A Demonstration on How Not to Build Your SMS List

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Over the last month or so I’ve signed up for quite a lot of webinars. I’m always trying to learn more about technology, marketing, best practices – you get the idea. So I’ve been excited to see many organisations offering SMS reminders for webinars. In fact, my last blog was all about how and why you want to use them for the webinars you host.

But there is one experience I had with an SMS reminder for a webinar that I simply had to share. I’m hopeful that by doing so, none of you will be so, ah, presumptuous as this one company was after I registered.

So what happened? Read on to find out.

I received an email promoting a webinar on video marketing (it relates to our other Netsecrets brand PlanetStream) and decided to sign up. On the confirmation page, just below the “Thank You for Registering” was an option to enter my mobile number to receive SMS reminders. Great! I gave them my number.

Shortly after, I received the following text message:

IMG_0955

I was quite surprised to see it. I expected a confirmation SMS message regarding a reminder text, but instead it was asking me to confirm to be on a marketing list. Now, this is a major marketing company. It’s a globally known brand in marketing too (notice the name is blurred out because they are so big I don’t want to call them out specifically).

I began wondering if I had missed some message on the thank you page. Or maybe I misread the offer to get SMS reminders and it actually said something about joining a list.

The more I looked into it, the more confused I got actually. The company that had sent me the email about the webinar wasn’t the one that had sent me the text message. It gets confusing here so bear with me. The two companies, one putting on a webinar and another managing the registration, apparently had teamed up somehow. In any case I had to go back and look through my emails and try and figure out why the text message was from one company and the webinar emails were from a different one.

The end result was I wanted to attend the webinar. I wanted a text reminder so I wouldn’t forget. But no, I didn’t want to join any marketing list, especially not one from a company not associated with the webinar (or at least not in an obvious fashion). So I didn’t reply to the message above. And I didn’t receive an SMS reminder for the webinar.

Now before you jump to conclusions that maybe I’m just confused about what I did, let me tell you about what happened the next week. I saw a full day online seminar being promoted by the company that sent me the text message. They had some good stuff on the agenda so I signed up for it. And on the thank you page, I got the same message. I recognised it immediately.

This time, before I got carried away and entered my number, I took the time to read everything on the page. Here’s a screenshot, with identifying information blurred for privacy:

SMS reminder webinar

Did you see it there in small print? By entering my number I agreed to receive “autodialed messages” twice a week! Technically I think that means they can call my number with pre-recorded voice messages as well as text messages. So it was my own fault for not reading the fine print the first time.

Why this is the wrong way to build a list

Terms and Conditions. The fine print. Whatever you call it, most people don’t read it. Even when it isn’t that “fine”. Busy people signing up for webinars aren’t likely to read it anyway. In case you couldn’t tell, I was put off by the text message they sent me for all the reasons I mentioned. But mostly I felt like they were trying to dupe me. They say I can use their handy SMS reminder service, but then they’ll use that information to market to me via text message. It was disingenuous.

I also mentioned though, that this is a major company. They produce great research and content. Their marketing products have been rated to be among the best in the world. So I assume that somewhere here they dropped the ball. I’m not going to theorise why they do it this way, but I’m willing to give them a pass this time because they do in fact let you know they’ll be marketing to you as you sign up. I just wonder how many people miss that little blurb like I did initially. Or maybe it’s only me.

For any other company, maybe not so well known, the situation might be different. Business is about relationships. Someone signing up for a webinar means they are interested in hearing more, but it doesn’t necessarily mean they are ready to trust you with their mobile, or that they want to hear anything from you ever again. As I said in the beginning, it’s presumptuous to assume they do, and it might leave them feeling very wary of you, and certainly it doesn’t help build trust.

So if you read my last blog post, you’ll know I’m all in favor of using SMS reminders for webinars. It’s a useful service that offers great returns. But if you do so, make sure the mobile number provided is only used for that purpose. Don’t try to make more out of it than a simple reminder service you are offering registrants to your webinar.

After the webinar though, if you know the person from that mobile number attended, then maybe shoot them an SMS message asking if they want to hear more from you. If they liked  your webinar they will likely say yes. If they didn’t, then you probably don’t want them on your SMS marketing list anyway because they aren’t interested in what you have to offer. At least not at the moment. Take that person’s information and put it back into the funnel at a higher level (like email marketing) and forget you ever had their mobile number.

There are more honest, straightforward, and potentially more profitable ways to build a list for your SMS messaging. You’ll find many blog posts here on the subject and our helpful staff are available to answer any questions via live chat.

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