Struggling to get your customers to return your calls or your emails?
You're not alone. Customers are becoming choosier about which businesses they connect with. If you're going to communicate with current or potential customers digitally, you need to find a way to rise above the noise.
Email marketing is crowded, and social media is increasingly becoming trickier to navigate. For brands looking for a more direct way to speak to their customers, SMS marketing might be the answer.
What is SMS marketing?
SMS marketing is a digital marketing strategy that allows businesses to send digital communications directly to the consumer. SMS stands for “short message service” and can be sent to any mobile phone device, whether they are smart technology enabled or not.
SMS marketing is a small piece of a larger mobile marketing strategy your business should consider. With SMS marketing, businesses can send direct texts to consumers who have opted in to receive messages from them about upcoming sales, new product information, and more. The benefit is that you can bypass the more complicated marketing strategies and reach your customer right where they are.
SMS marketing best practices
If you’re thinking about investing in SMS marketing, now is the time.Text message marketing is quickly becoming one of the fastest growing digital channels. Sixty-one percent of digital marketers reported increasing their text marketing budgets in 2020.
Before you jump into creating your own SMS strategy, check out these must-know best practices.
Recipients must opt-in to text messaging
Before you start firing off texts to your entire contact list, take a beat. The FFC’s Telephone Consumer Protection Act makes it unlawful to send promotional text messages to people unless they have voluntarily communicated their numbers to the sender and agreed to participate in the campaign.
Your SMS marketing campaign can only target people that have given you their number and permission to contact them via text. The easiest way to communicate this agreement clearly is to have your contacts opt-in to receiving communications from your business.
These restrictions can make it seem impossible to start an SMS campaign from the ground up. But there are plenty of ways to encourage your customers to opt-in to receiving communications from your business:
Create exclusive discounts and coupons for signing up
Create a loyalty program and VIP perks for SMS users
Offer tracking updates or appointment reminders via text
Focus on the delivering the right message
The key to generating SMS marketing sign-ups is to provide value to the customer. Give them multiple ways to opt-in to your communications, and more importantly, give them a reason why they should. This means delivering the content your audience wants to receive, not just the stuff you want to send them.
When you focus on creating value for the customer, you’re also building trust. Customers will start associating your brand with being helpful to them. This makes them more likely to engage in communication with you in the future and more likely to purchase your products again.
Here are a few SMS marketing ideas that customers actually like receiving from businesses:
The timing of when you send your SMS messages is also important. It’s best to avoid the times of the day when people are commuting and unable to look at their phones. It’s also best not to send customers text messages in the middle of the night. If your alerts wake a customer up in the middle of the night, that might be the push to make them unsubscribe once and for all.
Along with avoiding certain times of the day when sending your SMS marketing messages, you should also consider how often you’re sending text-based promotions and offers. Customers don’t want to feel like they’re being spammed by your business. As a rule of thumb, limit your promotional text messages to once or twice a week.
Always allow the option to opt-out
Like any other communication channel, it’s important to offer your customers an easy way to opt-out of receiving texts. Many global data regulations required of businesses specify that consumers must be able to easily cease communication with your business if they want.
Legality isn’t the only reason you need an efficient opt-out process. When you make it difficult for customers to control the number of texts or emails they get from you, it can aggravate them.
And bad customer experiences cost big bucks – 89% of customers begin business with a competitor following a poor customer experience. Don’t drive your customers into the arms of a competitor due to a few text messages.
Here are a few different ways you can allow customers to opt-out of communications:
Include a link in your communications that automatically opts customers out if clicked
Offer a way to manage their communications through their account or customer profile
Designate a trigger-word that the customer can text to opt-out (e.g. Text STOP to stop receiving communications)
SMS marketing ideas
The universal nature of text messages makes SMS a valuable marketing channel for any type of business. There are many different ways to use SMS as a vehicle to reach your customers and clients.
Here are a few popular SMS marketing ideas you can use.
Discount codes, special offers, and coupons
One of the most popular uses of SMS marketing is to send text-based offers, discounts, and other promotional materials directly to customers. E-commerce companies in particular like this strategy because it’s the most direct way to deliver deals to their customers.
These messages aim to entice customers to visit an online store to claim their coupon and make a purchase. Every SMS marketing coupon campaign should have three things:
A clear message on what is being offered and for how long
A direct call to action for the consumer to follow
An easily clickable link that is linked to your SMS campaign
Because customers open SMS messages almost immediately, it's a good idea to experiment with time-sensitive offers. Time sensitivity creates a sense of urgency. Attaching a limited time offer to a coupon might compel a customer to take action.
Appointment scheduling and reminders
Not every company relies on selling goods. Service-based businesses thrive on acquiring appointments or reservations and ensuring that their calendars are fully booked. SMS can be an excellent channel for alerting clients of upcoming meetings or appointments.
Clients are likely already familiar with your company, even if it’s their first appointment. They are expecting information about their upcoming visit and are more willing to engage with your communications. Use the time you have their attention to take care of the most important details. This is also a great channel to follow up with customers after their visit.
Your appointment reminders should always include the following information:
Appointment date and time
Reason for appointment
Ability to confirm or reschedule appointments
Tracking and delivery updates
Companies that sell a physical product can benefit immensely from SMS marketing. As we mentioned earlier, a majority of consumers want delivery updates sent to them via text. Delivering quick and accurate shipping information via text is a great way to improve your customer experience.
It takes the pressure off of your customer to have to track down information about their purchase. Sending them direct updates keeps them informed. Delivering this information to the customer directly also prevents your customer success team from getting swamped with the same questions over and over. This way, your team can spend their time fixing issues instead of chasing down tracking numbers.
Here are some text alerts you should automate for your customers:
Send SMS notifications and let your customers know when their package will arrive
Update your customers about possible changes or delays in delivery
Notify customers of when their package has been delivered
Benefits of SMS marketing
SMS marketing is more popular than you think. In fact, 48.7 million consumers will opt-in to receive business SMS messaging by the end of 2020. Here are just a few of the other benefits of SMS marketing.
Higher open rates
Customers are increasingly willing to allow marketers to contact them via phone if they perceive the trade-off to be worth it. When done correctly, SMS messages can have a whopping 98% open rate.
More than anything, customers want convenience and are willing to reward businesses that make their lives easier. Focus on delivering high-quality content for your customers and you’ll see the benefits.
Fast delivery directly to the consumer
It’s hard to find a more direct line of communication with your customer than SMS marketing. Not only that, but SMS marketing isn’t limited to mobile use. Even mobile users without internet access on their devices can receive text marketing messages through other SMS-enabled devices.
Marketers can also use SMS marketing segmentation and workflows to reach their target audience with virtually no supervision. Many SMS marketing tools allow your team to create and automate drip campaigns and bulk SMS messaging strategies within the platform.
This means you can set your campaigns up, create KPIs for measuring them, and watch as your messages and reports are run automatically.
Improved customer relationships
Text messaging is a quick and instant communication channel. This makes it a perfect channel for customer service communications. One in 3 consumers have tried to text a business and never gotten a response back. If you’re not taking advantage of SMS marketing as a way to communicate with your customers, you should be.
Here are a few ideas for how to use SMS marketing to improve customer relationships:
Alert customers of important changes to their account
Allow customers to communicate with customer service reps directly via text
Update customers on product shipping and tracking
Send bill reminders and payment confirmations to customers via text
Directly communicate customer support ticket updates with customers
Challenges of SMS marketing
Though there are many benefits to adding SMS marketing to your digital marketing strategy, it doesn’t come without its challenges. Because cellphones are personal property belonging to the consumer, there are more rules and regulations than other marketing channels.
Here are a few challenges you might face when building your own text marketing strategy.
Strict privacy regulations
As we mentioned earlier, US based companies SMS marketing is subject to the FFC’s Telephone Consumer Protection Act. But that’s not the only regulatory body you need to know about. If your business does marketing in the EU, EMEA, or APAC, your marketing strategy might be subject to additional digital privacy laws.
Managing all of these legalities without a dedicated marketing operations manager or compliance officer can be tricky. Be sure to ensure all of your text marketing practices are compliant with local and national laws.
Less personalization than other marketing channels
Because SMS marketing is designed with quantity in mind, it does lag behind other marketing channels personalization capabilities. SMS marketing is used more to deliver a specific message to a large audience.
That means the focus with SMS is less about personalization to the individual consumer, and more about delivering hyper-targeted deals and communications to users instead.
Upfront time commitment
Integrating an SMS marketing strategy into your existing digital marketing campaigns is a time commitment. Building contact lists, signing new users up, and connecting all of your SaaS tools together takes a lot of planning.
Don’t expect to have your text marketing strategy up and running in a few weeks. Make sure to take the time to build the right processes and purchase the right equipment for your team to be successful.
Best SMS marketing software
SMS marketing software allows marketers to plan, implement, and control all of their text based communications with customers from a single platform. These bulk communications allow marketers to send promotional messages and campaigns directly to customers. It also allows sales teams the opportunity to engage in direct communication and customer support via text messaging.
In order to be included in this list, a product must:
Allow marketers to target and reach mobile users via SMS devices
Provide opt-in opportunities for marketings to reach new subscribers
Track interaction data related and provide analytics related to unique SMS campaigns
* Below are the top five leading SMS marketing software solutions from G2’s Fall 2020 Grid® Report. Some reviews may be edited for clarity.
1. EZ Texting
EZ Texting is a leading SMS marketing software for businesses looking to improve their SMS delivery and open rates. Their cloud-based messaging solutions allow businesses of all sizes in the U.S. and Canada to reach their mobile audiences faster than ever.
What users like:
“The best thing about easy texting is being able to see the analytics of each campaign that you send out. [You can see] who opened it, who clicked on the links, etc. I also liked knowing which phone numbers were no longer working so I could update my contact list.
"I also like how you can just upload contacts using your own Google Sheets. It made it super simplistic. The scheduled texting is awesome! [I like] having the ability to schedule texts to go out on the weekend was very important to us as a company.”
“There are very few pain-points in this service, but mostly just a small learning curve. The pricing structure is not completely intuitive. It took a few months of use to thoroughly understand how billing worked and what types of service we really needed.
"As a marketer who recommends this service to clients, I have heard similar questions on the client-side as well. I believe more pricing clarity would be helpful. The concept of credits, keywords, etc. took some time to understand. Additionally, I would really love to see an affiliate or reseller program available!”
Sendinblue is an all-in-one marketing tool that allows marketers to reach customers faster. This product centralizes all of your customer communications, including marketing automation, email marketing, SMS marketing, chat, Facebook Ads, CRM functionalities, and SMS.
What users like:
“The most useful thing about using Sendinblue was the automation of sending campaigns. I like being able to create different campaigns and schedule them to send on a specific day and time. Sendinblue also allows me to review the statistics of each campaign and see which messages were opened and which were rejected, in order to work better with my marketing department.”
“I find the design options slightly limited as there are less design set up options than I had when using [other tools]. It can sometimes take a few extra seconds to load each screen which can cause delays when sending an urgent message. I also find that it can be a little difficult to click into the right section when you want to amend text or a button, however I'm sure this will come with more practice.”
Podium helps businesses transform the way they interact with their customers. This tool allows teams to collect online customer reviews, collect customer feedback and payments with SMS tools, and more. Podium allows you to manage all of your customer communications in one central dashboard.
What users like:
“The platform is used by our entire business. As suppliers of various products, we initially enrolled on the platform for the online reputation management tool. We quickly discovered that the text message function is also highly useful. Since then we’ve packaged our history management, communication platforms, and automated services into Podium.”
“Sometimes the auto-generated responses send too often (i.e. when customers send multiple messages, it seems like a robot is responding, and it could be more personalized.) If there were a max limit of the auto-generated response, this would probably be more beneficial to our customers.
It would also be helpful to see what inbox the notifications are coming from so we know how urgent the message is, or how much time we have that we can wait to get back to our customers, as we are often quite busy.”
Birdeye is an all-in-one customer experience platform that helps businesses deliver a more seamless customer experience. Birdeye provides businesses with a number of customer service tools, such as online reputation management, SMS messaging, and ticketing tools.
What users like:
“The user interface is very easy to use. It's intuitive and the functionality is simple yet effective. The automated review function is also great. My team can just upload the contact details directly and they don't have to do anything else. It's extremely time efficient.
I also love the private feedback option for customers that weren't satisfied. This allows us to respond to these customers on a personal level, which is very effective for resolving any issues.”
“Initially, we were hesitant to sign up due to the one year commitment. I wish there would have been a 6 month commitment option, or a way to try out the program before committing. It would have provided more peace of mind! However, I am very happy with the program and do not have any reservations about our one year commitment now, since I have been able to see how effectively it has worked for our business.”
SimpleTexting is a powerful text marketing that allows teams to send mass text alerts and provide customer service via SMS messaging. Small businesses, nonprofits, healthcare providers, and more trust SimpleTexting’s simple and intuitive design for their customer communications.
What users like:
“Having never used SMS software, I was nervous about a somewhat steep learning curve. And after trying several other brands out, I found them lacking an intuitive UI. I'm glad I found SimpleTexting. My subscriber list is already growing, and I'm looking forward to utilizing their built-in apps.”
“I dislike that you have to have permission to import a huge list of contacts. But see why this is because of regulations with the government and I see how this could be a very abused service if there weren't measures to do so. I used this for a different purpose prior to the account that I have and that was an issue I faced since I was communicating with a few thousand people that needed updates at a conference.”
SMS marketing is the best way to deliver real-time communications with your customers directly through their mobile device. Try integrating your text marketing strategy into a larger digital marketing plan and see how a few targeted texts can transform your customer experience.
Interested in creating a world class SMS marketing strategy? Learn how customer marketing can help you create a personalized marketing experience for your customers.
Lauren Pope is a Content Marketing Manager at Oracle and a former content marketer at G2. You can find her work featured on CNBC, Yahoo! Finance, the G2 Learning Hub, and other sites. In her free time, Lauren enjoys watching true crime shows and singing karaoke. (she/her/hers)
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