Today’s consumers are so bombarded with marketing campaigns, advertisements and communication from brands that they have become adept at controlling when they receive those messages. Through ad blockers and notification settings, many consumers simply can choose to avoid your marketing campaigns altogether.
That’s why text message marketing, also called mobile marketing or SMS (short message service) marketing, is on the rise. It’s a way to reach your customer base in real time, with a near guarantee that your message will be read.
Like email marketing, text message marketing requires customers and clients to opt in to the service. Once they sign up and provide their mobile phone number, you have the right to send them text messages about what’s going on with your business.
The key to text message marketing is to regularly engage customers and build a two-way dialogue with them. There are three main features that businesses can use to increase back-and-forth communication.
Text message marketing can deliver several key benefits.
Text message marketing gives you the ability to connect with your customers on a more familiar level, like they would with a friend or relative. It can help humanize your business in a way that forges a closer relationship between brand and customer. You can leverage this relationship to build customer loyalty and drive repeat business.
“[Text message marketing] reduces the pressure of conventional correspondence like email or snail mail and helps to reduce the pressure already inherent to sales,” said Leslie Crews, senior content strategist at BPC Content Co. “People buy from you because they feel comfortable.”
The average American checks their phone every 12 minutes, which leads to a nearly 98 percent open rate for text messages — much higher than the 20 percent average for email campaigns. Text message marketing also eliminates the risk that your messages will land in the spam folder.
Engagement marketing is becoming the order of the day. Consumers are rejecting traditional marketing techniques in favor of companies that connect with them on a personal level, and what’s more personal than a text message?
An age-old best practice in marketing is to go where your customers are — and your customers are on their phones, where texts are immediately visible.
There is a concern that mobile marketing is invasive, but Maria Kiagias, founder of Social Gold, said that responsibility and restraint are key. “It’s how you use it that counts. Get in the mind of your customer [and] don’t abuse the technology.”
Text message marketing is effective because of its high open rates. Keep texts relevant and engaging to your audience, and don’t send them too many messages.
To maximize your mobile marketing ROI and continually send marketing text messages, you need to follow certain best practices. These include the following “do’s” and “don’ts” of text message marketing.
Collect opt-in information. First, get written permission from your customers to send them text messages (see below for more on laws governing SMS marketing). You may even want to create a double opt-in option, where a user that signs up also checks a box consenting to receive text messages from you. Many data privacy laws, like the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and California’s Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), require opt-ins for text message marketing content. A double opt-in ensures you remain compliant.
Plan your text message marketing campaigns so they’re timely and relevant. Make sure each campaign is pertinent to both your target audience and your business, and keep it short — no more than 200 characters. Because it’s a text campaign, you don’t have to worry about curating graphics or being overly clever. Brevity is key.
Add value for your subscribers. Strive to make your content worthwhile for people who opt in to receive texts.
“You want your text message channel to feel like an exclusive VIP club for your customers,” said David Hamilton, founder of Oppilo Marketing. “Offer exclusive access to new products and special deals.”
Don’t send random messages. Instead, be mindful of when and how often you’re texting. Send marketing text messages during business hours (Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.) and no more than once or twice a week.
“Do not spam your customers with messages,” said Bryan Heredia, founder of AstroStork. “If you do, they’ll just end up ignoring you.”
Don’t ignore scheduling. Trying to write and send text messages for a marketing campaign on the fly is a recipe for disaster. Not only is it stressful to rush out your content, it can lead to mistakes. Craft your entire text message marketing campaign and all its content, then schedule your content or create a drip campaign triggered by certain user actions.
It is critical for any business to get permission before sending out text messages to current or prospective customers. Pizza giant Papa John’s found this out the hard way when it was sued for $250 million for sending out 500,000 illegal text messages. In the end, the pizza company settled the class-action lawsuit for a reported $16.5 million.
Businesses must follow the text message marketing regulations established by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 2012. According to law firm Perkins Coie, businesses must abide by certain rules to obtain customer permission:
Businesses that violate the FCC rules face a fine ranging from $500 to $1,500 per message.
Violating FCC rules on SMS marketing can be extremely costly. Consult legal counsel to ensure your planned text message marketing campaign is legal.
When choosing a text message marketing service, closely review the reporting tools available, as these will give you the insights you need to improve your campaigns in the future. Also consider how easy the software or service is to work with, and ensure you have great customer support to set right any potential issues with the service.
In addition to the ability to send different types of messages — including auto-responses, surveys, polls and coupons — the service should have reporting tools to help you gauge the effectiveness of your campaigns. These tools enable you to track your conversations with customers, keywords in responses, poll results and delivery rates.
You are busy running your business and performing other essential tasks; the last thing you need is a text message service that is difficult to use. When considering a service, ask about its functionality and ease of use. Does the service require extensive training, or is it line with tools like Microsoft Office in ease of use?
Should a problem with the service arise, access to knowledgeable customer support representatives is a must. The top services provide support by phone, email and live chat to deal with immediate needs. On top of that, the best text message marketing services offer online documentation and video tutorials to help businesses handle smaller issues they may encounter.
Consider the ease of use, reporting tools and customer support of a text message marketing service before you sign up.
With so many text message marketing services available to businesses, it can be difficult to choose one. The following companies are all excellent choices that could improve your next SMS campaign or help you craft your first one.
EZ Texting is a great option for its ease of use and wide range of features. Its extensive feature set includes data analytics, SMS automation, contact management and customization. [Read our full EZ Texting review.]
With its flexibility and variety of tools, SimpleTexting is a strong choice for businesses that want to take control of their next SMS marketing campaign. You can choose from eight pricing plans with high customization and various integrations via API, which makes sending messages and engaging with customers one-on-one an easy task. SimpleTexting is the only all-in-one text message service on the market, so it has all the features you could need. [Read our full SimpleTexting review.]
The easy-to-use Textedly is a friendly solution for businesses and marketers who are new to text message marketing. It makes running an SMS marketing campaign simple, straightforward and cost-effective. [Read our full Textedly review.]
Podium is a convenient text message marketing service that offers high ROI. Trusted by over 60,000 businesses — including La-Z-Boy, Vivint Smart Home and Zerorez Carpet Cleaners — Podium allows you to connect to your website traffic and collect payments all by sending a text message. [Read our full Podium review.]
Text message marketing campaigns offer the unique benefit of connecting you directly with your customers. Text messages are opened faster and more frequently than emails, which gives you a direct line to your audience at all times. However, it’s important to use that access wisely, lest you spam your audience with messages that are irrelevant to their needs and they opt out of receiving future text messages from you. By following the do’s and don’ts above, you can craft an effective and meaningful text message marketing campaign that resonates with your audience and drives more business.
Tejas Vemparala and Marisa Sanfilippo contributed to this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.