Welcome to the beginner's guide to SMS marketing!
SMS (aka “texting”) is obviously not new technology. And the concept of using SMS for your marketing isn’t a novel idea.
And yet, oddly, not every business has caught on. Many still don’t use SMS for their marketing, or don’t use it to its full potential. While we couldn’t find definitive statistics (and the percentages varied), the highest number we saw cited was that only 68% of businesses use texting to connect with customers.
And yet, we all know how attached people are to their phones. One study from the tech company Asurion reported that Americans may check their phones a whopping average of 352 times per day.
That means there’s ripe potential for businesses to use SMS marketing to reach people and get more sales.
In this article, we’ll walk you through what SMS marketing is, how it can help your business, and the first steps to getting started. We’ll also discuss some best practices and some of the platforms available for you to use.
Let’s jump right in!
SMS marketing, or short message service marketing, is a strategy that involves sending promotional or informational messages to a group of recipients via text messages. These messages are typically concise and can be sent to a large number of mobile subscribers simultaneously. By taking advantage of the high open rates of SMS, businesses can effectively convey their messages to a highly engaged audience.
Marketing via SMS gives you several advantages…
Text messages have a reported open rate of 98%.
Yes, 98%. (Cue “wow” music.)
Just stop and think about that for a minute…
What if 98% of your emails were read? What would that do to your sales and ROI?
The trouble is that people ignore their emails for the most part. (In fact, email read rate averages can be around just 21.5%.)
So the high read rate of SMS is a powerful advantage.
Related to the last point, since people mostly ignore their emails (and they almost certainly won’t see your social posts unless you pay to boost them), texting becomes a way to really cut through the noise.
People actually pay attention to text messages.
These text messages show up in the same place that they receive texts from their spouse, kids, parents, grandparents, close friends. Sharing the same space with these personal conversations carries immense opportunity to provide value to your recipient.
SMS marketing gives you a simple and straightforward way to “get personal” with your customers. If you can group your contact list according to relevant segments, you can send highly relevant messages that really speak to their situation.
If you’re able to track their name, you can even include your recipients’ first names automatically in your texts—so that they’ll receive a personalized text message on their personal phones including their personal name.
The real-time nature of SMS marketing enables businesses to reach people quickly.
That “jiffyness” means you can deliver time-sensitive promotions, flash sales, or urgent notifications to their subscribers, creating a sense of urgency and driving immediate action.
Which means you can get your message out fast and see results fast.
You can use SMS marketing for a variety of purposes.
Here are just a few…
Sending texts to showcase your business’s promotions will help ensure that people take full advantage of those promos.
It’s our annual Memorial Day sale! Enjoy 30% savings on all orders over $100. Shop here: http://mbltxt.com/FCG
Offer exclusive discounts to your text subscribers to help keep your SMS marketing list fresh and valuable, so that people want to keep receiving your messages.
Text club exclusive! Free ebook version of any resource you purchase this week at http://mbltxt.com/FCF
Recapture leads that abandoned their carts so you can help guide them to complete the sale.
Looks like you left a few items in your cart! Check out here: http://mbltxt.com/FCC
Build anticipation for and let people know about new products and services, so you can optimize the release of the new products.
Psst! Something big’s coming soon. Join the waitlist so you can be the first to know: http://mbltxt.com/Feu
Showcase your business’s events to help drive more attendance.
It’s Ladies’ Open Mic Night! Still accepting registrants. Free appetizers after 9pm! Check out the deets here: http://mbltxt.com/Fet
SMS messaging is not limited to marketing campaigns.
There are various non-marketing applications where businesses can harness the power of SMS to streamline their operations and enhance communication.
Some common non-marketing uses include…
Service-based businesses such as clinics, salons, or fitness centers can send SMS reminders to customers about upcoming appointments, reducing no-shows and improving client satisfaction.
Don’t forget! Your hair appointment is TODAY at 11:00am. See you soon!
You can engage with your customers via SMS for customer service interactions, giving them the option to get their questions answered via a communication channel they prefer.
Thanks for reaching out! How can I help you today?
Beyond texting your customers, you can use SMS to efficiently communicate with employees regarding important updates, shift notifications, meeting reminders or emergency alerts.
Notice: mandatory meeting today at 3:00pm in the Conference Room. Please contact your supervisor if unable to attend.
Use SMS to communicate miscellaneous updates to your customers, such as building closures, holiday hours, or other important notices.
The building is CLOSED today for maintenance. Sorry for any inconvenience! We’ll open up bright and early at 8:00am tomorrow.
Getting started with SMS marketing doesn’t have to be a huge headache.
There are a few steps you can keep in mind…
What exactly are your goals and how do you anticipate reaching them?
Are you hoping to send frequent notices to your customers? Just engage with them occasionally? How many recipients do you think you’ll have? How much of your marketing budget are you willing to allocate?
You’ll need to think through those questions so that you can make informed decisions about how to move forward.
Once you’ve determined answers to the questions mentioned above, you’ll be able to make a decision about which SMS platform (such as Mobile Text Alerts) to pursue.
There’s a wide variety of SMS platforms out there. We’ll discuss more about SMS platforms below, but you’ll need to make sure to choose a platform that has the features, support, and pricing that fits for your situation and allows you to meet your needs.
SMS platforms give you opt-in mechanisms to help you build your subscriber base. The most common of these is “text-to-join” functionality so that you can tell people to simply send in a text message to a particular phone number to be subscribed.
Additionally, there are other ways SMS platforms provide so you can allow people to subscribe, including customizable online forms, web banners, QR codes, and integrations with current services you already use.
Or if you want to handle building your subscriber list on your own end, you can collect people’s information and import it into the SMS platform via spreadsheets or integrations.
When you’ve decided which opt-in method(s) you’d like to use, a common tactic is to offer an incentive to get people to subscribe to your texts. It’s best if the incentive can be something they’ll receive right away (like a free item or a coupon code for their next purchase).
Here are some specific strategies you can try for building your subscriber list…
Place opt-in forms on strategic pages of your website, such as the homepage, product pages, and checkout process. Make sure the forms are prominent, easy to fill out, and clearly communicate the benefits of subscribing to your SMS marketing list.
If you have a physical store, use signage and point-of-sale materials to promote your SMS marketing campaign. Offer discounts or rewards to customers who opt-in while they’re in-store.
Use the power of social media platforms to promote your SMS marketing campaign. Create targeted ads that highlight the benefits of subscribing and direct users to your opt-in form, or to texting into your opt-in phone number.
In addition to social media ads, use all of your other existing marketing channels, such as email newsletters, and blog posts, and organic social media posts, to promote your SMS marketing campaign and encourage subscribers to opt in.
With SMS, shorter copy is often better—and can save you money because of SMS’s 160 character limit. (Messages longer than 160 characters cost more to send.)
So you’ll want to get straight to the point but still be engaging and winsome. As with any marketing, clear calls-to-action help make your message more effective.
We mentioned this previously but personalization, such as including the recipient’s name, could help as well. SMS platforms can automatically parse in each subscriber’s name—but be careful with this. It could backfire if you don’t have the right name or if the name you have on record isn’t actually the name they go by.
Once your message content is created, you’re ready to start sending!
You can either schedule one-off messages, or you can automate workflows of messages. If you select specific times, you can experiment with what times work best for your audience. (Keep in mind that with text messages, timing is significantly more important than with email—you should not be sending texts outside of normal daytime hours in the recipient’s time zone.)
Monitor the performance of your SMS campaigns by tracking metrics such as delivery rates, click rates, and unsubscriptions.
You can use analytics tools provided by your SMS marketing software to gain these kinds of insights into the effectiveness of your campaigns. This type of data can help you see what messages are being more effective than others, so you can make informed decisions about what factors in your messages best resonate with your audience.
Analyze the data to identify trends, optimize your messaging, and make data-driven decisions to improve your SMS marketing strategy over time.
To help give you a baseline for getting started, in addition to some of the tips mentioned under “Create Compelling Messages” above, here are some best practices you can follow in order to have the most effective SMS marketing campaigns…
Get permission from subscribers before sending them SMS messages.
Although this isn’t so much of a legal requirement anymore due to a Supreme Court decision in 2021, it’s still best practice. If the mobile carriers suspect that you’re sending text messages to people who haven’t opted in, they’ll start filtering out your messages as spam and the messages won’t get delivered.
Group your subscribers into different segments based on their preferences, demographics, or past interactions.
Segmenting your audience in this way allows you to send targeted and personalized messages, increasing their relevance. And when messages are more relevant, people are more likely to pay attention to them, and when people are more likely to pay attention to them, the messages are more likely to be effective.
For example, let’s say you’re a marketer for a retail business that sells clothing. A 60-year-old man in your audience likely won’t care about the sale you’re having on a new line of dresses.
Instead of wasting your audience’s time with messaging that doesn’t pertain to them (which could likely lead to them opting out of your subscriber list), segment your audience so that you can better serve them and cater to their interests.
By “frequency,” we’re not talking about AM vs. FM radio.
We’re talking about figuring out how often your recipients want to receive messages.
Avoid bombarding subscribers with excessive texts, as it can lead to opt-outs.
Think about it… Are there very many brands that you’d like to receive multiple text messages a week from? Not likely.
A good starting point is to limit your sends to 2–4 SMS per month. (And 4 might even be pushing it.)
On the other hand, your situation might be unique and your audience might be particularly loyal to your brand, or the nature of your business is such that more frequent messaging makes sense for you. So figure out what works for your own audience.
(It may take some experimenting and trial and error, but that’s OK.)
If people don’t find your texts valuable, you just might start seeing unsubscription rates rising. And that would be a tragedy.
That’s why the key to most good marketing messaging is to provide real value to people. Give them content they actually find helpful.
With SMS marketing, this often includes offering exclusive discounts and promotions.
But don’t be afraid to be creative with providing valuable content to your SMS subscribers. Make them feel valued and give them something to make them want to stay engaged with your SMS marketing campaigns.
One simple thing you can do to help clear up any confusion (and make sure your messages aren’t interpreted as spam) is to simply include your business name at the beginning of all of your messages.
Doing this helps audience’s know who it is that’s contacting them, and helps clarify to the mobile carriers that your messages aren’t spam.
Identifying your business can be as simple as putting “From: Business Name” or even just “Business Name” at the beginning of your message.
Easy enough, no?
Make sure your recipients know how they can opt out, per the guidelines established by the CTIA (which is not a legal entity but does hold sway in how the mobile carriers enforce proper SMS behavior).
With SMS marketing, it’s easy for recipients to opt out: they can just reply STOP to any of your messages. When they do that, their phone number is automatically removed.
So just let your recipients know they can reply STOP at any time to unsubscribe, and you’ll be well on your way.
Here are some answers to some of the commonly asked questions regarding SMS marketing…
Mobile marketing is important because people are constantly using their phones and tablets. In fact, almost 60% of web traffic is mobile traffic. So web marketing should be pursued with mobile in mind.
SMS marketing, as a part of mobile marketing, is therefore a powerful solution to help reach people where they’re constantly looking (their phones).
Due to the outstanding 98% read rate for texts that we mentioned previously, SMS marketing can be a highly effective way to reach people and get them to engage with your business.
For the reasons mentioned above (including the 98% read rate for text messages and the reality that 60% of web traffic is mobile), businesses should consider implementing and optimizing SMS marketing strategies.
If you don’t take full advantage of SMS marketing, you’re missing out on some powerful potential.
Plans can vary depending on your usage and how many messages you need to send.
At Mobile Text Alerts, plans start at $20/month.
SMS marketing is legal, particularly in light of the 2021 Supreme Court ruling that SMS services don’t necessarily fall under all of the auto-dialer regulations laid out by the TCPA.
There are a few things to keep in mind, though:
The character limit for SMS is technically 160, but that doesn’t actually mean you’re limited to that.
You can send texts with more than 160 characters (although longer texts do cost more to send), and most mobile carriers are able to concatenate the longer messages into a single message. (Even if the message doesn’t get concatenated, it will just get delivered as multiple messages.)
As we’ve seen, SMS marketing is a marketing solution full of potential as a way to really reach people.
You can try out SMS marketing for free with a free Mobile Text Alerts trial (no credit card required). Get your free trial now.
Start sending mass text messages to your entire list today!GET FREE TRIAL
Start sending mass text messages to your entire list today!GET FREE TRIAL