Thursday, April 22, 2010

King Lear Breaks Out His Mobile

A Text for Tickets Case Study

People's Light & Theatre wanted to reach out to a new demographic -- high school students-- for their production of Shakespeare's "King Lear". They had relationships with area schools and performed special dress rehearsals for several field-tripping schools.

The question People's Light & Theatre asked themselves ( we love it when clients ask the right questions) was "If we offer free tickets, what medium will high school kids gravitate towards in order to reserve and redeem tickets?"

The answer was as obvious to them as it was to Unwired Appeal: Text messaging!

So the directors asked the actors to break character at the end of each dress rehearsal and exhort the crowd:"If you want to come to the real performance? Take out your cell phone and text 'King Lear' to 47647 for free tickets to our next show!"

Out of the 4,200 students who attended the shows, 140 placed orders for a total of 451 tickets. Of those tickets, 263 were redeemed, for a whopping 58% conversion rate.

Those types of conversion numbers are not unheard of in the mobile marketing space, but they are an order of magnitude higher than what "old school" (direct mail, broadcast advertising) marketeers are used to. And they certainly prove a point for the efficacy of marketing through mobile for the youth demographic: If mobile phones can get high school kids to show up for Shakespeare, what can they get your target market to do?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Text Alerts – The Right Stuff

I was packing lunch for my son this morning when I received an unexpected text-message (not many people text me at 8am).

“Your auto policy is scheduled to be cancelled...”. It was from Progressive Direct, my insurance provider.

Hmmm...I thought I paid that. I went online and soon found that I had forgotten to pay the increased premium after adding a new vehicle to the policy. The policy would be canceled in 5 days if payment was not made. With a click of button I took care of it.

Progressive had sent email and letters to remind me, but with the ever increasing volume of both junk email and post, these communications fell through the cracks. But my text-message alert “safety net” saved the day.

I don't want to receive text-message alerts with news, weather, horoscopes, etc.*(see exception below). This information I get through other channels, and those channels are flooded with information every waking hour, so I do want text alerts when something important and time-sensitive requires action.

Instead of using text-messaging for mission critical alerts a lot of companies have resorted to the robo-callers. I get these calls sometimes, but they don't register in the same way. I'm not sure about you, but I only answer calls from unknown phone numbers when I'm in for a little grab-bag distraction. Sometimes these robots leave messages, sometimes they don't. It never seems really important.

For full disclosure, I originally signed up for text alerts from Progressive a few months ago when I wanted to test their system. Unwired Appeal provides the text-messaging infrastructure and database management for their service and I wanted to see how it worked.

This morning I found out.

-Steve Nye

*the one exception is surfing alerts - 365 days a year I want to know when there are triple overheads at Good Harbor Beach - now that's an actionable alert.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Text-Messaging Opt-in/Opt-out Regulations

Recent discussions about e-mail marketing best practices at HBR prompted a discussion here at Unwired Appeal about text-message alert best practices. It was a short discussion seeing as the world of text messaging is a bit more black and white than the world of e-mail. In e-mail, the CAN-SPAM act allows some latitude for ESPs to differentiate themselves by creating their own policies. Some ESPs are very strict, others not. In the text messaging world, service providers aren't given the choice. The regulations are clear. Neglect to follow the rules and you run the risk of having a your network connections severed overnight and possibly being hauled into court (read about several real cases).

Who regulates text message service providers, and why should our customer care? Text-messaging (SMS) service providers are strictly regulated by the wireless carriers. All services must be reviewed and approved by the carriers before launch. When running, the services are continually monitored and audited by each of the wireless carriers for compliance. Our customers care because they know that if they partner with an unscrupulous SMS service provider, they run the risk of having their alerts or marketing campaigns shut down mid-stream.

One of the most important aspects of compliance is following the opt-in/opt-out and database management standards of the carriers. These can be complex as they vary somewhat carrier. Fortunately, the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) has been working with the carriers to create a uniform set of standards. The latest version can be found at MMA Best Practices.

Following is a overview of the current regulations for Text-Messaging “Alerts”. This only covers “standard rate” services. “Premium rate” services (additional monthly subscription fees charged) use a stricter set of regulations.

Single Opt-in versus Double Opt-in

Single opt-in is now allowed by all carriers when the opt-in is initiated by the end-user sending a text-message to the service (MO opt-in). For example, “Text JOIN to 47647 to sign-up up for JellyBean Alerts”.

You can also ask an end-user to subscribe by entering his/her cell phone number on a website (Web opt-in). But when you use this method, T-Mobile requires that you perform a double opt-in. The second opt-in is in the form of a text-message sent to the subscriber asking for a reply of “YES” to confirm the opt-in. A pin-code verification method is also acceptable.

WAP and IVR opt-in methods are also possible but they are outside the scope of this post (send me an email if you would like an overview of WAP/IVR).

Call-to-action (CTA) and Messaging Requirements (MMA id=CCS-EG-03)

Most audit violations from the carriers are relatively minor and revolve around the wording in the opt-in messaging flow.

Information required in the CTA: program sponsor, description of service, frequency of messaging, how to get help, how to opt-out, “message and data rates may apply”.

Information required in the “welcome message” (sent at opt-in): description of service, frequency of messaging, how to get help, how to opt-out, “message and data rates may apply” (the carriers like repetition).

Opt-out, subscription reminders, and database management

STOP: Subscribers must be able to text the word STOP from their cell phones and be removed from the opt-in list.

Reminders: Individual alerts to users or text MT must include opt-out information (STOP) if a monthly service reminder MT is not supplied separately (T-Mobile TMO-124).

Disconnect lists: Each carrier routinely distributes a list of cell phone numbers that have been disconnected (recycled, ported to another carrier, etc. ). These numbers must be immediately removed from all opt-in lists.

Record keeping: Opt-in and opt-out records should be retained from the time the subscriber opts-in until a minimum of six months after the subscriber has opted-out of the program (minimum opt-in archiving period is one calendar year). These records should be made available to the carrier upon request (CCS-107).

That's it in a nutshell. Keep in mind that these regulations are a work in progress and are modified on a regular basis. For the most current set visit

-Steve Nye

P.S. If you are receiving unsolicited messages on your cell phone - here are some tips.