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SMS Marketing Best Practices: Text Message Marketing Do's and Don'ts

Kiely Kuligowski
Kiely Kuligowski
Staff Writer

Boost your marketing ROI and avoid getting blocked by following these tips.

  • Text message marketing can be an effective way to communicate directly with your audience.
  • Having a direct line of communication requires certain etiquette.
  • Consider the following do's and don'ts before launching your text message marketing campaign.
  • This article is for entrepreneurs and marketers who want to reach more customers and are considering a text message marketing campaign.

Consumers are constantly surrounded by advertisements and traditional marketing messages, and they've become adept at tuning them out to avoid cognitive overload. Emails are deleted, banner ads are blocked and video ads are skipped after five seconds.

Text messages, however, have an almost 100% click-through rate, because we are psychologically helpless against that little red dot. When done right, text message marketing (or SMS marketing) is one of the most effective marketing methods out there. Read on to learn about SMS marketing best practices and what you should and shouldn't do with your mobile marketing efforts.

Text message marketing do's

These actions can help you run an effective text message marketing campaign and generate a return on investment:

1. Keep text messages short and to the point.

"One mistake we made early on was sending [messages that were] too long," said Matt Schmidt, CEO of Diabetes365. "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 it reaches 160 characters, it will be broken down into chunks of 153 characters. This means that 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.

2. Have a purpose.

Some marketers believe that traditional forms of marketing don't necessarily need one specific purpose or goal beyond brand awareness (unless your business goals state otherwise), but text message marketing absolutely does. You're sending a text straight to a person and most likely interrupting something they're doing, so you should have a good reason for doing so.

The purpose of your text message marketing should tie back into your overall short- and long-term business goals. Consider why you are choosing this type of marketing over or in conjunction with other forms of marketing. Next, focus on a specific purpose, such as scheduling or confirming appointments, offering discounts or providing quick information. Examples of quick information include the following:

  • A reminder that your live webinar is happening in one hour
  • An announcement that the sale at your online clothing boutique is ending in 24 hours
  • A notification that the eyeshadow the customer has in their online shopping cart is running low
  • A follow-up asking if your IT services prospect has any questions about the proposal you sent them

"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."

3. Strengthen your copywriting.

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 not sure what type of copywriting works best, try writing your text messages a few different ways, testing and readjusting content until results improve. These copywriting tips can help boost your campaign performance:

  • Encourage prospects to take action by invoking a sense of urgency. Calls to action are essential to getting customers to buy your product or service. Because text messages aren't usually revisited after they've been seen, you want your prospects to take action right when they receive your message. That means you need to be clear and direct by using words that tell them what to do.

  • Speak your audience's Write for your audience by creating content they will find relatable. Consider creating buyer personas to establish an idea of who your customers are. Text message marketing is not the place to use jargon; keep it informal. "Texting is inherently short and conversational," said Rachel Rosenthal, former product manager at Lunar. "Don't copy and paste long emails into texts or send highly technical and dense information."

4. Be strategic about the timing and quantity.

Text messaging is all about timing. People tend to pay more attention to texts than to emails, so they will notice if you send messages too frequently.

"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:

  • Your target audience
  • Your industry
  • Your specific type of business
  • Where your prospects fall on the buyer journey timeline
  • Consumer supply and demand (e.g., the COVID-19 toilet paper fiasco)

Key takeaway: Be relatable, concise and direct when text messaging your customers. Don't abuse the privilege of having a direct line of communication with them.

Text message marketing don'ts

Here are several mistakes to avoid in your next text message marketing campaign:

1. Texting without permission

Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, businesses must obtain written (either 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: You can have users text a keyword, provide their phone number or sign up through an email link. All of these methods count as written permission, but you should make sure your audience knows what they are signing up for and how to get out if they want to.

2. Giving people no way out

Consumers like to have a choice in how marketers reach them. Text message marketing is a delicate line to walk, because receiving the 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."

3. Offering only one-way communication

These days, a personal connection to a brand goes a long way with consumers. Make sure they feel that their time and money are valued and your company actively cares. If you can devote the time and energy, consider making your text messaging a two-way communication with your customers, allowing it to serve as a feedback channel.

However, a blog post by SimpleTexting suggests that if you do choose to allow back-and-forth messaging, you need to commit to responding to all messages in a timely manner.

4. Being disrespectful

Text messages can feel more private and personal than other forms of advertising. Respect this. 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."

Key takeaway: Be respectful and transparent with your audience, and always consider their circumstances. Text messages should be crafted carefully and sent at appropriate times. 

Additional reporting by Marisa Sanfilippo.

Image Credit: Antonio Guillem/Shutterstock
Kiely Kuligowski
Kiely Kuligowski
Business News Daily Staff
See Kiely Kuligowski's Profile
Kiely Kuligowski is a business.com and Business News Daily writer and has written more than 200 B2B-related articles on topics designed to help small businesses market and grow their companies. Kiely spent hundreds of hours researching, analyzing and writing about the best marketing services for small businesses, including email marketing and text message marketing software. Additionally, Kiely writes on topics that help small business owners and entrepreneurs boost their social media engagement on platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.