Your Guide to Getting Started with SMS Marketing

What if you could reach your customers, whenever and wherever they are, with relevant information and get an immediate response? That’s the kind of power and measurability that appears in marketers’ dreams.

As it turns out, dreams do come true, and the answer has been in our collective pockets for decades.

Though it’s not new, SMS marketing has seen a surge in popularity recently. Companies like Disney and Amazon take advantage of its power and use it to connect with their customers in ways they never could before.

If you’re not already using SMS marketing to reach your customers, you should give it strong consideration. If you are using it, there’s always room for improvement. In either case, this guide gives you what you need to know to take your SMS marketing to the next level.

Why use SMS for marketing?

Why SMS? The simple answer is that it just works.

For proof, you need only to look at the 90% open rate SMS marketing enjoys and compare it to email marketing, which gets about a 20% open rate on the high end of the scale. SMS is so effective at reaching people because it’s immediate, ubiquitous, and mobile-first.

With SMS, you’re reaching consumers on a device that’s in their pockets and that buzzes to let them know when they receive a message. While smartphone notifications can also signal incoming email messages, people tend to put off reading email until later — but we’ve all been conditioned to view text messages as soon as they arrive.

Another feature that makes SMS unique is that in both iOS and Android devices, messages can be displayed over other apps, so even if someone is playing a game, reading news, or watching videos, they won’t miss your message.

But open rates are just the beginning of what makes SMS so powerful. It also allows you to be ultra-relevant to your customers, reaching specific people at specific moments. For example:

  • You can send messages to conference attendees during a presentation to prompt them to sign up for a speaker’s newsletter or buy their book.
  • After a consumer leaves a restaurant, you can send them a message thanking them for coming and offering them a coupon for their next visit.
  • In ecommerce, you can send messages to customers who abandon their shopping carts, or, when their payment fails, help them complete their purchases.

These examples demonstrate the transactional power of SMS marketing to build an opt-in audience and facilitate purchases. But it’s even more versatile than that and can support a variety of marketing goals.

SMS marketing can help you build awareness of a brand or even an issue. By integrating SMS marketing with other marketing tools, including social media, events, email, and sales promotions, you can increase the effectiveness of your entire marketing program. We’ll share some examples of how some well-known companies have done that later in this article.

Most importantly, SMS marketing can give you a high return on investment, in part because the upfront creative and development costs are lower than most other marketing methods. SMS marketing doesn’t require video production, graphic design, actors, models, printing, web design, or photography.

And, depending on how you use it, SMS marketing can actually generate revenue. One ecommerce marketer saw an increase in revenue as high as 10% with their SMS marketing program.

Try these strategic tips for SMS marketing

As we said, SMS is one of the most effective tactics you can add to your marketing mix — but to get those benefits, you need to be smart and strategic. Here are some tips to get the most out of your SMS marketing program.

Look for trigger moments

The immediacy of text messages allows you to reach your customers, individually, at precise moments — something no other marketing channel can do. To maximize that power, you should look for trigger moments when customers will be most receptive to your messages.

One of the most obvious moments is right after a customer takes some kind of action, like opting in to receiving a newsletter or making a purchase. In those moments, you can use SMS messages to welcome customers into the community, thank them for their purchases, or give them updates on shipping.

Other trigger moments include birthdays and holidays, flash sales and promotions, and new product introductions. All of these present opportunities for you to connect with your customers and create a sense of urgency around taking some kind of action.

Segment your audience

Because SMS marketing is so simple, it’s tempting to just blast messages out to your entire list. But the power of text messaging is that you can use it to reach specific people — and that’s why segmentation is so critical.

How you segment your audience depends on your business and your customer base, but the options are many. Age, income level, and other demographics are obvious choices, but you can also sort them by where they are in the customer journey, what product or services they buy, or their hobbies, interests, and goals.

By segmenting your audience, you can be sure to serve relevant messages that spur action, and, equally importantly, minimize unsubscribes.

Follow the rules

As with email marketing, SMS marketing comes with certain rules and regulations. You’re contacting customers using their personal phone numbers, so you should be clear and transparent when they opt in to your program. You also need to protect private data and make it easy for customers to opt out.

Every country has its own set of laws and regulations that you’ll need to be aware of. But as important as following the regulations is maintaining customers’ trust. Running afoul of the rules is one thing, but if customers lose trust in you, they might never forgive you.

To maintain customers’ trust, be sure to be transparent about why you’re contacting them, have a clear opt-in process, and make it easy for them to opt out. And, above all, don’t wear out your welcome by spamming them with frequent messages.

Use your creativity

Because it’s so simple and versatile, SMS marketing can be used in almost limitless ways. If you have a need to reach your customers, and if your customers have phones (which describes pretty much everyone), you can likely create an SMS marketing program that will meet your needs.

Here are a few examples for inspiration:

  • Fast-food chain Arby’s used SMS marketing to engage customers in their No Kid Hungry philanthropic campaign, raising brand awareness and building goodwill.
  • Jim Beam ran a sweepstake by encouraging consumers to opt in to their SMS program, building their database and supporting a charity at the same time.
  • The National Cancer Institute used SMS marketing to reach young people and guide them through the difficult process of quitting smoking.
  • TULA Skincare reached out to its mobile-first customer base through SMS to build a community around important social issues.
  • Few companies use SMS marketing more effectively thanStarbucks, which keeps customers engaged in the brand and aware of ongoing promotions and offers.

Understanding the technical side of SMS

Once you have a campaign up and running, SMS marketing can be a smooth, seamless experience that only needs occasional tweaking and maintenance.

But getting to that point can be a challenge, especially if you’re not familiar with all of the technical nuances. A lot can go wrong, and if you’re not prepared for it, your campaign may get derailed.

Sending messages overseas and to multiple countries can be especially challenging. It’s not unusual for messages to be delayed or go undelivered, lessening the impact on your customers. What’s more, reporting can be inaccurate, so you may not even know your delivery rate. The situation is further complicated by layers of regulations in different countries and regions.

And following those regulations is vital. The UK’s Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, for example, give people certain rights when being contacted by text message. Violating those regulations can result in your campaigns being shut down.

Also, when sending overseas, you may be dealing with local languages and special characters. Some countries allow, or even require, sender identification codes so customers know who is sending messages to them. Getting the technicalities right goes a long way toward building trust among your customers and maximizing your open rates.

A lot goes into setting up and maintaining SMS marketing campaigns. But you can make the task easier if you partner with an SMS API provider that can help ensure your campaigns are successful.

At Plivo, we’ve set up our APIs and services to ensure your SMS programs are reliable. We partner with only premium carriers in each country and use a redundant carrier network to ensure messages always get through. We also provide easy-to-manage sender IDs and special character support, helping ensure your messages are opened and read by your customers.

Finally, our SMS API includes accurate reporting, so you can evaluate campaigns in real time and make adjustments to optimize them for success.

SMS marketing is a great opportunity — if you do it well

We cited some examples of top brands that use SMS marketing well. Companies are catching on, and in 2020, 56% of US retailers planned to increase investment in SMS marketing.

If your industry haven’t caught on to SMS marketing yet, you can take a leadership position and get a jump on your competition. If your competitors are doing SMS well, you need to catch up.

Either way, SMS offers a unique marketing opportunity to reach your customers. To learn more about how SMS marketing can work for you, contact us.

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