to succeed with mobile marketing, Cellit analyzed the data from about 9,000 mobile marketing campaigns it conducted on behalf of 125 QSR clients over the last year. The average mobile subscriber list size was 791 (with a max of 2,275 and a min of 37), representative of the small-to-medium sized nature of the accounts. Most clients studied are franchisees of national chains, or regional franchise groups.

Below are some findings and best practices.

In order to build a subscriber list,

  • Implement On-Premise/ On-Site – Menu call-outs, in-restaurant signage and box-toppers for delivery service/take- out are all cost-effective ways to build a mobile loyalty program subscriber list.
  • Engage Social Media and Email – Bold calls to action on Twitter, Facebook or in email newsletters complimented online signup forms to quickly and effectively drive traffic into the mobile club.
  • Leverage existing advertising campaigns, including television, print and/or radio spots.
  • Refer-A-Friend – Tapping into existing subscribers is a great way to build a subscriber list for QSRs.

When offering a coupon,

  • The Most Effective Offer is BOGO – Cellit sent out a text message survey to 796 individual subscribers of a national QSR campaign to determine what type of offer they preferred. Overwhelmingly, 68% indicated a preference for a Buy-One-Get-One (BOGO) offer as opposed to “free with purchase” (6%) and “% off” (22%).
  • Redemption Not An Issue – Due to mobile couponing’s infancy, widespread adoption of mobile standards by point of sale system suppliers has not yet caught on. To mitigate this, Cellit provided their clients with numerous redemption options that include web-based interfaces, widgets, smart phone applications – and in some cases, direct integration with leading foodservice point of sale systems.
  • Extremely High Mobile Coupon Redemption Rates – For the 2 QSR clients that did use Cellits redemption tools, Cellit found high redemption rates that were consistent with other industries.

Cadence: Timing & Frequency

  • Cellit found that the best days to send messages are weekdays.
  • Cellit also saw higher engagement for QSR customers when messages are timed to make sure they are targeting their customers during periods when they are most likely to be interested in the offer.
  • Cellit finds that QSRs typically follow the Rule of 1’s: no more than one message a week, and no less than one message a month.

5 comments on “SMS Best Practices!

  1. Jeff Barber (@MobileTechJeff)
    May 19, 2012 at 7:30 pm #

    Thanks Amy! This is a nice summary of our SMS discussion in class.

    I’ve noticed all the “brand name” campaigns that I’ve opted into during class have followed the MMA guidelines.

    I’ve also noticed that the few SMS spam messages I’ve received during class used long codes and did not follow the MMA guidelines. Happily though, the messages were sent once only, no repeat spamming as of yet 🙂

  2. Deric
    May 20, 2012 at 7:12 pm #

    I like this summary too.
    You’ve wonderfully and precisely outlined must-do’s for an effective mobile campaign.

    After going through MMA guidelines, every sms i recieve I’ve begun to poke holes in them.

  3. Karl Eckler
    May 22, 2012 at 10:49 am #

    Thank you so much for this, the cellit document is a great summary of how to succeed in SMS marketing.

    While the text club you mention seems to be like a disappointing number of the SMS campaigns I’ve tried. It seems so many have similarities to this, being direct marketing of crappy coupons that nobody would bother to clip from an ad circular.

    Any SMS marketers out there who haven’t read your post and the Cellit document… should.

  4. Kelly McIvor
    May 24, 2012 at 2:00 pm #

    This restaurant is using a hosted service and a shared short code provided by This means there are several – if not hundreds – of companies using the same short code. They must not be enforcing the MMA rules very strictly. This can put the short code at risk if a mobile operator decides to turn off messaging due to MMA rule violations. When that happens every company using the service will suffer. Something to keep in mind if your company is considering using a service that operates on a shared short code!

  5. Karl Eckler
    May 26, 2012 at 1:05 am #

    Eeek! Have they read the Yelp! study already?

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