There are many channels to market to consumers, but few have withstood the test of time. One such channel that is widely used is SMS (Short Messaging Service). Text messaging or SMS rose to popularity in the early 2000s when small mobile phones and affordable telecommunication plans came into existence.
Brands were quick to jump on this bandwagon, and there have been some landmark SMS campaigns that people remember to this date. The Times Square billboard campaign by Nike, the Orange Wednesdays campaign that offered 2 for 1 film tickets, and a Papa John’s Pizza campaign are some great examples of how SMS marketing helped brands win big with little effort.
Today, marketers have the ability to adopt a cross-channel marketing approach where they can reach out to their customers across many different channels that are available. Including SMS marketing in this approach can be highly effective in creating a consistent, personalized customer journey for users. It is a channel frequently used and preferred by many users, and marketers also agree, with more than 60% having increased their SMS marketing budgets in 2020.
This blog will elaborate on everything you need to know about SMS marketing, including the types of SMS, best practices, how to get started, and more. Keep reading!
What is SMS marketing?
Complementing your cross-channel journeys with SMS
Types of SMS
SMS Marketing Best Practices
Is SMS the right channel for you?
How to get started?
SMS marketing is a form of marketing used by businesses to send customers promotions through text messages. These messages can be up to 160 characters long and can include emojis, numbers, and, of course, text. This channel can be used for a variety of campaigns such as upselling, offering discounts, highlighting limited-time offers, and more.
A good text message is personalized, preferably with the customer’s name in it, is clear and to the point, and sounds like the brand is speaking to the customer. Brands should also keep in mind that while text messages are a great channel for direct communication, there are hundreds of other brands vying for the same attention, too. Therefore, being authentic and customer-focused will help your messages stand out and get clicked on.
There is one thing that sets SMS apart from other marketing channels. Usually, most customers have more than one email id, use multiple devices, are on many different social media platforms, and so on. But when it comes to their mobile number, they usually have one that they use most commonly, and perhaps a secondary phone for purely work purposes. It is this unique nature of SMS that makes it a lucrative channel. When you send an SMS to a customer, you know that you’re reaching them on the only number that they’ve consented to give you.
SMS is also a highly reachable channel. This makes it a great option for initiating and continuing real-time conversations with your customers. What’s more, SMS open rates, standing at 98%, are higher than most other channels, including email and social media ads. When it comes to customer preferences, too, SMS comes out with flying colors. In this survey, it was found that 48% of people prefer SMS for updates from brands.
Adding SMS to your cross-channel customer journey gives a dependable boost in customer engagement and reach. It doesn’t have to be a stand-alone marketing channel that you use, but one that smoothly complements your cross-channel marketing messages with ease.
As a brand, there are a few different kinds of messages that you can send to your customers using SMS. Below are the most common types of SMS sent by brands to their customers.
As the name suggests, bulk SMS involves sending messages to a broad audience in one go. This is a cost-effective way of message delivery that is also quick and safe. Bulk messages are apt for communicating new marketing campaigns, promotional offers, and information about events, for example.
With segmented messages, you can target groups of audiences that match specific criteria and send messages related to that segment. For instance, a fashion brand can target all the website visitors who have viewed shoes, and send a message about a limited-time sale on sneakers. With segmented promotions, brands can bring in personalization, send more relevant content based on the targeted segment, and overall, improve communication through messages.
This is a very useful category of messages for brands, especially in retail and e-commerce. You can set specific conditions which would trigger the sending of messages once those conditions are met. Some of the most common examples of automated/triggered messages include welcome messages, cart abandonment messages, and price & stock alerts. An advantage of sending automated messages to your customers is that they are real-time, and have the ability to inspire action with great, convincing copy.
The messages we mentioned earlier – if the same kinds are used in an orchestrated customer journey that includes other channels, then the messages become a part of campaign orchestration. This is one of the most effective ways of using SMS. SMS marketing works very well in tandem with other channels, paving the way for great cross-channel customer journeys that help you stay on top of your customers’ minds.
Below is a compilation of some of the most commonly observed, industry-wide best practices that will help you optimize your SMS marketing.
Before you can start sending messages through SMS, you first need to get your customers to opt-in to receiving messages from you. This is the most important step, ensuring that your customers want to hear from you and consent to give you their number. You can make the opt-in experience interesting and on-brand by using interactive, gamified web and mobile templates.
It’s better to send highly relevant messages to a small group of targeted people than to send a blanket message to a large number of people it might not even be relevant to. Segmenting users makes sure that you reach the right people with the right message tailored for them, based on their behavior, actions, and affinity.
Using a customer’s information such as the last product they visited, or perhaps, products that they abandoned on their cart, you can send highly personalized messages with dynamic content that is unique to each individual.
Your message copy has to be clear, concise, and to the point. It must convey exactly what you need to say because you only have a limited number of characters to use, but at the same time, the copy must have a sense of coming from your brand. It is also a good idea to associate the right kind of keywords with your business and use them or words related to them in your messages.
Customers don’t like receiving messages from random, unknown numbers. But if they know it’s coming from a brand that they opted in to get messages from, they would immediately be more likely to follow your links and take action. Therefore, it is necessary to have a short, recognizable account name or code that indicates your brand in place of the phone number.
For any marketing campaign, trackability is essential so that you can attribute results to different campaigns and figure out what has worked and what hasn’t. When sending links in text messages, do not forget to add UTM parameters to track them, so you can analyze your results later.
Many users may have silent hours turned on to be free of interruptions from notifications on their mobile phones. If you send a message during this time, not only do you bother them when they are busy, but you also decrease the chances of your message being viewed. The best thing to do is to not send messages during this time, and schedule them for when your users would be free and using their mobile devices.
Just as you request their consent to opt in, you must always give them the option to opt-out at any point if they find that they don’t need communication from you anymore. This can be as simple as asking them to reply with the word “STOP” to stop all further SMS communication from you. Another option to unsubscribe is using a default link, which is a no-cost, more effective way to manage opt-outs.
It is easy to quickly type out a promotional message and hit send. But always remind yourself to preview your message, revisit the copy for any errors or improvements, and only then, hit that send button.
SMS marketing campaigns come with lots of data that can help you in optimizing your future campaigns better. Run A/B tests, use the power of AI to understand reachability and engagement, use data reports to gather insights and make informed decisions about the copy, the timing, the kind of messages you want to send, and more.
Before you answer this question, you need to understand your audience and their channel preferences and behaviors. Different regions also have different channels that are popular. The SMS adoption rate is another factor to be taken into consideration as this significantly changes from region to region, and even between different age groups of users.
Once you carry out this small research and choose to pick SMS, a great idea would be to seamlessly integrate it into your existing tech-stack and marketing channels. This way, SMS complements your overall marketing strategy and brings in more value than it would as a standalone channel.
SMS marketing is easy and simple to implement. You need to register your number and business account, and after that, you can start sending 1:1 messages at scale. To get a better understanding, book a demo, and let one of our experts guide you through making the best decision for your business.
With 12+ years of experience in consulting, building, and marketing technology products for clients across industries, Srikant is a product leader, storyteller, data fanatic, and UX/usability enthusiast. He often appears as a speaker on panels about personalization and optimization and has a passion for building simple solutions to complex problems, and is currently pursuing that at Insider.