How to Run a Successful SMS Campaign


Mobile phones have infiltrated every facet of our day-to-day lives. South Africans are using their mobile phones (both feature phones and smart phones) while watching TV, when at school or work, and even when they go to the bathroom. This guide offers insight into how to harness this powerful marketing tool.

Why is it Important to Use SMSes in Your Marketing Efforts?

Mobile phones have infiltrated every facet of our day-to-day lives. South Africans are using their mobile phones (both feature phones and smart phones) while watching TV, when at school or work, and even when they go to the bathroom. Our phones are far more integrated into our lives than our desktop or laptop computers.

According to the South African Mobile Report, February 2016, by Effective Measure, 32% of South Africans spend more than 3 hours a day on their devices, while 19% say they spend more than 5 hours on their devices.

Simply put, your customers almost certainly own a mobile device which they carry everywhere with them. Nearly 100% of those mobile phones are SMS enabled, are you tapping into this huge potential by using SMS in your marketing campaigns?

Set Your SMS Campaign Goals

As with any marketing campaign, the best way to run a successful SMS campaign is to make sure you have clear goals from the outset. If you know what you want to achieve, and how you want to achieve it, you will be able to measure your progress along the way.

Set SMART goals. These are Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time specific). Doing so will ensure that you run an effective campaign which meets your objectives.

Permission (Opt-in)

SMS marketing is governed by the Consumer Protection Act, 68 of 2008(PDF).

SMS and Email work exactly the same when it comes to permission. You can only send marketing messages to contacts who have specifically given you permission to do so. You can collect mobile numbers legally in two ways:

  1. By asking people to SMS a keyword to a specific number.
  2. By collecting mobile numbers via an online form.

In both of these cases, it must be clear that you are collecting the mobile numbers for marketing purposes, and that by providing their mobile number, contacts give you permission to send them future mobile marketing material.

Not only must you make sure that you only send SMSes to people who have given you permission to do so, you must also provide a clear and simple way for your contacts to opt out of future communications.

Section 11 of the CPA provides that individuals may refuse to accept, request the discontinuation of (opt-out), or pre-emptively block direct marketing communications, and that any opt-out or pre-emptive block must be respected by marketers, have their receipt confirmed in writing and that the exercise of these rights must be performed free of charge.

A common opt-out option is the ‘STOP’ short code which customers can use to stop further marketing SMSes. Everlytic provides a simple option in the SMS builder which will automatically insert an opt-out message into the SMS you want to send. Our system also monitors all replies, looking for any ‘STOP’ requests. Contacts who opt-out are immediately switched to ‘Off’ status so that our system no longer sends them any SMSes.

Immediacy of SMS Reads

Not only are your contacts always connected to their mobile phones, they also read messages almost as soon as they receive them.

Over 90% of SMS messages are read within 3 minutes.

It is important that you understand this immediacy and adjust your marketing campaigns to account for this. If you’re sending messages too early, e.g. sending a sale alert on a Wednesday when the sale only starts on Saturday, your contacts will forget about what you’re offering them before they can get it.

Clear CTA on External Marketing Creative

External SMS campaigns are driven by two factors:

  1. The keyword
  2. The short code


In the picture above, the keyword is 'ONEDAY' and the short code is 22322.

It is clear and easy for the contact to understand exactly what to do, and what they will receive if they do it. If your CTA is unclear, prospective customers might not know what to do at all, or might send the keyword spelled incorrectly.


When responding to the above image, a lot of prospective customers might include the quotation marks,  which wouldn’t trigger the campaign.


It’s always a good idea to offer something in exchange for your contact’s details and loyalty. Two great incentives are the ‘spend and get’ and ‘buy one get one free’ offers. These offers encourage new customers to do business with you, and make existing customers happy to deal with you.

With ‘spend and get’ campaigns, you have an excellent opportunity to increase the average value of your customer’s orders. For example, if customers normally spend R100 on an order with you. You can send an SMS offering R20 off on orders over R150. Customers will be inclined to spend R50 more than they usually do, knowing they will get R20 off.

You can also offer non-monetary incentives which improve your relationships with your customers. Examples of non-commercial SMS campaigns are:

  • Personalization – “We’ll notify you when your favourite item comes in.”
  • Reminders – “Your order will be delivered today.”
  • Engagement – “Tell us how we can help you.”
  • Access – “Here is early access to this special thing just because you’re a loyal SMS subscriber.”
  • Privileges – “Here is this special thing we only share with our SMS VIPs.”

Segment Your Audience

Perhaps one of the most important things you can do before sending SMS marketing campaigns is to segment your audience. A properly segmented database means that you can send interest-specific SMSes to People who really want to receive them. In stead of having your contacts complain about receiving "pointless" or "boring" SMSes, you'll be sending them information about offers they want to know about.

You can create segments based on any interest or preference you can think of. Create a suitable custom field and include it in the subscription form for your contact list.  Now, when you are composing your messages, you can filter the list of recipients according to the correct filter, and you will have a segmented SMS.

Send Consistently (1x Per Week)

It is very important that you send SMS campaigns consistently. Whether you decide to send once a week or once a month, you need to stick to your time table once you’ve set it. Contacts become accustomed to your sending frequency, they expect your messages, and if you stop sending for a prolonged time, they will forget about you, and may be irritated if you start up again.

Time Your SMSes Carefully

Another thing to consider is the time of day that you send your SMSes. Don’t send them too early in the morning, or after 7pm at night.

While marketing emails perform better during office hours, SMSes tend to have a better response on Saturday mornings (just not too early). Experiment a little with the day and time that you send your SMSes, and see what your audience responds to best.

Short & Sweet

The best thing you can do for your SMS campaign is to make your messages as short and to-the-point as possible. While many phones support longer messages, and our system can send SMSes up to 459 characters long, you don’t know exactly which type of mobile phone your contacts are using. Keep your messages short. Get your message across in as few words as possible, and always make sure your SMSes are valuable to your contacts.

A great example of a short, meaningful SMS would be:

“25% off your next order! Expires Sunday. Use coupon code “FREE20” on purchase.”

Measure Subscriber Response

Of course, all of this effort is worthless if you don’t know how effective it actually is. Everlytic offers a comprehensive suite of SMS reports which will help you determine the performance of your campaign.

Remember to compare the performance against the goals you set in the beginning of the campaign planning process.

Once your campaign is complete and you’ve analysed the subscriber response, why not tweak the goals and methods and try again?

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