SMS Marketing: Definition, Benefits, and Best Practices for Top Results
Phones have become an ingrained part of our lives in the 21st century. People are literally glued to their mobile phones, there is almost no activity you can do on your desktop or laptop that you cannot do with the laptop. Whether it is opening an email or using an application, you can do it all with your mobile device,
With the average person checking their phones multiple times a day, finding a way to reach your target audience via their mobile phone is marketing gold. Instead of waiting for your audience to come to you, going to where there are can be the nudge they need to patronize your product or service.
There are many ways to reach your customers via mobile, email marketing is one, SMS marketing is another. Sending a simple text message to your target audience about your brand is the most direct line of contact you can have with them.
When SMS marketing is done well, it can be the most effective medium for communicating with your customers.
In this article, you will learn everything you need to know about SMS marketing including why it is so effective, best practices, and who can benefit from it.
Let’s get started.
What is SMS Marketing?
SMS marketing is the art of marketing yourself via text messages. It is putting your business or brand out there to reach out to a larger audience or to enlighten your existing audience on a new update. In this type of marketing, you send promotional campaigns and offers through text messages.
The text messages are primarily used to communicate alerts, updates, time-bound promos, and flash offers. They are sent to people who have consented to receive texts from your business. Developing good relationships with customers is unarguably stressful. If you want to communicate with them, you have to reach out, not the other way around.
Reaching out to them does not mean knocking on people's doors now and then. That would be outright disrespectful and irksome. The better alternative is to get these people on your text list and forward your updates to them as messages regularly.
Best Practices for SMS Marketing
There is no doubt that SMS marketing is a tested, trusted, and reliable means of creating awareness around your business – if practiced properly. However, some rules guide this practice.
1. Ensure Your Audience Grant the Permission
Sending text messages is one of the best ways to reach out directly to customers. But before practicing this, there are rules to follow.
First, you should draw out a plan for your SMS strategy. The plan starts from requesting permission from your customers to send them text messages. Of course, SMS are only happily received and checked when they are sent from someone who has been granted permission already.
People will ignore or delete your message if you send unsolicited messages, or worse report or block your business line. If you reach out to your target audience without prior permission from them, there are chances that your messages are not checked. The only way to increase the open and click rates of your SMS is to ask your contacts to permit you.
2. Monitor the Timing of Your Messages
Text messages, unlike emails, are opened almost immediately after they enter the phone because they are perceived to be urgent. For emails, many people only open them at specific hours of the day.
Maybe between 6 AM – 7 AM (just a hypothesis, not everyone does this at the time). They check every mail they have at this time. So if your mail does not enter then, they might not get to open it again.
Do not abuse the advantage text messages have over emails by sending messages at odd hours of the day. You do not expect a customer to jump out of his/her bed at 3 AM on Friday to use a coupon code you sent, highly unlikely.
Send text messages at the most active time of the day when it seems everyone would be busy on their phone checking one thing or the other. Your texts will have higher open rates because once it pops up on their screen, they click on it to see what you have for them.
Some European countries even have regulations regarding SMS marketing. A few of them do not allow SMS marketing after 10 PM every day, throughout Sundays, and during holidays.
3. Add Your Business Identity in Your Messages
When business owners send bulk messages to a large number of people, most network providers send them through a short-digit code, like a three or four-digit code. What this means is that your audience will not know that the message is coming from you.
That is why you need to include your business identities such as business name, address, and correspondent in the text messages you send. Some businesses are okay with adding just the name.
However, if you want to be precise with your intentions, you can add extra information like the business address and the correspondent, for example, customer welfare or promotion team. This will aid identification whenever they receive your message. You would not want to send flash sales coupon codes and leave the recipients wondering what next they should do with such information.
Also, including your business identity allows the recipients to get familiar with the code with which your message enters their phone. So on subsequent occasions, they are not quick to send such messages to the recycle bin or spam box without checking the content.
4. Use Messages to Enhance your Digital Marketing Strategy
One of the attractions of digital marketing is the multiple channels you can use to put your brand out to and interact with the public. These multiple channels are somewhat linked and can create an inter-platform community. These channels also help businesses to build strong relationships with existing and prospective customers and the general public at large.
Email and SMS marketing are two of the common channels most businesses use to communicate with customers. What these two channels have in common is the atmosphere of a direct relationship that it creates. SMS and email marketing are used to organize promotional campaigns and they are complementary.
They are complementary in the sense that emails can be used to send very detailed information to customers and leads. On the other hand, SMS can be used to communicate short, urgent, and time-sensitive information to your clients. The combination of the two channels makes your marketing strategy effective.
5. Be Consistent and Exclusive
When running a brand, consistency is a key virtue to successfully maintain your name. Some businesses which started very well have crashed at some point due to a lack of consistency.
Likewise in your marketing strategy, inconsistency is one thing you should avoid. Always deliver content as expected. For example, if you run an electronics brand that organizes promo sales and you have to share coupons when the promo starts, do so very promptly.
SMS marketing is something done by a large percentage of businesses today. It means that an average person can be receiving texts from five different brands via SMS marketing.
To get recipients to always look out for your message, you have to be exclusive. Do not bother them with redundant and unnecessary content. Make them thirst for your texts by enhancing the quality of your messages.
6. Improve Your Response Time
The nature of some businesses attracts occasional replies from customers via SMS marketing. If your business is under this category, you need to improve on how fast you react to replies from your customers. This shows the high level of interest you have in them.
Some customers easily get tired when they send messages to a brand as a reply to a text received earlier, and they are too slow to respond. Improving your responsiveness to customers' feedback and inquiries via text or any other medium will boost your customer lifetime value (CLV) through repeat satisfied customers.
If your business does not have a standby employee that attends to responses from customers and leads, integrate CRM software to run that for you. An automated response from businesses is another great way of enhancing your response game while running SMS marketing.
Why is SMS Marketing Effective?
SMS marketing is everywhere nowadays. People are getting texts from various companies as a means of advertising or creating awareness and you may be wondering if it is effective or not. SMS marketing is effective when done right.
1. Universality of Smartphones
In the most developed countries in the world, over 80% of adults now own a smartphone. Therefore, any business using the SMS marketing strategy is reaching out to virtually all the adults in the world. SMS is an awesome way of getting to these customers directly and proposing your ideas to them in a way they can understand.
According to PewResearch, 85% of Americans own a smartphone. You can generate engagements for your business online by including a link in the text messages. The link automatically takes them to a website where they get to know more about your business, a new update, or a flash offer.
2. Increased Open and Click Rates
The engagement rates in SMS marketing are quite better than what is obtainable in email marketing. Almost everyone opens their messages within the first five minutes after receiving the notification. This makes SMS a better channel to disseminate urgent and vital information to your customers, prospects and leads – with the potential for high open rates.
3. Alternative to Internet-Connected Channels
Apart from the high engagement rates on SMS, it is the only option left for some businesses in some parts of the world. In these parts of the world, data might be too expensive to purchase or a Wi-Fi connection may not be available as expected.
In cases like these, SMS is the only, although much better, the option left to communicate with your customers.
4. A Complement for Email Marketing
Before SMS marketing became a thing, business owners had to communicate both their short but urgent and long-form texts through emails. It has affected the general success rates that are expected due to some circumstances such as bad timing, non-exclusivity, and more. SMS marketing serves as a compliment in this situation.
You can keep the long-form texts coming in through the emails while using the SMS channel to communicate your urgent, time-bound messages to your customers. In this way, your call-to-action texts get higher click rates which enhances the growth of your business.
How Does SMS Marketing Work?
Unlike random texts that come in from telephone numbers, SMS marketing texts are usually sent from shortcodes. These codes may be three-digit, four-digit, or five-digit ones, depending on the network provider. These codes are sometimes associated with one sender. Also, they can be shared among multiple senders.
However, many countries today do not allow the information on marketing texts to be altered. It means that whatever message you send appears as a text from a short-digit code, not from your official business phone number. That is why you need to add your business details such as name, address, and correspondent in the message as a form of identification.
There are two different types of messages you send as SMS marketing texts.
Transactional texts are ‘one-to-one' messages sent to a customer because of a prior event, reply, or transaction. In this type of message, a reference will be made to a past occurrence.
If it is sent to the wrong person, it will make no sense to that customer. It is only the concerned client that can understand what the text says.
Examples of this type of message are shipping notifications, order confirmation, payment OTPs, and e-commerce purchases. These messages communicate urgent, vital, and time-sensitive information to the customer.
For example, payment OTPs are codes sent to customers to confirm an order, that is to confirm that they made the order. These OTPs are only relevant for a few minutes. Once the code is not used within that time frame, another one has to be resent for confirmation.
Campaign messages are the ‘one-to-many' type of messages. They are bulk messages sent to people to communicate promotions and offer details such as coupons, sales discounts, and more.
These messages will be sent to every contact on the marketing list at once. They are also used to communicate general information such as regular updates, event details, weather alerts, sudden changes in policies or terms of service, and official addresses.
Unlike transactional messages, campaign messages are often easier to send because they can be forwarded to all at once. You can just highlight every customer that is expected to receive the message at that time and hit the send button.
What is SMS Marketing Used For?
SMS can be used in different ways in the marketing space.
1. Urgent Internal Broadcasts
A company head or manager directing a large number of employees might find it burdensome to communicate urgent messages to all of them one after the other. If you send an email, it will surely enter their phones but they may not see it or get the chance to open it due to being over-occupied. In this case, what is the next best thing?
SMS is the best option left for the company head to utilize. It provides some kind of guarantee that your messages will be opened once received. In this way, your goal is achieved when the whole building is aware of the new update without you having to knock on every department's door to pass the information.
2. Appointments and Invitations Reminders
If your business runs on fixed appointments with prospective customers and leads, then you should know how annoying it is when customers forget the appointment time. Even worse, when they have you waiting on their arrival. It is even more painful when the clients end up not coming at all.
Apart from your wasted time, it has deprived you of attending some other important meetings at that moment. So what do you do to avoid situations like these?
Sending reminders as texts is one of the best ways to alert your customers about a scheduled appointment. It is proven to work 90% of the time. It is also proof that you have your customer's best interest at heart. In this way, you can meet up at the right time and discuss pressing issues without affecting each other's subsequent schedules.
3. Short-term Promos and Offers
Promotions are undoubtedly one of the best ways to drive traffic to your website or online store as a business owner.
If you want to run a limited-time offer for your customers, you surely would want as many people as possible to hear about it. It is one thing to conduct a promotion, it is another for you to reach out to a very large audience.
Businesses do promos regularly where they share coupons and discount cards to people but they do not make as many sales as they wanted. What went wrong? They probably did not use the right channel to advertise the time-sensitive offer.
SMS is an excellent channel to conduct offers like these. People tend to open their message boxes more often than not to see if there are emergency updates. That is why SMS has more click rates than emails.
If you want to communicate with customers even during their busy hours, SMS is the best channel. You are almost guaranteed that they do not miss out on the offer when you use text messages.
Who Can Benefit From SMS Marketing Services?
As a business owner, no matter the business service you offer, SMS is always a reliable way of complimenting your digital marketing strategy. SMS has this unrivaled function of passing urgent, call-to-action messages across to your prospects, and it yields positive results almost all the time.
However, that does not invalidate the fact that some businesses thrive without SMS marketing. These types of businesses have the alternative they use which works best for them. Nevertheless, many businesses can grow efficiently and benefit immensely from using SMS marketing services.
1. Large Multi-branched Organizations
For large organizations that have more than three branches with over 100 employees each, internal communication is very important. As important as it is, it can be difficult to do too.
You will have to communicate with every branch manager, who in turn will pass the message across to every departmental head, and then finally to the employees. Especially in the cases of passing urgent information across to everyone at once, emails can be very slow.
Using SMS is one of the fastest ways to get across to every employee at once. Once their contacts are available at the head office, the urgent information can be forwarded to everyone at once.
The employees will also be familiar with the sender code enough to know where the message is coming from so as not to ignore it in the case of an emergency.
2. eCommerce Stores
SMS is a great tool for your eCommerce brand if you frequently run promotional campaigns. You will always need to send coupon codes and discounted offers through text messages to your customers. SMS can help you send links to your customers that will take them to your online store where they will use the coupons you give them.
You also need SMS for confirmation of orders and payments. Messages will be sent to your customers to confirm whatever order they make and to also confirm the payment methods. OTPs will be sent to complete payment processes too. These are the frequent functions of SMS for e-commerce store owners.
3. Businesses That Regularly Fix Appointments
If you deal with customers that you regularly have to fix appointments, you need SMS a lot. Customers have lots of things they deal with simultaneously and this gives them the tendency to forget an appointment they have with you.
You can do each other a favor by sending SMS reminders telling them not to forget the meeting. This enables them to keep it in mind and also to make it early to the appointment. Also, you get to save time, money, and resources on wasted appointments and meetings that were not held later.
4. Travel Agencies
Travel agencies are another category of business that can not do without SMS services. All of their operations completely depend on real-time information.
Most times, lateness involves the loss of money and opportunities. The operations of travel agencies are time-sensitive. They include flight time updates, date changes, flight cancellations, weather alerts, clearing of goods, stopovers, etc.
Using SMS, you can communicate what customers need to know at the right time. Common issues like flight-time change can be communicated some hours before take-off. Customers will surely receive an alert and prepare for the new time. Emails might not work here because they might not get to open their emails until the day runs out.
Text Messaging Marketing FAQ
SMS marketing is a legal process of communicating with your contacts as a business owner. Over the years, it has proven to be one of the fastest and most reliable channels of communication. It is common in most countries in the world now.
However, there is a saying that goes thus, where there is no law, there is no sin. Many countries have regulations for SMS messaging to protect customers from receiving multiple unsolicited messages.
In some countries, the network providers send these messages using shortcodes, not your business phone number. Some other countries prohibit sending messages at specific hours of the day (from 10 pm to the next morning) and on Sundays.
Other regulations are specific to some locations. As a business owner in a region, you will get to know them while trying to employ the use of SMS.
Most times, you have to collect ‘express written consent' from customers to be able to send automated messages to contacts. There is a Telephone Act that backs this up under the law.
The consent will be clear and understandable so that both parties know what they are signing up for. When the consent is clear enough, then you can import your contacts. Ensure that all your contacts have consented to you sending automated messages to them.
To be able to send SMS marketing messages, you need to request consent from your contacts first. When the consent is granted, you can proceed to register your business with a network provider where they will provide a short code through which your messages will be sent.
Also, you will provide the contacts you want to be messaging for a proper check of consent, it is very important.
After that stage, you implement your strategy in SMS marketing. Ensure you are consistent and time-sensitive with how you send messages. Improve your response time to ensure a good relationship with customers. If you can follow that through, you should have high engagement rates in little time.
SMS marketing is quite affordable for small to medium-sized businesses. However, it is relatively more expensive than using email marketing software.
But at the same time, it yields better results than email marketing. In that sense, you are sure to achieve your aim when you do things the right way. Also, there are affordable packages for businesses that deal with bulk messages.