The financial services sector has endured a torrid time in the past 18 months. For most companies, it’s been a tough job just trying to survive and the way is littered with casualties. There are however reasons for optimism and even talk of improving trading conditions in recent weeks.
The entire consumer finance industry is very well suited to using SMS as a way of communicating with its customer and prospect base. Companies tend to be very rich is customer data and may hold dozens of pieces of information on individual customers. The potential of the mobile phone as a channel for communication is however often overlooked.
Can I use my customers’ mobile numbers for SMS campaigns?
There’s an enormous amount of confusion in this area. People are worried that they might be breaking data protection or privacy legislation if they use their customers’ mobile numbers for sending SMS campaigns. The rules on this, however, are simple and make a lot of common sense. If your customer or prospect has provided you with their mobile number during the course of your discussions and has opted in to your messages, then you are allowed to send them a text message or SMS alert. You do however need to make sure of the following…
1. Quote your company name in the message, so people know who the SMS is from!
2. Quote your business or contact telephone number
3. Include a text opt out in your text (e.g to stop further messages, reply STOP to this text) – there is more information on Text Marketer’s opt out system later in this guide.
4. You are only allowed to send SMS messages on the same broad subject as your original communications. In other words, if someone rang for a loan quote, you can’t then send them a promotional text about a used car for sale!
More information is available on the Information Commissioner’s Office website.
It’s not just about selling
It’s easy to think about the potential for SMS marketing just in terms of selling or cross selling products. The mobile phone is in fact just another communication channel that you can use to communicate with your customers and prospects on a range of subjects and is not just restricted to sales offers.
The most effective mobile strategies combine service messages, which have real value to the customer, with correctly targeted promotional campaigns.
How can SMS be used in my business?
There are of course dozens of ways that you could use SMS in your business, here are just a few examples …
1. Premium reminder notification
2. Alerts to new or changed terms and conditions
3. Statement reminders
4. Loan application approved/declined notification
5. Documentation request
6. Courtesy / thank you message. E.g Thank you for choosing xyz for your home insurance, if you have any queries, please don’t hesitate to call us on 01234 567890.
7. Lapsed prospect follow up
8. Urgent policy expiry notice
9. Cross-selling other financial products
10. Premium renewal now due alert
Increase open rates to e-mail campaigns with SMS
SMS is particularly effective at increasing the open rates of e-mail campaigns. Open rates have been dropping steadily for years now as we’re all buried under mountains of the stuff. In stark contrast, the open rate for SMS is over 98%. SMS can be used as a very effective tool to alert customers about an e-mail that will shortly be landing in their in box.
E.g – News! Look out for an e-mail this afternoon containing important information about your loan with us. ABC ltd, 012345 56789
One customer saw their e-mail open rate rise from around 4.5% to 21.3% by using text as a pointer’ to the e-mail.
Targeting your message to the right audience
The more relevant that you make your offer to the customer, the better the response you can expect. By segmenting your customer database into different types of customer, you can send tailored SMS messages to the different categories.
Within your Text Marketer account, uploading groups is quick and simple and you can upload as many different databases as you wish.
What type of SMS messages work best for the financial services sector?
Clients often ask whether we have any example SMS messages that they can use as templates for their SMS campaigns.
Each company will want to tailor their text campaign for their own customer base. There are a few golden rules that can help you get the best possible response from your SMS campaign.
Don’t Be Tempted to Use Text Speak
Some of your target audience won’t mind ‘text speak’ but you can be sure that some of them will be incensed by it! Text speak can be confusing and projects an unprofessional image.
Don’t Cram In Too Many Points?
A standard text message is only 160 characters, so don’t be tempted to crowbar in multiple offers. Keep it simple, concise and clear.
Tell Your Audience Who You Are
This may be obvious but don’t assume your customers will immediately know who the text is from. Within your Text Marketer account, you can change the sender ID so that the customer knows who the message is from before the text is even opened.
Have A Strong ‘Call To Action’
Ensure you make it clear what you want the customer to do. Don’t just quote your phone number but ask the customer to dial it. E.g Call us now on 080012345678
Use An ‘Attention Grabber’
Start your text with an attention grabber that will arouse curiosity and induce the customer to read on. This is normally a single or couple of words, often in capitals. The word ‘news’ is particularly effective.
Can my customers reply to the texts that I send them?
Yes. Your account has a 2-way element that allows you to receive reply messages from your text campaigns.
To receive responses you require a unique keyword that is applied to your account. The customers then replies with the keyword as the first word of their reply text.
Replies are stored in your Text Marketer account and can be viewed live. You can also choose to have the responses e-mailed to you or sent to a web address if you wish.
Text Marketer will provide you with a text response number that you need to set as the sender name so that people can reply.
160 characters isn’t very much to get our message across. Can we send a longer text?
Yes. You can send a text of up to 614 characters or 4 standard text messages. If your message contains over 160 characters it will use more than 1 text credit. Longer messages arrive on the mobile phone as 1 message.
Is there a best time of day to send out my SMS campaign?
To answer this question you need to think like a customer. For most working people the only opportunity during the day to sort out personal finance issues is during the lunch break. Aim to have your SMS campaign arriving between 12pm and 2pm. If possible, avoid Mondays as this has been proven to be the least responsive day of the week.
How can I tell if my messages have been received?
For each SMS campaign that you dispatch, a delivery report is automatically created. This lists all the mobile numbers that you sent to and provides an outcome against each one. (Delivered, undelivered or pending.) Messages that are ‘undelivered’ indicate that the number you have attempted to send to is incorrect or is no longer active.
You can remove the undelivered’ numbers from your database so that you don’t send a text to inactive numbers again; this is a great way of cleaning your data and saving money on future campaigns.
How can my customers opt out from receiving further SMS promotions?
Allowing people to opt out from your bulk SMS campaigns is crucial. There is nothing that will irritate your customers more than making it difficult for them to unsubscribe from your SMS alerts.
Text Marketer have built an opt-out service into the standard SMS marketing account which comes free for every customer. There is no set-up or monthly fee for either the account or for the opt-out system.
The system works using a keyword that the customer texts into a 5 digit short code. An outbound text with an opt out might end with the following…‘to stop texts, reply STOP’
When the customer sends their reply, their mobile number is then stored in a database in the customer account. Every time an SMS campaign is sent, the system checks the opt-out list and deletes any numbers that appear in the opt-out database. So, if someone has opted out from receiving texts, your account will not permit any further messages to be sent to that number.
Can I put a text response option on my marketing and advertising campaigns?
Yes. If you give people the option, around half of them will choose to respond to your advertising and marketing by SMS.
“Nearly 50% of the total response was by SMS, which was far higher than we expected. Overall response was higher too. Thanks.” Marketing Manager, Mortgage Advice Services
Boost your green credentials
Using text as part of your communication strategy can project a strong environmental message. The financial services industry pushes billions of pieces of mail through the Royal Mail every year. Some of this paper mountain is unavoidable but the industry could be one of the worst culprits for wastage and environmental damage.
The figures are really quite sobering and by using SMS where possible to replace mailed items the saving could be very significant.
SMS Marketing for Growth
Embracing mobile marketing as part of your strategy for growth makes perfect sense. Bulk SMS costs are the lowest in the industry and you can test your SMS generates a response before rolling out a larger campaign. Most financial services customers find that SMS marketing is so effective that they continue to use it as a vital route to generate new business.
Setting up an account is free and your account comes with 10 free text credits.
We’re always on hand to answer any queries you may have or come up with ideas on how you might use SMS marketing as part of your strategy for increasing bookings. Please call us on 0117 9249207, we’d love to hear from you.