SMS Marketing or SMS broadcasting uses an is an old technology (nearly 30 years) but it is fast-becoming the communication medium of choice for businesses looking to improve their ROI.
In this article you’ll learn 16 SMS marketing best practices that will have you creating high-performance marketing campaigns.
Why is SMS only now becoming so popular if it has been with us for nearly 3 decades already?
One word: Mobile.
Mobile is driving this planet and every day that passes we are integrating more and more of our lives into these devices.
What is SMS Marketing and why is it so important today?
The benefits of SMS marketing are great in fact, The U.S. has 237 million smartphone users (2018), Australia has nearly 100% smartphone penetration with currently 88% of the country (2018) owning a smartphone device, New Zealand is already at 100% penetration with more mobile phones than people making the mobile phone the new sheep.
Ok, so a lot of humans are using this device, but what else makes bulk SMS marketing so special?
Reach is incredibly important when dealing with potential customers and the fact that you can send out a message to a customer and have at least 82% read it with up to 45% responding to that message presents an amazing opportunity to help customers and/or drive business revenue.
A mobile phone is now our most personal possession. It allows us to connect with friends and family, manage finances, watch, read and share media, help us make better health decisions etc. our lives are literally tied up in this device! When you’re sending messages via mobile you communicating with them on their most personal channel.
Mobile is a fast channel with 90% of recipients reading your message within 3 minutes (180 seconds) of receiving it!
Here is what Smart Insights had to say about the power of SMS:
• Over 97% of text messages are read within the first four minutes.
• 19% of people will click a link in a SMS campaign rather than just 4.2% for emails.
• SMS campaigns receive average response rates of 30%, compared to 4% for emails.
With such high open, click-through and response rates, SMS presents a great opportunity to drive new leads, customers and revenue.
16 SMS Marketing Tips & Best Practices:
1: Always Get Permission – (Never Buy Mobile Number Lists)
The big advantage text message marketing has over a lot of other channels is that it is permission-based.
This means that a person has given you explicit permission to send marketing messages to them.
Wile you could just buy a big ole’ list of mobile phone numbers and push out a bulk SMS marketing message campaign (which would deliver results) the legal hellfire that could land squarely on your lap makes this “strategy” not even worth the risk.
The best marketers grow their subscriber lists naturally because it ensures they build quality lists that generate long-term sales revenue.
For extra points:
Set expectations and let new subscribers know how things will roll – kind of like when you recite your vows before marriage (however in an SMS relationship you best not break them).
When someone subscribes to your SMS list, send them a confirmation SMS along with how the relationship will work.
This may include things like:
• How often you’ll be texting them
• The time of day you will contact them (example: if you own a restaurant and have weekly lunch specials)
• Content type: The type of texts they can expect to from you i.e. receive offers, updates, reminders etc.
• How to opt out from your list
All good relationships start off with an understanding of how it will all work.
2: Appeal To Self-Interest
In John Caples’ Book “Tested Advertising Methods” (which was based on thousands of scientifically-based advertising tests) he discovered that the most successful ads were focused on the customer’s self-interest.
That book was published in 1961 and what marketers have come to learn is…nothing has changed.
We humans are (and always will be) motivated to act in a way that meets our own needs first.
Appealing to a person’s self-interest is necessary to not only grab their attention but to ultimately guide them towards the action we want them to take.
This is especially critical in the initial stages of the relationship.
You want your subscriber to look forward to your SMS messages.
A few years back I received an SMS from Vodafone, my instant thought was a negative one,
They had never messaged me before, I couldn’t even remember signing up with them…
It annoyed me.
Not a great start Vodafone.
But what came next seriously shocked me!
It was a voucher for $250 dollars that I could use for any mobile phone!
No weird catch like “only available on phones over $1,000 dollars”
Guess what my instant reaction was when Vodafone sent me an SMS from that point on?
A good one.
This is what I call “positive expectancy”.
Like when a good friend comes around.
That said. Value comes in all forms, not just discounts and offers.
Timely SMS’s that walk you through a specific challenge or important updates, for example:
When my daughter travels internationally the airlines send me a text message at every port letting me know exactly when she landed and when she is boarding the next flight – this gives me peace of mind.
Be person who always delivers something useful.
Contact your subscribers only when you have something great to share with them and you’ll create positive expectancy, own top position in their mind strengthen your brand goodwill and if you sell products or services this becomes a lot easier.
3: Be Concise
You’re only dealing with 160 characters which most will say isn’t a lot.
Personally, I think it’s plenty, if there is a situation where you need to explain something that requires more than 160 characters then simply use the SMS message as a teaser to entice the reader to go to a web page where you can fully explain what you have to offer.
You don’t need to use up every single character, if you’ve got a special offer: Kelly! 50% off. Online only. Ends midnight, Jim.
Here are a few other tips:
1. Lose the jargon
Lose the industry talk – use your readers words where possible.
2. Bring them to your place
You’re only working with a few characters, sometimes it’s not helpful to hang on the phone, instead take the reader to another location so you can expand on what you want to say – typically your website.
3. Lead with your best stuff
Lead the message with your big benefit, curiosity phrase or offer. Before a person opens a text they can get a glimpse of what the message is about so make it count – you could think of this as the headline for an ad or the subject line for an email designed to tempt them to open the message.
4: Write 1-to-1 And Make It Personal
Personalisation works. Period.
There are different ways to achieve this but here a few ideas:
Talking to them like you’re there
One tactic in copy writing is to write one-to-one, that is, speaking directly to them as if you’re there – one person talking to another.
It helps to think of your subscriber while you write the text message to help you make it more personal.
Use the subscribers name
Some SMS marketers will say that you should always include the person’s first name but I don’t think this is necessary.
Before you text a friend do you start the message with their name?
This depends on the relationship you have with your subscribers but just know that it’s not a hard rule to follow.
Use your name
“Hey Jennie, I see that you added the Cleveland boots to your cart but didn’t end up buying. Get 10% off for the next 24 hours. Jessica. To opt-out, reply STOP.”
Communicate to subscribers based on location
If you move around a bit then you can send SMS messages to people in specific locations “Hey Tammie, the Gourmet Food Truck is in Fernwood tonight! Click here to see the Fernwood Menu…”
Targeting an offer specifically for that person
This would most likely be used for triggered event for example an ecommerce store where shoppers who added an item to their shopping cart but didn’t end up buying.
I know this really annoys ecom marketers!
As soon as some abandons their cart, an SMS alert is sent out to the shopper to remind them that they still have an item in their cart and that they can continue shopping by following the link in the SMS.
NOTE: On the 1st tip I mentioned how important it is to get permission to send text messages to people – in this instance you will be fine sending this out to them (because it’s positioned as a helpful service) but you will NOT have permission to send marketing offers unless they ticked a box saying that it was ok to do so.
Targeting specific interests
This is incredibly powerful and is only possible if you have segmented your lists.
When you have segmented lists (contact groups that have people with similar interests inside them) you can send highly targeted offers and messaging which will often result in higher open and response rates.
If you run a pet store you might create a “Pug” contact group which allows you to send pug related tips, reminders and offers that pug owners would benefit from.
Mobile is very much a one-to-one channel so look to use personalisation often.
Customer Avatars are incredibly powerful for going deep into personalising your messaging.
5: Mobile Friendly Landing Pages
Are you sending people from their phone to your site?
You better make sure that when they arrive at your ‘home’ everything is tidy.
Make sure that your page:
1. Loads quickly
2. Looks great on a mobile screen
3. Uses the same words from your SMS on the landing page
4. Makes it easy to find what they’re looking for is easy to find
5. Has no or very few distractions
6. Carries on the conversation from the SMS message (seamless communication)
7. Has clear calls to action (make it easy to move them through your funnel)
8. Is designed to lead them to the single action you want them to take.
6: Frequency and Timing
How often do you plan to contact the people on your SMS list?
If the frequency is too high, they’ll unsubscribe.
If the frequency is too low, and they may forget subscribing to your list and unsubscribe.
This needs a bit of forethought and can be covered in your pre-framing SMS or opt-in page from ‘Tip 1’
How often you text will largely depend on the type of relationship you have.
• If you’re a personal trainer then clients will welcome daily reminders and updates.
• If you’re an eCommerce or physical store and you want to send offers then once a week may be perfect.
• If you’re launching a product then slow to more rapid SMS messaging as the launch gets closer will be required.
Either way, let your list know how often you’ll be contacting them.
7: Show Them Where The ‘Break Up’ Button Is
Place an unsubscribe option on every SMS.
This gives your subscriber or customer peace of mind knowing that they can opt-out whenever they want – kind of like a 30-day money back guarantee.
If you’re doing a good job at SMS then you won’t have to worry about a mass exodus from your list.
SMS marketing laws are different in every country so it is advised that you read through your country’s spam laws so you avoid legal headaches.
8: Drive Action With Urgency
It is often said that ‘deadlines’ were man’s greatest invention.
The thought of an impending deadline where a person can lose something is often times enough to push a person forward.
If you care about subscribers taking action then urgency should be a common theme.
“Sale ends at midnight tonight” creates urgency.
If you send them through to a web page with a countdown timer mercilessly counting down every second, minute and hour to midnight this reinforces that sense of urgency.
Never underestimate how hard it is to get a person to take action, whether that be to:
• Click on a link in your SMS
• Go to your website
• Find the product
• Read all of the information (description, money back guarantee etc.)
• Go through the cart process (entering information into all of those fields if they aren’t a member of your site)
• Entering in their credit card details (the BIG one)
The bigger the action you want the person to take the more effort you will need to get them to complete the action.
9: Smooth Out Resistance Points
Remember that scene in “The Aviator” with Leonardo DiCaprio where he was inspecting his new plane which included running his fingers across the rivets to ensure none of them stuck out.
He understood that even rivets would create drag and resistance which could mean failing to break the record for the world’s fastest plane.
Whenever you want an action from a customer, there is often resistance from the customer that precedes that action.
If you’re surprised at no one buying your product even though you have a lot of people clicking on your link it could mean the the landing page is not mobile friendly, the offer is different, the cart is broken etc.
Step through the process from start to finish as a customer, ask yourself at each step whether you are creating friction-points and if so, how can you smooth it out?
10: Use SMS To Boost The Performance Of Other Channels
Got an event coming up that is important to lead generation or direct sales?
Then how could you be using SMS to make sure that you’re squeezing the most from that moment?
Boost webinar attendance rates with a quick SMS: “Hi Jack, don’t forget our webinar is on in 5 minutes – here’s the link > http://www.webinar.com. See you there!” watch your attendance rate go up.
Increase open rates on emails. Smart Insights said that sending out an SMS right after an email improved email open rates by 20-30% – that’s a huge uplift in response.
According to a 2017 study from Deloitte Australia:
“Thirty-five percent of us check our phone within five minutes of waking up in the morning, with 70 percent using phones during mealtimes with family and friends.”
People don’t check their emails every 10 minutes, but they will be checking their phones.
11: Leverage Exclusivity
Clubs are popular because it means exclusion.
A great way to increase value (and perhaps reduce unsubscribes) is to make offers that exist only inside the SMS channel which are not accessible elsewhere.
• Early or Alpha Access to a product before the rest of the world knows about it
• Special bonuses just for VIP SMS clients
• Free vouchers
• Faster shipping times
12: Track Performance
If you don’t track then it is almost impossible to improve so like any other of your marketing activities make sure you’re able to determine the impact of each SMS campaign.
Track your CTR and conversions, inbound calls, unsubscribes etc.
Not all customers are the same and not all prospects are the same but they do share common traits (needs, wants, desires and outcomes) and it’s important to separate these needs into different groups.
Paper Style used to use a blast & pray approach to email marketing but when they switched to segmentation they increased their open rates by 244% and increased their click-through-rate by 161%.
Once you have segmented lists, it’s far easier to create targeted offers and improve conversions.
14: Increase Sales
An easy way to increase sales that most businesses overlook is simply helping customers complete their purchase.
A typical strategy used by online retailers is to send out an SMS to buyers who added products to their cart but failed to complete the order – called an abandoned cart SMS reminder.
When someone adds a product to cart, that is a strong buying indicator so using a direct messaging method like SMS to let them know that they have left items in their cart is a great way to recover potentially lost purchases.
Another way to help customers complete a purchase is to give them a way to contact you during the decision making process.
Bohemian Guitars increase their sales by 98% in a single month just by giving customers a chance to interact with them via SMS. When customers are close to a buying decision they may have one or two specific questions that are not available on your site – this simple little tactic will help you increase sales.
Another simple way is to use bundled offers, a popular version of this is the “spend this, get that” style campaign that eCommerce stores use to increase their AOV (Average Order Value) goals.
You can offer: free shipping, a free complimentary product or more of the same for a discount.
There are countless ways to increase sales using SMS.
It is generally good practice to maintain a schedule when it comes to broadcast style SMS messages since most humans are conditioned for routine TV shows being a good example.
Determine how often you will contact your list and stick to it.
16: ABT (Always Be Testing)
It’s tough to improve if you never adapt and the marketplace is always moving and shifting gears.
Testing allows you to flip over rocks and uncover mysteries that would otherwise be hidden.
The businesses that lead the way are able to do this because they test constantly and are able to discover new ‘wins’ leaving their competitors to always follow behind.
1. Come up with a hypothesis
2. Test that hypothesis with real customers and prospects
3. Record your findings
4. Endlessly Repeat
It doesn’t need to be more complicated than that.
• Test time of day
• Test offer A with offer B
• Test different parts of the buying process
• Test offer in message vs teaser copy with offer on landing page
• Test males vs. females
• Segments (some will be more profitable than others)
Want to learn more about SMS Marketing see our SMS Marketing Guide.
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