Text Subscriptions: A Valuable Tool for Marketers

Jul 28, 2023
Text Subscriptions: A Valuable Tool for Marketers

If you can get customers and prospects to subscribe to informational updates from your business, you can build a brand loyalty bond that’ll be hard to break. The trick is to give people information they can use.

Text subscription is a service that businesses provide to send information via SMS to people who opt in to receive it — pretty simple. It’s the same concept as a newspaper or magazine subscription. Those businesses monetize subscribers by selling ads to people who want to reach them. Businesses that offer text subscriptions monetize their efforts by gathering contact information from people who might be current or potential customers, which they can use in campaigns or sales outreach.

Text subscriptions work so well because SMS is an ideal channel for marketing communication. Nearly everyone has a cell phone — 97% of Americans and almost 7 billion people worldwide — and everyone with a cell phone has SMS. Of course smartphone users also have access to apps, but you have to convince people to download them, and apps often include unwelcome trackers.

People look at 99% of text messages, usually within 15 minutes of receiving them. Email lacks the same immediacy, and open rates for email marketing messages are much lower than for SMS. SMS messages also have high engagement rates.

From a budget perspective, text messaging is incredibly affordable. Messages sent through Plivo cost half a cent in the US, and similarly low amounts elsewhere in the world, and you pay only for what you send — there’s no additional subscription cost to use the service.

So how to leverage all of the good things about SMS?

Starting up a text subscription service is a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem. You need to create valuable content to gain subscribers, but there’s no point in creating content unless you have subscribers. Be aware that you’re likely to need to put time and effort into the service for several months before you see a payoff.

Don’t offer a subscription service unless you can offer something that recipients will value.

What kind of content provides value for subscribers? For a subscription with a regular cadence, it can be anything you know a lot about, and that they need to know about too. You might be able to alert subscribers to something new about your product or industry. Ideally, each text message should offer some actionable advice they can use to overcome some challenge or problem. You can also offer early access to new products or services, or first access to new content.

But your text subscriptions don’t have to be on a daily or weekly cadence. You can market to opted-in subscribers with notifications about things like

  • Flash sales
  • Subscriber discounts or other special deals
  • Surveys: Make them short — ideally a single question per outreach.

Opt-in is critical

Before you send a single message, you must get recipients’ permission to send them messages, even if you already have their phone number. That’s not just good advice — it’s probably the law. Different countries have different rules. In the US, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) covers opt-ins, while in Europe it’s the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

You can obtain permission in several ways:

  • Though a number provide via an online form
  • Via text message that includes the opt-in keyword
  • In-store, point-of-sale signup
  • Opt-in button on a mobile web page
  • Interactive voice response (IVR) opt-in via phone call

Give people a way to sign up at points they’re most receptive to interactions with your business, such as overall service signup and as part of the purchase process.

You should store recipient opt-in records electronically so you can show compliance if you’re ever audited.

When people opt in, send a confirmation message that lets them know what to expect from the subscription. They should already know what kind of content to expect — that’s probably why they signed up. Let them know how often they can expect your messages and tell them how they can opt out, should they choose to.

Make it just as easy for customers to opt out of a subscription as it is to opt in. Give recipients a keyword (such as STOP) they can send in reply to your messages to tell you to stop sending them texts. If they opt out, then the opt-out confirmation message you send in reply should be the last message they receive (until and unless they opt back in).

While getting permission is critical, opt-ins aren’t the only restrictions you should be aware of —  additional regulations where you are might include things such as prohibited sending times.

Once your concept and your content are set you can let people know about what you offer. Post about it in your other channels: newsletters, social media, your website. Include samples of the kinds of messages you’ll offer so people can see the value of the service.

How to send text messages using Plivo’s SMS API

Once you’re ready to talk to your subscribers, all that’s left is to integrate the sending process into your existing applications. Integrating SMS into your applications makes more sense than pasting together a messaging pipeline that relies on pumping your subscribers through a service like Zapier to an expensive texting service. We’ve created quickstart guides that show you how to send text messages using Python, Java, or any of five other web development languages. If you’re interested in the technical details, they’re a great place to start. You should also read up on best practices for text messaging.

With Plivo, you can automate reaching all your subscribers in bulk, or you can pick a subset of subscribers to reach out to, such as people in a single country or region or those who spend the most.

Plivo offers global reach, with the ability to text people in virtually every country on Earth. Plivo messages enjoy high delivery rates thanks to the Premium Communications Network we’ve put together over more than a decade. And we offer white glove support to make sure our customers are satisfied.

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