Today there are more digital platforms, services, and devices used to communicate with customers than ever before. Regardless of the device used 60% of consumers prefer text-message-based marketing to email marketing or other mobile push notification services. It’s simple, straightforward, and incredibly powerful. In today’s post, we’ll take a quick look at text message marketing for business and how you can use it to build your business.
What Is SMS Text Marketing?
“SMS” stands for “short message service” and it refers to the typical text messages sent between cell phones that include only text. SMS text marketing refers to sending promotional text messages to customers about new products, services, discounts and other offers. The phone number for the campaign is actually a shortcode rather than a full 10-digit number and the service is entirely permission based.
Benefits that Make Text Message Marketing Effective
The fact that SMS marketing is permission-based makes mobile marketing that much more effective, but that’s not the only reason. For one thing, it’s cost effective—other than the potential dip in revenues typically associated with offer codes and coupons, you don’t have to worry about costs like paying for printing or air time; some services provide 500 messages for the cost of just $1. Plus, the entire process is quick and entirely automated, making SMS marketing incredibly accessible to every business, no matter their size.
Combine accessibility with potential reach (77% of Americans own a smartphone), open rates of 98%, and response rates that more than tripled in recent years, and you’ll discover an ROI that makes text marketing incredibly appealing.
You also see increased benefits, as well. Your SMS marketing audience is customers who have opted in to receive texts from you, so they are likely customers who already like your business. On top of that, the process is easy to track. Your built-in analytics should be able to track the CTR of the links utilized in mobile offers, but you can also use coupon tactics like specific offer codes to track redemption.
Getting Started with SMS Text Marketing
If you think about text message marketing for business much like a loyalty program, you’ll find it easy to understand. Advertise the fact that it’s an option, especially for frequent customers, anyone signed up for your newsletter and those in your loyalty program. Feature it on your website with a landing page and form to get the word out. Be sure you share the shortcode and the pertinent opt-in keywords. Keep in mind there are some very specific guidelines you need to be aware of.
Know the Law for Text Message Marketing
There’s a great big “but” behind all these marketing benefits. It’s important to understand the regulations about communicating with customers via text messages. Not complying can cost you a lot more than annoyed ex-customers.
If you plan to utilize SMS text marketing, you need to stay up to date with these regulations and any new ones that are signed into law. Here are a few of the requirements as of the time this article was written:
- The customer must opt-in to receive text messages in a formal way, and records must be kept including time, date, method, location and which types of communication are approved.
- To confirm set up and activate a customer an initial message must be sent via the shortcode used for your campaign along with a unique keyword associated with your brand that the customer must text back.
- The customer must be informed about how to opt-out and any request they make to opt out on any channel must be honored immediately. The most basic method is for the customer to text “STOP” to the shortcode. All opt-outs must be recorded, and a “stop” confirmation message must be sent to the customer, including your company name and the following text: “You have opted out. You will not receive additional messages.”
- Privacy and data protection are paramount. The customer needs to approve how their data is used and be notified that they are not required to share this data or accept unsolicited marketing through SMS.
- A minimum age or parental consent may also be required, so look into laws specifically designed for marketing to children.
- Content must be appropriate for the intended audience and use language that is unlikely to offend or otherwise harm the recipient.
There are other regulations aside from federal law. The non-profit membership organization and advocacy group Cellular Telephone Industry Association (CTIA) represents all sectors of the wireless communications industry in the U.S. and has some control over the short codes used by brands to communicate with customers for various reasons.
You won’t be fined for breaking their text message marketing for business rules, but they can shut your program down. In addition to the rules set out by the TCPA, the CTIA requires businesses to:
- State that data rates may apply
- Include links to terms and conditions and privacy policies
- Limit frequency
- Expand on subscribe/unsubscribe commands and other actions
Text Message Marketing Best Practices
- Be sure that you have the time and staff to run this type of mobile campaign properly. This not only ensures that you follow the necessary regulations, but ensures you give this type of marketing the time it needs to work.
- Don’t be afraid to use a marketing partner to handle your text marketing. The costs may seem imposing but evaluate the ROI involved. The sales may be worth the upfront cost, especially since a partner can apply expertise in this marketing style.
- Try to establish trust with the customer before prompting them to give permission for an SMS text marketing campaign. They are more likely to accept if they already have a relationship with your brand and are more likely to take advantage of your offers as well.
- Let customers control what kind of offers they receive from you and how often they want to hear from you. This builds their trust while providing you with key segmentation to improve the effect.
- Make the offers you provide via SMS exclusive. This increases the value customers place on this kind of communication. You don’t want to simply regurgitate the messages from your other channels.
- Leverage the immediacy of SMS to your advantage. Text messages can put your brand very close to the decision point and since 90% of the time messages are opened within 3 minutes, you can influence a lot of decisions at a critical moment.
- Your campaign needs to be both strategic and consistent in order to successfully drive specific actions. Use simple language and include the name of your business, but don’t be afraid to be creative. Generally speaking, the rule of thumb is between four and six messages per month (i.e., between one and two messages weekly).
- Avoid creative that is longer than 160 characters when possible. That’s the typical space used before most carriers break up your text into multiple messages. It can quickly become annoying to customers if they receive chunks of the message at a rapid pace, especially if those chunks come in out of order.
Once you understand how to use text marketing, you’ll see that it’s a simple and effective tool in your marketing toolbox. It can be as powerful as it is personal, putting great offers quite literally into your customer’s hands. Hopefully, our tips will help you develop an effective text marketing campaign that generates greater sales.
Start Leveraging SMS Text Marketing for Your Business!
- Review your mobile marketing outreach strategy. Are you already using text messages in other areas, such as shipping confirmation or customer assistance? Are you utilizing push notifications for your mobile app? These should influence your choice to start an SMS campaign.
- Read up on the current regulations governing text message communications. Compliance is critical.
- Utilize our tips and best practices to enhance your mobile marketing campaign.
- Take advantage of professional marketing partners like Valpak. We have the expertise and resources to help you build a successful campaign.
Need help with developing an effective SMS text marketing plan for your small business? Contact your local Valpak marketing coach today!