Advertisements and traditional marketing messages surround consumers constantly; they’ve become adept at tuning those messages out to avoid cognitive overload. Consumers delete emails, block banner ads, and skip video ads as soon as possible.
However, text messages get consumers’ attention. People are more likely to open a text message and click through to its offer. When done correctly, text message marketing (or SMS marketing) is one of the most effective marketing methods out there.
We’ll highlight best practices for your text message marketing campaigns and share common mistakes to avoid to ensure the highest possible return on investment.
According to a survey by SimpleTexting, 70 percent of consumers have agreed to receive texts from businesses. Additionally, texts enjoy a 98 percent open rate and a 36 percent click-through rate. Clearly, text messaging can be a highly effective small business marketing tool — when done right.
To ensure a successful text message marketing campaign, consider the following best practices:
“One mistake we made early on was sending [messages that were] too long,” said Matt Schmidt, owner and founder of Diabetes Life Solutions. “People don’t want to read a novel on their cell phone. Keep the text message precise and brief.”
A single text message can be 918 characters, but after a text reaches 160 characters, it will be broken down into chunks of 153 characters. This means your marketing text message should take full advantage of all those characters.
Make your messages as short as possible while still getting your point across. If you include extra words, you may lose prospects who don’t have the attention span, time or desire to read a long message.
Some marketers believe traditional marketing forms don’t need a specific purpose or goal beyond brand awareness (unless your business or sales goals state otherwise). However, text message marketing absolutely does. When you send a text directly to someone, you’re likely interrupting something they’re doing, so you need a reason.
Your text message marketing’s purpose should align with your overall short- and long-term business goals. Consider why you chose text message marketing over — or in conjunction with — other marketing methods. Next, focus on a specific purpose, such as scheduling or confirming appointments, offering discounts, or providing quick information.
Examples of quick, purposeful information include the following:
“We’ve seen the best results when using it [text messaging] as a form of follow-up,” said Sean Pour, co-founder of SellMax. “We just use it to remind people that they wanted to sell their car, and we’re still here to help them.”
The copywriting in your mobile marketing messages should get prospects or customers to take an action that pushes them to buy soon. If you’re unsure what type of copywriting works best, try writing your text messages a few different ways. Test and readjust your content until results improve.
These copywriting tips can help boost your campaign performance:
Text messaging is all about timing. People tend to pay more attention to texts than emails, so they’ll notice if you send messages too frequently and start viewing your communications as spam texts.
“When we first tried text message marketing, we were sending out weekly texts, and people were getting fed up with it,” Pour said. “People told us it was just excessive and it made them not want to do business with us, so we cut back drastically.”
The best time and number of text messages to send will vary based on these factors:
While text message marketing offers many benefits, you also run the risk of annoying or alienating customers. Avoid the common cringe-worthy errors in your text message marketing campaigns:
Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, businesses must obtain written (by hand or electronically) permission from the customer authorizing them to send messages, or they will face serious legal consequences.
“I have brought lawsuits on behalf of customers that have received repeated messages from telemarketers,” said Richard Ernsberger, attorney at Behrend & Ernsberger. “The customers developed a negative view of the company that was providing the unsolicited [contact].”
There are various ways to get permission:
All these methods count as written permission, but you should ensure your audience knows what they’re signing up for — and how to get out if they want (see below).
Consumers may change their minds about receiving your texts. It’s crucial to give people a way to opt out of your text messages and offer clear directions on how to stop them. Consumers like to have a choice in how marketers reach them. Text message marketing is a delicate line to walk because receiving texts can be jarring.
“Because you’ve made it clear you have access to a client’s phone number, now you need to be polite and avoid sounding invasive,” said Caio Bersot, content and social media strategist at EnergyRates.ca. “Let them know right away what they can do if they no longer want to receive messages from you.”
These days, consumer-brand relationships are crucial. Ensure consumers feel that you value their time and money and actively care about them.
If you can devote the time and energy, consider making your text messaging a two-way communication channel that facilitates customer feedback. A responsive feedback channel is a great way to foster customer loyalty. However, if you allow back-and-forth messaging, you must commit to responding to all messages promptly.
Text messages can feel more private and personal than other advertising forms. Respect this fact. Do not abuse your privileges, and be mindful of your messaging practices.
Zach Hendrix, co-founder of GreenPal, said text message marketing has become the lifeblood of his business. However, that success didn’t come without some blunders.
“We were sending text messages in the early morning hours on the East Coast while it was actually the middle of the night on the West Coast,” he said. “As soon as we sent them, we started getting irate emails from our users on the West Coast because [it was] 3 and 4 o’clock in the morning their time.”
Hendrix said it took a lot of work to adjust the GreenPal promotions to be layered according to time zone, but it was worth it in the end.
“Text message marketing sounds like a simple thing to pull off,” he said. “But you can’t really just fire and forget like email. You have to think it through.”
Once you’ve implemented text message marketing, you can send short messages that build and grow customer relationships. Strategic, well-worded texts with a clear purpose are most effective, as is texting only during business hours and allowing people to opt out. If this all sounds simple, it is — with SMS marketing, you can move mountains in just a couple of sentences.
Max Freedman and Marisa Sanfilippo contributed to this article. Source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.