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SMS (short message service) is something that nearly everyone is familiar with today, though they may not recognize this particular term. SMS marketing is a powerful way to connect with your customers and invite engagement on a more convenient level. Learn how to effectively access this underutilized channel for professional communications.

What Is SMS Marketing?

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SMS marketing is the use of text messages for promotional campaigns.

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You can use SMS marketing to share information about sales, special events, new products, and more. This is a powerful platform for sending mobile coupons or links to mobile-optimized content. With 97% of Americans owning a cell phone of some kind and 85% using a smartphone, SMS marketing is an effective way to connect with a massive base of prospective customers.

What Is Permission Marketing?

Permission marketing is a term Seth Godin coined to refer to marketing campaigns that customers specifically opt in to. Permission marketing caters to individuals who have actively decided to give you their time and attention, which makes these campaigns more valuable than those that send unsolicited information and offers to people who may or may not be interested in your products and services.

Permission marketing is either express or implied. Express-permission marketing is the most valuable because this refers to situations where the customer has actively signed up for communications. Implied-permission marketing applies to existing relationships based on prior purchases, social media communications, or other interactions. When a customer signs up for your SMS messages, you have express permission. If you send an outgoing message to your contacts asking if they would like to join your SMS list, you’re using implied permission.

All ongoing SMS marketing campaigns are considered permission marketing, since individuals must opt in to receive these messages. This further adds to the value of this type of marketing because it is designed exclusively for an engaged audience that’s interested in what you’re sending.

What Are the Rules and Best Practices for SMS Marketing?

The number one rule for SMS marketing is to make sure that you have permission to contact your customers. Your SMS marketing campaigns should all have express permission from each contact. This is usually provided via a brief opt-in text from the customer with a keyword such as “YES.” You must request this confirmation even when a customer opts in to texts via an online form, to confirm that the number was entered correctly, and the recipient is truly the person who signed up for the texts.

It’s best to communicate with a shortcode. This is a five- or six-digit number that goes in the contact field. It is associated with your marketing campaign. Wireless carriers recognize shortcodes in association with approved marketing activities and will not block them as they might block a full phone number.

Keep your SMS messages short and to the point. You know that friend who likes to send long, wordy messages? Don’t be that friend. Customers will want to get to the point of your text quickly, and many platforms restrict your messages to 160 characters. They can follow your links to get more information; your SMS campaign isn’t the place for lengthy details.

Automate a series of responses for your campaign so you can provide additional details the moment they’re requested. For example, you might ask a customer to text “WEEKEND” if they want to learn more about the special events you have coming up. When this messages comes through, set up an automatic response that provides that requested information instantaneously. This serves the modern desire for instant gratification and caters to customers’ short attention spans.

Time your messages appropriately. For example, you don’t want to send out coupon codes in the middle of the night. A third of users who have opted in to text messaging indicate that they prefer to receive messages between noon and 3 p.m. any day of the week. The second most popular time is between 9 a.m. and noon on weekdays. Consider your audience and your offer when you’re scheduling SMS campaigns. A coupon code for pizza may perform better just before dinnertime, while information about an event for kids may be welcome in the late morning or early afternoon.

If you have any doubts, you can read about the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) regulations, which state several legal requirements as well as working hours in which you are allowed to send texts as a business.

Why Is SMS Marketing Effective?

SMS marketing is effective because it utilizes a platform that customers are already intimately familiar and highly engaged with. Nearly a third of Americans spend more time with their phones than with their partners. Over 87% of people feel uneasy when they leave their phone at home, and 75% consider themselves addicted to these devices.

SMS enjoys an astounding 98% open rate. Sixty percent of customers read text messages within five minutes of receiving them. Some research even indicates that three in four Americans want to get SMS offers. When you use this type of marketing, you’re almost guaranteed to get your message through to the recipient. Using your own analytics and customer data, you can tailor your SMS campaigns to convert successfully to significant ROI.

How Does SMS Marketing Work?

At its core, SMS marketing is very simple and straightforward. It communicates valuable information via text message to customers who have signed up. Effective SMS marketing requires a service to help you draft and send your messages en masse. Depending on the service you choose, you may add more enhanced features, like digital customer service that will respond intelligently to questions and resolve basic FAQs for customers. You can also schedule and personalize your campaigns to make your SMS marketing as simple or as complex as you’d like.

What Is SMS Marketing Used For?

You can use SMS marketing in a variety of ways, depending on your industry and marketing goals. Some of the features that you may choose to offer via text include:

  • Appointment reminders and confirmations.
  • Account updates and personal alerts.
  • Community notifications.
  • Timely news updates.
  • Coupons and sale information.
  • Shipping and delivery notifications.
  • Links to news and other valuable information.
  • Product release announcements.
  • Early access to new products or sales.
  • Digital customer service that answers basic questions automatically.

Who Can Benefit From Using SMS Marketing Services?

SMS marketing services can benefit organizations in nearly any industry when they cater thoughtfully to their niche. Consider the information that you most want to communicate to your customers. You can benefit from SMS marketing services for these communications if you can effectively condense your message to 160 characters or less. SMS marketing is especially useful for your marketing if the call to action can be completed on a smartphone. Text messages are also useful if your CTA involves physically visiting your location, as your message may very well reach the shopper while they’re out and about.

The Many Advantages of SMS Marketing

SMS marketing is a powerful channel for communicating with your customers. Today’s smartphone users are well-versed in text messaging, and many find this a highly preferred way of sending and receiving communications from businesses. With SMS marketing, you’ll enjoy numerous advantages.

Easy Integration

SMS marketing doesn’t need to step in and replace any of your other marketing efforts. Rather, it can enhance them. You can increase your email open rates by prompting customers to check out the message via text. A short link can direct readers to your latest blog post quickly and efficiently. You can even include a link with directions to your pop-up sale and increase traffic to live events.

Increased Engagement

Customers are highly engaged with their smartphones, so you can effectively use SMS marketing to prompt survey responses, voting in your polls, app downloads, and other actions. The conversion rates via smartphone are very high, and customers are often more likely to engage with you on this device than any other.

Insightful Analytics

You can gather analytics from your SMS marketing campaigns that will help you better understand your audience. The more your customers engage with these marketing efforts, the more complete your picture is of this valuable customer base.

Direct Communication

SMS messages provide direct and immediate communication. Recipients read and respond to texts much more quickly than to emails. While many people keep separate email addresses for personal communications and marketing messages, individuals are less likely to have multiple smartphones. SMS messaging still gets through to recipients on a personal level.

The Basic Components of SMS Marketing

SMS marketing begins with an opt-in. This is the process by which a customer chooses to sign up for your text messages. To opt in via text, the customer will need:

  • A shortcode for the recipient box that directs the text to your messaging service.
  • A keyword for the body of the message that indicates their intention (i.e. signing up to receive texts from you).

Alternately, customers can also opt in online. If a customer uses this method to sign up, you’ll need to send a confirmation text to complete the opt-in process. This typically prompts the customer to reply with a “YES” if they want to sign up for texts from your company.

Once you’ve established the basic sign-up process for your SMS marketing, you can begin building campaigns. Schedule automated messages to communicate sales, events, new product releases, and other announcements. Use short, punchy messages and include prompts that allow your recipients to respond and request more information.

SMS Marketing Mistakes To Avoid

It’s important not to overwhelm customers when you’re communicating with them on their personal devices. Your SMS marketing campaigns should never:

  • Send unsolicited messages.
  • Use full URLs that aren’t shortened.
  • Send messages outside regular business hours.
  • Repeat the same message.
  • Send messages more than once a day.
  • Go off-brand.
  • Communicate without a clear CTA.

How To Automate SMS Marketing

You can find a variety of platforms that are designed specifically for SMS marketing. These apps will typically allow you to set up and send out text messages en masse, handily automating this seemingly complex service. Many offer personalized texts and insightful analytics as well.

Begin by automating the first text that leads receive when they sign up for your SMS messages. Offer a warm welcome and consider adding something of value, such as a coupon code, to encourage your subscribers to stay on the list, anticipating more goodies.

You can automate your text campaigns to go out on a particular schedule or have them triggered by certain actions. For example, you might design a drip campaign that sends a coupon code when the customer hasn’t placed an order for 30 days, or you could set up text messages to coincide with the arrival of a package from your company.

Types of SMS Messages You Could Send Your Audience

There are many ways that you can incorporate SMS messages into your marketing campaigns. Some options you might consider include:

  • Sending exclusive coupon codes via text.
  • Prompting customers to download your app by sending a link to the app store.
  • Notifying customers of special events and promotions.
  • Automating drip campaigns that send increasingly better coupons over time.
  • Inviting customers to participate in polls.
  • Asking customers to sign up for a sweepstakes.
  • Sending links to your website or blog content.
  • Sharing images or videos.

The possibilities for effective SMS marketing are seemingly endless. Utilizing links, you can send your customers to nearly any type of expanded content from this quick, convenient touchpoint. Manage your communications well and this may become your most useful channel for increasing engagement, impressing customers, and furthering your marketing campaigns.

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