How To Make Your SMS Marketing Strategy Work (13 Best Practices)
As the e-commerce market continues to grow faster than ever, businesses are looking for trustworthy ways to connect with customers and enhance their experience. Naturally, this is where smartphones come to mind – something that people barely put aside these days and widely use not only for communication but for online shopping, too.
Hence, SMS is making a comeback as one of the most personal and direct ways to reach out to them and get through the noise of other marketing channels. Its 98% open rates, brief and straightforward nature, and other undeniable benefits give companies higher chances of being heard, thus making SMS a great tool to pass the right message to the right people.
As great as it may sound, there are still things that everyone who decides to build an SMS marketing strategy has to know to avoid any possible losses. Continue to read this article to discover 13 best practices and SMS marketing tips to get the best out of SMS messages for business.
1. Follow the rules for SMS compliance
The first and foremost step before starting with SMS is to make sure that the messages you’re planning to send meet the regulations surrounding text marketing. For this, there are three laws that you want to follow (in the US, Canada, and EU (including the UK)) – the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
Getting deeper into each of them individually might need a whole new article, yet here are a few of the most important things that you should know to avoid any legal trouble:
- Opt-in/opt-out. Written consent from customers is a must for every business that wants to start sending marketing messages. This can be done in several different ways, for instance, by sending a keyword to a business number, entering a phone number on the web, or signing up at a physical location. Providing instructions for opting-out anytime is just as important as getting permission to text.
- A confirmation message is the first thing you need to send after someone opts-in for your texts. Include your business name, purpose, let them know the estimated text frequency, include opt-out and help instructions (e. g. “Text STOP to cancel”).
- Let customers know that message and data rates might apply as some of them still might have to pay a small fee to receive text messages.
- Follow the SHAFT rule for content - it defines what you CAN’T text, and it’s pretty obvious. SHAFT stands for sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco. Breaking this rule is considered a serious violation and might result in an instant ban.
2. Use SMS marketing tools
Using an SMS marketing tool can not only help you stay compliant but also lift most of the burden off your shoulders. Sending your messages manually is not an option if you want to keep it efficient and, of course, follow the results of your efforts.
SMS marketing tools provide several benefits that can help you create a top-notch SMS marketing strategy. Besides navigating you through the process of creating and launching SMS marketing campaigns, such software allows businesses to automate messages based on different criteria, schedule them for the future to save some valuable time, segment the audience to target the right people, and measure the performance with in-depth analytics.
3. Provide value with every message
Offers that give customers real value are now more important than ever since the pandemic has noticeably affected customer shopping habits and boosted their expectations to a whole new level. It made them pickier and more demanding, which now raised another challenge for businesses to use all the creative resources they might have.
There are many more ways to use SMS marketing than just for sending promotional messages for your customers which, in fact, might get pretty boring after a while. You can actually gather information via surveys that can later benefit both sides, involve them in decisions (e. g. “Reply what you would like to see more of: shoes or coats?), share weekly or monthly tips, or even run contests. Varying between different incentives will ensure you’ll keep your customers interested and engage them in different ways.
4. Keep your messages simple
That’s the true beauty of SMS and probably the reason why it’s so effective. It is by nature a clear and concise channel and it’s beneficial to keep it in mind when sending your messages to customers. There's not much room to get talkative or lead with some catchy introductions – the main point of sending an SMS message is to get your subscribers to perform your intended action, like clicking on the link or responding to a question.
Stay brief, straight to the point, and make sure to send only the information that must be provided. This will ensure you grab and keep your reader’s attention that can help you achieve your SMS marketing goals.
5. Use visuals
Visual is one of the strongest senses that might leave the biggest impact on a person. Did you know that three days later, people are likely to remember only 10% of the information that they've heard compared to 65% of what they've seen?
That’s why including visuals in your SMS might not only grab customer’s attention but also encourage them to take action. Besides, a nice, well-thought-out image can perfectly complement your text, saving the number of symbols yet providing more information. Of course, it doesn’t mean that every SMS you send must contain a picture of a GIF – but spicing them up with visual material once in a while might really pay off.
Personalization is key, no matter the marketing channel. It allows businesses to provide customers with something that is actually helpful since you can target very specific needs and offer a solution to fulfill them. Hence, this is what you have to focus on while crafting your best SMS marketing campaigns, too.
Even if you want to send the same message to hundreds or thousands of people, it’s still possible to keep it personal. There are many ways to do it, from addressing customers by their names to… The choice is basically yours. Take such things as age, location, gender, etc. into consideration. This will increase their experience with your brand and will likely boost your chances of a sale.
7. Reward loyal customers
At the end of the day, your regular and most loyal customers are the ones to truly cherish. Loyalty creates brand ambassadors, results in valuable feedback, drives repeat business, resulting in increased revenue.
SMS is an easy way to reward those loyal customers by offering them exclusive deals. Not only will it show that they’re valued, boost their satisfaction with your company, and encourage another purchase, but creating a loyalty program might actually inspire other customers to join your subscribers' list.
8. Create a sense of urgency
Urgency plays an important role in marketing, being one of the main forces that drive customer decisions. Having in mind that SMS as a channel is great for time-sensitive deals, use this combination to nudge your customers in the right direction.
Some of the offers, such as coupons, promotions, flash sales, contests already imply that they’re not going to last forever. Besides setting clear deadlines, there are also words that you can use to encourage your customers to take action:
- Order now
- Limited-time offer
- Before it’s gone
- Today only
- Act fast
- Last chance
- Don’t miss out
9. Use SMS to complement other marketing channels
Even though SMS messages work great for updates, information, or promoting various deals, it shouldn’t be the only marketing channel that you use. In fact, SMS is also a great way to enhance your communication on other platforms, such as email or social media.
Both of these channels have their weaknesses. While an average email open rate is around 15-25% (basically 4 times lower than SMS) and social media is just too cluttered to even keep up with the feed, text messages can help increase their visibility. By sending SMS, you can simply remind your subscribers about a newsletter they haven't opened yet or invite them to participate in a contest on Instagram in case they’ve missed it.
10. Make SMS a part of the overall customer experience
SMS can be easily integrated into almost every part of the customer journey, thus increasing their experience. Good customer experience has always been important, however, with more businesses shifting online and competition getting tougher, CX has become one of the differentiating factors in purchasing decisions.
A well-crafted SMS at the right time can help to meet ever-growing customer expectations for better communication and business transparency. Be it exclusive deals, abandoned cart reminders, order shipping updates, delivery notifications, or a quick survey to gather feedback, text messages are the easiest way to directly reach out to the customer in a timely manner.
11. Include a clear call to action
Just sending a message does not mean you will achieve your goal with it so it’s really important to tell your customers what exactly do you want them to do next. And that's what the call to action, or CTA, is for.
It is a form of persuasion and should appear at the end of every SMS, usually followed by the link. CTA depends on the action you want your customers to take – visit your online store, fill the survey, subscribe, etc. A good call to action should tell your customers what will they achieve after the click and why should they do it at all. Try using these phrases to get them clicking:
- Visit our store
- Buy now
- Try it now
- Get my discount
- Claim free shipping now
- Don't miss out on our limited-time offer
- Unlock exclusive deals
- Save today
12. Mind the timing
Choosing the right time for sending your SMS messages is actually crucial for an effective SMS marketing campaign. Not only for higher reach and readability but also for maintaining your customers' trust. How?
Well, there are times during the day when you simply wouldn’t want to be disturbed by marketing messages, for instance, during family dinner time or at 3 AM. And although it’s difficult to predict how every individual receiving your SMS messages is going to react, there are still a few common options to focus on. Consider the time before the workday begins since people tend to check their messages while commuting or having their morning coffee. Also, right after it finishes. Weekends might be tricky, however, Saturday morning until 12 PM (before everyone gets busy with their plans) and Sunday evening from 4 PM (winding down) might be an option.
13. Measure the performance and adapt
Last but not least, every marketer knows that measuring the performance of your campaigns is one of the most important factors for further improvement. This is where text marketing shines - the right SMS marketing tools can turn text messages into an easily trackable marketing channel.
It means that you get to see how your messages perform, what offers and promotions work, and which ones need a little improvement. This helps you to always stay on track of your results, analyze them, adjust the current efforts, and continue crafting better messages for your customers.
Before sending your first SMS, make sure to go through this list one more time to keep everything intact. SMS marketing strategy, like any other marketing strategy, requires careful preparation that can be effectively achieved by learning the best practices of the channel itself and using the right SMS marketing tools. Keeping it simple, getting to know your customers, crafting irresistible offers, and staying compliant are just a few important steps that can make your SMS marketing work for your benefit.