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Preparing your contact database before sending bulk SMS


While you might feel ready to send your first SMS, it may be a little early to jump in the deep end. There are a number of things you may want to prepare and learn about before you begin, including ways to manage your contact’s details

How to prepare your data before your first send

1. Collect your data

If this is your first messaging rodeo, or you’re just starting your business, it’s likely that you have little to no data required for SMS. While many businesses might retain certain types of data, it’s likely they’ve never collected the most important element required to send text messages  – customer’s mobile phone numbers.


Phone numbers are a priority but there are always other considerations. Figure out exactly what data you want to collect and why. It will always depend on your business and the needs of your customers. Consumers are cluing on to the power of their contact information, so it’s important to be careful in what you ask, and how you frame its use.

RELATED: 19 easy ways to build your mobile number database

Examples of data you may want to collect:

  • First name, last name
  • Origin of recipient or locations
  • Where they shopped
  • Product preferences or previous products bought
  • Communication preferences
  • Email
  • Occupation
  • Interest areas

Rona Scrubs, a non-profit whose mission was to sew scrubs for essential workers, not only sought mobile numbers from doctors, nurses, and other hospital workers ordering scrubs but also sizing and locations. Sizing, because they needed to be able to organise how many sizes per council area needed to be created, and locations, so they could organise delivery by their distributors.

CREDIT: RonaScrubs

Remember to try to limit the amount of information requested if you can and to let customers know how you are going to use their data.

2. Collate and check your data

Now you’ve got your data, or it’s started to roll in – what do you do with it?

Start building your database. Whether you use a customer relationship management system,  like Hubspot, Salesforce, Netsuite, or a simple Excel or Google Sheets document, make sure that you collate, update and check your data regularly. Make it easy to understand and shareable to everyone in your team or business. Having an eye over your customers, and a deeper, iterative understanding will only be a boon in the long-term.

If you’ve already got your database ready to go, ask yourself when was the last time it was checked for accuracy? People can change numbers, locations, even their preferences, and it’s essential that you’re on top of those changes. Additionally, this can help you re-engage customers and recipients as a sign of proactive customer care and support.

RELATED: Find out how you can clean up a messy database by auditing unused numbers with HLR lookups.

Also, consider types of recipients. If they are patients at your clinic, they may need to hear from you regarding emergency information, so it’s absolutely important that your data is up-to-date at all times. The same applies to parents if you are an administrator at a school. If you are a business who only services your clientele once or twice a year, this is even more reason for you to check and update your information. We’ll talk about this more when discussing testing a broadcast.


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3. Use correct formatting

When inputting your data, make sure to use correct formatting when it comes to mobile numbers. This is especially important for businesses for a number of reasons.

  • You’re sending to countries outside your own
  • You’re importing your contact list or database to our portal

Let’s talk about these more in-depth.

If you’re an American business wanting to send to Australian mobiles, make sure you look up the relevant international prefix and include it. 

Sending SMS from America to Australia infographic

For example, most local Australian mobile numbers are given out as 04XXXXXXXX. In this case, you would change it to 614XXXXXXXX, with 61 being the international prefix. 

If you do not include the prefix, our web portal will assume you are importing local numbers. This may cause an issue or get rejected when sending. If you aren’t including source location data in your database, this is also a good way for others to pick out where you are sending to with that recipient.

Even with local numbers, it’s recommended that you still use international prefixes. When it comes to setting up and using other features offered with the MessageMedia platform, such as automation, full numbers, including country codes and prefixes, are required. 

It, however, is not a huge issue if you do decide to leave local numbers without their prefix. 

Sending SMS from Australian to Australia infographic

For example, if your business is based in Australia, you do not need to include ‘61’. Instead you can use 04XXXXXXX, which may be converted to 4XXXXXXX in a data sheet.

The same rules apply if you choose to import your contacts into the MessageMedia portal. You will also need to match the data columns to their rightful matches after uploading. This helps our gateway to recognise not only where to send, but what type of data is being used.  

4. Test a broadcast

Before sending any campaign, and I mean any campaign – whether it’s 50 or 20M recipients – always test your broadcast first.

This is why updating your lists is important. While SMS services are a relatively cost-effective option, it can add up if you’re constantly sending broadcasts to fix previous broadcasts with errors or re-sending to recipients who did not receive their message.

Pick a colleague, team member or even yourself. Grab their number and set them up as a recipient. If you know you are going to be doing tests frequently for different campaigns, consider setting up a contact group specifically for testing broadcasts with team numbers. Input your message, whether it’s a test of your broadcast or a call-out for information updates, and send.

If you can, pick 2 – 3 people on different carriers or networks, so you can record how fast it reached them or if there were any problems on the way. Did links click-through okay? How long did it take to reach them? If using mobile landing pages or MMS, how long did it take for the associated media to load and play? Were there any glitches along the way?

You can also use tests strategically. As a business, we regularly send out SMS communications to internal employees with reminders about updating their information. Right before lockdown earlier this year, MessageMedia checked in with all staff members via SMS to reconfirm their information:

MM SMS Staff Notification

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Final thoughts, further reading

Yes, we’re almost ready to send. There are, however, a few more steps that you should be across, even if they don’t strictly apply to you right now. We talked earlier about setting up contact lists, which we’ll go into more in-depth in our next subject topic. Coming up, we’ll also be talking about:

  • Opt-outs and compliance
  • Optimising your text messages
  • Organising your team
  • Best practises for writing SMS
  • Getting the most out of your account features
  • SMS etiquette
  • Measuring your success

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