SMS Marketing Best Practices
If you’re not familiar with the concept of a SMS marketing strategy, then you’ve landed where you need to be. SMS (Short Message Service) or text messaging is a digital marketing channel that brands are using to market their products and services. It’s a direct “line in” to someone’s cell phone inbox, meaning it’s highly likely to be seen.
For one, it’s not “cold texting,” meaning the lead needs to consent to receiving SMS texts. Additionally, when compared to email marketing services, it’s a concise, effective, and relatively painless way to update your customers, promote a sale, or foster engagement.
In this quick guide, we’ll break down SMS marketing best practices and explain how companies are leveraging this strategy to acquire, attract, and retain customers. Let’s dive in.
Why Do Customers Have to Opt-In to Text Message Advertising?
Obtaining permission before sending out SMS marketing messages and materials is paramount for every text-message-based campaign. When comparing email vs text, SMS messages are regulated by the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), so following their guidelines on receiving consent from customers is an absolute must.1
Could you imagine what it would be like if any brand could just pick up the phone and send you a random text? Our inboxes would suffer, our privacy negated, and we’d be outraged.
There are three simple ways for customers to provide your business with consent to SMS strategy:
- They fill out an online form that states consent
- They enter a contest or sweepstakes that states consent
- They text you first
If you fail to get consumer consent, you could face serious consequences.
In 2012, a British company was fined more than £440,000 (that’s over $600,000) for illegally sending SMS mobile messaging to consumers. Before you even begin to consider this marketing channel, you need to do your due diligence to ensure you’re falling well within regulation.
Is SMS Marketing Worth the Hassle?
As you can see, it’s fairly important to get customer consent for SMS marketing. But to launch an effective SMS campaign, you’ll need more than phone numbers.
A successful SMS campaign requires razor-sharp copy and clear CTAs, all delivered without annoying your local customer base.
So is it worth it?
SMS’s value varies for different types of organizations, but the truth is that SMS has three major benefactors:
- It’s Quick – Some marketing materials need to get into customers’ hands as quickly as possible. Text message marketing is nearly instantaneous. In fact, 90% of SMS mobile messaging is read within the first three minutes.2
- It’s Got a Great Open Rate – SMS Messaging has an almost 100% open rate.3 With that type of engagement, you could imagine that a tastefully executed SMS campaign could yield incredible results.
- It’s Got Great Click-Through Rates – Typically, the average click-through rate for an SMS campaign is going to be higher than any email effort.
Convinced? Next, we’ll explain how you can get started.
SMS Marketing Best Practices
So, you’ve been convinced of the power that SMS marketing holds. How can you best utilize this rising star?
As with the rest of your marketing strategy, you’ll need to provide value and connect with customers in an authentic way without overstepping.
You need to strike a balance between the frequency of your text messages and the consistency of the marketing message itself.
- As a general rule of thumb, don’t text customers more than once per week.4
- Never text customers more than once in a given day.
- Utilize data curation and A&B testing to find the frequency that works best for you.
Providing Value to Your Customers
If a customer has given you permission to send them SMS messages, they’re probably hoping you’ll send over something valuable.
The first step to following through on that promise is understanding your demographic and catering your offering to them.
Are you providing an update about your services? Is it a sale you’re about to launch? A coupon that’s going to last an entire season?
Remember that loyalty goes both ways. They’re trusting you to send them a text. Be sure it’s worth their while.
When communicating with customers via text message, it’s important to make them feel like they have a personal relationship with your business.
Unlike social media feeds (where customers expect to see content from businesses and people alike), text messages are usually reserved for family and friends.
- Try to create a personal connection with your customers to make them want to interact more with your marketing materials.
- This could mean orienting your message to be a bit more “human,” to giving them full agency to interact with your brand.
- Advanced data analytics can help you target users based on their past purchase history so that they only receive the most relevant messages.
Cutting to the Chase
SMS messages are limited to just 160 characters.
This means that each and every letter counts.
Brevity is the soul of SMS marketing. Shakespeare said that. We’re saying that. Because each letter gets you closer and closer to the 160 character limit, shortening phrases (like “promotional” to “promo”) can save you a ton of effort.
Considering the Timing of Your SMS Message
Americans check their phone 52 times per day, and that most people read a text within three minutes of receiving it.5 You have plenty of time in the day to send your SMS message, so ensure that the time you use is appropriate.
For instance, sending a text while most Americans are deep in their sleep cycle would risk waking them.
Outside of flagrantly inappropriate time slots, it’s important to choose moments of the day where your target audience is likely to engage with their smartphones. To that end, if your demographic is young CEOs, 2 PM might not be the best time for your SMS campaign as they’ll be deep in their work.
Using Professional Language
Similarly, the language that’s used in SMS marketing messages should be professional and on-brand.
- We know that texts are usually quite colloquial, but the messaging needs to define that this is an SMS campaign.
- Are emojis right for your brand? Consider how will acronyms, abbreviations, and other elements that are commonly used in text agree with your overall brand strategy.
Of course, there are many different methodologies that can be applied, but the overarching point is to keep your messaging in line with your established voice.
Creating a Call to Action
Without a proper call to action (CTA), determining the effectiveness of your marketing campaign can be difficult. Depending on what you’re trying to achieve with your SMS campaign (and it may not be a conversion), try to spotlight your CTA. Keep it front and center. If you’ve enticed a potential customer, you don’t want to lose them because they don’t know where to go or how to access your website.
An SMS call to action needs to be direct, succinct, and identifiable.
Some SMS Don’ts
Along with the things you should do, there are quite a few things you should avoid in your SMS campaigns.
- Always Trying to Sell Something – While converting customers is typically the goal of a marketing initiative, pushing for a sale can come across as inauthentic in an SMS message.
- Forget to Provide Opt-Out Instructions – If a customer wants to stop receiving your SMS marketing materials, it’s important that you let them do so. Some customers simply don’t care for the correspondence yet still support your business. Don’t alienate them by making the opt-out process difficult.
- Over Texting – Nobody likes being bombarded with text messages. Whether from their best friend or their favorite restaurant, excessive texting can feel like an overstepped boundary. Users might unsubscribe and stop supporting your business. This is an intimate line of communication. Treat it as such!
- Forget to Identify Your Business – They say that all press is good press, but without a way for potential customers to identify your business, is it press at all? Make sure that you always remind your customer which business this message is coming from. Not every customer saves your business as a contact, so they can quickly grow confused if you don’t declare where the SMS is coming from.
Getting the Most Out of Your Next SMS Marketing Campaign
SMS marketing is a powerful tool that businesses can leverage to establish brand awareness, promote their sales, and foster conversions. However, before starting an SMS marketing campaign, brands need to understand the channel intuitively. Not only is it a personal form of communication, but it’s also one that’s regulated.
If you’re feeling uncertain about SMS best practices or you’re new to this marketing medium, the team here at Power is ready to assist. From crafting the perfect message, spotlighting your value propositions, to ensuring you’re compliant, we can guide you through every step of the process.
While SMS marketing necessitates careful collaboration and attention to detail, the potential upside of this stratagem is what makes the juice worth the squeeze.
- FCC. Avoiding Spam: Unwanted Email and Text Messages. https://www.fcc.gov/sites/default/files/avoiding_spam_-_unwanted_email_and_text_messages.pdf
- NPR. Getting Lots Of Political Messages On Your Phone? Welcome To ‘The Texting Election.’ https://www.npr.org/transcripts/920776670
- Business Insider. 13 SMS Text Messaging Services for Marketing in the Mobile Age. https://www.businessinsider.com/13-sms-text-messaging-services-for-marketing-in-the-mobile-age-2012-5
- Search Engine Journal. 6 tips for SMS marketing. https://www.searchenginejournal.com/6-tips-success-sms-marketing/188411/#close
- Forbes. Marketing 2020: A Shift From Loyalty To Relevance. https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbesagencycouncil/2019/10/10/marketing-2020-a-shift-from-loyalty-to-relevance/?sh=54cb3f106da8
- MarketWeek. SMS spammers fined £440,000. https://www.marketingweek.com/sms-spammers-fined-440000/
- CBS News. Do You Check Your Phone More Than Most Americans? https://www.cbsnews.com/news/do-you-check-your-phone-more-than-most-americans/