SMS marketing has become more prevalent over the last few years. Anyone with a mobile phone has access to texting, and companies can leverage texting to promote their products or services.
Many people turn off notifications for email and other social networks, missing alerts about sales or new items. If you want to market in real time, there's no better option than to send a text message.
"When notifications are served to the user directly on the home screen of their phone or tablet, the impressions are going to be quite significant," said Yoni Ben-Yehuda, chief marketing officer of Material Good, a luxury boutique that sells jewelry, time pieces, art and accessories. "Geomapping and targeting users in real time with location-based marketing helps to make the content … more relevant than a general marketing campaign that doesn't consider location."
Although text message marketing can be effective, it isn't right for every company. If it's not aligned with the products or services you offer and the way you connect with your audience, it shouldn't be used, Ben-Yehuda said.
Brands that use text message marketing need to be careful about crossing the line between helpful and relevant and 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.
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," Ben-Yehuda said. "If you contact users unsolicited, you run the risk of losing your credibility and having them unsubscribe to your messages."
Example: American Eagle allows customers to sign up for SMS alerts on the mobile site at their own time. When a client feels they're in control, they're more likely to be interested.
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," Ben-Yehuda told Business News Daily. "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."
A good rule of thumb for text message marketing is to follow email marketing practices, said Ben-Yehuda. Don't send messages too frequently — think about timing and where your users are likely to be when they receive your texts. Further, he said, avoid language that is too wordy and overwhelming for the reader and, most important, always ensure relevance.
Example: Kohl's keeps their messages simple and consistent, alerting customers of sales and offering coupons and rewards. They send five to seven texts a month, which is enough to engage customers without overwhelming them.
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.
"The message should not be self-serving," said Joshua Keller, co-founder of Union Square Media marketing agency. "The No. 1 goal should be to provide the consumer with real value for opening up that text message."
Joseph Anthony, CEO of millennial-focused marketing agency Hero Group, agreed, saying 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]."
Example: Cabela's allows customers to sign up for alerts based on categories, like guns or ammo, and interests, like cooking or camping. The texts share information on sales, deals and new products.
Additional reporting by Nicole Fallon. Some source interviews were conducted for a previous version of this article.