SMS marketing has been around since the advent of texting itself, but only adopted on a wide-spread scale in the past few years. While traditionally seen as hard to track and driving unknown ROI, improvements in data technology and tracking have laid this belief to rest. SMS marketing, when implemented properly, can be one of your most valuable marketing tools.
SMS, or short-message-service, is another word for text messaging. SMS marketing uses permission-based text messages for all manner of brand promotions, discounts, news, special offers, account alerts, and more. The key differentiating feature of SMS marketing is its’ rapid speed and more intimate relationship with subscribers. Additionally, SMS messages can contain up to 160 alphanumeric characters (including spaces), making it one of the most concise channels out there.
It all begins with a phone number. Gather a current customer or website visitor’s phone number like you would any other information - name, email address, and so forth - with the important exception of having a clear opt-in checkbox or message to consent to receiving text messages from your brand. Then, you can start sending texts to them! It’s as easy as that.
However, it’s important to keep in mind the laws and regulations of SMS marketing, which differ from email and other marketing channels. Take the time to familiarize yourself with regulations to avoid hiccups or irritated subscribers down the line.
SMS Marketing is one of the most under-utilized, high-value channels currently available. With only 39% of brands using SMS, there’s ample space to capture shoppers’ attention and engage them on a 1:1 basis.
There are several distinct advantages of utilizing SMS marketing:
SMS is incredibly fast and direct.
Messages are received almost instantly. This makes it a great channel for time-sensitive messages which, when paired with other popular channels, can drive your ROI through the roof.
While SMS is a powerful standalone channel, it has the ability to augment the performance of other channels - especially social media and email - by a significant margin. If you sent out an email about a brand or product update, you can send an SMS reminder boosting email open rates.
It’s good to view SMS as a way to keep a brand engaged with its audience. While texting consumers may feel invasive, it isn’t if you provide genuine value to your audience. For example, you can send a post-purchase text asking if they are enjoying their product - if not, provide a solution directly to them such as a help or FAQ page, service phone number, or even a returns page! A show of respect goes a long way with both brand image and engagement.
Mobile shopping is increasing every year by substantial margins. By 2021, mobile sales are expected to account for 54% of all ecommerce sales. By directly messaging them on their mobile device (perhaps while they’re already shopping!), you can double down on existing consumer behavior.
SMS marketing has a variety of advantages over other marketing channels such as email, paid advertising, and social media. However, the most important thing to consider is that your audience is trusting your brand to not spam and annoy them, especially at night or on the weekends. It’s a much more intimate channel than others and thus the risk of annoying your audience is higher too.
Here are the best practices for SMS marketing that take into account the high-touch nature of this channel:
Always get permission.
You must have permission from people before sending them texts. Without explicit permission, you will be both breaking laws and making your brand look invasive and spammy - two things everyone absolutely hates, especially in our current world. The best practice here is to always provide a checkbox or quick way to opt-in when gathering phone numbers from a lead generation form. Be fully transparent with your SMS marketing and avoid the penalties of doing it wrong later.
Whether it’s when they submit their phone number or on your first text message, always include “Message and Data rates may apply.” and a way for your audience to opt-out of receiving messages. Whether it’s because they don’t like getting texts or they opted-in accidentally, it makes it easy for them to stop. Otherwise, every message will be an annoying interruption on their end and give your brand a bad look.
Be nice and courteous to your audience. They don’t want to wake up to a marketing text and they sure as heck don’t want to fall asleep to it, either. Remember, one of the key benefits of SMS marketing is the rapid, direct communication that drives immediate action; nobody is going to convert first thing in the morning or in the middle of the night.
Your brand almost always gets direct facetime with your audience whenever you send a message, so don’t waste their time. Whether it’s a reminder, sale, or asking them about a product they’ve purchased, always give them something valuable and actionable. Receiving a message should feel exciting - if it’s generic and overstated, then it’s likely not worthwhile, leading to an unsubscribe.
You have their attention, so make it snappy and clear what you’re saying. Don’t allow for any second guesses or misconstruing. Give your audience a clear value proposition, a way to act on it, and get out. That way, if you do still happen to annoy someone, it won’t be for very long and they’ll forget about it sooner, allowing you to try again later.
SMS marketing is one of the most powerful channels currently available. Coupled with no cost, instant delivery, and excellent engagement rates, there’s no reason you shouldn’t start your SMS journey right away. Since only 39% of brands currently utilize SMS marketing, there’s still room to be one of the first in your industry to do so and capitalize on the space.
Ultimately, it’s likely that SMS will become as saturated as the rest so get it while the getting is good!