Consumers are constantly bombarded with social alerts from friends, family, work and brands. Because of these disruptions, many disable notifications for email and other social networks. If you want to market in real time, you need to send a text message.
"Because text messages appear on people's mobile phones, they feel more personal than other kinds of marketing," said Luke Wilson, chief revenue officer of EZ Texting. "Texting allows businesses to do many of the things that traditional media does … without having to invest in extra hardware, labor, printing or media buys."
Text message marketing isn't for everyone, but brands that do use it need to be careful to be helpful and relevant rather than intrusive and spammy. It's easy to tip the scale and turn people off with your messages. Here's how to incorporate texting into your marketing strategy without annoying your customers. [Interested in text message marketing services? Check out our best picks on our sister site, Business.com.]
1. Get permission.
As with email marketing, it's important to get explicit permission from consumers before sending them text messages. Not only will you be sending messages to an audience that wants this type of marketing, but you'll avoid irritating those who don't.
"Only use text messaging as a marketing channel if the customer or potential customer has opted in and supplied you with their phone number," said Yoni Ben-Yehuda, chief marketing officer of Material Good. "If you contact users unsolicited, you run the risk of losing your credibility and having them unsubscribe to your messages."
Wilson advised using a keyword campaign to grow your list so consumers can text a specific word to a short code and opt in for deals, alerts, etc. For example, he said, ask consumers to "text TRY to 858585 for a demo," where TRY is the keyword and 858585 is the code.
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2. Be respectful.
Make sure your consumers don't feel like they're flooded with messages at inappropriate hours or trapped in a subscription. Wilson recommended texting during typical business hours and being transparent about what they should expect from your program.
Additionally, he said, make sure you make it easy for them to opt out at any time. Knowing they can do so usually makes them feel more comfortable opting in from the start.
3. Use it wisely.
Text messaging isn't appropriate for every marketing scenario. Ben-Yehuda advised using it for things like a delivery status, as a secondary message after you download a certain mobile app or program, a receipt of purchase, or an exclusive discount – and only for brands with an audience that prefers this sort of communication.
"A text is more personal than an email, so if you're contacting the user and they've never heard of you ... you'll likely be considered spam," said Ben-Yehuda. "When the brand recognition is present with the user and they're familiar with your company or products, offering them content via text can be efficient."
4. Add value.
No matter what you communicate through your marketing text messages, make sure that, above all else, it's relevant and adds value to the consumer's experience with your brand.
"When you're ready to reach out to your list, think about messages that will please your contacts," said Wilson. "Coupons, promotions and sneak peeks are crowd-pleasers that your subscribers should be happy to receive."
Joseph Anthony, CEO of the millennial-focused marketing agency Hero Group, added that smart brands will give consumers the kind of communication they're used to with their peer groups and social circles.
"Providing useful information, in addition to promotional offers, will create a level of anticipation and surprise," Anthony said. "Brands must see text message marketing similar to how they look at joining conversations on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter. They must ask themselves how they can add value without being intrusive so what they offer is commensurate with what [consumers] may get from [their friends]."
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.