THIS GUIDE IS INTENDED FOR:
Small and medium-sized businesses
Nonprofit organizations and agencies
Anyone who wants to reach and engage with customers
Marketing departments of larger corporations and organizations
WHAT YOU CAN EXPECT TO LEARN?
Despite all the ongoing advancements in technology and communication, the deceptively simple text message remains an impressively powerful tool for digital marketers, regardless of scale or company size. The key is learning how to harness and leverage the advantages of SMS in a way that your competition may have missed or overlooked.
At its fundamental level, SMS marketing consists of 5 main steps:
These may include:
There are business tools available, like SMSEdge, that can address and solve key issues like those listed above and more. In order to utilize SMS marketing effectively, you will need to use software that has been designed specifically for SMS marketing purposes.
This is no different than when you approach any other form of digital marketing. Software will allow you to curate and segment your lists, draft your messages, develop your strategy, and ultimately send out those text messages in bulk. The cost to send the text messages will vary based on recipients and other parameters, but it is typically very inexpensive. The messages are delivered through an SMS gateway.
Going further, there are opportunities to explore two-way communication, leverage short codes and keywords, segment with dedicated numbers, and more. SMS marketing can be remarkably simple and straightforward, but with tools and software such as SMSEdge you also have the added advantage of being able to employ more advanced techniques.
An estimated 80 percent of all mobile subscribers worldwide use SMS, literally representing more than 3.5 billion active users. SMS is the most widely used service all around the world and for good reason.
Because of its simplicity and lightweight nature, and because it does not require a smartphone or Wi-Fi, text messaging is much more prevalent, accessible, and can reach a far larger user base. The average American sends and receives an estimated 2,819 text messages per month.
The cell phone is a remarkably personal device, and one that is never too far out of reach. Users may not always be at their computers, but they are much more likely to have their phones on their person. Similarly, users are far more likely to check new incoming text messages than they are to respond to notifications for inbound emails.
With open rates of 98 percent, SMS marketing messages are almost universally read and acknowledged by their recipients. The average email open rate, by comparison, is estimated to be somewhere in the 25 percent range. With email marketing, messages can very easily get caught and marked as spam, never to be read or acknowledged.
Because of the character limit on each individual text message, this form of communication is succinct by design. It creates a personal communication channel between companies and their customers, continually boosting brand awareness and loyalty (so the company and its products or service are always at the forefront), as well as sparking engagement with keenly positioned calls to action.
Engagement rates are perhaps one of the greatest advantages that SMS marketing has over other forms of marketing. Response rates are as high as eight times that of email.
In addition, while click-through rates (CTR) on social media platforms are typically less than 1 percent, and the typical CTR for a Google AdWords campaign is barely 2 percent, the SMS marketing click-through rate can be as high as 36 percent.
Users not only read your text messages; they are far more engaged with them than with any other form of marketing communication. They want to hear what you have to say. This is why SMS marketing should play a key role in your overall marketing strategy.
SMS marketing campaigns fall under a number of broad categories. Your business may use any or all of these types of messages, depending on the goals you are trying to achieve.
This types includes:
These types of text messages are sent out to everyone who has opted into your list. (We’ll be discussing the opt-in process later in this guide) The message content should be of interest to everyone.
Also known as bulk campaigns, broadcast messages might be used to inform customers about promotional deals, special offers, holidays and special events. The message is typically sent out to the entire subscriber base at the same time, or as close to the same time as possible.
Targeted messages are exactly that: targeted. They are not sent out to the entire list of subscribers all at once. Instead, the targeting can be based on a number of possible factors.
For instance, you may create segmented lists from your larger main list. Members who subscribe to a premium service may belong to one segmented list, while customers who pay for a lower-tier service may belong to a different list. You can also create lists based on product category or interest, particularly if your business sells a variety of items or services. Beyond segmented lists, you can also set up targeted SMS campaigns based on individual shopping habits.
Other types of targeted campaigns include drip campaigns, triggers, and sales funnels.
Coupons and other offers can be sent out as part of bulk or targeted campaigns, and are often single-use. You can induce a sense of urgency with time-dependent discounts, like telling customers they must use the promo code within the next 12 hours or while supplies last.
Giveaways and contests are another way to encourage greater engagement from customers.
This type of messaging can take on two main forms:
Goal setting is an integral part of any business, and your SMS marketing campaigns are no different. Before you start setting up your first campaign, it is essential to have a clear vision of what exactly it is you are trying to achieve.
Key performance indicators, or KPIs for short, are a measurable value that you can use to gauge your relative success or failure at achieving the objectives you set out for your business. If you attain 100 percent success on your KPIs, then it should automatically be assumed that your objectives have been fully met.
The two most important aspects of KPIs are that they are:
Working to improve brand awareness, increase engagement, and develop stronger connections with your customers and subscribers
Working to boost sales of your products or services through a variety of promotions, including sales, discount codes, limited time offers, and other deals
Examples of goals related to BRAND BUILDING:
Examples of goals related to MEASURABLE ROI:
Building your list and generating contacts is the next major step in developing your SMS marketing campaign. From there onward, you will also need to optimize and segment your list in order to generate maximum profit and benefit.
Potential subscribers must know about both your mobile keyword and your shortcode in order to opt in. Promoting these two critical pieces of information can happen both online and offline.
Some strategies may include:
You will need to register for a shortcode in order to run any of these campaigns. A number of providers offer that service, much like domain registration for websites. In addition, just like website domains, many shortcodes are already being used. These shortcodes can also be shared under certain circumstances.
In the United States and in most other parts of the world, you are not allowed to send any marketing communications via text message (SMS) to someone until they have provided specific consent to receiving these messages. The consent must be in writing, and the records of the consent -- including time, date and location -- must be maintained.
What this means is that while you may be able to access third-party lists for sending marketing materials via email or phone call, you cannot do this with SMS. The user must opt-in first.
Similarly, subscribers must have an easy and obvious way to unsubscribe from your list. The most common method, and the one used by the vast majority of companies, is to send a text message informing the user that they can text the word STOP in reply to opt out of SMS marketing messages. These instructions can be sent as a separate text message or they can be included at the end of one of your marketing messages.
If a customer asks to opt out through other official means – e.g. via email or online chat – you must also honor this request. You must then send a confirmation message to indicate that the opt-out request has been received and completed. “You have opted out and will not receive additional messages” or some variation should be included in the confirmation message.
When phone numbers are added to the list, but are not actually valid recipients of your SMS marketing messages.
Validating new and existing contacts to ensure that they are still correct and in service.
Creating and managing targeted lists based on a number of possible criteria, including nature of response (click, lead or sale).
Choosing the best SMS gateway and route to deliver your messages in the most cost-efficient way possible.
Deciding on the best routes for the fastest and most reliable delivery with the least number of potential errors or failed attempts, all while maximizing click-through rate.
NotesBy default, the normal sender ID that a recipient sees is the long reference number generated by the SMS gateway. It indicates who is sending the message, just as the recipient would see when you receive a personal SMS message.
Possible criteria you may utilize when segmenting your list:
SMS marketing, just like any other marketing exercise, is always a work in progress. It’s an ongoing project, so you’ll need to build some campaigns in order to grow your list, just as you’ll leverage your growing list in future campaigns. It’s continuously cyclical in nature. With that in mind, there are several steps to campaign building that you’ll need to follow.
Unlike most other mediums, SMS marketing ad copy is confined to the 160-character limit for a single SMS message. Even though messages can be split and delivered, a single, to-the-point message has a much higher chance of success.
Remember that the 160 characters must also accommodate the required “reply STOP to opt out” (or similar) message at the end, so you will need to cull down your ad copy accordingly and be very strategic about what is and is not included.
With SMSEdge, the ad copy can also be split tested and further personalized to a customer’s name or other identifying parameters; if you take this route, you’ll need to ensure that even longer entries - like if a customer has a longer name - will still fit within the confines of 160 characters.
For any given campaign, regardless of your ultimate objective, you must consider the value of the message from the customer’s perspective. How is this message relevant? How does it benefit the recipients?
Ideas for providing value to your customers:
Tracking the results of your campaign is critical for future optimization, and while the system can give you some information about delivery rates and open rates, you also want to know about click rates and conversion rates. For this, you can choose to either embed a clickable link (a feature supported by SMSEdge) or include a unique promo code.
As you’re limited to just 160 characters, understandably you should not be using the full URL for the clickable link.
With SMSEdge, you can automatically have all your links shortened and optimized for tracking. The shortened link can then be embedded in your messages with a unique code to track each and every SMS.
Two key factors to consider here are:
Consider the time zones where your customers are located. While it might be noon in Los Angeles, it could be 4 in the morning in Hong Kong. Customers will not react kindly to receiving text messages at inconvenient times, particularly if these notifications wake them up in the middle of the night. This is where segmenting your list also comes into play.
As a general rule of thumb, never schedule messages to be sent outside of regular business hours. There may be some exceptions, of course, but that is a good rule to follow. From there, you can further split test and optimize for day of the week and time of day for optimal receipt, open, click, and conversion rates.
Send too many messages in too short of a timeframe, and the recipient will likely opt-out of receiving any future messages. Send too few messages across too long of a timeframe, and your brand may easily be forgotten or overlooked by your customers. You’d also be missing out on many potential opportunities.
For most campaigns, unless they relate to a specific event across a short time window, you will want to find a healthy medium. About once a week is a good rough guideline to follow, but your individual circumstances can certainly vary.
Starting with a welcome text message, you may have a set campaign where messages are sent to a recipient in a specific sequence over a prescribed period of time.
After someone has opted into your list, particularly if it is tied to a customer profile or account, messages and campaigns may be triggered by any number of events. These might include abandoned cart situations or recommending one product because they recently purchased a related product.
Much like the drip campaigns describe above, sales funnels are a valued and popular component to SMS marketing strategies.
Based on the response you may receive from a subscriber, and based on any subsequent account activity, you may choose to automatically segment users in different sub-lists.
By utilizing dynamic parameters and pixel tracking, you can accurately tag each number within the acquisition funnel, from click to lead to sale. This data can then be further analyzed and taken into account as you move forward with more SMS marketing campaigns, as well as other active marketing efforts.
Alongside growing your list and building your campaigns, analyzing your metrics is also an ongoing activity. Even so, because you will have set up distinct campaigns with specific objectives in mind, it is always prudent to perform a post-mortem to gauge the relative success of that campaign.
Some characteristics and metrics you will want to monitor include:
As with any other form of marketing, SMS marketing can either be simple or complicated, depending on your strategy, goals, understanding and choice of software. Some companies only utilize text messages for transactional SMS, informing customers of order details and shipping updates, while others utilize SMS marketing to promote new products or special deals.