20 Jul The Complete Guide to SMS Marketing
Digital marketing seems to be the focus of most modern businesses, leading to extreme saturation. It is becoming increasingly difficult to reach customers, generate engagement, and turn marketing messages into leads and actual sales. Many platforms are fighting for the attention of consumers, and sensitivity to marketing messages is on the decline.
While more recent developments in social media marketing, triggered by Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter moved the needle initially, those platforms are experiencing the same decline in consumer responsiveness that hit e-mail marketing and Google Ads in the past.
However, there is one digital marketing platform that is yet to suffer the same fate—SMS marketing. SMS marketing has been around for decades and remains incredibly relevant today. Let us take an in-depth look at the most important concepts of SMS marketing, its main benefits, and downsides, as well as how to use it to promote your business.
What is SMS Marketing?
SMS, better known as a “text message,” stands for Short Message Service. It was introduced to mobile (cellular) phones in the 90s, as an additional way to communicate with people in your contact list. SMS messages were introduced as part of the initial communications protocol of early mobile devices.
The option quickly exploded and soon became the most common form of text communication in the world. Currently, more than 3.5 billion people on the planet use SMS texting daily and over 80% of all mobile phone users.
The quick rise in popularity of SMS messaging presented a unique opportunity for businesses to get in touch with their potential customers in a cost-efficient way. SMS marketing is not a new kid on the block, it has been a part of the digital marketing space for decades, but it gained new life with the smartphone revolution during the last decade.
Nowadays, SMS marketing is everywhere, as companies use it to create customer databases, engage with them through loyalty programs, and run direct custom promotions that target certain customers and target audiences.
Why Choose SMS Marketing?
At the heart of SMS marketing is the mobile phone. It is impossible to imagine our lives without the convenience of owning a smartphone these days. We rely on them for daily news and information, navigation, shopping, keeping in touch with friends and family, and more. Most people experience withdrawal-like symptoms if they can’t use their phone for a prolonged period during the day.
This grants a unique advantage to SMS marketing, as the device itself is the platform. Compared to social media networks that require applications and/or memberships to access their features and communication tools, SMS messaging works out-of-the-box once you purchase a mobile phone.
Text messages and other types of notifications evoke a dopamine-rush in the human brain, triggering a response that “forces” people to check their phone because it might be something important. That’s why we open 98% of all text messages that we receive on our phones and read 90% of them within the first three minutes of receiving them.
SMS messages also stimulate people to interact and write back, and they do it right away. To be precise, SMS messages have a reply rate of 45%, far exceeding any other digital marketing platform available today.
All the above creates a unique opportunity for businesses to utilise SMS marketing as a tool to quickly and directly reach their customers, create interaction, and promote products and services.
Types of SMS Marketing
The uses and applications of SMS marketing are continuously expanding, but the following withstood the test of time and are amongst the most popular SMS marketing types:
Whether you are trying to promote a sale on your latest line of designer sneakers or announce a 30% back-to-school sale on all of the products in your web store, SMS marketing is a great way to do that.
Coupons are an excellent option to offer a special discount on an item or a product line that you would like to promote. Delivering a digital coupon via SMS is convenient, as your customers can always access it on their phones and will never lose it.
Businesses that seek to build an extensive database of consumer contacts often engage in SMS marketing campaigns known as text-to-win contests or competitions. The premise is simple. To participate in the contest and be eligible for prizes, a customer has to text a service number with a provided code to opt-in. Everybody loves free stuff, and the cost of the prizes in the competition is minimal compared to the number of contacts you’ll add to your consumer database.
Flash Sales and Time-Sensitive Promotions
Since SMS messages are instant and the vast majority of recipients will read them within three minutes of receiving them, this makes them a fantastic tool for promoting flash sales and other time-sensitive promotions. If you want to generate a quick buzz and invoke a quick response, SMS marketing is the way to go.
Alerts and Notifications
A customer is on a waiting list for a specific product or awaiting shipment on a device they have ordered. How about sending them an SMS once the product is available in your store or an alert once their order ships?
Collect Feedback and Data for Your CRM System
SMS marketing messages are a great way to collect feedback from customers. Whether it is their experience using the web store, the quality of customer service by support staff, or plain customer satisfaction with the product/service, a quick SMS to remind your customers that you value their opinion and satisfaction is the way to go.
How Does SMS Marketing Work?
Before getting into details about how the actual text messaging works, it is important to make a note about the legal side of SMS marketing. It is crucial to understand that under no circumstances can a business contact or send information to potential customers without proof of legal consent.
Unless a customer used an opt-in form on your website, sent an opt-in message, or agreed to receive this type of communication in any other form, you should steer away from contacting them via SMS in marketing capacity, even if you have their number. It could lead to potential lawsuits and a financial hit for your business. However, messages sent for the purpose of alerting, notifying or reminding customers of an existing transaction, do not require an opt-in mechanism.
With that out of the way, here are the mechanics of SMS Marketing:
Collect Customer Contacts and Build a Database
SMS marketing is useless unless a sizeable and relevant database of customer contact exists. There are many ways to grow this database quickly, from offering special discounts to customers that provide their contact information or send an opt-in SMS, to adding a field for a mobile number and relevant consent disclaimer to registration forms on your website and running text-to-win competitions. The size and quality of a customer database play a considerable role in the success of an SMS marketing campaign.
Create a Promotional Message
It is crucial to create a compelling marketing message that provides relevant information about the product/service/promotion, a call to action, and all the legal requirements such as identification and an opt-out mechanism for future messages. SMS messages can contain links that provide additional information or landing pages for the promotions you are currently running. Use them in your texts.
There are many enterprise-level and web-based SMS marketing software solutions that enable you to send out a large number of messages in just minutes by using something called an SMS gateway. The price per message sent is affordable, and the software allows for a lot of customisation, as well as tracking the delivery status and response rates.
Some SMS marketing communications might not require any interaction with an SMS message (for example an SMS coupon or an alert about an upcoming flash sale), but many others do. If you are running an SMS follow-up campaign designed to grow your database or collect feedback, this is the time you can expect it to come in.
Track, Measure, Improve
Once the campaigns finish their course, it is a good time to analyse the data collected by the SMS marketing software and Google Analytics and try to identify areas for improvement or any significant breakthroughs. Use the information to improve your future marketing efforts.
Benefits of SMS Marketing
Why SMS marketing? What distinct advantage over other digital marketing channels such as social networks or PPC does it have? While we agree that some benefits exist on other channels, SMS marketing offers unique benefits you can’t get from any other platform.
Your customers will receive your SMS marketing message within seconds of pushing it through your SMS gateway. Other texting and messaging channels and social networks all boast instant delivery, but the reality is that they need an internet connection to deliver their messages.
The average person touches their mobile phone more than 2,500 times during the day and checks several hundred times for any updates or notifications. That makes the mobile phone one of the most commonly used devices in the world. It is only natural that marketing messages delivered to this device instantly have a distinct advantage.
No Spam Filters
E-mail marketing is the direct reason why e-mail providers and software companies decided to create SPAM filters and software solutions to combat the beast that is spam messaging. We have all opened our inbox to find hundreds of unread e-mails that we have no interest in at least once.
Companies like Google and Yahoo have SPAM filters in place that automatically filter incoming e-mails, and send them to separate folders such as Promotions, Social, Spam, etc. This feature significantly lowers the open rate of e-mails and makes them less effective.
There are no such filters on SMS communication. If you have the legal consent to contact the people in your customer database, your SMS marketing communication will reach their phones without interruption and will stay in their inbox unless they delete the message physically.
Higher Response and Click-Through Rates
To explain this, we will just add some data to compare the rates with other digital marketing channels.
SMS marketing communication has an incredible 45% response rate, compared to the 6% of e-mail marketing, the only viable competitor in this area. Social network communication and PPC marketing communication average anywhere between a 1% and 3% response rate.
A similar situation exists in the CTR (Click Through Rate), with a 19% CTR for SMS marketing, 2.34% for e-mail marketing, 2% Google AdWords, 0.98% Facebook, 0.52 for Instagram, and 0.13% for LinkedIn. This data clearly shows how SMS marketing can be incredibly effective in reaching customers.
SMS Marketing Dos
How do you run an effective SMS marketing campaign, then? While every campaign is different, there are a few important guidelines to follow.
Always Get Permission.
The first step in building a relationship with your customers is to establish trust. The law states that you must obtain permission from potential customers to send out promotional materials and messages to them. Make sure to do this in a transparent and non-invasive way.
Prepare opt-in forms for SMS marketing as a part of the registration forms on your website, include them in the physical form if you have brick-and-mortar stores, and make it a part of all your digital marketing communication. Be clear and transparent that you are asking their permission to send them SMS messages, list the types of messages they can expect to receive, and follow up on this promise.
Not only will you avoid any potential legal problems, but you will create a better, more honest, and transparent relationships with your potential customers.
Provide Value in Your SMS Marketing Efforts.
Resist the urge to push all kinds of information at the customers in your database. Make sure only to send marketing communications that offer something of value to those customers. Otherwise, you might soon find that many customers are opting out of your database, or just stop reading the text messaging that they receive from you.
Use it to offer amazing deals, custom coupons, and promo codes, promote upcoming events and product launches. Think about how this communication will positively affect your customers.
Use SMS Marketing Tools and Integrate Them with Your CRM.
SMS marketing tools provide the ability to customise your SMS messages in a variety of ways and offer vital tracking tools that will help you run successful marketing campaigns. At the same time, most SMS marketing solutions easily integrate with CRM software, as well as other tracking/analytics solutions.
Not only will your SMS communication with customers look more professional, but it will improve the bottom line of your business in the long run. SMS marketing software also allows for automation, making SMS communication with the customers more intuitive and interactive.
Keep a Solid SMS Structure.
It can be challenging to get your point across in a concise SMS and still respect the legal and industry requirements for quality marketing communication. In our opinion, a good SMS marketing message must include:
- Identification – Always use SenderID or include the name of the company in the first line of your message. That way, customers know who is contacting them.
- Personalisation – Mention the name of the customer you are contacting right below the part where you introduce yourself.
- Pitch, Sales Text, Value to Your Customers – Clearly and concisely present the value proposition to your customers.
- Conditions – Make sure to let your customers know what they have to do to get the deal/offer you are promoting.
- Expiry Date – Let the customers know the date when the offer expires and create a sense of urgency.
- Opt-Out Mechanism – It is very important to provide your customers with a way to opt-out from the SMS marketing communications if they find the offers and promotions irrelevant. This will, in the long run, improve the quality of your database and increase conversions, while saving you money on SMS marketing expenses.
Respect the Timing and Your Customers.
Make sure to only send out SMS marketing communications at appropriate times and when they will generate the best response from your customers. Here are some guidelines for general marketing communications:
- The best time to send SMS communication to customers is usually right before and right after the lunch break. So, 10:30 AM to 11:30 AM and 2:30 PM to 3:30 PM seem to be the times when customers are most responsive.
- Send SMS messages at seemingly random times within the previously mentioned timeframe. A message sent at 11:07 AM will certainly face less competition than the one sent at 11:00 AM.
- If you are promoting a weekend event/sale/promotion, Thursdays are your best bet. Your customers will have enough time to put you in their weekend plans.
- Research shows that most customers will tolerate up to ten SMS marketing messages per month from you. Be selective and look for the value that you can offer your customers. Many successful companies only send out three or four SMS messages per month but all filled with value and relevance.
SMS Marketing Don’ts
The list of the things you should not do will quickly grow as you test the waters of SMS marketing. To help you avoid some rookie mistakes and make this transition smoother, we recommend following these points.
Don’t Break Your Customer’s Trust.
Keep the SMS marketing communication relevant and only include the things you mentioned during the opt-in process. Respect your customer’s privacy and value the trust they put in you by providing their contact information. Keep their data secure and go out of your way to make them happy to receive SMS communications from you.
If you intend to partner with other companies on some promotions and offers and want to combine your resources, make sure that you include that information in the opt-in forms for your customers. Make it clear that companies that you partner with will have access to their contact info and will use it to send them marketing materials. Reassure them that their data is safe.
Don’t Spam Your Customers.
It is hard enough to reach customers who are increasingly desensitised to the vast amount of information and promotional messages thrown at them daily. Don’t be a pest that keeps showing up in their messages.
Yes, we understand that you have endless cool products and features you would like to promote. We also get that you are providing fantastic savings—so what? That’s what your customers are going to think. Many other companies are doing similar things. Choose your marketing communication wisely. Less is more. Once a customer clicks on your landing page or visits your website, feel free to bombard them with all the other offers and promotions you might be running.
Don’t Forget to Include Incentives for Your Customers.
If you want your customers to opt-in to your SMS marketing communication and grow your database, make sure to incentivise them to do so. A custom coupon or a special discount on the product of their choosing is a great way to motivate them to opt-in.
The same applies to promotions and offers you send via SMS. Give them special and/or additional savings/gifts if they complete their purchases in the designated timeframe. Value their business and make them feel special.
Don’t Be a Salesman 24/7.
People avoid companies that are constantly trying to hard-sell products and services. No matter how good the copywriting is, the material gets stale after a while, and they decide to move on and stop opening your messages. Make sure to use a more conversational tone, include communication that increases brand awareness and promotes benefits of your products and services, rather than pushing coupons and deals all the time.
Be careful not to overdo it. While using informal language is OK if it fits your company image and target audience, a massive amount of slang and abbreviations might make your SMS marketing communication confusing and less effective.
Get Started with SMS Marketing Today
Hopefully, you understand the most critical concepts and benefits of SMS marketing now, and we’ve successfully provided you with some vital information to get started.
The topic of SMS marketing is far too complex to squeeze into a single guide though, so feel free to reach out to our experienced team for advice. We love helping businesses discover how SMS marketing can help them grow their reach.
If you think you’re ready to give SMS messaging a try, your first ten texts are on us! Sign-up today.