Acquiring Emails Through SMS Mobile

In a trip about an hour drive west from DC you can find a restaurant called Forlano’s Market, in a tiny town called Middlesburg. I had a great lunch there a while back after a wine tasting tour (yes we have wine tasting in VA). As I was seated I noticed a huge chalkboard with menu items and specials, as well as directions on how to sign up for their email program… via text message. Cool! So, I gave it a try. I texted the number on the board and put in my email address, quite easy.

Now I’m sure this isn’t ground breaking news, but it was the first time I came across it. I am surprised that I haven’t seen SMS email acquisition anywhere else. This can be considered a minor addition to Casey Swanton’s awesome e-book on 50 Ways to Grow Your Email List. Here are some things I took away from the SMS signup experience for this restaurant.

What’s great about it:

Easy:
It was really easy to sign up for. I use text messaging all the time, as most people do, so I was able to take care of it in seconds. Texted a word to a 5-digit number, it prompted me for my email address… done.

Timing:
I appreciated the timing of it as usually restaurants try to get me to sign up for their program at the end of the meal, when I’m ready to leave. This method wasn’t pushy, but something I found on my own and kept me busy while I waited for my food. I wonder how effective something like this would be while waiting in line at a retail store, instead of the cashier quickly asking for your email address as you pay for your items.

Straight-forward:
The verbiage used on the chalkboard was something like “Sign up for our e-mail program”. No incentive or tricks, just straight to the point.

What you should watch out for:

Realistically, not every email collection point for your program will have all of the best practice recommendations checked off. Increasing the ease-of-signup involves risks. Signing up for an email program via SMS sounds like a great idea, but probably means you need to make sure the rest of your program is buttoned up. Below are some important points to consider when implementing an SMS email acquisition method.

Collection point verbiage: 
Increasing the ease-of-signup most likely means that you don’t have too much verbiage describing your program at the collection point. “Sign up for our email program” should probably be replaced by something similar to “Keep up with events and recipes through our newsletter” I simply added three more words and it already paints a clearer picture of what the email program entails. This helps set expectations and reduces complaints.

Sensitive Data:
After signing up, I received a text message back saying, “Thank you for signing up, you are now subscribed to our email program”. I immediately realized that they now have access to my cell phone number, crap! Absolutely hate telemarketers and realizing that I just gave my personal cell phone number away to someone, and not hearing how/if it will be used, made me shiver. Let members know what their sensitive data will be used for, if not in the response via SMS then definitely in the welcome message.

Buttoned up welcome message:
Since the point of this method is to be quick and easy, be sure that the first email is thorough in explaining the email program. Explain the benefits and establish expectations for frequency and types of emails sent. Also be sure that the unsubscribe link can be easily found since this is the first time members are receiving information about the program. It does not have to be a huge button, just don’t hide it. Consider reminding the member that they signed up via SMS mobile, since they may not get to their email account until days later. And please let me know what happened with my phone number!

Collect Data
Data should be collected for all list acquisition methods, always. Some collection methods work for some senders and some don’t. Analyze data to see how effective it is. Look at open rates, click rates, unknown user rates, complaint rates… here a rate, there a rate, everywhere a rate-rate. Let your segmentation strategy and list sources be guided by knowledgeable decisions based on concrete data, and not “oh cool, we can get an SMS signup process”.

Are there any other places you’ve seen this email collection method?