By Jake Meador | 15 Oct 2020
SMS marketing is far and away the best marketing channel for successfully engaging your subscribers. The chart below makes the point well. It shows how many people you would need to send your message to in order to actually reach 50 people:
When it comes to engagement, SMS marketing simply does not have a competitor.
That said, the trouble with SMS is that you can only reach people who have opted in to receive communication from you. So while your engagement rate is much higher, that higher engagement rate doesn’t help you a lot if you only have 10 people on your SMS list.
If you’ve thought about incorporating SMS marketing into your marketing system but have been reluctant to do so because you aren’t sure how you’ll build your list, this post is for you. In it, we are going to share three key ideas that you need to understand if you are going to successfully build your SMS list and use SMS marketing as part of your broader marketing strategy.
In one of her copywriting courses, Joanna Wiebe talks about the essential problem every business has to overcome with potential customers: the prospect’s fear of getting ripped off. Many consumers functionally believe, whether they realize it or not, that businesses exist to cheat them out of their hard-earned money. So when you’re selling, you have to overcome that objection.
A similar problem applies to marketers asking for a prospect’s contact information. No one wants to get spammed. No one wants to get pushy marketing messages trying to manipulate them into buying.
What this means is that if you try to build your list by asking people to sign up for marketing messages, you probably won’t build a big list. Most people aren’t looking for more marketing content when they already feel inundated by advertisements.
Instead, you have to establish that they will benefit from your messages.
“Benefit” can mean many things, of course. For restaurants, the “benefit” could be special deals and discounts. For a SaaS business it could be updates when you publish a new podcast (assuming your subscribers find the podcast valuable, of course!). But there needs to be some obvious value that will motivate people to sign up because no one starts their day thinking “You know what I really want to do today? Sign up for some marketing lists!”
Timing is everything in the world of marketing. Oftentimes the effectiveness of an ad or marketing communication has far more to do with when the message is seen than it does with the content of the message.
So how do you know what the best time is for reaching a prospect or past customer?
You need to understand the process that a customer goes through that takes them from “they have never heard of you before,” to “they are a happy, repeat customer.” And every business’s process here is going to look a little different.
In some cases, the ‘problem’ your business solves for people is universal. For example, if you’re a restaurant or grocery store, basically every person could become a potential customer. On the other hand, if you’re a marketing tech company, like Mobile Text Alerts, your potential customer pool is quite a bit smaller because the problem you solve is much more defined and narrow.
What does that mean for your marketing?
If you’re a company that solves a universal problem, then you probably already use broadcast-based channels for promoting your business, such as Google Ads or even physical billboards. If you want to promote texting as a marketing channel, you might promote your SMS messaging on those platforms.
A Mexican restaurant, for example, might create ads on broadcast channels that says,
“Text ‘burrito’ to 74121 for 50% of your next visit.”
On the other hand, if you address a more specific problem, you need to answer these two questions in order to know how to promote your SMS marketing list:
“What are people doing when they are trying to solve the problem I help them solve?”
“Where do people go to get help with that problem?”
If you can answer the first question, you know what to say in your copy.
If you can answer the second question, you know where to buy ads or to publish content.
For example, a company that creates task management software for enterprise-level businesses helps large companies track their progress toward significant business objectives.
So they might use copy like,
“Do you need help tracking your most important business goals? Text ‘goals’ to 48421 to get help.” or something like that.
What platforms would they use to reach their audience? For a business of that kind, they would likely run that copy as an ad on Google Ads with additional ad spend on LinkedIn.
You know your business best so you’re the only one who can answer those questions for your company. But if you can arrive at data-backed answers to those two questions, you almost certainly know what you need to know in order to reach people at the right time.
Once a former coworker of mine was trying to use a new travel booking service to book an upcoming trip he was taking for an industry tradeshow. Unfortunately, while the service had been much hyped in its marketing materials, when he actually tried to use it he found it painfully inadequate. Finally after a few minutes I heard him say, to himself, “why are you making it so hard for me to give you money?”
I’m sure my coworker is not the only one who has had that experience. And from the perspective of that travel booking service, that’s about the worst possible outcome in any interaction with a prospect.
You already have the prospect’s attention. They’re interested in what you offer. They’re so interested, in fact, that they’re trying the service out. And just at that moment, they’re finding that it is difficult to use. That is how businesses die because the people who ought to become delighted customers are instead becoming frustrated and walking away, unlikely to ever give the business a second shot.
When someone is interacting with your business, especially when they’re doing something that moves them closer to making a purchase, the last thing you want to do is frustrate them.
So the final thing to keep in mind is that you should make it incredibly easy for people to sign up for your SMS updates.
There are two easy ways of doing this.
First, you can use keywords and shortcodes to allow a person to sign up for text message updates via text message. This is the most common method and you’ve almost certainly seen it before. The “keyword” is the word a person has to text. The “shortcode” is the 5-digit number they send their text message to.
For example, if you run a gym, you could set something up so that people can text the word “fitness” (keyword) in to 41414 (shortcode).
You can even use multiple keywords in order to segment your list more. If you were a downtown restaurant/bar, for example, you might have very different customers over the lunch hour than you do late at night. So you might set up one keyword for the lunch crowd and one for the late night crowd: “Text ‘lunch’ to 55555” and “Text ‘bourbon’ to 55555.” This would allow you to break up your SMS contacts into separate lists that use separate messaging to promote separate products.
The second way you can make it easy for people to sign up is to use an online form. In this use, you would create a webpage with a form on it where people can enter their phone number. In that case, all you need to do is ask people to visit “restaurant-name.com/SMS” and then enter their phone number.
By making it as easy as possible for people to sign up for SMS alerts, you’re doing two things: First, you’re helping people move closer to purchasing. Second, you’re giving them a good experience with your brand.
This means that next time you email them or text them or have some other interaction with them, they are going to remember how easy and painless their last experience with you was. That, in turn, makes it more likely that they’ll take another step toward purchasing. And so your marketing ends up helping you make sales in multiple ways, not only by helping a person become more familiar with your business, but by also helping them form positive brand associations with your company.
If you’d like to get started with SMS marketing, we offer a free 14-day trial account. You will receive 1 keyword, 1 shortcode, and 50 messages to send. Click here to sign up, it takes about 30 seconds.