Text to engage: A primer on SMS marketing

Is your phone within arms-reach right now? If you’re like 79% of smartphone users, you have your phone on you or nearby for 22 hours out of the day. Every day.

And so do your customers.

Mobile usage continues to soar, which is why marketers are focusing heavily on ensuring they have mobile-ready websites and apps in the marketplaces. But there’s a third option for business owners: SMS advertising.

Although less utilized than email marketing, text messages actually result in significantly higher open and click-through rates (CTRs): 90% of messages are read within three minutes of the notification going off and 98% of all texts received are opened. And then there’s CTRs. While emails typically see a 6% CTR, texts earn 36%.

SMS advertising gets you right in the device your base is using the most. If you play your cards right, text marketing can be a fantastic way to engage with customers, provide support and amp up your sales numbers.

All you need is a texting platform, opt-in contact list and plan of action.

Tools of the trade and getting started

Unlike other forms of advertising, SMS marketing requires the use of a texting platform. There are plenty out there, but some of the most popular include Mozeo, Texting Base, EZ Texting and SlickText.

Mozeo (starting at $0.05 per 100 messages) offers a user-friendly dashboard, plenty of add-ons to level up your texting game and 24/7 customer support.

Texting Base (starting at $50 per month for 1,250 messages) gives subscribers plenty of automation and targeting options, and is a favorite among small-business owners due to the price point and ample list of features.

EZ Texting (starting at $0.05 per message or $49 per month for 1,000 messages) keeps marketing options wide-open with built-in polls, the ability to send photos and automated appointment reminders.

SlickText (with 50 free messages per month or plans starting at $29 per month for 500 messages) allows for unlimited contact numbers, one-on-one training and plenty of automation options for subscribers.

Quick note: The above platforms typically offer many of the same features, but pricing varies drastically across the board. Make sure to read through everything—and check out other services—to find the best fit for your needs.

Before you start sending marketing texts, you’ll need to have your contact list agree to receive messages from you. Purchase a short code number and set up an opt-in keyword through your texting platform. All customers need to do to receive messages from you is text that keyword to your number. You can also add a consent check box to the contact form new customers fill out.

4+ SMS marketing ideas that work

There’s more than one way to engage with customers via text, and each offers small businesses unique benefits.

Surveys. Whether you send customers individual questions or a link to an online survey, these texts encourage interaction and provide you with invaluable data. Plus, they give you a surefire way to show customers that you’re working to provide them with the best-of-the-best products and services. Ask what they’d like to see on special next month, have them rate a recent transaction or see if they’d be interested in a new addition to your service lineup. The possibilities are endless.

survey

Contests and deals. One of the best ways to increase your opt-in list, contests and exclusive deals appeal to customers of all demographics. Most brands encourage people to opt in to SMS marketing with an exclusive coupon code, but many also make the mistake of never providing another incentive after the first. This is where contests come in—have customers enter by texting you a specific keyword, and make sure the prize relates to your brand and appeals to your base. Early access to sales and sending out coupon codes for special occasions, like a customer’s birthday, keeps them from opting out after the initial reel-in.

deal

Loyalty program updates. Rather than force customers to log in to an account to see how many points or perks they’ve earned as a member of your loyalty program, send that information via text. This keeps your brand on customers’ minds and encourages them to make additional purchases. Throw in some exclusive coupons (see above) and host loyalty member contests to sweeten the deal.

loyalty

Customer support. Sure, online chats and phone calls are great, but more people than ever prefer texting over speaking on the phone or getting to a computer. Just as with chat bots, you can automate text messages to minimize the amount of customer support reps you keep on staff and streamline the process for customers. Instant access to help from a brand increases trust, and the more options you have for support, the more customers you’ll keep satisfied.

support

While these are the most common forms of SMS marketing, there are plenty of other ways to leverage texting to serve your customers. Send out automated appointment reminders, shoot clients a link to pay their most recent invoice or engage with automated birthday and anniversary messages. You can even send out messages to customers who live in an area where a natural disaster recently struck.

Text allows you to be as creative—and helpful—as you want.

Best practices

Promote your text marketing through all your usual marketing channels to increase your opt-in list. This includes email, social media, on-site banner ads and anywhere else you market your brand. Legally, your customers must agree to receive texts. Even if you already have their phone number, you can’t start utilizing SMS marketing without consent.

Keep your copy on point. Texts should be clear, concise and contain a strong call-to-action. You have minimal characters to work with and customers will quickly delete a text if there’s no clear next step to take. If you’re sending a survey, provide three to four response options or call on the recipient to click the link to the survey. When doling out invites to sales, be very clear on when the sale or promotion ends.

Know when to send your texts. Unlike emails, which can be read at the customer’s leisure, texts are much more invasive. If people start getting notification noises at 3 a.m., you’ll see a flood of opt-outs. Segment your texting list based on time zones, and make sure all automated messages are sent during regular business hours (except for when a customer texts you first).

Interested in even more ways to engage with your base? Check out these exclusive Biz.me posts:

Biz.me is not endorsing or affiliated with any product mentioned or linked to in this post.

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