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Salesforce MobileConnect – a guide to sending SMS from Marketing Cloud

What is MobileConnect and how can you use it to better engage your customers?

SMS is the most underrated channel. If we consider the success rates of SMS deliverability, open rate and click rate over the past few years, you can understand why. Countless companies are going back to SMS to maintain a high frequency of engagement with their customers and to reach tough geographic markets.

Even with the promising future of SMS, the same questions rise: how easy/budget-friendly is it to use this channel in my marketing campaigns? Which use cases are best suited for my business objectives? Is an SMS a medium that can deliver commercial benefits, or just a transactional one?

To answer these questions and more, let’s dive into MobileConnect, the module that enables Marketing Cloud customers to send SMS. We’ll cover the key functionalities, the types of messages you can send with Merkle as a case study and the key principles to keep in mind when activating this channel.

What is MobileConnect?

MobileConnect allows you to create SMS/MMS messages within Salesforce Marketing Cloud’s Mobile Studio. It doesn’t actually send messages directly to the subscriber’s mobile phone, but pushes a message to partners, known as Aggregators, who then push the message out to the local phone Carriers via their SMS gateways, for the final delivery to the subscriber’s mobile phone.

The local carrier is often a telco company based in a specific country, it is therefore subject to local regulations and restrictions. So, always double-check the carrier capabilities with Salesforce and your legal department to avoid wasting any time if the carriers don’t meet your business expectations.

There are common challenges along the way, which are covered below:

  • Form registration for the Alpha Sender ID (the SMS ‘From Name’)
  • Opt-out keyword pre-registration (STOP, UNSUBSCRIBE, etc.)
  • US and CA registration forms
  • Auto-messages for opt-out and opt-in pre-registration

SMS Campaign Setup through MobileConnect in Salesforce Marketing Cloud

If you want to diversify your communications with your consumers, enabling MobileConnect in your Salesforce Marketing Cloud instance creates on-demand services and ensures strong customer engagement.

  • MobileConnect allows you to set up an SMS quickly and easily, thanks to the message creation wizard in Content Builder.
  • Using guided options in Mobile Studio, you can generate bidirectional conversations or surveys, implement opt-in functionalities, perform progressive profiling, or trigger emails on-demand.
  • AMPScript provides you with endless personalisation capabilities, too.

Mobile Codes

Mobile codes enable your Marketing Cloud instance to connect to local carriers delivering SMS to one or more countries.

A mobile code can be relatively cheap (or expensive!) depending on the country and the type of code. Each mobile code has an associated ‘tier’, which represents the price to activate it (not necessarily determined by the type).

Four tiers currently exist:

  • Tier 1: UK - private long, Italy - private long, Czech Republic - private long, Netherlands - shared short, Mexico - shared short
  • Tier 2: Colombia - private short, Singapore - private long, UAE - private short
  • Tier 3: UK - private short, Canada - private short
  • Tier 4: Brazil - private short, France - private short, Mexico - private short

Few Tier 1 codes are included in Salesforce Marketing Cloud Enterprise licenses, but this is worth checking with Salesforce on a case by case basis.

Long Codes vs. Short Codes

What do ‘long code’ and ‘short code’ mean? Here’s a comparison table, followed by a longer explanation:

  Long Codes (aka international codes) Short Codes (aka local code)
What they do: Unidirectional SMS communication Bidirectional communication. Always specific to a country (e.g. the USA, Canada, France, and others, require it to deliver messages)
What they're used for: Meaningful 1:1 conversation with customers e.g. to collect survey responses or to send out international messages Used for engagement campaigns, security authentication, or to send out service disruption notifications (due to their better click-through)
Send rate: 1 SMS per second Up to 100 SMS per second
Activation period: 1-2 weeks (dependent on the country-specific activation requirements (e.g. pre-registration form, documents)) From 2 to up to 12 weeks (will likely require pre-registration forms, documents and legal commitment for content and intent)
Price: Cheaper More expensive 

Long Codes

  • Enable unidirectional SMS communication, meant for meaningful 1:1 conversation with customers, e.g. to collect survey responses or to send out international messages.
  • Also known as international code, these can only be sent out at a rate of 1 SMS per second.
  • Long codes can be specific to one country or can serve multiple countries. The UK long code is widely used for international SMS campaigns.
  • The activation for a long code can take 1-2 weeks and it is dependent on the country-specific activation requirements (e.g. pre-registration form, documents).
  • Long codes are usually cheaper than short codes and are very often associated with Tier 1.

Short Codes

  • Enables unidirectional and bidirectional communication, always specific to a country. The USA, Canada, France, and others require a short code to deliver messages.
  • Also known as local code, their activation can take from 2 to up to 12 weeks and will likely require pre-registration forms, documents, and legal commitment for contents and intents.
  • Short codes have better click-through and are often used for engagement campaigns, security authentication, or to send out service disruption notifications. Using a short code allows us to send up to 100 SMS per second.

Shared Codes vs Private Codes

Shared codes

Used by multiple companies, at the same time, to deliver SMS messages in specific countries. Shared codes are usually very quick (around 1 week) to activate. Their main limitation is on the availability of keywords (covered below), due to sharing these codes with other clients. They do, however, come with five keywords of your choice, and the opportunity to purchase five additional ones.

Private codes

Used only by your company, private codes are often more expensive than shared codes. Businesses benefit from an unlimited number of keywords and are often able to have Alpha Sender ID (From Name). Though better at representing your brand, users cannot respond directly to the SMS, so it is crucial to add the phone number at the bottom of the text message to allow the users to reply.

Private codes vs. shared codes – which is better?

Brand identity is key and having a ‘sender name’ (available only with Private codes) is an important component in delivering a trusted, multichannel user experience.

Should you use keywords in MobileConnect?

Using short codes enables you to use keywords for bidirectional communication with your customers, for example:

  • SMS campaign subscriptions
  • Providing services
  • FAQs
  • Automated SMS bots

Keywords must contain more than 3 characters and must be unique within a code. They are often displayed in capital letters to be identifiable as keywords. MobileConnect keywords are case insensitive and can process all different versions of a word. For example, these variations would be recognised as the same word: CALLME, CallMe, callme, callmE, cAllme.

System Keywords

System keywords in MobileConnect cannot be edited, assigned to any campaign, or used in an automated process. They are mostly related to opt-out management, for example:

  • END
  • HELP
  • HLP
  • QUIT
  • STOP

Keyword Usage

Keywords are most frequently used for country-based campaigns. Alongside bidirectional communication, they are a powerful tool that should only be used when SMS is the best communication channel for a specific country or campaign. Remember, Marketing Cloud can offer several other options, such as Whatsapp or Line, for bidirectional communication.

Why Use MobileConnect?

For some insight into what MobileConnect is, and what it can achieve, let’s look at some campaigns implemented by Merkle, split by the four types of message you can currently send:

  • Transactional messages, e.g. order confirmations
  • Commercial messages, e.g. product promotions
  • Security messages, e.g. password expiration reminder
  • Progressive profiling

Transactional messages

Transactional messages are widely used and easy to implement, thanks to the low level of personalisation required relative to the service benefits, for example:

  • Order confirmations
  • Registration confirmations
  • Appointment scheduling
  • Product delivery, shipment tracking, etc.
Transactional Messages through MobileConnect

Commercial messages

Commercial messages are used to engage customers in 1-to-1 conversations. Generally, the purpose should be to re-engage dormant customers. As SMS is an alternative channel to email, this may work better to engage individual subscribers. They are also used to redirect mobile traffic to websites or to landing pages, for example:

  • Sharing rewards, competitions, discounts, or promotions from a brand
  • Surveys, reviews
Commercial Messages through MobileConnect

Security messages

Security messages can be considered as a subcategory of transactional messages, for example:

  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA) codes
  • Security notifications (password expiration reminder, expiring tasks to complete)
  • Guidelines containing useful links to web resources
  • Message sending limits exceeded
Security Messages through MobileConnect

Progressive profiling

A clever way to use bidirectional codes is to implement data enrichment campaigns, known as progressive profiling, with the purpose of collecting customer interests or demographic data, based on what is missing from their record in your database.

The system processes a campaign in different waves, requesting only the missing information every time, and skipping questions if the data is already in the database. We’ve seen a high success rate for these campaigns, especially where the questions have been funny or short, generating the interest of the customers.

Progressive Profiling through MobileConnect

SMS Marketing Principles

When drafting journeys and messages, brands must consider the message frequency, target audiences, and personalisation. SMS as a marketing channel, comes with a set of global best practices and mandatory content to include.

To help you remind yourself of these principles every time you set up a campaign, use this checklist:

  1. Get permission to send messages to your users through global subscription or ad-hoc campaign opt-in.
  2. Be clear about your campaign/program.
  3. Clarify the frequency of messages you will send. The opt-in of a user should be focused around this as complaints regarding message frequency can force a local carrier to stop your service.
  4. Include disclaimers such as message and data rates when your users reply to your messages.
  5. Provide an opt-out option, always. It can be through an inbound SMS triggered by the user, or through an external link to a web preference centre. Some countries require an opt-out keyword and the possibility of doing it directly from an SMS
SMS Marketing Principles


Before enabling a new marketing channel in Salesforce Marketing Cloud, organisations should first consider if they have strong use cases, especially if they plan to do it as a global roll-out.

Start with marketing use cases for SMS, which involve unidirectional SMS and a small scope of countries. This will build your confidence with creating SMS messages, configuring a journey, personalisation with basic fields, and the data required to be able to deliver an SMS.

To find out more about how you can deliver engagement and reach with SMS, please get in touch.