- With text message marketing, you can reach your audience in real time.
- Text messages have a higher open rate than emails.
- You can leverage SMS campaigns to keep your target audience engaged with your brand.
- This article is for entrepreneurs and marketers interested in using text message marketing to generate leads and gain customers.
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 choose to avoid your marketing campaigns altogether.
Because of this, text message marketing, also called mobile marketing or SMS (short message service) marketing, is on the rise as 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.
How businesses use text message marketing
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.
- Auto-responders: One of the most popular options is auto-responses, which you can set up in advance so you don't have to respond to each customer individually. You can program auto-response messages to send only when certain criteria are met, such as when new customers opt-in to start receiving messages, when a customer participates in a survey, or when they use certain keywords in their text message.
- Surveys and polls: By sending out polls, you can gauge what consumers are looking for, whether you want to know which food item customers would like to see on the menu or what deals people want to receive text messages about. Surveys are an important tool in two-way communication that can improve your marketing and service offerings.
- Coupons: Sending customers coupons is an easy way to drive new business. Consumers are always looking for a good deal, and coupons can get them through the door and spending money.
Key takeaway: Text message marketing enables businesses to connect directly to their audience and gain feedback on products and customer service.
Benefits of text message marketing
There are several key benefits of text message marketing.
1. You can connect with your customers in a unique way.
Text message marketing is a unique opportunity to connect with your customers on an informal basis, said Leslie Crews, senior content strategist at BPC Content Co. "[Text message marketing] reduces the pressure of conventional correspondence like email or snail mail and helps to reduce the pressure already inherent to sales. People buy from you because they feel comfortable."
2. It has high open rates.
The average American checks their phone every 12 minutes, which leads to a nearly 98% open rate for text messages – much higher than the 20% average for email campaigns. Text message marketing also eliminates the risk that your messages will land in the spam folder.
3. Text message marketing is personal.
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?
4. It puts you in front of your customers.
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."
Key takeaway: Text message marketing is highly effective because of its high open rates, as long as the texts are relevant and engaging to your audience and you don't send them too many messages.
How to use mobile marketing: Do's and don'ts
To maximize your mobile marketing ROI and continually send marketing text messages, you need to follow certain best practices.
First and foremost, get written permission from your customers to send them text messages (see below for more on laws governing SMS marketing).
Next, decide what you are going to send to those who opt in. Make sure it's 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.
You should also strive to make the content worth it 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. Do so within 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."
Key takeaway: Incentivize your audience to opt in to your SMS marketing campaigns, but don't abuse the privilege by spamming them.
Text message marketing laws
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:
- The potential recipient must sign the consent form, either by hand or electronically.
- The consent form must clearly authorize the business to send the customer text messages.
- The consent form spells out that customers might also receive telemarketing calls from an automatic telephone dialing system or an artificial or prerecorded voice.
- The consent form needs to make clear that the business is not requiring a person's signature and signing is not a condition of any purchase.
Businesses that violate the FCC rules face a fine ranging from $500 to $1,500 per message.
Key takeaway: Violating FCC rules on SMS marketing can be extremely costly. Consult legal counsel to ensure your planned text message marketing campaign is legal.
How to choose a text message marketing service
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.
Ease of use
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, in addition to offering online documentation and video tutorials to help businesses handle smaller issues they may encounter.
Key takeaway: Consider the ease of use, reporting tools and customer support of a text message marketing service before signing up.
Recommended text marketing services
With so many text message marketing services available to businesses, it can be difficult to choose one. The following companies are all great options 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.
SlickText has an intuitive interface and excellent customer service. Opt for the 14-day free trial, and if you like what you experience and want to sign up, you can choose from nine flexible pricing plans.
With its flexibility and variety of tools, SimpleTexting is a strong choice for businesses that really 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, making 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.
The easy-to-use Textedly is a friendly solution for new businesses and marketers who are new to text message marketing. It makes running an SMS marketing campaign simple, straightforward and cost-effective.
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.
Chad Brooks and Marisa Sanfilippo contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.