Political SMS Campaign Teaches New Dog, Old Trick

Bulldog SkateboardingThe following is the weekly guest series by Derek Johnson, Founder & CEO of SMS marketing software Tatango.

With the explosion of the mobile internet over the last few years, I regulary get asked if clients running SMS campaigns can place a URL within a message to their SMS subscribers. This URL usually points to a mobile enabled website, mobile video, or to a social networking profile on sites such as Facebook or Twitter. I tell customers there is no problem, but I always give them the following warning. A high percentage of SMS subscribers will not be able to access the URL on their mobile device as they’re not web enabled.

How high of a percentage you ask? Recently we did a case study with one of our clients that looks at the open rates of SMS campaigns with web links and found that only 26% of subscribers opened the URL on their mobile device. This matches up with the comScore 2010 Mobile Report, which shows that only 25% of the mobile phone-owning population has a smartphone (in the U.S.).

One question that I never hear clients ask is if they can place a phone number within an SMS campaign. In theory, placing a phone number into an SMS message allows the recipient to easily click-to-call directly from the received message. But to be completely honest, I wasn’t really promoting this tactic, until one political SMS campaign opened my eyes to the power of a phone number inside an SMS campaign.

It was late November 2009 when Tatango started working with Scott Brown, who at the time was a little known political candidate for the Massachusetts Senate seat. After creating his SMS campaign, supporters quickly opted-in, and within a month he had thousands of SMS subscribers. Then Scott Brown sent one text message that opened my eyes to the power of click-to-call phone numbers in SMS campaigns. The message received by all of his supporters is embedded below. FYI – Martha Coakley was running against Scott Brown in the election.

Scott Brown Political SMS Campaign Text Message

With the average text message being opened within four minutes of being received, it was no surprise that the radio station reported that 90% of all callers into that show were Scott Brown supporters. This one text message proved without a doubt that using click-to-call phone numbers within an SMS campaign message was not only doable, but it also produces tangible results. Such good results that Scott Brown went on to win the election, beating his opponent Martha Coakley.

While not everyone using SMS marketing is running a political campaign, I still see big benefits for all types of businesses in using click-to-call phone numbers within an SMS campaign message. Below are some of the ideas I have for other types of SMS campaigns to utilize click-to-call in their messages.

Salons/Spas – “Make an appointment by the end of the day today and receive 20% any services. Call (206) 334-4012 and mention this text message. EXP 1/1/12”

Restaurants – “Too busy to cook tonight? Call us (206) 334-4012 and mention this text message to receive 15% off any take-out order. EXP 1/1/12”

Entertainment – “Tickets are now on sale for Dane Cook LIVE, call (206) 334-4012 immediately as there are only 200 available. Will go fast!”

Conferences – “New rooms have just opened up at the Hilton across the street. Call Now to make a reservation (206) 334-4012 and mention the discount code: MXY for complementary breakfast.”

Retail  – “We just received a case of 1787 Chateau Lafite Bordeaux wine, very rare. Call us now to reserve a bottle for your private collection (206) 334-4012”

What do you think about using phone numbers within an SMS campaign message? Do you have any examples of successful campaigns this has worked on? Any failures?


Scott Brown’s team did an amazing job with their SMS campaign during the election. For a quick video case study to see examples of other SMS messages they used during the election and the results, see the video below.