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Updated Oct 26, 2023

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

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

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Kiely Kuligowski, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Writer
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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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. 

Text message marketing do’s

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:

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, 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.

Did You Know?Did you know
According to Forrester data, businesses that sell online say 12.8 percent of their online revenue stems from text message marketing.

2. Ensure your texts have a purpose.

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:

  • 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
  • A text message survey that requests customer feedback

“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 the copywriting in your text message marketing.

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:

  • Invoke a sense of urgency. Encourage prospects to take action by invoking a sense of urgency. Having a call to action (CTA) is essential for 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 must be clear and direct by using words that tell them what to do.
  • Speak your audience’s language. Write for your audience by creating content they’ll find relatable. Consider creating buyer personas to better connect to your target customers. Text message marketing is not the place to use jargon; keep your voice informal. “Texting is inherently short and conversational,” said Rachel Rosenthal, senior product manager at SmartRent. “Don’t copy and paste long emails into texts or send highly technical and dense information.”
TipTip
Your text message marketing CTA should encourage users to engage by clicking through to your website landing page or performing another action, like buying a product or downloading content.

4. Be strategic about the timing and quantity of your text messages.

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:

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

Text message marketing don’ts

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:

1. Don’t text without permission.

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: 

  • Have users text a keyword.
  • Have users provide their phone number.
  • Have users sign up through an email link. 

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).

2. Don’t lock people into receiving your text messages. 

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.”

3. Don’t offer only one-way communication in your text message marketing.

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.

4. Don’t be disrespectful in your text message marketing.

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.”

Did You Know?Did you know
The best text message marketing services take the guesswork out of mobile customer communications. Consider a service like Textedly, which has competitive pricing and impressive scalability. Read our Textedly review to learn more.

Building relationships the short way

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.

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Kiely Kuligowski, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Writer
Kiely Kuligowski is an expert in project management and business software. Her project management experience includes establishing project scopes and timelines and monitoring progress and delivery quality on behalf of various clients. Kuligowski also has experience in product marketing and contributing to business fundraising efforts. On the business software side, Kuligowski has evaluated a range of products and developed in-depth guides for making the most of various tools, such as email marketing services, text message marketing solutions and business phone systems. In recent years, she has focused on sustainability software and project management for IBM.
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