Build Your Data Base: Part I SMS/Text Opt-In

There are three basic ways to get cell phone numbers into your mobile database:

  • SMS/Text-in
  • Web form
  • Upload from another database (CRM, event, paper, etc.)

In this first in a series post, let’s talk about Text-in campaigns and how they work, along with strengths & weaknesses.

SMS/Text In

You may choose to run a program whereby you ask people to text a keyword to your shortcode.  This means opening their message app, typing in your shortcode to the address field (e.g. 78787) then usually entering in a keyword to indicate why they’re texting in/joining your list.  “HEALTHYME” may be a keyword you’d use for general health alerts.

In almost all platforms, when they text-in you’ve captured their number.  Frequently, their number (any any other information you collect in the text) is immediately associated with a list in your system containing others who have opted-in for the same information.  Easy, right? Here are some other considerations:

Opt-In:  If you run a program asking people to text-in to join a list, you need to tell them what will happen if they do.  For instance, you must tell they are going to receive,  and have them explicitly opt-in to get ongoing messages from you. You must also tell them HOW OFTEN you will be texting them in the future.  Once a week?  Monthly?  Hourly (ugh)?

Promotion: You need to promote the idea of someone agreeing to receive ongoing messaging from you.  You might include a flyer in an account statement, rent a billboard (no texting while driving!), have a number in a video, on your website or anywhere your prospective joiner can see it and understand what’s going to happen if they join.

WIIFM:  This stands for “What’s In It For Me”.  Use the WIIFM principle when designing this phase of your program and revisit it often.  Are you still providing value? Tell the prospective list member what they are going to get if they text in to join your list, and why it’s valuable (if it’s not explicit already).

Confirm the Opt-In:  It’s critically important that you respond IMMEDIATELY with a message when someone opts-in to your program.  If you don’t, and you send your first message at a later time, the user may have forgotten why they joined or even if they joined. Send a nice “thanks for joining!: automated message as soon as the user texts-in.

Ask for more:  You can not only collect someone’s mobile number when they text-in, you can also ask for other information.  If you already have them in your database, you might ask for more info that would allow you to attach their phone number into the corresponding record.  For instance, ask them to text in their customer number and you know whose mobile number it is.

You can ask for almost anything.  Ask them to text their email address to build your email database.  Ask them their preferred method of communication for their record in your preferences database.  You can ask them almost anything that can be text but best practice is to keep it simple.  Don’t ask for long strings of data, or ask multiple part questions unless you’re using a system that has good forms management for this purpose.

Strengths: You know pretty much for sure you’re opting-in the person authorized to opt-in. Not like in email where people can just put in random names (until you confirm). It’s also a good way determine an initial channel preference, and if you use it right you can build other parts of your database.  It’s immediate and it’s very finely targeted if you promote the opt-in routine properly.

Weaknesses: Some people may not be comfortable opting-in via text. They may prefer a website or something with which they’re more familiar. Also, in general people are reluctant to opt-in to a text program unless you’re crystal clear about what they’re getting and how often.

Next post I’ll talk about building your database through web opt-ins.

BTW, DO NOT WAIT to start building your database.  Every day that goes by you are losing invaluable information about the people you want to make happy.


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