Build (Don’t Break) Valuable Customer Relationships

Build (Don’t Break) Valuable Customer Relationships


All the characteristics that make SMS such a compelling marketing channel – its personal, mobile, always on, instantly responded to – can also result in SMS marketing backfiring badly if you mismanage it.

While people might shrug their shoulders in resignation when it comes to email spam, SMS spam is very badly received. And it’s not just spam messages: a communication that may have been very welcome during the day will be seen in a very bad light if it arrives on a customer’s handset at 3am.

Instead of building a relationship with your potential and existing customers, you could do severe damage to your brand if you don’t pay attention to best practices around SMS communications. Here are some guidelines to ensure your SMS marketing is well received and builds a valuable relationship with your customers.

1. Understand the legislative guidelines

Going through the soon-to-be-passed legislation, entitled the Protection of Personal Information Act (POPI) is a great starting point to ensure you get off on a good footing. POPI says that you cannot send unsolicited electronic messages to people you haven’t dealt with before, and it also very clearly outlines what informed consent is and how you need to enable people to opt-out of your communications.

2. Build your own lists         

POPI aside, never buy lists from brokers, they are simply a false economy. It’s far better to build your own, opted-in list of existing customers and interested prospects and send your messages out to a receptive audience. Always giving them the opportunity to opt out, of course.

3. Tailor your messages

The previous tip means you can tailor the information you SMS to customers improving the response rate even more. Segment your customer lists according to interests – this makes your communications more targeted and saves you time and money as well.

4. Understand what your customers want 

Mix marketing messages with genuinely useful information that you know your customers want in order to make your SMS communication with them essential and anticipated. Look around your business and you are sure to be collecting information in the course of normal events that your customers would find useful. For example, a surf shop could provide real-time on-the-go local weather reports pertinent to surfers.

5. Make use of automation  

Small businesses can easily and cost-effectively automate their SMS communications using shortcodes, keywords and auto-responders thanks to third party SMS providers. Responses can be manually updated even on a daily basis, without needing to know any coding. And, in terms of opt-outs, these should be automated, ensuring that your customers are opted out as soon as they reply ‘stop’ or ‘unsubscribe’.

6. Stay compliant

Choose an SMS provider that complies with the Wireless Application Service Providers’ (WASPA) code of conduct. This ensures that you are always compliant with latest regulations, and a good provider will assist you in complying with advertising guidelines around publishing your shortcode. All you need to do is ask.

SMS is one of the most powerful, wide-reaching communication channels at your disposal. Even small and micro-businesses can afford highly automated and sophisticated SMS setups, allowing them to build a strong, valued relationship with customers and prospects.

Paying attention to these simple guidelines can make the difference between coming across as a pushy door-to-door salesman and a valued and welcomed business.

Entrepreneur Magazine is South Africa's top read business publication with the highest readership per month according to AMPS. The title has won seven major publishing excellence awards since it's launch in 2006. Entrepreneur Magazine is the "how-to" handbook for growing companies. Find us on Google+ here.