Marketing is about deciding the most effective way to use limited resources. Whether confined by hours in the day or by the almighty dollar, it’s impossible to be everywhere at once.
The stakes are high, too. You can have a fantastic product or service, but if you’re not getting it out there, you won’t get far. A significant drag on your company’s bottom line is a marketing strategy that allocates resources to the wrong channels.So, that’s why it’s worthwhile to vet every marketing channel or tactic carefully.
SMS Messages are Popular
We’ve never met, but we have one thing in common. We both own a cellphone.
Chances are also good that almost every one of your potential and existing customers owns a cellphone, too. The vast majority of Americans–96% to be exact–own a cellphone of some kind.
Not only do they own a mobile device, but they spend a lot of time with it. 79% of adult smartphone users have their phones with them for 22 hours a day.
While we spend the majority of our time looking at memes, most people use their mobile devices for “checking, sending, and answering text messages.”
The above is a long-winded way of saying, “your customers are texting, so why aren’t you?”
Texts are Intimate
People enjoy texting. It’s the way they engage with their nearest and dearest, so it has a positive association.
It should come as no surprise that texting can even boost happiness. A 2012 study conducted by psychologists at the University of California at Berkeley found people experience an uplift in their mood when they receive or respond to a text message from a friend or family member.
When your business gains access to someone’s inbox, it’s regarded as equally as the messages from close friends and family.
The caveat here is that it needs an invite. If you decide to crash someone’s inbox uninvited, you’ll annoy them and break TCPA laws on text marketing.
This may sound like an intimidating hurdle to overcome, but it’s really just about obtaining express written consent–a fancy term for permission. And it makes your texts even more effective (more on that below).
People Don’t Ignore Texts
Consumers see dozens, sometimes hundreds of marketing messages every day and everywhere: on social media, on billboards as they drive down the street, on television as they run on a treadmill at the gym.
As people grow numb to the constant stream of ads, it can be a challenge to get your message across. But text message marketing is different. It has been referred to as the closest thing in the information-overloaded digital marketing world to a guaranteed read.
Texts are Immediate
One of the most significant benefits of texting is fast delivery.
It has been shown that flash sales and time-sensitive promotions would encourage most folks to opt into a business’s text messages.
People read new text messages almost immediately. Other forms of communication don’t even come close.
It’s challenging to get this kind of instant exposure from email. This means your SMS campaign can be flexible and responsive: Text your customers when business is slow to see results fast.
People Want to Receive Your Texts
For many customers, receiving texts is their preferred way of communicating.
Most advertisements are ignored because most people aren’t interested in their message. Consider how many times you scroll through Instagram and see a brand asking you to “Buy Now.” Chances are you’re going to continue scrolling.
This kind of marketing typically has a low success rate for one simple reason—it’s uninvited. When someone is running at the gym or driving to the grocery store, they didn’t ask to see your ad.
But since people subscribe to receive your texts, your message is guaranteed to reach an audience genuinely interested in what you have to offer. It goes a long way to explain the high level of engagement and conversion rates businesses see when they send texts.
How to Get Started with SMS Marketing
If you’re convinced of SMS’ value and ready to give it a go, you need to get some things in place before releasing your first promotional SMS to the world.
Choose an SMS Platform
Step one is deciding on the SMS engine. When SMS arrived on the scene as a marketing option, mass texting solutions were the norm. SMS platform options have since exploded.
There are a lot of technology solutions on the market that specialize in sending text messages. If you focus only on SMS communication and want to keep other marketing channels separate, most SMS software platforms integrate with any of the best ecommerce platforms. (Check out what we at Robocent have to offer!)
Get a dedicated SMS Marketing number
Securing a dedicated sending number sets you up for business. Carriers require brands to invest in their own virtual numbers. This prevents multiple businesses from sending messages from the same number. Be aware of the following options:
10-digit long codes (10DLCs) are emerging as a popular option for commercial (A2P) messaging. Still largely untested, they are appropriate for lower-volume texting and non-time-sensitive messages.
Dedicated toll-free numbers are the standard go-to for brands that care about deliverability. They are approved for mass texting and can be instantly activated.
Dedicated short codes are memorable numbers that have the highest throughput. But, they are the priciest option with the lengthiest approval process.
Grow Your SMS and email marketing lists
Gaining explicit permission from customers is mandatory before sending any type of SMS marketing. Collect opt-ins the same way you build your email list — website popups, at checkout, and through other forms.
Marketers should be aware of the U.S. Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and similar local regulations. The TCPA prohibits telemarketing to non-consenting customers. Violations are hefty, in the form of $500 for each SMS sent. So you need to get that SMS permission
You can promote SMS list sign up at your brick and mortar store even when processing payments if your POS software allows it, or any touchpoint you have.
SMS Marketing Examples
There are two general approaches to sliding SMS into your marketing arsenal: a one-off campaign with SMS as the single channel, or a drip campaign that combines a text message or two with other channel messaging.
Stand-Alone SMS Campaigns
There are times when ecommerce marketers need to be bold. These instances call for instantaneous reach. Or, the message’s uniqueness deserves a megaphone that outperforms email’s open rate.
Promotional announcements are ideal candidates for stand-alone SMS campaigns. These are your best promotions, those that you know will make a splash, such as:
- Flash sales
- Hot-selling items
- Last-chance reminders
- SMS-only offers/reward program benefits
Automated SMS Workflows
It’s quick and easy to send an SMS campaign. But it’s only text, and therefore has its limits.
A marketing campaign that combines emails with SMS is more powerful. Combining both channels into an automated workflow creates greater personalization and a seamless omnichannel experience for the customer.
We’ve rounded up some automated SMS campaign examples to illustrate how this can work.
Welcome Series with SMS and email
Greet newcomers and engage them with your brand through staggered messaging. Here’s an example of what we mean:
First email: product recommendations with an incentive
Second email: reviews based on tracked interests, expanded product recommendations, and an incentive reminder
Third email: telling the brand’s story, more recommendations, and another incentive reminder
SMS message: reminder that the welcome offer is about to expire
A simpler multi-message welcome series, composed of one email and one SMS, can be just as impactful.
We don’t advise sending every message via SMS, but we highly recommend the channel for noteworthy occasions. Events like your customer’s birthday, or a loyalty program membership anniversary, fit the bill.
Make your customer feel special with an offer or discount that’s sent to their phone. Continue the celebration with a followup email.
Order and Shipping Confirmation
Have you ever placed an online order and waited—and waited some more—for the confirmation email to arrive?
Allow your customers to opt in for SMS confirmation. It is super direct, fast and eliminates any second-guessing when digital gremlins attack and cause email delays. An automatic text also establishes your brand as trustworthy with the customer’s best interests in mind.
Tap the SMS-email combo for shipping notifications, too. While you have the customer’s attention, it might be an opportune time to advertise complementary products.
SMS Best Practices
Segment. Customers love feeling like a message was crafted especially for them. Conjuring such sentiments depends on segmentation. Imagine all the lists you can create around shopping behaviors, marketing campaign engagement, demographics and more. Devise appropriate messages for each and if you’ve got them, add first name or other profile information to further personalize.
Be brief. The limit is 160 characters for SMS and 1,600 for MMS. Use the space wisely. Ask yourself, “What’s the point of the message, and the shortest way I can say it?” Include a link to more detailed information.
Ban slang. Use of SMS from a business is very different from personal texting. Reserve text slang for your personal messages. Stick to proper, yet casual, English.
Be mindful of your sending times. Text message notifications are enabled at all times on most phones. The guideline: send messages between 9 AM and 9 PM.
Prompt your customers to make a move. Include a straightforward call to action (CTA) with corresponding link.
SMS marketing isn’t a channel that stands lonely by itself. Many businesses have seen success in an omnichannel approach, reinforcing SMS messages with an email and incorporating other channels in cross channel SMS campaigns. Email and other channels allow you to communicate more details, and offer more options than the short message service (it’s in the name).
Adopt SMS as a tool in your marketing toolkit. Combine it with automated workflows and experiment with singular SMS promotional campaigns.
SMS has the capability to elevate any brand’s presence, customer relationships and sales.