What You Need to Know About SMS Marketing

Text messages have been around for over 25 years, but SMS marketing still remains foreign territory for many marketers. Text messages are immediate and have proven high open rates. Why aren’t more marketing professionals adding text messages to their marketing efforts?

The reason is simple: many marketers fear that text messages are highly regulated and that it will be complicated to implement marketing campaigns through this channel. However, SMS marketing is no more regulated than email marketing.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and Canada’s Anti-spam Legislation (CASL) include SMS regulations to protect consumers in North America from receiving unsolicited marketing. As it turns out, these regulations actually help marketers as well. By making sure that the right message is sent to the right audience, marketing efforts are rewarded with higher ROI.

What is SMS marketing?

SMS marketing (short message service marketing) or text message marketing is the act of sending promotional information to customers and leads through text messages. SMS marketing is permission-based, meaning that customers need to voluntarily “opt in” to receive marketing communications. They also need to be given an option to “opt out” to stop receiving text messages.

Text messaging for marketing offers a simple, quick and effective alternative to emailing to reach your targeted audiences. Emails have a 20% open rate, while text messages are opened 90% of the time and with an average response time of 90 seconds. Not bad, right? We are accustomed to having our email inboxes filled with undesirable messages, whereas spam messages account for less than 5% of received texts1, making it a more reliable channel.

Emailing for marketing is not dead and is here to stay. But SMS can be leveraged to complete your marketing strategy. Text messages are immediate and can help you engage with your customers on another level to share timely and exclusive messages.

Here are a few examples of how marketing professionals can use text messages:

  • Send coupons
  • Promote sales
  • Send automated messages based on past purchases and preferences
  • Send exclusive offers to your SMS users
  • Announce new products
  • Share important company updates and notifications (ex: Holiday hours)
  • Request public reviews

Ready to start texting? Here are 7 steps to run an effective SMS marketing campaign

If you’re worried about regulations and aren’t sure about the do’s and don’ts of SMS marketing, follow this step-by-step guide. You’ll be running compelling and worry-free SMS marketing campaigns in no time.

1. Set your intentions

Before you start texting, it’s important that you have a clear idea of how you’ll be using texting as part of your overall marketing strategy. Will you be sending special offers? Are you looking to create an SMS loyalty program? Will you be sending bi-monthly announcements?

Once you know exactly why and how you want to use SMS marketing, it will be easier for you to communicate your goal clearly with your customers so that they know exactly what to expect when they opt-in. By knowing exactly what the campaign entails, users will be more inclined to opt in.

2. Get permission

Just because you have a customer’s cell phone number, it doesn’t mean you can use it. If you’re texting your customers for promotional and marketing purposes and your customers have not previously expressed written consent, you are breaking the law. Under TCPA legislation, a message is considered a marketing initiative if it is used to encourage the purchase or rental of or investment in property, goods, or services.

Not only is sending unsolicited text messages illegal, but if you’re sending text messages to your customers without their consent, you are risking negatively impacting your brand’s image because your messages will be perceived as unwanted spam.

Just like emails, users need to opt in to receive your text messages. Here are two ways you can ask your customers to opt in to your SMS marketing initiatives:

First, you can ask your customers to text you by sending a keyword to your business text messaging phone number. You could, for example, ask your customers to text “SUBSCRIBE” to receive special discounts. There are different ways to promote your keyword. You could publish it online on your social media pages or on your website. If you have a physical site, you could also print promotional material. Once customers have texted the keyword, you can add them to your database for future campaigns.

Other practices for getting users to opt in will be very similar to building email lists. You could ask your customers to tick an acceptance box or fill out a form, for example, to receive your SMS marketing communications.

For best practices, let your customers decide to opt in instead of making it mandatory. In other words, it’s not because they filled a form on your website to receive a specific piece of content that they necessarily want to receive your text messages. By having an explicit opt-in procedure, your marketing campaigns will be sent to targeted users who actually want to receive your messages. This will lead to higher open rates and improve the chances that your users will engage with your content.

No matter what option you choose, always make sure the instructions for signing up are simple and clear. You also want the information to be easily accessible so you have more chances of building a strong SMS database.

3. Present yourself

Nobody likes receiving text messages from unknown senders. Nameless text messages generally won’t get opened. They are not appealing. What’s more: the TCPA actually requires that senders identify themselves when sending a text message.

The name of the sender will usually come first in a text message. If you’re doing business with an SMS communication platform, they will make sure you have a proper sender ID, meaning that you will automatically have a signature with your business name at the beginning of your texts.

Hi { customer.name }, get a 50% discount on your favourite roasted coffee beans! Show in stores to redeem. Valid until Feb 15, 2020. To opt-out, reply "STOP".

4. Provide an exit strategy

We covered opt-ins processes, but did you know that means to opt out are also mandatory? Make sure the opt-out process is clearly stated in your first text message so that users know from the get-go how to unsubscribe. For best practices, keep adding the opt-out information in all of your messages so that your customers don’t get annoyed if they don’t know how to easily unsubscribe from your messages.

There are two options you can give your customers to easily opt out. If you are working with an SMS communication platform, your customers will usually be able to use a keyword to automatically put an end to your messages. Keywords like “STOP,” “END” “QUIT,” “CANCEL” or “UNSUBSCRIBE” can be used by a customer to unsubscribe to your SMS marketing initiatives.

You could also decide to send a short URL link in your text messages that will open an unsubscribe form in a web browser. This option is more lengthy and requires an internet connection.

5. Send valuable information

Make sure the information sent is valuable and aligned with what was initially promised. If you are sending too many messages, or if your messages are not meaningful, your users will simply unsubscribe from your texts. It’s important that you send content that matters so your customers appreciate receiving your text messages. This also goes a long way to maintaining your hard-earned database.

Is the information shared through your SMS marketing campaigns the same that is shared by email and on your social media pages? If so, why would a customer choose to opt in to your text messaging campaigns? Providing different content and offers that are exclusive to your SMS database is a great means to keep your database actively engaged.

6. Use an SMS platform

Make sure you have the right tools before you start using SMS for your marketing initiatives. SMS communication softwares allow you to send bulk targeted campaigns based on customer preferences and past behaviors. These collaborative web-based platforms also track campaign performance and don’t require investing in new equipment.

SMS platforms will also provide you with a proper business text message number so that you don’t have to use your personal cell phone number. To learn more about the importance of having a business phone number for texting, read our blog post Is Texting from a Personal Mobile Phone for Business a Good Idea? (Spoiler alert: it’s not).

7. Be timely and concise

The TCPA states that text messages may only be sent between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. That’s the legal part, but ethically, it’s best if your messages are sent within regular business hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). By respecting this timeframe, you won’t be irritating your customers during their personal time. Moreover,they won’t feel as though you are invading their privacy.

For better results, you should also make sure your messages are short and clear. Texting doesn’t do well with long, detailed messages, so keep it to a minimum and be precise.

If you want to learn more about the do’s and don’ts of business texting, read our blog posts 8 Etiquette Tips for Business Text Messages and 10 Best Practices in Business Texting.

Text message is an effective communication channel for marketers and a great tool to complement your current marketing initiatives. By following these simple rules, you will comply with anti-spam regulations and keep your customers happy.

If you want more information on regulations, read our FAQ blog posts on TCPA and CASL. We also recommend that you contact an attorney to ensure your processes are compliant.

  1. Salesforce - Putting Your Message in the Right Hands: The Value of SMS Marketing

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