Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Mobile Marketing Checklist

Marketing campaigns via text messaging (a.k.a. "mobile marketing") presents new opportunities to engage with your customers. One benefit of certain types of mobile marketing is that it allows the customer to initiate the engagement by texting in a keyword to receive a coupon, more info, directions, or to opt-in to a subscription-based campaign. But know this: there is a lot of up-front work that you need to budget for both in terms of time and money. Here's a simple checklist to help you get all your ducks in a row.

Step One: Decide where in the world you want to focus your mobile marketing campaign
There is a logistical nuance to this point - mainly because it impacts your decision for Step Two.

Step Two: Procure a common short code ... or a long code
If the decision from Step One is the United States, then you'll be getting one type of common short code. If the decision is Canada, then you'll need to get another type of code. If the decision is Europe, and/or Asia-Pacific, then you'll need yet a different code. Each of the codes are managed by different registrars and each have their own pricing structure. You'll be leasing the use of a 5-digit or 6-digit code - kinda like leasing domain names in the web world. But unlike domain names, you'll only be leasing it for 3, 6, or 12 months at a time. The cost will be also be much higher - anywhere between $250 to $1000 per month.

For example, if you are going to run your mobile marketing campaign in the United States, then whether you get it yourself or the agency you've contracted gets it for you, it will still be Neustar that will be allocating the code to you. If your focus is Canada, then you'll need to go through the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA). If you want to focus on Europe or perhaps Asia-Pacific, then there are other 3rd parties that you'll need to work with.

If you are just starting off with mobile messaging, may I recommend that you start off with a single short code. There is still a lot of work to do, so keeping it simple in the beginning will help you from getting too overwhelmed.

When you request your short code, you'll now be required to provide an overview of your campaign. The registrars will be loading this information into a searchable database that carriers can access. The intent is to speed up the campaign approval process by requiring more information up front.

Some registrars (like Neustar) will let you request your short code before you submit the campaign summary. This lets you know what your short code is so that you can incorporate it into any print, broadcast or other media while in parallel you work out the details of the campaign.

Step Three: Watch your legalese
Make sure that you have worked out your privacy policy and your terms and conditions. You'll need to have this information ready to present to the carriers when they review your campaign brief. Your agency that you are working with will have its own privacy policy and T&C that could cover your marketing program. But you'll still need to make sure that you have one of your own - even if you are a sandwich shop that lets your customers text in their orders.

Step Four: Speaking of campaign briefs...
Yup. Once you've procured your short (or long) code, you'll now need to get it provisioned on the carriers' networks. You'll need to explain to the carriers what your campaign is all about. If you've ever been a teenager before, it will sound all too familiar. "Where are you going? Who are you going out with? Who else will be with you? How can I reach you? Are you going out dressed like that?!"

Here's typically the information that you'll need to provide to the carriers:
  1. Your contact info and your technical person's contact info
  2. The short code (or long code if in Europe or Asia-Pac) that you'll be using. You'll need to provide proof that you have the right to use the short code in the form of a purchase receipt.
  3. Will you be charging your message recipients anything to receive the message or to download anything? If so, how much?
  4. When do you intend to start your campaign and when do you intend to finish it
  5. The URL to your terms and conditions
  6. The URL to your web-hosted opt-in page (if you are allowing people to opt-in from the web)
  7. A summary of your program
  8. The name of your program
  9. Whether you'll be sending transactional (triggered alerts) or subscription (regularly-sent) messages
  10. Keywords that you'll be using to enable people to opt-in to your program.
  11. A step-by-step user experience for your program. The carriers will follow the steps that you detail to test your campaign prior to launch and while it is in process.

    WARNING: any discrepancy between what you say should happen and what actually happens could result in the carrier delaying or suspending your campaign on its network.

    Define how the customer will interact with your campaign for opt-ins, obtaining help, opt-outs, and examples of messaging from your campaign.
Whew! That's a heck of a lot of information, isn't it? Fortunately, you don't have to go to each carrier yourself. Your agency (or SMS aggregator, if you are directly working with one) will be submitting it to the carriers on your behalf.

Step Five: Refine, Revise
Don't be discouraged if your campaign is rejected. Sometimes carriers reject a campaign due to insufficient information. Make sure that you allocate time to rework your campaign brief after its been submitted.

Step Six: Lock and Load
Once the carriers have approved your campaign, let 'er rip. Have fun and enjoy the benefits of this emerging and engaging channel.

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