Pop quiz: what’s the fastest growing marketing channel around? Hint: it’s not social media.
By 2020, there will be 48.7 million consumers who will have opted in to receiving SMS marketing messages from brands. Response rates from SMS are 209% higher than from voice calls, Facebook, or email campaigns.
SMS marketing is so effective precisely because consumers want to get your messages.
But one tactic that should not be missed is the SMS short code. It’s a marketing channel where every recipient has opted in. And unlike regular one-on-one text messaging, SMS short codes allow you to send up to 100 SMS or MMS messages per second, allowing you to effectively engage more of your users than ever before.
Put simply, the SMS short code is a 5-6 digit number that you can use to get customers to opt in to your SMS marketing campaigns.
In the example above, the SMS short code is 99000. And the opt-in keyword is “GOLDS.” SMS marketing software will then validate that code whenever it receives a message to ensure the consumer is given the proper offer or the matching opt-in confirmation.
When a consumer sends the right keyword to your short code, they opt in to receiving your SMS and MMS (multimedia) messages. Now you have their mobile number and their permission to be marketed to. Cue those promotional messages!
Wondering about the differences between SMS short code vs long code? Here are some highlights:
Below, is an example of Chipotle using their 6-digit SMS short code for a raincheck campaign.
Originally, short codes were developed by wireless carriers as a shortcut to regular 10-digit mobile phone numbers. The drawback was they could only be used within the originating carrier (i.e. a short code under AT&T could only be used by AT&T customers).
The mobile industry saw the need to reach outside the walled garden of each carrier and decided to implement what is now known as the Common Short Code (CSC), a shortcut number that could be used by any mobile phone customer, regardless of carrier.
Before you begin the journey to SMS marketing with short codes, you need to know that you have a choice between shared vs dedicated short codes.
Shared short codes are used by multiple brands at the same time -– sometimes there are hundreds, even thousands of brands using one number. Think of it like shared hosting for your website.
Below is a shopping mall using a shared short code their campaign. Note how the number is the same as for the Gold’s Gym promotion above.
What happens here is that the manager of the shared short code (e.g. 99000 in the above photos) assigns keywords to you and the rest of their clients. This way, if someone sends the keyword “SHOPPING,” the SMS software will know it’s for the shopping/retail client. Or if the keyword is “TICKETS,” that it is meant for the travel app client.
The manager of the shared short code ensures that no two brands have the same keyword since each keyword corresponds to a unique brand or campaign.
If you want to find who owns a short code, you can consult an SMS short code directory. Check the US Short Code Directory, which allows you to search for a code to see who owns it.
If it’s a dedicated short code, it will show you the brand is using it. If it’s a shared short code, it will show you the manager/SMS aggregator and give you their contact info. Seeing which brands are using a shared number however is not as straightforward since SMS aggregators do not list their clients.
Another SMS short code directory is Shortcodes.org, which allows you to look up a short code and even see if there are complaints about a number. You can also report a number if it is spamming you with messages you didn’t opt in for.
Dedicated short codes don’t have any of the problems above. With a dedicated short code, you are the only brand that uses and manages it. You can utilize any keywords you want since you have sole access to the number.
There really is just one drawback: it’s expensive. We’ll discuss the actual SMS short code cost in the last section below.
Now that you have an idea of what SMS short codes are, how do you actually use them for SMS marketing? There are many options. But here are four of the most effective tactics you can use.
One of the simplest ways to promote your mobile app is via keyword campaign in your physical stores. All it would take are posters and signs on your property.
For example: at your brick-and-mortar retail outlet, hang posters that invite customers to text a keyword to your SMS short code in order to download your app. Sweeten the deal by offering instant discount coupons when they install your app.
Here is an example of physical signage in Ace Hardware touting their “mobile only offers.”
Another tactic, and probably the most widely used one, is to spread the news about your short code via advertisements.
Use the number in website banner ads, bulk SMS messages, and advertisements on traditional media such as TV, radio, print, and billboards. The confirmation message they receive from you can contain a direct link to download your app.
Here is a campaign for a road trip app using an outdoor billboard.
One of the most effective ways to engage your users is to set up a short code for them to join your elite members club for exclusive offers and discounts.
For example: Michael’s encourages people to text APP1 to 273283 in order to download their new app and get the exclusive project builder.
Have your users text your SMS short code to receive updates and alerts about your app via mobile. For some people, this is their preferred communication method, and it gives you a chance to engage them outside of the app or away from their email inbox.
One important reminder: don’t even think about trying to game the system by buying phone lists or sending messages to random numbers!
Be a responsible SMS marketer and ensure every text or multimedia message you send goes to someone who opted in. Otherwise, your organization could be fined up to $500 per message that you send to a spammed consumer. SMS marketing is governed by strict rules and regulations that are enforced by local governing bodies. You don’t want to mess with them.
Now that you you have an idea how effective short codes are for SMS marketing, you may be wondering how to get a short SMS number.
SMS short codes vary by region and country. To get one in the US, you can apply directly to the US Short Code Administration. To get a short SMS number in Canada, you could approach the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA). Each region has its own body in charge of assigning and managing short codes.
The thing to note here is that no brand really “owns” a short code. Everyone is simply paying to lease a number on a monthly basis. In the US, the group that officially administers the registry of common short codes is iconectiv.
You begin the process by searching for a number on the Short Code Registry website.
When you go directly to the governing body and lease a short code from them, you will have to take care of the rest of the process, which involves:
If you’re researching how to get a short SMS number, an alternative is to go through groups known as SMS aggregators (also known as SMS providers, or SMS API providers). These groups will charge you the same prices for the short codes as the governing body, however they can help you through the rest of the process. For a fee of course.
Your cost will depend, first of all, on whether you use a shared or dedicated code. And if using a dedicated short code, whether it’s a vanity or non-vanity number.
Additionally. SMS aggregators (or SMS providers) will charge you a one-time set up fee. This fee varies for your chosen SMS short code service and can range from a $1,100 to $3,000 depending on country and provider.
An SMS aggregator or SMS short code service provider will charge you for hosting your short code on their system.
And just because you’re leasing a short code doesn’t mean you can send messages for free. You’ll have to pay a messaging fee for each SMS or MMS message you send out. This fee – which costs anywhere from $0.04 – 0.05 a message – goes either to your SMS aggregator or SMS short code service provider.
SMS marketing has been around for quite some time now, and is a proven marketing channel simply because text messages allow you to deliver time-sensitive info to your users.
CleverTap offers an extensive SMS marketing feature set that allows you to schedule campaigns, have them triggered by in-app user activity, or even add personalization to your messages. Sign up for a demo today.
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