Should you be Engaging in SMS Marketing?


Couple of "fancy" terms out of the way, first off: "SMS marketing" is just a way of promoting your brand digitally to your customers through text messages. It's very, very polarizing because on the one hand you get to reach your customers directly and don't have to wonder whether they got it. It won't go to their spam folder – even though sometimes it legitimately is spam – and since they're always carrying their phones around, they'll see it as soon as you want it to.

Sounds great, right? It's also even governed by the Bureau of Consumer Protection, meaning it's regulated by the government. There are rules to follow vis a vis the CAN-SPAM Act, and they're all clearly stated and easy to follow.

So what's the problem?

Well, on the other hand is Papa John's, was, well, allegedly spammed its customers in 2010 with 500,000 supposedly unwanted texts. "Hey, but everyone loves pizza," you might be thinking. Yeah, sure, but do you really want to be receiving "15 texts in a row, even in the middle of the night." Do you really want to be woken up and repeatedly pestered into ordering a pizza when you were off dreaming about a delicious new snack item called the pancake bomb?

Anyway, before moving on to your business, the other wrinkle here is that Papa John's was using a third-party text messaging service called OnTime4U. Both companies are being slapped with a $250 million class-action lawsuit. That's about $500 a text.

It's costly. That's one of the biggest arguments against SMS marketing.

"Most people have messaging plans on their cell phones that limit the number of messages they can send and receive," explained John Murdoch of Wind Gap Data, LLC. "Exceed your plan limit and the next message costs you 9, 15, 35 cents or more."
This is different from a sales call because you can decline that. You can't have texts fall into a digital moat. If someone wants you to get it, you'll be getting it. Fifteen times, if you're not careful.

Look, with any form of marketing, it can work or backfire. It all depends on the industry, the product and the execution of the campaign. Via email, Mark Simmons, a digital marketing expert and the co-founder of digital marketing agency Mixed Digital, had this to say:

Retailers have an inherent advantage with SMS marketing. Due to the geo-targeting capability of SMS marketing, potential customers can be messaged when in proximity to the advertiser's store, be it inside the mall or free-standing. Catching the attention of the consumer with a time-sensitive offer can be extremely effective since they are already in the shopping mindset.

Mindset is key here, because SMS marketing must be a situation where customers understand they are making the choice to opt into being targeted by it. And guess what, if you're making it clear they're opting in, the government says you should make it just as clear how to opt out of receiving future notices. From the CAN-SPAM Act: 

Creative use of type size, color, and location can improve clarity. Give a return email address or another easy Internet-based way to allow people to communicate their choice to you. You may create a menu to allow a recipient to opt out of certain types of messages, but you must include the option to stop all commercial messages from you. Make sure your spam filter doesn’t block these opt-out requests.

Yeah. It's a two-way street. Not a one-way 15-times-a-night street. Allegedly.

David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.

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