These days, it’s no longer a question of whether or not you should use SMS as part of your marketing, but rather how you should use it.
SMS marketing can be an extremely effective way of engaging your customers. However, if you want to create loyalty and engagement, and avoid annoying your customers, there are certain best practices that you should follow.
Read the rest of this article to discover some of the most important SMS marketing trends that will help you get more from your marketing campaigns without getting on your customers’ bad side.
I’m sure you’ll agree that there’s nothing more annoying than receiving promotional messages you didn’t sign up for – worse still, with informational offers that aren’t even relevant to you.
In fact, receiving texts without permission is not only annoying, but it’s also illegal in many states. Marketers need to comply with state and local regulations, as well as wireless carriers’ messaging policies in order to ensure that their messages are delivered to subscribers who are willing to receive them.
You must obtain consent first via an opt-in form to make sure that you only send messages to people who have knowingly agreed to receive your promotional texts. Remember, that marketing and finance violations are seen as some of the most serious offenses under U.S federal law with violators facing a minimum of 1 year of jail time and a $2,500 fine.
Once you have their express written consent, then you can proceed with your text message marketing campaign.
Using opting forms is one of the best ways to obtain consent from subscribers, but there are also other methods, such as using an SMS keyword or phrase that customers can text to subscribe to any future messages from your business.
In addition to getting permission, you must also provide your subscribers with a simple and clear way to opt-out of receiving your text messages.
This will help to keep everyone happy with your brand and avoid annoying potential customers who, even though they want to leave your SMS list, may still be interested in connecting with your brand and other channels, such as your blog, social media, email, etc.
So make sure your subscribers know they can unsubscribe anytime they want to. You can include this information in your auto-confirmation message, and you should also include unsubscribing instructions in any of your advertisements.
This can be as simple as adding “Text STOP to unsubscribe”, but it will go a long way toward helping you establish credibility and trust with your audience.
Some of the reasons subscribers might choose to opt into your SMS list include:
- A flash sale or promotion
- Weekly discounts
- A “Back in stock” notification for a specific product/service
- Customer support
- An event reminder
- Abandoned cart notifications
- A launch of a new product/service
… and so on.
Whatever the reason, you can motivate people to opt-in to receive texts from your business. So you never have to send unsolicited text messages.
The next step toward avoiding annoying customers with your SMS messages is to set expectations on what they will receive – and then keep that promise.
Whenever introducing a new channel into your digital marketing strategy, you must always begin with proper channel management. If you start off by sending messages to people that haven’t signed up and don’t want your messages, then your SMS marketing campaign may be only causing harm to your brand’s reputation.
Begin managing your SMS marketing strategies effectively from the start by ensuring that all who are receiving messages have given explicit permission to receive those messages.
Once you’ve determined what recipients can expect, you must be consistent in the number of SMSes you send.
It’s true that you may want to do everything you can to avoid spamming your subscribers, but customers respond well to consistent messaging, and if you send too few messages, people might forget why they signed up to your list in the first place.
This means that when they eventually hear from you, it will seem like the text is coming out of the blue, which could potentially make your message unwelcome.
That’s why it’s important to set a regular schedule and maintain consistency with your texts.
The best practice is to send between 2 and 4 texts each month. But, your business might need to send multiple texts each week, or even daily. Find what works best for your audience, industry, and business.
For instance, an SMS marketing strategy for a church might include sending weekly reminders of when the church services take place. However, a marketing campaign for a Forex Signals Service requires sending multiple SMS messages each day.
You can experiment and test to find the optimal texting frequency for your business.
The most important thing is to be upfront with your subscribers so they know what to expect with regard to your SMS frequency – and then stick to it. For example, the team at im-a-puzzle asks their users if they would like daily or weekly notifications for their jigsaw puzzles of the day. This manages expectations and drives engagement.
One of the main reasons why people unsubscribe from a brand’s text messages is the type of content being sent.
You need to keep things fresh and send original content that speaks your audience’s language in the right format if you want to retain and grow your subscriber list.
When using text messages as part of your marketing campaign, it can be frustrating having to deal with character limits, and you may be tempted to shorten some words in order to save space. But, this is often at the expense of clarity and professionalism.
For instance, take a look at the two text messages below:
- Go2 Tom’s 2day 4 a gr8 deal! Sho this text for 25% off your meal.
- Visit Tom’s today for a great deal! Show this text for 25% off your meal.
Instead of getting frustrated with character limits, use them as a powerful tool to help you sharpen your marketing message.
And, if you absolutely must have more space, you can use MMS which allows you to use up to 1,600 characters!
One of the reasons text messaging is so effective is that it often creates a sense of urgency. If you are promoting an offer, and the recipient of your SMS message knows that the offer is only available for a limited time, there is a high chance that you will experience an increase in sales.
But, if you keep sending the same promotional text, again and again, people will stop responding to your offers with enthusiasm.
Many of them will get bored, and even annoyed, and you may experience an increase in your unsubscribe rate.
That’s why you must ensure that each of your text marketing campaigns is creative and unique with engaging, original content.
Timing is crucial for bulk text messaging campaigns. There is no faster way to annoy customers than by sending promotional texts at inappropriate times – and when customers are annoyed, it’s all too easy for them to unsubscribe from your SMS messaging.
As long as your text messages are aligned with the subscriber’s expectations, you won’t go wrong by keeping them within reasonable business hours. To better manage customer information, you might want to invest in customer database software
Also, there’s no point in sending messages to your customers at a time when they cannot take immediate action or respond to your offer.
So, it’s in the interests of both common sense and common courtesy to schedule your SMSes at reasonable hours.
Here are some additional tips to help you send messages at the right time:
- Don’t Text Too Early: If the person hasn’t had their cup of coffee, you’re not likely to get the desired response from them.
- Don’t Text Too Late: If they are relaxing or already asleep, they will be annoyed by your interruption.
- Don’ts Text During Peak Hours: Avoid sending messages when your subscribers are likely to be overwhelmed or doing other activities.
- Don’t Text during Weekends: Studies have shown that sending messages during weekends leads to a higher unsubscribe rate.
Personalization is yet another common characteristic that forms the backbone of the most successful marketing campaigns, including social media, email, content, and text marketing campaigns.
One study shows that customers are 78% more likely to make repeat purchases if the brand provides them with targeted, personalized offers.
By incorporating personalization into your strategy, you’ll be able to improve your campaigns. You can leverage the use of mass marketing that SMS marketing provides, together with the advantage of one-on-one communication.
You can capitalize on this by including features like segments and custom fields to help you send more relevant texts to your subscribers.
It’s also easy-to-use platforms like Zapier to integrate your SMS software with your existing marketing tools to make it easy for you to send everything from SMS shipping updates to abandoned cart text messages, and much more.
There are a lot of really useful integrations that can help combine your SMS marketing with other parts of your digital marketing channel. Easily integrate SMS with social networks, email, and even project management tools.
In addition to integrations, you should also consider adding links to your SMS messages that can lead them to learn more about your brand and its offerings. You can use webinar hosting software to create short webinars that subscribers can click to via a link in an SMS message.
Then they might be brought to your business YouTube channel where they can watch the webinar to learn more about the brand, subscribe to your channel, or share your content on any number of social networks.
Getting consent from your subscribers isn’t the only legal requirement to consider. You also need to add in necessary disclaimers when sending SMS text messages.
Before the advent of smartphones, there was an all too real fear that text messages would incur charges. However, today’s subscribers are unlikely to receive charges for any of your text messages thanks to the unlimited data and texting plans currently available.
Having said that, it’s still best practice (and a legal requirement) to include this disclaimer anyway. So make sure you comply with industry regulations by including the following information:
- The frequency with which you plan to send messages to subscribers (for example, “You may receive up to 6 messages/month”).
- Text message and data rates may apply
- Information on how to unsubscribe (e.g. “Reply STOP to unsubscribe, or HELP for help”).
Most marketers overlook this, but it’s important to familiarize yourself with all applicable laws and regulations as this will save you a lot of stress down the line.
If you’re unsure about the requirements in the areas where you operate, it’s a good idea to consult with a legal professional.
The best way to ensure the success of your SMS marketing campaign (and avoid annoying your customers) is to focus on adding value to your messages.
In other words, make every text worthwhile.
So, instead of blasting subscribers with the same ad each week, do your best to focus on “SMART” marketing, which entails making sure that each offer is:
- Relevant; and
You can share a wide range of content, such as discounts, sales, exclusive savings, event alerts, important announcements, and a variety of other useful information. Or you can add your sales proposal to really paint the picture for customers.
You might also consider layering in photos, videos, and other rich media to diversify your content offerings and maintain high audience engagement levels.
When sending images, make sure that they’re engaging and add real value to your email. You might consider transforming basic images into memes or using a graphic design program to watermark the images and add a layer of professional quality that your competitors are lacking.
By adding lots of value in this way, you decrease the likelihood that your subscribers might want to unsubscribe from your SMS list.
While on the subject of adding value, it may be a good idea to add an element of exclusivity to your SMS marketing campaign.
When someone subscribes to receive your text messages, they are giving you access to a direct and personal way of reaching them.
This means that rather than including the same old recycled promotions that are in your Instagram account, Facebook Page, email, and other marketing channels, you should rather try to create exclusive content for your SMS list to give them more incentives to sign up.
For instance, you might offer early access to specific discounts and sales only to your SMS subscribers, which makes it more likely that customers who want first dibs on such promotions will sign up for your SMS list.
If you plan to offer two-way messaging for sales or customer service, then you need to make sure you’re responsive.
Remember, this communication platform delivers messages instantly. According to recent reports, up to 20% of people read text messages within a minute of receiving them, and 90% within 3 minutes.
As part of your effort to be more responsive, you might set availability for a specific number of hours each week to see how you and your team manage.
From there, you can work on expanding the hours. The point here is to not overcommit in the beginning so you avoid disappointing your customers.
SMS marketing doesn’t have to be hard. All you need is to follow the best practices outlined in this article and avoid the common mistakes that tend to annoy customers.
Also, make sure you use a reliable SMS partner that is trustworthy and affordable.
Armed with this knowledge (and the right SMS service provider company), you will be well on your way to running successful SMS marketing campaigns that boost engagement and create loyalty among your audience.
Over to you. Which of the marketing tips in this article do you find the most appealing? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
Ron Stefanski is a website entrepreneur and marketing professor who has a passion for helping people create and market their own online business. You can learn more from him by visiting OneHourProfessor.com