Don’t Get Ghosted: Reach Customers Via Short Codes
Solution Architecture
January 4, 2023

Don’t Get Ghosted: Reach Customers Via Short Codes

Everything you've always wanted to know about short codes. Or just skip to the best practices!

Short Code Communication Best Practices

Being ghosted is uniquely painful. Yet it’s the norm for marketers, especially when sending email campaigns.

Enter the short code. A short code allows marketers to send SMS messages to many customers at once. You’ve likely seen one before; you might have gotten a text message from a “phone number” a few digits or letters long, alerting you that an order is on the way or an account is about to be billed.
The short code is a great addition to the marketer’s arsenal since consumers are 4.5X more likely to reply to text messages than emails. For important updates, this communication channel offers a higher likelihood of customers receiving your information. Keep reading to learn about the different types of short codes, their applications and best practices. It’s time to grab your customers’ attention!

Short Code Types

First, SMS codes can be short or long. As the name suggests, a short code contains only a handful of characters. A long code might have as many as ten digits. These codes show up as the text message sender.

Second, codes can be randomly generated or ‘vanity’ identifiers. Vanity codes often contain letters that identify a specific brand.

Lastly, codes can be toll-free. These can support a higher volume of messages than regular phone numbers.  Regardless of the type of code, collecting phone numbers from customers appropriately is crucial due to privacy concerns.

Customer Opt-in Types

There are a few different ways for customers to be added to a messaging list:

Opt-in by keyword. Customers may text a keyword to enter a company’s SMS program. For instance, Matt Damon might see a billboard advertising a new alerts program for his bank. Once he texts the keyword, he’ll start receiving bank account details by SMS every week.

Written form. Matt might also be inside the bank, talking to an account executive as opposed to seeing an ad on a billboard. The rep can write down Mr. Damon’s personal information and ask him whether he wants to receive text alerts.

Opt-in by web. Matt Damon might fill out a form on the bank website, sharing his phone number and agreeing to receive text messages. The bank in question must provide an explanation for how data is shared as well as an option to decline SMS. Carriers have guidelines (CTIA guidelines) for structuring an opt-in webpage; the company should follow these conscientiously.  

Double opt-in. Double opt-in is not strictly required, but considered a best practice under GDPR and CCPA. To illustrate how this works, let’s say Matt Damon signed up for text alerts from his bank, whether by keyword, written form or web form. Next, he receives an SMS that requires him to confirm this preference by replying “Y” for yes or “N” for no. Now the bank can rest assured that Matt expects and welcomes these messages.

How to Connect With Customers by SMS

We’ve discussed what SMS codes are and how customers can sign-up to receive messages.

Note that any communication from a brand to its customers can be either transactional or promotional. Transactional messages are things like order confirmations, alerts about billing and other data pertaining to purchases. On the other hand, promotional messages try to entice customers to buy more products or services. While this is an internal classification not distinguished in Salesforce Marketing Cloud, brands must still respect the permissions of each individual. Sending a promotional SMS to someone who signed up for account alerts is a betrayal of trust.

Keeping customer trust at the forefront, companies that wish to engage by SMS have various applications at their fingertips:

Personalized journeys. Personalized marketing journeys can be created with tools like Marketing Cloud. Such a journey might already include emails, phone calls and push notifications. SMS messages can be added to the mix to encourage customers to take the next step, whether it’s completing a satisfaction survey or purchasing the latest product.

Interactive messaging. Personalized ‘journeys’ or communication chains with customers can also record responses over SMS. Brands can send texts that elicit specific keyword answers, which comes in handy for surveys, gauging interest in new products or double opt-ins.

Conditional notifications. When a brand wants to reach a customer, they should strive to do so on that customer’s preferred channel. To find out what works for a given individual, marketers might send an email, then wait eight hours. If there’s no response, the brand follows up with a push notification on its app. If the team still gets no response a day later, they can send an SMS by short code before progressing to a phone call. Going forward, this customer will be notified according to which channel elicits the quickest response.

5 Ways to Set Yourself Up for Success

You’re impressed by all the applications for short codes and you’re ready to get one.

You’ll need to get the shortcode program approved and obtain a unique identifier for your organization. Your team must submit a carrier approval form. This document will then be reviewed by dozens of carriers across the US. Both marketing teams as well as legal teams will be involved in completing this form.

Your company must also meet legal requirements such as having a toll-free help line, a ‘Terms and Conditions’ document and a privacy policy. Although most customers don’t read these details, your legal teams and web developers have to ensure everything is in order.

It’s required that you work with a licensed partner such as Salesforce; a licensed partner can withdraw as many short codes as their client needs, as many times as desired. Note that obtaining an active shortcode takes at least 12-16 weeks and is further complicated by the fact that each major carrier has its own requirements, which are subject to change.

Based on our team’s experience with shortcodes, we’ve compiled a list of best practices. These recommendations will set you up for success before you submit the carrier approval form:

  1. Have a marketing vision

Take a step back and consider why you’re getting a short code. It’s not enough that others in your industry have embraced this strategy. The “right” reasons will be specific to your brand and aim to build stronger connections to your audience. As a marketer, you must have a clear vision for the kind of SMS messages you’ll send.

  1. Be honest with your customers

Trust is priceless; when it comes to your customers, be honest about the kinds of communications they’ll receive by SMS. This means using precise language on your sign-in forms. Customers should feel confident that their data is being used responsibly by your brand.

Just imagine a professional acquaintance shares their personal phone number with you; if you abuse that trust by interrupting their dinnertime or calling late at night, any chance of future business together will be ruined. Remember that communication via text message isn’t just about selling more today. Customers that trust your brand will be more likely to open future emails and answer phone calls. An honest company that uses messaging to educate and nurture leads will create more meaningful customer relationships over time.

  1. Complete your application thoroughly

This might seem like a no-brainer, but cutting corners can be tempting, especially on a not-exactly-fun-and-exciting application form. We recommend being extremely thorough and even including industry-specific situations where you might be sharing any customer data. Going above and beyond in this way will help speed your application processing.

  1. Get a vanity shortcode

If you can afford to spend a little extra, go ahead and get a vanity shortcode. Such a code is more recognizable to your customers and helps marketers with brand-building.

  1. Get approvals for both SMS & MMS

We recommend getting approved for MMS in addition to SMS. SMS is text-based, while MMS can also contain images and video. This way, if your marketing team decides to send MMS messages, you won’t have to redo the entire application process. Lastly, when applying for MMS, ensure you understand the size limitations for those types of messages.

Strengthen Your Customer Relationships

Getting a shortcode doesn’t happen overnight. That’s why your marketing team should have a clear plan both for securing this tool and maximizing its value.

While you must work with a licensed partner to navigate the complexities of this process, don’t make the choice lightly. A conscientious partner can anticipate carrier feedback and advise you on how to complete the approval forms. After the application is submitted, it’s too late to make changes. A rejected application puts your team back in square 1.

A seasoned implementation partner like Accelerize 360 can help you from beginning to end. Your marketing team will thank you for the opportunity to reach customers fast and make a stronger impression. After all, texts have an up to 30.5X higher click-through rate than email.

Book a meeting with us if you’re ready to get started!

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