Are you using SMS to market to your customers? Do you know how to use it effectively: the pros and cons, the SMS marketing best practices? More importantly, do you know what NOT to do with SMS marketing, and how to hyper-target your audience to get the best ROI? If you answered ‘No’ to any of these then keep reading.

SMS has been around for decades but it’s only in recent years that it’s started to be used more and more by savvy marketers who have seen the benefits. Businesses are always on the lookout for new and better ways to attract customers. They want to engage with them effectively, build trust, and get them to purchase their product or service. While technology is rapidly advancing and customers are quick to try new products, building relationships with today’s consumer can be a struggle. And it’s easy to see why.

Customers everywhere are being hammered with sales messages every day. They’re bombarded with emails, google ads, Facebook ads, Instagram ads, Youtube Ads, TV ads… the list goes on. There is so much noise to cut through, you’d be forgiven for wondering how you stand any chance of being heard. Well, worry no more. SMS may be just the answer you’re looking for. Although it’s old technology, SMS is one of the fastest, most effective ways to communicate directly with customers and has been shown to convert up to 60 times more than email. Click here to stay up to date with the latest trends and marketing strategies. 

In this article, we take a look at what SMS marketing is and what some of the best practices are. Then we’ll dive into what NOT to do with your SMS marketing and how to hyper-target your audience for best results.

What is SMS Marketing and What’s So Great About It 

SMS, or Short Message Service, is your traditional text message. Almost every person knows of it, uses it and takes it for granted. Compared to its newer, flashier messaging siblings like WhatsApp, iMessage, and Facebook Messenger for example, SMS is a primitive technology. But don’t let that fool you. SMS works on everyone’s phone, all the time. It doesn’t need any apps, additional electronic support, or an internet connection to function.

This convenient nature is the reason SMS continues to be popular among mobile users. It’s also why businesses choose it to engage with their customers. But that’s not the best part. There are three main reasons why companies favor SMS as part of their direct marketing strategy:

  • Speed: SMS messages are delivered almost instantly to customers’ screens
  • High open rate: Push notifications mean customers can’t miss messages and are inclined to open them straight away.
  • High engagement rate: Instant access and its overt nature guarantee text messages grab attention.

This combination of immediacy, push notification and accessibility has seen the use of SMS marketing strategies explode year on year. The question is, “Are you using it?”

Best practices

If you’re yet to incorporate SMS into your overall marketing strategy then there are a few SMS marketing best practices you might want to know about before you dive straight in.

Get permission

As with email and other marketing channels, you must receive written permission from customers before sending them any text messages. Sound daunting? Not at all – there are easy ways to do this. One option is to simply include a phone number field on your newsletter opt-in page. You could also create an opt-in campaign and send customers to a landing page where they can check an opt-in box.

A third way to get permission is to incentivize customers to opt-in. By texting in a 5 or 6 digit shortcode customers will receive a special offer. For example, Dan Lok might ask someone to text “UNLOCK” to 12345 to get a free copy of his ‘Unlock It’ book. Simple right? Now, once you’ve got their permission you have to make sure that you don’t lose it. It’s important you tell customers you’ll be sending them text messages from time to time and also the type of message they’ll receive. This way you establish trust and customers are warmed up for your next SMS marketing campaign.

Use SMS Marketing Tools

Having a decent SMS marketing software is a must. Whatever the size of your customer list, sending text messages to customers manually just isn’t an option. SMS marketing software does the heavy lifting for you, allowing you to plan, build, and execute your SMS marketing strategy with ease.

Messages can be automated and triggered just like in email. You can even send multiple SMS messages to different segments of your base, for a more considered, personalized approach. Some SMS software even allows direct integration with your email automation to maximize your conversion potential.

In addition to the standard SMS marketing software, there are also MMS (Multimedia Messaging Services) options. These are even more powerful tools for getting your SMS content in front of customers. MMS allows you to send images, gifs, emojis, even video and sounds, with your text messages. They also give you way more characters to play with – over 1000 instead of the standard 160 characters you get with SMS.

However, if you’re thinking “Great, let’s just use MMS”, there are a few things to consider. All those shiny, added features come at an added cost. So, if your campaign is going out to thousands, or hundreds of thousands of customers, this may have more of an effect on your ROI than you’re comfortable with. On top of this, not all phones or service providers support MMS. This can lead to a much poorer delivery rate and higher load times, so factor this in.

Add Value

Whatever marketing channel you use to target prospects, it’s important to add value each step of the way; the more value you establish the more your audience will embrace what you have to offer. If you adopt a ‘customer first’ approach at all times then you’ll find this principle easy to achieve.

Adding value can be as simple as giving customers the information they need when they need to know it. Click To Tweet

 This can be through appointments or event reminders; providing peace of mind with order and meeting confirmations; keeping customers up to date with tickets, received payments and other transactions. And of course, there’s giving them access to freebies, special offers, and time-sensitive promotions that they might otherwise miss out on.

These are all great examples of how SMS marketing can enhance your direct-to-consumer brand strategy. However, if you start to send countless messages to your customer base that are generic and of no interest, forget it. Customers will find no value in what you have to say and quickly turn off your brand, so be careful.

Keep It Short, Simple & Grab Attention

Text messages have many advantages but 160 characters isn’t much to work with. To get the best out of SMS you have to be clever about what you write: keep your messages short, to the point, and grab your reader’s attention.

Now this might sound like a no brainer but there’s more to it than meets the eye. In SMS marketing every character counts. You have to be smart about what you say and what you don’t. Skillful, focused copy is a must for SMS marketing and the need to grab your customer’s attention straight away.

The best way to do this is to use proven copywriting techniques to engage readers. Using one or two words that create strong emotional reactions – curiosity, fear or greed, for example – are great for grabbing attention. Words like ‘NEWS’, ‘SALE’, and ‘SPECIAL OFFER’ at the start of your text message is a surefire way to really draw customers into your offer.

What NOT to do with SMS marketing

So those are the benefits of SMS marketing and some of the best practices, but it’s amazing how many businesses don’t know them or get them totally wrong. While marketers know it’s important to test everything they do to find what works best, when it comes to SMS it’s not so forgiving. Because text messages are so immediate and the percentage read so high, you often only have one shot to get it right.

To help you avoid any nasty surprises and set you up on the right path for your SMS marketing, here are a few warnings on what NOT to do…

Poor Timing

Timing is everything. SMS is an incredible marketing channel but if you don’t get your timing right it can severely undermine your results. You can have the best SMS campaign but if you send it at anti-social times, like the middle of the night when customers are asleep, then the results will most likely be a poor conversion rate and a lot of annoyed people.

Another example of bad timing is sending last gasp text messages, telling customers about special promotions or sales at the very last moment. While SMS has the fastest open rate across any channel, and ‘fear of missing out’ is a powerful psychological trigger, sometimes giving customers a little more time to consider their purchase is the best way to go.

Try mixing up the timing and reasons for messaging. For example you could send customers an SMS with a special discount at the beginning of a sale and then another telling them it’s about to end a week or two later. As always it comes down to testing but the main thing is not to do this often.

Don’t Send Too Many Texts

Just as you have to be careful to get your SMS timing right, you need to be even more careful about how many times you send messages out. The saying ‘Too much of a good thing’ really does apply here. SMS marketing is so effective, and the results so good compared to other marketing channels, it can be tempting to just send text messages for everything. This is a bad idea.

Remember, text messages are overt and very intimate in nature. The fact that customers will be instantly alerted to every message can have the opposite effect to what you’re after. They may respond positively in the short term, but in the long term, overuse can have the opposite effect to what you’re after.

Avoid Using Slang and Abbreviations

Have you used abbreviations or slang in your SMS marketing? 160 characters aren’t much, so it can be very tempting to cut corners and try to cram more into your message using abbreviations or slang. While it may seem like you’re being clever and sounding cool all at once, don’t do it.

Chopping your words and using uncommon phrases is risky: not everyone will know what you’re talking about and you run a big chance that your customers will end up being confused. Customers may also find it hard to read at first glance and simply ignore your message, worse, they may opt-out of your SMS marketing altogether.

On top of all this, there’s the potential impact it has on your brand image. Unprofessional language could really harm customers’ perception of your brand, so it’s best to play it safe and stay professional.

Not Identifying Yourself

Have you ever been contacted out of nowhere by someone? It could have been a call, email, or message, but your first response is usually, ‘who the heck is this?!” right? I know mine is.

This is why you should always, ALWAYS identify yourself whenever you send your customers an SMS. The last thing you want is for them to not recognize you and think you’re spam.

From the very first message, introduce yourself to your customers. It can be as simple as “Hey, this is Dan Lok” or sign off the message with your name instead. You don’t have to make it fancy, but your customers need to know who’s contacting them. It builds brand recognition and strengthens the relationship between your brand and your customer

Don’t Always Sell

When SMS marketing it can be tempting to sell your product in every text message you send. DON’T DO THIS! There is time and place for selling – you have to know when to push and when to hold back.

The same goes for SMS marketing and marketing in general. Everybody’s out to sell their product or service and grow their business. But you can get caught up in it all and just keep hitting your customers with sales message after sales message. Doing this is guaranteed to alienate your customers and they will shut off to what you’re trying to get them to buy.

With SMS marketing, be very mindful of your customers. It can be very easy to look at them and just see stats, names, email addresses, and mobile numbers. Remember, your customers are all human beings, just like you. Ok, you may not be your buyer persona (your audience), but ask yourself, how would you like to be treated? What would you engage with? Think about it for a second, put yourself in their shoes, and then do the same for your customers.

Surprisingly, by not selling all the time, and adopting a more personal approach, they’ll appreciate you more, stick with you longer, and, funny enough, buy from you more.

Failing to Give Customers a Way Out

Just as it’s against the rules to send SMS marketing campaigns without your customers’ permission, it’s definitely not a good idea to prevent them from opt-outing or unsubscribing from your SMS marketing list. While you might be inclined to hang on to every lead you get in the hopes they buy from you, it can sometimes do more harm than good.

This is especially important when someone has accidentally subscribed to receive your text messages, or didn’t know what they had signed up for when they opted-in. The answer? – Give them a way out in every message you send. You might be hesitant to do this, but it’s always better to be upfront and open.

Reminding customers that they can opt-out at any time is a good thing. As well as cleaning your list so you only send messages to customers who are actually interested, it builds trust and avoids any negativity towards your brand.

So it’s important and no more so than in the very first SMS you send them. SMS opt-outs usually come in the form of an unsubscribe link or a short message that looks something like ‘text STOP to end’. You need to have it but remember to keep it super-short so as not to eat into your character limit.

No Call To Action

Now, this should be an obvious one. Never forget to include a Call To Action. Any marketer worth their salt knows that you need to include a CTA in every bit of your marketing, not just your SMS marketing.

Call to action is vital to every part of your marketing efforts. Customers need to be encouraged to take action once they’ve seen your campaign piece, if not they simply won’t do what you want. The easier, simpler, and more compelling you make that action the better.

While in an email you may have a call to action that’s a big button or a long descriptive link, in SMS marketing you’re not quite so lucky. Again, you only have a limited number of characters to play with, so enticing your customers to continue on their buyer’s journey can be a challenge.

This is where your copywriting skills come into their own. You need to be creative about how to get maximum action into a handful of words.

How To Hyper-Target Your Audience and Get the Best Out of SMS Marketing

Personalization

Marketers are constantly striving to learn more about their customers and make their content as relevant as possible. While this is great for keeping them engaged, an even better option is to hyper-target customers by personalizing your content. 

People like personalization. Don’t you? In the same way you would target a customer in an email, sending customers text messages using their first name or any other personalization field instantly starts to build your relationship with them. Go one step further by sending customers offers based on their location, preferences, or purchase history and you’ll stay way ahead of the competition.

Welcome Offers

If customers are brand new to your product or service consider welcoming them with a well-timed SMS. It’s standard practice to send out a welcome email to say hello, but everyone expects it so no one really bats an eyelid anymore. There’s also the possibility your email could get lost in the sea of other emails in your customer’s inbox. 

Hitting them with an immediate welcome SMS the minute they order or sign up will make you stand out from the crowd and build on your newfound relationship with that customer. If your marketing strategy includes giving new customers incentives for signing up, then send them your discount code or offer link in your SMS. It’s always best practice to follow this up with email just in case they didn’t go for it.

Birthday Messages

SMS is the perfect weapon on any big day. Whether it’s Valentines, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, or over the Holidays, sending a relevant text message to customers is guaranteed to cause a stir. There is one problem though: unless you make it super personal then odds are your messages may just feel like another generic sales promotion.

There is one day of the year though when you can send an SMS marketing campaign to a customer and your offer will be seen in a whole different light… on their birthday. You can simply wish your customer a Happy Birthday if you like, but you would be missing a trick if you didn’t add in some form of offer. Since most people like to receive extra special gifts on their big day, it’s a prime opportunity to try and sell your product without being frowned on.

Whether the offer goes in the birthday SMS itself or you use the message to direct them to a special gift you’ve emailed them, the sequence is up to you. Just be sure to follow up with an email. It’s smart marketing to make your offer last for a few days rather than just the one. It makes the customer feel more special and also gives them time free of the birthday distraction to contemplate your offer and potentially buy.

Special Time-Sensitive Offers

Everyone loves to be made to feel special, and this true of your customers. With consumers being swamped from all directions by competing products, you have to work hard to get them to buy your product or service. Once they do though, your job doesn’t stop there.

It’s super important that you provide a stand-out experience to keep customers happy. After that, find ways to entice them to carry on shopping with you and not jump to your competitors.

One of the ways you can do this is through your SMS marketing. By offering instant access to special offers, exclusive discounts, and time-sensitive deals they wouldn’t get anywhere else, customers are made to feel like VIPs and will become loyal to your brand.

Abandoned Cart

Abandoned carts are a great way to hyper-target your customers via SMS based on their individual shopping experience. It’s inevitable that a portion of your customers will drop out of their purchase and abandon their cart. Since almost 7 out of 10 carts are abandoned on average, marketers expect it and plan for it.

The usual solution to getting customers to pick up where they left off is via email. It’s the tried and tested channel for combatting abandoned carts and is hailed by everyone as achieving the best response rate. While there’s definite truth to this it’s not the be-all and end-all. When combined with SMS the results are even more impressive.

The key to this successful partnership is knowing how each type of message works best. SMS marketing is all about immediacy and attention-grabbing. Email is for displaying info. By featuring customers’ products in an abandoned cart email and drawing attention to it through SMS, it’s the perfect combination to remind customers what they left behind and reignite their interest in completing their order.

Order Confirmation And Shipping

This is where SMS really shines. Updating customers with their order confirmation and shipping status is the perfect way to engage with them without barriers. Customers expect to receive updates about their orders. The immediate notification SMS updates afford businesses is ideal for customer retention and satisfaction.

Adding a tracking link into your SMS is a great way of providing value to your customers and adds to their sense of empowerment. SMS order notifications also have the added benefit of saving customers the arduous task of having to log in or scroll through their inbox to find their email updates.

Overall, customers are hyper-receptive to SMS order confirmations and shipping updates, so it can be a perfect time to play on that goodwill and double down on your sales. Offering customers discounts on a future purchase is a great way to boost your revenue.

Summary

SMS marketing can make a massive contribution to your overall marketing strategy. The key is to treat it with respect:

  • Always get your customer’s permission before sending you SMS campaigns
  • Use SMS marketing tools to streamline your sends
  • Always look to add value in each message
  • Keep your SMS messages short and sweet to grab readers attention
  • Be more considerate of the time when sending your texts
  • Don’t overuse SMS so as not to alienate your customers
  • Don’t cut corners by using slang or abbreviations
  • Be sure to identify yourself so customers don’t think you’re spam
  • Don’t turn every SMS into a sales campaign
  • Give customers a way to opt-out if they want
  • Always, always include a call to action within your message
  • Personalize your SMS content for greater engagement and to build stronger relationships
  • Send Birthday wishes to your customers with special offers to make them smile
  • Give your customers exclusive access to the best deals and make them feel like VIPs
  • Super-charge your Abandoned Cart strategy by teaming SMS with email
  • Keep your updated with the orders every step of the way

If your company is yet to leverage the power of SMS marketing then now’s the time to start. SMS is proven to outperform every other marketing channel, so if you’re not yet using it your business could be seriously missing out.

To help you get the best out of your SMS marketing, check out this exclusive training by Dan Lok and his team. You’ll learn the secrets to writing powerful, persuasive copy for all your SMS needs and supercharge the way you market across all other channels. Get it now and get messaging!