Let’s talk about the do’s and don’ts of SMS in Zoho CRM. I’ve got a number of areas I’d like to give you some tips on. Let’s go through each of them in short and we’ll talk about what to do and what not to do.
Length of Message
SMS stands for short message service. Ideally, your messages are punchy and concise. They have the right amount of information. They’re definitely not meant to be the same content that you’d have in an email. I’ve seen people send out 1,000 character SMS. Maybe it works if you’re in the US where SMS are relatively cheap, but it’s not optimal. The ideal SMS has enough details to capture people’s attention and if there’s more information that they need to see, you can include a URL.
What you don’t want to do is send out hundreds of identical messages. The reason that’s a bad idea is:
- People are going to detect that it’s generic and they’re not going to feel like it’s tailored to them, which means they’re less likely to take action on it
- The carriers don’t want spam SMS in their network. If they detect that you’re sending out identical messages to hundreds of people, they’re going to actually block your number. It means that the important messages that you need to send may not go through anymore and you might need to buy a new phone number.
What you can do instead is use tight CRM integration to personalize each message. Instead of saying, “Hi” you can say, “Hi <First Name>”. If it’s done in a relatively friendly way, then people are going to feel like they can trust you (assuming that you have a prior relationship with them and you haven’t just bought their details off the internet).
Next up, URLs. When you want to include a URL, you should use a URL shortener because if you use a really long URL, the carriers will block the messages. Shortened URLs have the added advantage that you can actually track the open rate of your SMS. You’ve probably seen stats saying that 90% of SMS get opened compared to only 20% of emails. The way they figure that out is by having a specific URL for every person within the SMS. When the SMS arrives on the phone, if the person opens the message, it will automatically show a URL preview just below where the message was. When that preview displays, it notifies your web server which can then update the lead record contact record in Zoho CRM to indicate that they have opened an SMS. You can then gauge the success of campaigns based on open rate stats. You can also put click-through rates here, so you can easily track how many people have clicked on the URL.
I’m in Australia but because I deal with US-based customers, I’ve sometimes had SMS and calls at 3am. I don’t want to get woken up then and I don’t think your customers do either. It’s much better if you can send messages within their normal communication hours, which I’d define as being 8am to 6pm in their time zone. How do you know what their time zone is? The integration that you use should have a way of checking the area code of the phone number and being able to tell the time zone based on that. That way, you never get in trouble for sending a message at the wrong time. Instead, you can set it up so that it will schedule it in their time zone. You could schedule it at 9:30am in their time zone, for example, and that way they’re more likely to open it and they’re less likely to reply “STOP” because you’ve annoyed them by sending a message at the wrong time.
The whole reason why people open their SMS more than emails is because there’s generally, fewer spam messages. The phone carriers really want to keep it that way because otherwise, they get tons of customer complaints. Spam control is one of the reasons that SMS costs money to send. Email is pretty much free to send out and, as a result, you get spammers taking advantage of that. You can help keep SMS a channel that customers will open readily by sending messages that are relevant, personalized, and timely. People are happy to receive messages that are actually adding value, that are helping them to avoid forgetting appointments, letting them know that their parcel has arrived, giving them an update on their order, and occasionally telling them about an amazing promotion or discount that you’re running.
What you don’t want to do is only send out marketing messages. I’ll name names here. There’s a company called Kogan in Australia. If you buy anything from them, they’ll start sending you an SMS almost every day. It’s really annoying and a lot of people complain about those messages. That’s exactly what you don’t want to do. You want to reserve SMS for when it really is important. If you are going to be sending out marketing messages, you probably want to have several phone numbers and rotate between them because if carriers detect that you’re only sending out marketing messages from one number, they may end up blocking that number. If you spread it out over several numbers, then you’re less likely to have problems. You should also avoid sending duplicate messages to the same person. The integration that you use should have a way of automatically detecting duplicates and blocking them, and you should also follow relevant legislation around what can and can’t be sent. I’ll go into this in more detail later, but there are certain messages that you can’t send over SMS.
Messages that are relevant and concise are perfect for SMS.
There’s plenty of ways to go wrong though:
- Don’t harass people: If a customer is rude, don’t reply back and say, “F U” or anything like that. That’s not cool. “When they go low, you go high”.
- Don’t send out NSFW images: I’ve seen people who are trying out my extension where they’ve uploaded pornography images and sent them as an MMS. That’s really quite distasteful. That’s the kind of thing that will definitely get you blocked from using my extension and will also potentially get you in legal trouble.
- Don’t impersonate authorities: Just because you can have a different number to what you normally use, don’t abuse that and pretend to be the police.
- Respect communication laws: be careful about advertising products via SMS that may be illegal in the country. For example, according to Twilio, even though it is legal to buy and sell marijuana in the US in certain circumstances, it’s not legal to send out SMS advertising marjiuana. Similarly, it’s probably not going to be legal to send out information about vaping products in Australia because you’re not legally allowed to buy the tobacco inhalants that people use for vaping. You will want to contact a lawyer if you’ve got a product that may be in the gray area of legality.
If people don’t want to get more messages from you because you’ve annoyed them by sending irrelevant or annoying marketing messages, they’re used to replying with “STOP”. Make sure that the system you’re using will respect that and automatically opt them out. Sometimes people will reply with something like, “stop sending me messages” and then, because it’s not an exact match, they might not be opted out automatically. You’ll need to make sure that when you get replies, you check them regularly. If someone has written a message where they clearly don’t want to receive any more SMS, you should opt them out yourself at that point.
In some countries, you can send messages from “alphanumeric sender IDs” – instead of messages coming from a number, it will come from your company name (up to 11 characters). The dangerous thing about that is that people can’t actually reply. If you use alphanumeric sender IDs, you need to include a URL to allow them to opt out instead.
SMS can be cheap, especially in the US, but it can also get expensive if you send the wrong type of message. One thing that you might not be aware of is that if you include emojis in your messages, it actually doubles the cost. For example, in the US, you pay 0.75 cents per message segment. Each message segment is considered to be 153 characters, but if you include an emoji or Chinese characters or anything that’s non-standard, then the cost actually doubles. Instead of segments being 153 characters, they drop to 63 characters long, so you need to really be careful and plan out your campaign. If you’re going to be sending out thousands of planned messages, put them into an SMS budget estimator. That will tell you how much you’re going to be spending.
Finally, with your integration with Zoho CRM, make sure that it’s possible to do templated messages where you can use the fields within the CRM. You also want to make sure that you can take action based on what people do with the message. For example, if they open the message or if they reply to it, you could do cool things where you’d update the lead score. What you don’t want to do is have your CRM and then have another system that you use for sending out SMS blasts and not have them linked at all because then you won’t be able to see the communication that went out, and you also won’t easily be able to update the opt out preferences.
Good luck with your SMS journey. Hope it allows you to better serve your customers.