Being compliant, deciding on a clear message, tracking conversions, and having a partner that allows you to track messages are some things that are key for successful text message marketing campaigns. But there's an aspect of SMS marketing that should be followed carefully – the best practices.
In this article, we will go over not only some of the most essential SMS marketing best practices but also some tips on what not to do.
The dos of text message marketing
Here are ten SMS marketing best practices that we swear by. Working on these highly recommended tips and strategies will pave the way to a successful text message marketing campaign.
As is the case with the many different kinds of business relationships, there needs to be a written contract of sorts that lays down the ground rules for your text-based communications with your customers. Obtaining express consent is a crucial part of your texting relationship with your audience. Failing to do so can result in dire consequences, such as non-consenting recipients taking legal action against your business.
Fortunately, getting consent is an easy process. If you are collecting customers' contact information, including their mobile numbers, through a paper form or a web form, you can have them check a box that clearly states that they allow you to send offers, promotions, and other information via text. Alternatively, you can also prompt them to opt in by texting a keyword to your dedicated number, which will essentially initiate the conversation from their end.
Offer some added value
Exclusivity is key to making your SMS subscribers feel special and valued. Make sure that the recipients of your SMS marketing messages are given some added advantage by subscribing to your texts.
One example of unique content is a special offer that customers would not get via any other marketing channel, or that non-subscribers would not know about. This could be a limited-time promo code sent only to these exclusive customers, an early access opportunity, or a discount deal that will only be valid upon showing a certain text at your in-store checkout.
Have a conversation and respond in real-time
A text message gives you the opportunity to form a new, direct personal connection with the customer, who may want to reciprocate it with a response of some sort. Their replies can range from placing an order for a special limited-time item to giving feedback on the services or products purchased by them.
If you want to keep your audience engaged with your brand, you must be quick to reply to their messages. An autoresponder can come in handy for this purpose as it is great for automatically sending personalised text messages.
With new OTT tools, you might also need to have a chatbot that can enable you to keep longer and more complex conversations going or have a real person on the other end who can help with the requests.
Text message marketing gives you the perfect opportunity to get up close and personal with your target audience. Without a personal touch, your customers are likely to feel like an unimportant, ignored part of your robotic automated messages.
But if you personalise the same message, each member of your target audience will feel a one-on-one connection with your brand, marginally raising the odds of piquing your customers' interest and eliciting a response or reaction from them.
The most common way of personalising an SMS message is to address each recipient with their name, such as starting the text with "Hi Martin!" or a similar greeting. You can also refer to other personal information such as birthdays and current locations, or customise the message according to individual recipients' known interests.
Find the right frequency of text messages
While some might advise against texting “too much”, instead think of not sending more messages than your customer expects to receive. If you are quiet for a long time, no long-term customer loyalty is cultivated. You will be easily forgotten.
While the best practice is to send 2 to 4 texts a month, your business might send multiple texts each week, or perhaps even daily, depending on the nature of your offerings. The most important thing is that you are transparent with your subscribers about the frequency of your texts. Then stick to it.
Make sure that the frequency is known during the opt-in process to mitigate future opt-outs. Tune your SMS marketing campaigns and autoresponders to act accordingly.
Consider a unique, brand-friendly shortcode
Shortcodes are precisely that: a five or 6-digit phone number specifically made for commercial use and mass mobile communications — and you'll typically want one when using text messages for larger-scale SMS marketing purposes.
These codes are shorter than typical phone numbers, so they're easier to remember and type. Best of all, these numbers are optimised for SMS marketing – they are individually approved by wireless carriers for marketing purposes, so your text messages won't be blocked.
Additionally, you can send messages at a much faster rate than from regular mobile phone numbers. So especially for time-sensitive offers, having the throughput of a shortcode is critical.
There is a caveat though – they are rather expensive to set up, maintain, and use. Thus, the ROI, depending on the specific market, needs to be carefully calculated and measured continually to ensure that your use of a shortcode is justified.
Write strong copy
SMS messages are much shorter than most other types of marketing messaging materials. Therefore, it is very important to write clear, crisp, and creative SMS copy that fits within the brief 160-character limit. Even with a multimedia messaging service, you have to accompany the media file with a piece of text that compels the recipient to view the media and take some consequent action.
One effective strategy is to use power words – words that drive us to act more and emote strongly in association with a brand. 'You', 'New', 'Free', 'Save', 'Buy Now' and similar words and phrases can all be used to create a stronger impact in your messages and get your customers to act.
Make sure that the messages don't come off as cheesy, though. Don't overdo it. Use one to two power words, no more, since going a bit over the top can make your text message come off as dodgy or insincere.
Following any number of SMS marketing best practices can all go in vain if you don't know the results that your efforts are bearing. Many SMS marketing software solutions offer built-in features that allow you to closely monitor your various SMS campaigns' performance via different metrics, such as delivery rate, open rate, click-through rate, conversion rate, and much more. This information can be viewed in the form of tables, graphs, and reports that are easy to read and understand.
Automate workflow where possible
In order to maximise your availability and accessibility to your customers, it is important to automate certain parts of your SMS campaign. Automation tools help organise and streamline your SMS marketing strategy by allowing you to plan days, weeks, or even months in advance. They also help you segment your target audience better by recording, gauging, and predicting their individual responses to your marketing efforts.
The most common tool for automating your SMS marketing campaign is the auto-reply feature, also known as an autoresponder. Even if a customer reaches out to you outside of business hours or on holidays, you can send a reply automatically and immediately, without having to intervene or be constantly available.
Another example of a situation where you could use automated messages is the case of the abandoned shopping cart. Doing so makes the customer feel valued and prioritised, and also prevents them from moving on to your competitor businesses.
You can also automate workflows to schedule messages according to pre-set marketing plans. For example, every time a customer texts you with an inquiry, you can schedule as many follow-up texts as needed, based on their responses (or lack thereof), until the customer successfully converts. Scheduled text messages are also great when meant to serve as appointment reminders.
Always include the opt-out
An option for opting out of marketing messages is mandatory. Otherwise, the operators will block your messages from reaching the customers and might even fine you for it. Make sure to include it.
The don'ts of SMS marketing campaigns
Don't get too casual or overly comfortable. Remember that you still have a somewhat formal business relationship with your customers, no matter what industry your business operates in. Customers may not mind your presence in their inbox, but they are very likely to not see you as a friend.
Don't use too many emojis. One or two is fine, but littering your text messages with a bunch of them will make them hard to read, scammy, and a bit immature or unprofessional.
Don't use uncommon abbreviations just to save some message space. The issue here is that if the abbreviations used are unknown to the user, the text will lose its impact and the message will not be acted upon.
Don't use text-speak. “Gr8 news!” – you might be saving two characters, but it isn't worth it. Make the text clear, easy to read, and clean. You can be concise without muddling the message.
Don't go wild with exclamation points, question marks, and words in capital letters. “Are YOU ready for the DEAL OF THE CENTURY?!?!?!” – not a good way to go.
There you go. By following these best practices, you can lay a solid foundation for many successful SMS marketing campaigns to come.