5 Rules for Effective SMS Marketing in 2020 - and Beyond
Posted: January 28, 2020
Most consumers view text messaging as a quick and convenient way to chat with family and friends. For most of us, it is, but for many businesses, it's quickly becoming a powerful marketing tool. Compared to other forms of marketing like direct mail, print advertising, and email, the use of text messaging for marketing is still relatively new. This newness often makes SMS marketing misunderstood and misused.
Most forms of marketing have rules of engagement and etiquette that should be followed. Anyone operating outside those rules runs the risk of being tagged as a proliferator of junk mail or spam, and may be subject to penalties. SMS marketing is no exception. SMS has its own set of rules. In this article, we explore how to correctly and effectively use text messaging as a productive marketing tool
Rule #1 - Get Permission
SMS is an opt-in form of communication. That means you must get consent from customers before simply bombarding them with text messages about your products or services. This also means that you can't get a list of phone numbers and start blasting out text messages to subscribers that you don't know. If you operate a store-front, web site or mobile app, you need to provide a means of allowing your customers to sign up or opt-in to text messaging before sending them notifications about promotions or deals.
It may seem that the opt-in requirement would greatly limit a potential target audience compared to sending many messages to as wide an audience as possible. To the contrary, sending to a smaller opt-in audience is more effective than blast-texting a list of arbitrary numbers. When you think about it, by opting in, your customers have essentially told you that they're interested in your product and they want to receive more information from you. That's way more valuable than the large numbers approach.
It's illegal in most areas to send text messages to subscribers who have not opted in, so you risk damaging your business's reputation by doing so. Nobody likes receiving spam email, robo-calls, or junk mail, and nothing is more annoying than spam texts. Mobile subscribers may file complaints if they receive unwanted texts. Complaints can result in marring your businesses name and image, so it's best to stay away from this practice.
Rule #2 - Honor Opt-Outs
This is basically an extension of rule #1. In the same manner that you need to offer opt-ins, you must also offer, and honor opt-outs. So, what is an opt-out and how does it work? An opt-out is a simple one-word STOP message that a subscriber can send as a response to any text that your business sends. Upon receipt of a STOP, you have an obligation to honor the request and remove that customer's number from your SMS marketing list.
By requiring opt-ins, and also opt-outs, it may seem like your target SMS audience has the potential to shrink to non-worthwhile levels. But, keep in mind the principle of quality over quantity. You're better off with 200 customers who are interested in your product and what to hear from you, than 2,000 who will likely delete your message with a simple swipe of their finger. Furthermore, it's a lot more cost-effective to target a small, interested audience than a larger non-interested one.
Rule #3 - Keep it Simple
Remember that you're sending a text message. Text messages are recognized and loved for their brevity. So, keep that in mind and get to the point. If you want to send more than a sentence or two, send an email. Much of the appeal of text messaging is short, targeted messages. This rule works in your favor because consumers are far more likely to read an entire short text message than they are a wordy one. It's a fast-paced world and people seek instant information. Keeping your messages concise and on-point will greatly increase your impact.
One important point... Even though you need to keep your messages simple, always remember to identify your brand. Do this by including your business name in the first few lines of your message. Your message is pointless if your customers can't recognize who it's from.
Short messages also benefit you - the marketer. If you're short on time, preparing a text message is quick and easy and doesn't carry the overhead of other forms of advertising. Another advantage of short messages is they're cheaper to send. Text messaging costs are usually charged per 160-character message segment. Assuming a typical base cost of 1.5 cents per segment, a message of length 1 to 160 characters will cost 1.5 cents, 161 to 320 characters costs 3 cents, etc. Even though each message costs just a few cents, if you're sending thousands of messages, the difference between 160 characters and 161 and above can add up. It's a good idea to do a character count before sending.
Rule #4 - Don't be Annoying
Text message marketing is cheap, which is great. But, don't use low-cost as a reason to send too many messages. Your customers may love your product or service, but they probably don't want to hear from you more than once or twice a week. Bombarding your customers with unnecessary messages could be interpreted as desperate or spammy, which will raise the chances of receiving a STOP to opt-out. Target your audience wisely and choose well-worded, relevant messages.
Rule #5 - Make your Messages Interesting
SMS marketing is easy to do, but you don't want to fall into the trap of sending bland message with similar wording each time. Your customers may quickly get bored, and again you risk receiving a dreaded opt-out STOP. It's important to add variety.
Leverage the interactive nature of SMS. Add occasional pictures to your messages or add links to interactive pages on your web site, like questionnaires or surveys that result in rewards or giveaways. By adding links you draw customers back to your site which creates opportunity for sales. Your customer would likey not visit your site on their own accord, but by drawing them back, they're more likely to see some other product or promotion and decide to buy.
Adding links back to your web site boost traffic which can help to improve your SEO ranking. One of Google's many ranking factors is the volume of return traffic to your site. A steady volume of return visitors adds weight to your site's quality score, which helps boost your site's overall ranking.
These 5 rules will help you run effective SMS marketing campaigns in 2020 and beyond. As each business is unique, some rules may be more relevant than others. Regardless of what type of campaign you intend to operate, be sure to always follow rules 1 and 2. Providing the ability for your customers to opt-in and opt-out is essential and required by law in most countries. Always keep rules 3, 4 and 5 in mind. Add variety, keep things interesting and take advantage of the interactive qualities of SMS and your text message marketing efforts should pay off.
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