Oftentimes the simplest and most effective way for marketers to reach their audience is via SMS messaging. It’s a cost-effective, direct and engaging channel that hits the mark with consumers on the go and on devices they’re never without. But despite having the right idea and a well-rounded campaign on paper, you can hit some unexpected walls once you get to setting up and launching your campaign.
2-way SMS to engage consumers
SMS marketing can take many forms, but 2-way SMS makes it truly engaging and effective by adding the possibility to send consumers SMS messages, and receive an answer from them. 2-way SMS is widely used for customer engagement and retention, loyalty programmes, customer service and market research, with a demographic and geographic reach that only SMS can provide. Supported by all types of mobile phones and reaching 6 billion mobile users, SMS and its 2-way SMS sibling are mobile marketing tools with great traction with marketers and consumers alike.
And now more than ever, it’s becoming apparent that top-performing marketing campaigns need to be powered by perfectly functioning technologies.
Unlike simple broadcast SMS messaging, 2-way messaging requires companies and marketing agencies to procure a mobile number for sending and receiving messages. Technically speaking, the functioning of these numbers is not tied to a SIM card. They can either be a 4-6 digit short code, which is limited to country borders, or a virtual long number (VLN) that has the ability to receive SMS messages from mobile subscribers all over the world.
Resolving connectivity for SMS campaigns
In both cases it’s the mobile operators who assign numbers, and contracting numbers directly from them can be a long and technically complex process. However, there are a number of specialised providers who, by acting as a single point of connection to telecoms, make the technical setup much easier and ease the burden for brands and marketers. These firms partner with operators, negotiate number ranges and then connect to their networks. Technically speaking, it involves two necessary steps – connecting to the mobile network using operator APIs via one of the protocols (SMPP, HTTP, UCP, EMI or others), and setting up a secure VPN tunnel.
Both steps require time and technical expertise outside the scope of regular operations of most companies running SMS marketing campaigns. The VPN tunnel component especially takes time and effort to set up and configure, but it brings the necessary security level in accordance with today’s communication standards and requirements.
However, the most time-consuming factor is definitely negotiating with mobile operators individually. In many cases specialised providers will give marketing professionals the shortest path to number procurement and the shortest time from an idea to campaign rollout, thanks to their excellent relations with mobile operators and technical know-how.
Global reach – overcoming the challenge
Once the logistics of connectivity, security and other technical requirements are out of the way, you’re ready to bring your campaign idea to life. Before you do though, counselling on the intricacies of international SMS messaging will come in handy even to seasoned marketers. Time zones, languages, local regulatory requirements can sometimes be a challenge, one not easily overcome without a pack of very specific knowledge.
Mobile marketing increasingly knows no national boundaries. In many cases, the main obstacle to SMS marketing campaigns on a more global scale is the difficulties in procuring SMS and 2-way SMS capabilities in multiple countries. That’s where a global SMS provider will harness its local footprint to offer technical prerequisites for a wider campaign – from a single point of contact.
But, there’s much more to be gained from this kind of expertise.
In some countries, telecoms regulators issue licences for 2-way SMS short codes. In such cases, you want a provider with local presence and local knowledge to procure the numbers you need and save a lot of your time and resources. In another example, mobile marketing regulation and privacy protection measures vary from country to country, restricting the usage on certain days or for certain purposes, especially when it comes to 2-way SMS. These are by no means obstacles that couldn’t be easily scaled, and SMS solution providers with a global footprint are best positioned to help deal with these requirements.
Connectivity is the key, and consultancy also ranks high, but professional marketers need front end tools to manage SMS conversations, receive inbound SMS from consumers, track responses and handle all the data gathered from campaigns.
Tools such as these usually come complete with number procurement, setup and consultancy. These services bundled together allow marketers to focus a much larger portion of their efforts and resources on creating engaging campaigns.