How to use an SMS short code

Short codes and keywords are everywhere – on the radio, when you’re sending in a song request, on TV, when you’re entering a competition or voting for your favourite contestant, on the posters you see in the train station – “Just text WIN to 60777” – but how can you use them for your business?

You’d be surprised at how versatile these little tools are, and they can be invaluable for your business, which is why we include a free keyword with every Messenger account. If you need a little inspiration for what to do with yours, read on and we’ll show you how an SMS keyword can change your customer communications forever…

Build a database

The first step to sending successful SMS is to have a quality list of people to contact. Ideally, this will be a list of customers (or potential customers) who have actively chosen to hear from you, as these are the people who’ll be most likely to respond. How do you get such a list? You build one, with a short code and keyword.

That’s exactly what many of our customers have done, from local businesses like Lemongrass Thai Restaurant, to big names that you might recognise, like wholesalers Booker. We set up a business SMS campaign for Booker by setting up a relevant keyword on one of our short codes, for example BOOKER on 60777, and asked their customers to text in if they wanted to receive special offers and promotions from them. Booker had over 32,000 customers sign up – whilst a smaller business might not get signups on quite the same scale (Booker have 172 branches!), you can still see great results.

Imagine if every time you wanted to send a promotion out, you had a contact database full of people who were interested in your business, who actively opted in to get your messages, and who genuinely wanted to read the messages you were sending out. That’s what you can do with a short code.

Inbound enquiries

Using a short code and keyword isn’t all about building a database (although of course, that’s always useful). You can also use one to allow potential customers to register their interest in a particular product or service that you offer. Texting a short code is quicker and easier than calling or emailing, and one of the benefits of a shorter number and catchy keyword is that it’s easy to remember and copy into your phone. The less effort that’s involved, the more likely someone is to enquire, which is why you’ll often see short codes on ads instead of websites, phone numbers, email addresses or social media links – after all, you can always include these details in an automatic response.

Estate agents Strutt & Parker did exactly that with their keyword. They had a billboard up near one of their developments that they used to attract passing motorists. By adding their short code to the billboard, they made it quick and easy for people to text in their interest, and a five-digit number is short enough that it will be remembered when the driver has stopped and it’s safe for them to use their phone.

Inbound texts can be forwarded as emails to a sales team, or sent directly to another mobile so they reach whoever they need to. By following up these texts with calls, Strutt & Parker were able to convert many of these enquiries to viewings, and eventually sales.

Customer service

SMS isn’t just about sales and promotions (although it does those very well) – you can also use it to serve your customers better. Financial services provider Card One Banking let customers check their account balance by texting BALANCE to 60777. By hooking up with our API gateway, their system can automatically search their database and pick out the right figure to reply with. All automated, with no call centre time!

There are other ways to use this too. Britvic coupled their keyword with our postcode lookup service, so by texting BRITVIC followed by their postcode, clients received an automatic response with the details of their local representative. The customers can get the info they need within seconds, without needing to call up, and the customer services team don’t have to lift a finger.

Join a group

I’m using the term “group” broadly here – our users have used their keywords and short codes to recruit people for stop smoking services, soccer events, climate awareness campaigns, petitions… if you want people to sign up for it, advertise it with a short code.

From NHS Knowsley helping 366 people to stop smoking, to over 500 young people playing street soccer in Islington, short codes and keywords have helped countless companies and organisations get people involved.

You can even run a scheme like NHS Knowsley’s entirely within the Messenger platform. With a series of auto-responses and scheduled messages, you could create a stop-smoking scheme, a support group, a series of messages about cats – whatever you like!


Getting started

I’ve quoted some big names in this article, but SMS short numbers can work for any business. They don’t cost the earth – in fact, every new Messenger account comes with a free keyword as standard. If you want something more personal to your business, check out this guide to picking the right words.

If you set up an auto response, it’ll just cost you the same as any other text – no more than 4.9p for 160 characters, and even less if you purchase a bigger credit bundle. Whenever someone messages in (charged at their standard network rate), their number is automatically saved so you’ve always got a list of contacts who are interested in your business to send your SMS campaigns to. You can generate a serious return on investment this way, just take a look at our case studies to see what other customers have done.

An added bonus is that every keyword comes with an opt-out keyword at no extra cost. Just tag this opt-out keyword on the end of your outgoing messages, and any recipient can choose to opt-out from your communications at any time. Not only does this help to keep you compliant, but you’ll never be messaging someone who doesn’t want to hear from you, so you’re not wasting credits.

Just login to your Messenger account (or open a new one, free of charge) to start using your free keyword or buy a personalised one, and you can be reaping the benefits in no time.

open rate

Over 98% of the text messages sent from our SMS tool are opened and read. That’s unmatched communication power for your business. Try it for yourself.