Thinking tactically and strategically about SMS marketing is an essential task for companies looking to effectively reach their customers.
About 78% of the world’s population subscribes to mobile services, and the average person reads an SMS text message within 90 seconds of receiving it.
Depending on your particular use case, you can use SMS to send messages for secure authorization and identity verification, schedule appointments or send reminders, send critical alerts and incident reports, enable field employee communication, and supply fraud notifications and balance inquiries, just to name a few ways.
Where SMS can really shine for marketers is using it for both proactive and reactive communications. A proactive approach supplies brand awareness to customers through promotions and other updates. Reactive messaging allows for time-sensitive and event-related communications when speed is needed.
If you are just starting out with pursuing an SMS marketing channel, one of the important things you need to know is what tools are available.
A big part of this planning is deciding between using a long code to send messages or a short code. Both refer to the number that your message originates from, much like a "From" field in an email.
Why are they referred to as long versus short? Long codes are nine-digit telephone numbers with local area codes, while short codes are 5-7 digits.
The differences between a long code and a short code have to do with two important marketing campaign goals: How likely it is that your message will be delivered, and if you will be able to track if it was received. While there are various other differences, for marketers, these are the important ones.
- Tracking and Reporting Messages: Long numbers don’t usually have tracking to determine if a message failed to be delivered. Short codes can supply you with this information, including open rates.
- Message Volume: Long numbers are typically used for low volume senders, as their capacity is typically around 1 message per second. If you are a bulk sender with more than 1,000 subscribers, a short code can handle that volume – capable of sending 100 messages per second or more.
- Blocked Messages: Because long numbers are not regulated by cell phone service providers the way short codes are, it is more likely your message will be blocked if it is sent from a short code. If that message is blocked, you would not necessarily know about the failure, due to the lack of reporting on deliverability from long codes.
For more tips on SMS marketing success, download this white paper: SMS the King of Mobile Messaging.
Officer Smith has to meet a quota by writing 100 traffic tickets each month. Lucky for Smith, the drivers in town are always in a hurry. Smith exceeds the quota and is congratulated by the entire law enforcement team. Later, in the collections department, it is realized that 40 of the traffic violators gave Smith invalid information and cannot be found in the DOT system. Now, the state won’t be able to collect on the fines Smith imposed. Why didn’t Smith make sure the driver’s licenses were valid and certified?
Data quality issues have made Smith’s work less valuable. Marketers experience similar problems. Be it accidental or intentional, people give out invalid contact information to companies every day. Email addresses, phone numbers, and mailing addresses are the driver’s licenses of the internet. If inaccurate information is entered into a web form, the data is not actionable and there will be negative effects downstream. Just as Smith should have acted as the gate-keeper for the drivers’ information, so should marketers look to their points-of-conversion to prevent data quality issues. If we consider conversion to be an act of self-identification, we better be sure those conversions result in accurate information… the first time.
Contact information collected at the point-of-conversion can enable many types of communications including marketing promotions, order confirmation and shipment, and customer service. In some organizations, conversions are the driver behind the sales process. Conversions help feed the B2B sales team, and they represent actual purchases made on the eCommerce site. There’s no debating that conversions have major impact on revenue.
Because of the importance of conversions, there is a lot of time spent trying to improve conversion rates, but not enough time is spent defining it.
As an example, this equation shows how a website conversion rate is typically defined:
There is an inherent flaw in the current calculation of conversion rate: it does not account for data quality. No matter how a conversion feeds into your sales cycle, there should more discussion around the definition of a “true conversion.”
I propose a new definition of conversion rate. An example equation using online conversions looks like this:
The True Conversion Rate equation can be applied to other conversion points, such as in-store purchases, mobile marketing subscriptions, and call center conversations. Including data quality when calculating any and all instances of conversion rate will provide your team members with the data they need to make prompt, strategic, and informed decisions.
The risk of a false conversion that gives you invalid information is worse than capturing no data at all.
Once you know your true conversion rate, you can begin to see what problems are caused by the false conversions. In general, bad data hogs storage space in your database and causes problems downstream. Below are some examples of potential risks incurred by collecting inaccurate data.
1) Your revenue plateaus because sales representatives are wasting time with invalid lead information.
2) Your company’s reputation is hurt, because you aren’t acting on promises (like shipping an order on time to the right place, sending an e-receipt, etc).
3) Your email marketing campaigns suffer due to low deliverability, or are shut down due to hard bounces, people reporting you as a spammer, or spam traps.
4) You are spending too much time on the back-end looking for the origin of data quality problems that happened at conversion (where they could have been prevented).
5) Your successful shipping rates are lower, raising your costs.
The last thing any marketer wants to do is measure the wrong thing, especially when ROI is a tough calculation to begin with. Collecting bad data is risky, costly, and time-consuming to fix. Don’t end up like Officer Smith. Learn more about optimizing conversion rates on landing pages in this whitepaper.
With over 425 million users, Gmail addresses are populating many B2C and B2B contact lists, as 5 million businesses are also using Google’s apps for communication. Marketers should be sure they pay attention to Google's changes and developments to Gmail, as they can affect deliverability, contact management, and inbox placement.
Over 14 percent of emails never reach Gmail inboxes, according to a 2012 report from IBM.
Google lays out the steps you need to take to ensure that your opt-in promotional emails are received by Gmail users. One essential step they recommend is email address verification for your contacts before adding email addresses to your list. Most of Google's tips are related to consistency. Use a consistent IP address and the same "From" address when sending promotional emails.
One exception is promotional emails versus transactional emails. If you are sending both promotional bulk emails and transactional emails, such as e-receipts, send those from two different IP addresses and "From" addresses to avoid transactional emails being marked as spam.
Recent Gmail developments to watch:
Even when your email does reach a Gmail user, it will likely get categorized out of the inbox. A few months ago, Google rolled out new categorizations for emails received in Gmail. Personal correspondence goes to an inbox labeled "Primary," while social media notifications and promotional emails go to separate categories. Gmail users can also select an Updates and Forums category, but these are not a default setting. Users can move emails from particular senders to any category they prefer.
If you are a promotional sender for a retailer, consumer products, educational institution or other organization, your email will most likely get directed to the "promotions" category. Keep this in mind as being sent to a category other than "primary" may lengthen the time it takes for your time-sensitive promotional email to be noticed.
Having callouts in your email like "add us to your address book" or even encouraging replies from your recipients may help move your email to the "primary" tab. (Learn more about email engagement in this blog post.)
Google’s developments are continuing - the latest is the ability to detect and interpret handwriting! With a large number of consumer and business users, Gmail is among the major email clients for marketers to watch.
Developers, practitioners, providers and developers will be converging today at the API Strategy and Practice Conference in San Francisco, CA. Trendmakers and consumers alike in business strategy and technology will be sharing best practices and the latest developments in the field.
If you're attending, look for StrikeIron's founder and Chief Technology Officer Bob Brauer, who will be on hand to present the topic "Evolution of API Business Models" drawn from 10 years of developing APIs at StrikeIron. Click here to follow his Twitter account.
As more enterprise-level businesses use APIs to open up their data or software to new audiences, the way we do business will change. This conference allows people on the leading edge of that change to exchange ideas, learn from each other, and prepare for the future of API publishing and management.
Follow along today with the official event Twitter account: https://twitter.com/apistrat
Keynotes begin Oct. 24 and will be live-streamed at the event website. Be sure to check them out if you couldn't make it to the event: http://www.apistrategyconference.com/2013SF/schedule.php
StrikeIron has been a Salesforce AppExchange partner since 2009 with our market-leading adress verification, email verification, and Do Not Call solutions integrated into Salesforce.com.
We are excited to announce a major update to our popular Salesforce AppExchange applications to support StrikeIron’s Contact Record Verification Suite with real-time, interactive and batch support.
StrikeIron’s Contact Record Verification Suite includes our comprehensive data quality solutions to verify the most important elements in contact information: email addresses, postal addresses and phone numbers, in one cost-effective subscription. Since StrikeIron solutions are cloud-based, there is no need to update any data or software to ensure that the most accurate and reliable data is available.
Clean data helps marketing, sales, operations and finance effectively reach prospects and customers. The goal of StrikeIron’s Interactive and Batch integrated tools is to provide Salesforce administrators a turnkey solution to solve data quality issues with minimal impact to their user’s workflow. StrikeIron’s solutions scale to businesses of any size and our AppExchange applications are no exception.
The interactive mode verifies email addresses, mailing addresses, and phone numbers in real-time, when they are entered into Salesforce. This enables your sales, support, marketing, or anyone else entering information into Salesforce to correct invalid data at the point of entry.
Additionally, interactive mode supports Web2Lead forms for real-time data verification upon acquisition. If you use Web2Lead forms, StrikeIron’s solution will automatically verify the postal address, email address, and phone number upon entry into Salesforce.
Real-time, interactive verification enables your team to make sure the data is correct at the point of data capture. This maximizes the opportunity to correct issues as well as prevents bad data from getting into your Salesforce instance.
The batch mode allows for periodic cleansing of email addresses, postal addresses, and telephone numbers within standard Salesforce objects and all custom objects. Batch jobs can be scheduled to run daily, weekly, monthly, yearly, or at any point in the future.
The batch jobs can even exclude data that has already been verified or data that matches any filter criteria as seen in the screenshot below.
Results are written back to the mapped fields in Salesforce as well as provided in an easy to review output table.
We all know how inconvenient, problematic, and expensive bad data can be. CRM applications that are deployed on a base of inaccurate, incomplete, and outdated data can be detrimental to an entire organization’s efforts to succeed. StrikeIron has the solution to the problem of “dirty data”.
The StrikeIron Interactive and Batch Mode AppExchange applications are available now.
You can download the applications at: https://appexchange.salesforce.com/results?keywords=strikeiron
and sign up for a free trial of the Contact Record Verification Suite at: http://offers.strikeiron.com/free-trials
Avoid fines and protect your business. Take action before October 16.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) has undergone recent changes, including the addition of rules around marketing messages that reach mobile devices. StrikeIron thought it would be a good idea to inform you about this updated Act (which takes effect October 16, 2013) and how it applies to your mobile marketing practices.
If your organization’s marketing practices include the use of auto dialers or SMS messages (among other efforts), it is subject to these new rules. Organizations must obtain prior express written consent for any marketing message that reaches a mobile device. Violations of the ruling are subject to financial penalties by the FCC of up to $16,000 per incident.
Here are some ways to avoid violations:
1) Be prepared to prove that “unambiguous consent was obtained.”
Fully disclose to contacts that their provision of a mobile number will result in direct marketing from your organization. Acceptable forms of consent include "email, website form, text message, telephone key press, or voice recording."
2) Make sure you know which numbers in your databases are mobile numbers before you reach out.
Even an existing business relationship (EBR) does not allow you to contact an individual on their wireless line without their consent. StrikeIron provides a Mobile ID Solution that can aid in your detection of wireless numbers.
3) Make sure your contact data is clean and updated so that you are reaching the person intended.
Violation complaints will be executed based on the person actually contacted, not the person you intended to contact. StrikeIron’s Reverse Phone Lookup can help keep databases accurate and up-to-date.
We expect class action lawyers to come after potential violations of the new law with vigor. StrikeIron offers reverse phone lookup services to ensure the intended contact is reached, for both existing data and incoming lead flow. We can also aid you in your compliance efforts by identifying mobile numbers and DNC list members. Contact our team for further information on these solutions.
In the near future, more information about TCPA can be found at http://www.fcc.gov.
Note: This information is in no way intended to replace the advice of professional legal counsel. If you are unsure about the legislation or your organization’s compliance, please seek a professional.
One City - Two Events - Three Weeks
The StrikeIron team is heading to Chicago not once, but twice, within a 3 week span. We’ll be showcasing our brand at the Shop.org Annual Summit from 9/30 – 10/2 as well as DMA 2013 from 10/12 – 10/17. We’ve been working hard to prepare for these events and want to share some of our knowledge with you!
Here are the top 3 need-to-knows about Shop.org and DMA:
1) There’s an app for that. Ensure that you don't miss anything. Download the event apps and you'll always know what's going on!
Shop.org Annual Summit
Shop.org has created an amazing mobile app to keep you “in the know” during their event. Monitor the twitter feed, build a personal schedule, and find StrikeIron in the exhibitors section! You can download the app today.
Want to stay up-to-date at DMA and connect with other attendees? Search for “DMA2013” to download the app for the iPhone at the App Store and for Android at Google Play. To get the most of your mobile app experience, register for a walk-through here.
2) There’s no time to be shy. If you’re going to Chicago for either event, sing it from the rooftops! Or at least sing it from your fingertips. We’d love to meet you in the Windy City!
Shop.org Annual Summit
Use the #shoporg13 Twitter hashtag and let @strikeiron know you are attending.
Use the #DMA13 hashtag for the event to get the attention of @strikeiron.
3) StrikeIron is ready. Are you? StrikeIron is sending a solid team of experts to both events. Don’t forget to pick up a futuristic collapsible water bottle, compliments of StrikeIron. Scan your badge for a chance to win a $250 SpaFinder gift card!
Shop.org Annual Summit
Stop by booth #937 to see a live demo of our Email Verification Plus Hygiene tool, working right at the Point-of-Sale!
We’ll be set up at booth #464, ready to answer your questions and add value to your marketing efforts. Ask us anything, really.
Email is at the core of most marketing campaigns and has become the preferred method for business-to-consumer communications.
ExactTarget has realized the power of email communications and leveraged the evolution of email marketing into a compelling set of solutions, allowing them to become a well-known industry leader focused on consumer success. In addition to ExactTarget's customer success in the marketplace, their recent acquisition by Salesforce.com has lifted them to even greater heights in the industry, and will enable an even greater amount of industry exposure. While ExactTarget already has an impressive list of customers, including companies like Zappos, Microsoft, Intuit, Toyota, Chick-Fil-A, Xerox, and Expedia, the tighter integration with CRM that the Salesforce acquisition will inevitably bring is exciting. It will enable a tighter integration between marketing and sales organizations that will have a great deal of impact in marketing and revenue creation for years to come.
StrikeIron has also enjoyed a great deal of success in helping organizations improve email deliverability and enhance email marketing best practices to become significantly more successful with their marketing campaigns. Customers that invest in our email address verification solutions can maximize the ROI that they receive from the campaigns that are built and executed using these email marketing solutions.
As a result of our recognition of the challenges that many organizations face with email accuracy and deliverability, we have been working hard with the ExactTarget team and are excited to announce the launch of our fully-integrated Email Verification Plus Hygiene application. We are launching our app today at the ExactTarget Connections event. This integrated application is now available in the ExactTarget HubExchange Marketplace. The application ensures best practices in email marketing by detecting the validity, reliability and safety of email addresses.
Not only does the application ensure the accuracy and validity of all email addresses residing within the ExactTarget solution on an ongoing basis, at the click of a button, ExactTarget users will be able to cleanse and validate subscriber email lists and data extensions. The solution also detects potentially malicious email addresses, protecting user reputation by helping you to avoid blacklists and spam folders.
Some specific key features include:
- Integration with email marketing workflow including scheduling of batch jobs and the ability to exclude already verified emails
Figure 1: Schedule a batch job
- Support for both lists and data extensions (data extensions are an optional feature but are recommended for large lists)
- An important "hygiene" component to protect against malicious email addresses and help you to avoid blacklists and spam folders
Enterprise licenses are also available with this launch from StrikeIron. They enable you to deploy our email address verification solutions at the edge where data is being collected, ensuring a high degree of accurate and clean email addresses before customer and potential customer information enters the ExactTarget database.
An email deliverability program is critical to email marketers because it is estimated that 30% of all email addresses change each year. Utilizing StrikeIron, now fully integrated within ExactTarget, email bounces and delivery failures can be reduced by 90% or more. A comprehensive, relevant, and engaging email marketing campaign will only be as successful as the accuracy of the email addresses that exist at its core.
We are looking forward to this launch, as well as supporting ExactTarget customers and continuing to work with ExactTarget to bring our innovative solution to the marketplace.
Figure 2: Email Verification Plus Hygiene app
One of the key components of a data strategy is whether you charge for your API usage or not.
Some API’s are more appropriate for free usage. If your API strategy is focused around breadth or indirect monetization, such as using your API to drive traffic to your website, then unpaid usage may fit your goals. For example, a retailer may publish an API to enable mobile applications and web developers to integrate product, inventory, and pricing data. Although metered to ensure appropriate usage and analytics, generally the retailer would not charge for API use in this case.
However, if your API strategy includes monetization, such as usage based billing, API management becomes much more complex. This is the case for many companies who have found a latent asset in their data. For example, if the same retailer has been collecting data about consumer behavior and propensity to buy additional products or services, they may want to enable adjacent service providers to consume this data for a charge.
There are a variety of billing models that are common in the API commerce space. Finding the best model depends on blending the value your customers will be receiving and your business goals.
Common API monetization models include:
- In arrears / pay-as-you-go – At the end of a period, typically a month, the customer is billed for the usage.
- Monthly – The customer is billed monthly for either unlimited usage or based on a subscription tier (e.g. 1,000,000 API calls per month)
- Annual – The customer is billed annually for either unlimited usage or based on a subscription tier (e.g. 10,000,000 API calls per month)
- Bucket – The customer buys a bucket of transactions that they can consume over time. The bucket may or may not expire.
Each model can have an overage amount that is applied at a different rate. Additionally, each model will have to support different prices for each customer, subscription tiers, etc.
Of course, there are other variants, but most API monetization models fit into these listed above.
When looking at operationalizing these models, the API management layer must support the desired subscription types to report and bill each customer. Additionally, the API management layer must allow customers to upgrade, downgrade, and switch business models.
Unlocking the value of your information assets oftentimes involves directly monetizing your data. API’s provide the ideal way for your customers to consume your data.
Want to learn more about APIs? Download the free whitepaper Developing, Delivering, and Deploying API’s.
It seems that technology strategy and deployment follow a consistent path of 5 steps:
This has proven especially true in the API management space. In talking with IronCloud customers and prospects, they universally want to do API's. It is becoming clear that API's provide the stitching for the data driven Internet. Some customers want broader distribution of their data assets and brands. Others want to integrate data into mobile, SaaS, or on-premise applications. Many recognize there is value in their data and software assets that they are not recognizing because of a lack of an API or a poorly implemented API strategy.
After recognizing the need for an API, the next step is trying to figure out if they can do it. Do they have the competencies and are they willing to invest their valuable resources? As they get deeper into planning, the “Can Do” phase becomes a big shock.
On the surface, many development frameworks (e.g. Grape for Rails, the Django REST, and Microsoft’s WCF) seem to provide excellent support for creating API's. However the “Can Do” stage is daunting when customers start thinking about hosting their API, scaling, provisioning, authenticating, billing, metering, reporting, throttling, etc.
“Doing” is the actual fun part because of architecting, implementing, and testing! When finished you are done. The technology is finally complete enough to be introduced to the market…at least you think.
What we have found, especially for high availability applications like API and SaaS, is that there is a big chasm between what teams think is done and software that is deployed. The latter refers to running seamlessly and scaling to business needs.
While testing identifies many functional issues and good architecture will remove bottlenecks to performance and scalability, deployment is a slog.
You will know when you are firmly in the deploying stage. The scenario is all too familiar. Things fall over at 2 am and engineers and operations teams are sent scrambling to figure out what is wrong. Other times we see this when your cloud hosting provider goes down and all you have is a set of ambiguous tweets from the provider and angry customers.
This is where choosing the right technology stack and partners becomes critical. Good partners give you the tools to minimize the deployment risks. Great partners help you through any issues, which are bound to arise at one point or another. The best partners are those that are accountable for the issues and solutions.
We have found that one of the key differentiators of IronCloud is the fact that we have been deployed. In fact, we have been using IronCloud to deliver and bill for API’s for nearly 9 years. This expertise helps our customers minimize the time, effort, and risk between “Want to Do” and “Deployed” steps.
Where are you in your API Deployment? Let me know at email@example.com