Business texting, or when a company sends bulk messages to customers who have opted in to receive them, can be a highly effective way to reach your audience. Also called SMS marketing, MMS marketing or text message marketing, this method of casual communication has better engagement rates than other channels, including email and social media: On average, it takes a person less than two minutes to respond to a text, compared with nearly two hours for email, according to Campaign Monitor.
However, text message marketing also comes with some risks, and it’s important to follow texting etiquette to avoid tarnishing your business’s reputation. If you want your customers to be engaged, they cannot interpret your text messages as spam. Follow these best practices for implementing an effective text message marketing campaign that doesn’t spam your audience.
These 10 text message marketing tips can help you improve the quality of your texts, thus boosting their effectiveness without sacrificing customer satisfaction:
Introduce yourself or your company in the initial text message. Chances are, your phone number isn’t in their contact list, so don’t leave them guessing. Customers want to know what kinds of text messages they should expect to receive from you. If you offer multiple message types, consider providing an opt-in form that allows the customer to choose which content they can receive and offers a courteous way of asking permission. Dividing your list into segments will help you target the right customers.
A casual tone invites the customer into the conversation while being direct. It’s fine to use well-known abbreviations and emojis, but do so sparingly. Consider your target audience’s age, location, interests, needs and so on. Avoid vague or confusing messages.
Use a text messaging platform to personalize the text to each customer. Software such as SnapDesk can help you easily insert your customer’s first name automatically. Always proofread each message before you send it.
When you are requesting an action from your customer, always include detailed information in the text. If a customer needs to pick up an order, let them know when it will be available and the best way to retrieve their items. Other possible CTAs include requests for a product review, discount codes, and timely sale notifications.
If you send a CTA in a text, do not use that same CTA in an email or phone call. Using multiple channels to get your point across can annoy customers and cause unnecessary message overload.
Getting a text with an overly long URL is a nuisance. Long URLs look unprofessional, so run your URL through a shortener service, like Bit.ly, before inserting it into a text.
Because a text message doesn’t interfere with your customer’s schedule as a phone call could, there shouldn’t be any wait time in your response. Customers should feel like you care about their business.
However, if your response won’t fall within the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., wait until the next business day. The only exception to this rule would be if the customer texts you during off-hours first. If you automate your text messages, also stick to business hours unless it makes sense to deviate. For example, if you are a restaurant, you can send a text during the hours your customers would normally be eating lunch or dinner.
If the conversation gets complicated, consider using a different means of communication. Texting multiple paragraphs can confuse the customer and make it hard for them to take action.
Texts longer than 160 characters may get split into multiple texts and arrive in your customer’s inbox in the wrong order. Plus, multiple messages create multiple notifications, which can be annoying to your audience.
Sending personal information through text can leave you open to liability. Always use an encryption service platform, like Signal, to send and receive confidential information.
If you want to increase leads or encourage customers to purchase again, don’t spam them with repetitive texts. Keep alerts to a minimum.
Whether you are texting a potential lead or a longtime customer, sometimes the customer needs to stop receiving your promotional messages. Follow TCPA guidelines and offer an easy opt-out (“Text STOP to stop receiving these messages”) to avoid legal issues.
Follow business texting etiquette to prevent legal issues and maintain a strong relationship with your customers.
Finding the service that works best for your company is paramount as you move forward with text message marketing. Check out some of the best text message marketing services, and see what looks applicable for you. As you consider your audience, think about what type of presentation will help you reach each demographic. You’ll want to take into account the look of your campaign and when you’ll be communicating.
Research is key in choosing the right SMS platform for your business. Finding a good fit right off the bat is important, as it can make this valuable marketing tool a workable and ongoing part of your contact with customers.
Spam texts include several types of junk mail, designed either to sell customers unwanted products or to steal their data, passwords and personal information.
In common business practices, spam text messaging includes texting company marketing without the consumer’s consent, sending multiple texts at one time, using group texts and employing multiple forms of communication for the same CTA – for example, calling or emailing a customer and then sending a text with the same information.
The more malicious type of spam texts come in the form of phishing or “smishing.” These text messages are attempts to collect a customer’s data by posing as a business, friend or family member. Recipients could risk a data breach by engaging with these messages.
If you have an established relationship with a consumer, obtain their consent before sending them text messages. This is an important step when using text message marketing to reach your customers.
One method is transactional text messages, which you can use to convey company updates, appointment reminders and payment information. Requesting that customers double opt in to text messages can cover the consent requirement and ensure open communication between your business and your customers. Learning more about the GDPR and email marketing can be useful as you build an understanding of marketing and consent.
It is illegal to promote the following business categories via text message in any capacity:
Always get consent from the customer before sending any text message marketing.
Text messages can appear as spam if they are filled with typos or grammatical errors. Consumers may also interpret text messages as spam if they are impersonal with simple greetings, create a sense of urgency or provide an offer that is too good to be true.
Avoid sending texts relating to the following topics, which your customers may confuse with spam. For example, messages claiming recipients are entitled to free money are likely to appear as spam. This can include messages suggesting a recipient has won a contest they didn’t enter, is entitled to a refund from the IRS or can claim cryptocurrency at no cost.
If you’re notifying recipients of a promotion or giveaway, make sure they know what it’s about. Otherwise, it may appear as spam, since most people are accustomed to ignoring messages stating they’re entitled to something for free.
Similarly, if you’re asking recipients for personal information or letting them know their login credentials may have been compromised, a text message may not be the best avenue for that. Customer data is sensitive and login credentials are a common target for phishing attempts, so people are unlikely to engage with these messages unless they’re certain the request is legitimate.
Texts like these can appear to many recipients like phishing attempts and, even when they’re genuine, arouse suspicion. Email may be a better medium for communicating these changes, and you should always offer a clear way for recipients to verify that your request is valid, such as providing a phone number to customer support.
Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes and think about the content of your message. Even though you know it’s legitimate, would a recipient possibly think it’s spam or a phishing attempt? Consider whether text message is even the proper channel for this communication or if another channel would lend it more legitimacy. Ask yourself what else you can do to frame the message in a way that shows its legitimacy.
There are laws governing online activities businesses can and cannot engage in, and there may be serious consequences for failing to obey these rules. Consumers can report spam through apps, to mobile service providers or to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). If messages continue after a consumer has blocked and reported them, businesses could be liable for hefty fines on a per-message basis.
Before jumping into SMS marketing, it’s important to understand the legalities. Take a little extra time to research info on online business laws you need to know.
A customer can easily filter and block messages from unknown senders through Android and iOS. They can also seek spam blockers via their wireless provider or a third-party app. According to the FTC, consumers can report spam in two ways:
If consumers still receive spam texts after blocking and reporting measures have been taken, they can file a civil lawsuit under federal telemarketing law.
Consumers are protected under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), which was initially enacted for unwanted phone solicitation but has since been expanded to include consumer consent to companies participating in robocalls and text messaging. Under the TCPA, consumers can sue companies (for example, see the 2009 case Satterfield v. Simon & Schuster Inc.) for damages of up to $500 to $1,500 per spam text message.
If you’re serious about developing an effective text message marketing strategy, avoiding spam messages should be at the top of your list. Spam text messages are a sure way to damage your brand’s reputation and harm customer satisfaction, not to mention run afoul of regulatory requirements. If you plan on running text message marketing campaigns, be sure you create them with legal compliance and marketing best practices in mind. That way, you can ensure your text message marketing efforts build customer loyalty, drive conversions and keep your business free of legal consequences.
Elizabeth Crumbly contributed to this article.