What is SMS?

SMS stands for Short Message Service and are generally 160 character text messages sent between mobile phones. SMS uses a unique network that alerts the recipient the second the message arrives. SMS is a very fast and personal communication method on par with a phone call in perceived trust.

What is SMS Marketing?

SMS Marketing is the practice of building lists of mobile numbers than sending SMS advertising messages to those lists. Lists can be built in many ways but there are compliance rules set by the ACMA on how people consent to be opted into your lists. Unsolicited commercial messages sent to a person is called spam and is illegal under the Australian Spam Act 2003. Mobile marketers usually use an online SMS system to manage the SMS sending process. These bulk SMS systems range in price and functionality. The best SMS marketing platforms have a good combination of cheap SMS and web SMS features. Make sure you only deal with a reputable SMS gateway as delivery reliability can vary a lot.

Getting permission to send SMS

The idea behind consent is that the recipient should want to receive your message and find it useful when they do. There are two types of consent.

1. Express consent


  • An opt-in checkbox on a web subscribe form. This checkbox must not be checked by default, the person completing the form must willingly select the checkbox to indicate they want to hear from you.
  • If someone completes an offline form like a survey or enters a competition, you can only contact them if it was explained to them that they would be contacted by email AND they ticked a box indicating they would like to be contacted.
  • Customers who have purchased from you within the last 2 years.
  • If someone gives you their business card and you have explained to them that you will be in touch, you can contact them. If they dropped their business card in a fishbowl at a trade show, there must be a sign indicating they will be contacted by SMS.


The recipient must be clearly aware that he or she may receive commercial messages in the future. You cannot send an electronic message to seek consent: this is in itself a commercial message, because it seeks to establish a business relationship. Keep a record of consent, you may need to prove it later.

2. Inferred consent


  • Through an existing business relationship. If an organisation has a strong relationship with the owner of the number such as a club member or service subscriber receiving messages may be implied.
  • Through conspicuous publication of a work-related number.


Consent may also be implied by the publishing of numbers on websites, in magazines or other publications. The recipient must be identified as relevant to your message. eg if you want to send information about a technology product the recipient must be identified as the IT manager. If there is a statement that unsolicited commercial messages are not wanted you cannot infer consent.

Building lists?

Building a mobile marketing list should be done with care and good intention. As mobile numbers and SMS are a very personal way to communicate, people don’t want to receive messages from you that waste their time and are not relevant. By opting people in correctly and only sending them relevant and useful messages will they stay on your list.

Technically there are 3 ways to add numbers to your list.


  1. By a website for with an SMS opt-in check box
  2. With an SMS to a dedicated response number or short-code
  3. Manually


Incentivising people to join your list?

To get people to join a marketing list there are different ways to incentivise them. Some examples are:


  1. Run a competition with a prize
  2. Run a survey and share the results
  3. Offer future sale and discount information
  4. Promise and deliver useful, relevant and valuable information



As text messages are personal you should follow these rules.


  1. Personalise the message, add the persons name.
  2. Identify yourself prominently in the message.
  3. Mention how they came to receive the message.
  4. If you are promoting a location, only deliver to that location.


The idea here is to collect a name and a post code when you collect your data. By collecting this information you will give your recipient a much better experience and they will be less likely to opt-out of your list.

Allowing users to opt-out

By law a commercial text message must contain an opt-out method. This can be a phone number to call but it is now industry standard to allow people to reply STOP to a message. This method requires delivery from a response number that can receive and process SMS commands. Some SMS software such as Burst SMS includes this for free in their accounts.

Engagement mechanisms


  1. Sending a promotional message is one thing but engaging your recipient is another. There are several techniques for engaging your recipient
  2. Add a mobile URL to your message that shows them more information and a form for interaction
  3. Include a response keyword that allows people to reply and get other automated responses back. These can be set up in sequence.
  4. Receive orders and books directly via response. Confirm via automated message.


Different types of SMS delivery

There are two main types of online SMS delivery. Direct connection where the SMS gateway is plugged directly into the telco’s in your country, and International routing. International routes are operated by SMS aggregators which a gateway can utilise to deliver more cost effective SMS marketing than direct connection. Some international routes can be very unreliable and some providers will offer extremely cheap prices however you may end up paying the same as a more reliable connection as you still pay for messages not delivered.



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