Email Marketing

7 SMS Marketing Best Practices to Know Before You Hit “Send”

SMS marketing has quickly become an essential channel for businesses. Here are seven best practices to help you make the most of it.

Did you know the average consumer spends around 36 minutes using their smartphone to text or call people every day? Most of these communications are done without a thought. However, the rapid-fire texting you do with your friends isn’t appropriate for marketing communications.

SMS marketing is one of the more interruptive ways of communicating with consumers because people feel compelled to read text messages. The 2020 Mobile Consumer Engagement report by Sinch found that 2 in 5 consumers have more than 50 unread emails in their inbox, but only around 2 in 50 have more than 50 unread texts. Many bulk SMS providers emphasize high open rates as one of the best features of text message marketing. We see it as a sign of higher stakes.

1. Comply with industry guidelines

Industry guidelines may vary depending on what country (or state) that you’re sending to. However, there are some principles that we recommend following, regardless of where your audience is.

Set yourself up for success by:

  • Explicitly asking for permission before sending any text messages to your audience – we recommend doing this via sign-up or subscription form. You should preserve evidence that your customers have opted in to receive SMS marketing
  • Making your sign-up CTAs clear so consumers know what you’ll text them and how many messages they can expect each month
  • Including your company name in every message you send to identify it as a marketing communication
  • Sending your texts during business hours — typically between 8 AM and 9 PM local time, although you’re likely to receive the best response between mid-morning and mid-afternoon
  • Including information about how to opt-out in every SMS message (Reply STOP or include a link to unsubscribe)

Always make sure to refer to the relevant legislation in the country you’re sending to:

2. Use SMS for important and immediate messages

The best SMS marketing campaigns offer consistent value to everyone on your contact list. Send time-sensitive info (like a flash sale announcement) or critical updates via text to improve consumers’ relationships with your brand.

We also recommend adding an element of exclusivity by rewarding subscribers with special offers. SMS-only coupons and free shipping are great perks to entice sign-ups and keep consumers on your list. Show readers the benefits of being on your list by including a clear CTA in each message.

3. Watch your send frequency

The optimal frequency for most text campaigns is one message a week. Start there — and then try varying your message cadence once you have a big enough contact list to gather meaningful data. If you know your target audience well, you might risk starting with a higher send frequency. Just don’t get too spammy. Upland data shows there’s a significant increase in unsubscribe rates once a brand reaches the threshold of 10-15 messages a month.

The reason message cadence is so important goes back to what we mentioned earlier about text messages interrupting your customers. Everything you send must be worth an immediate read. If it’s not, you’re betraying the trust your consumers put in you when they shared their phone numbers.

Don’t forget to consider the best times to send a campaign, either. Generally, 8:00 AM to 9:00 PM local time is a good guideline — with audiences being most likely to engage between mid-morning and mid-afternoon. Sundays typically have the lowest amount of engagement, so unless you have a particularly good, timely reason to send on a Sunday, it’s likely best to wait.

4. Be concise without sacrificing clarity

Do U want 2 rcv a msg that 👀 lyk dis from ur fave brand? Neither do we. Sure, there are only 160 characters to use and you want to make the most of them, but text speak is annoying and unprofessional. Avoid abbreviations where possible because they make texts harder to read. Stick to common ones if you must use them.

Take this example from Ulta: Instead of writing out “24-piece,” the company wrote “24 PC.” Most people can figure out what the message means, but it takes time to translate. The capitalization doesn’t help — a PC is, to most, a computer.

 

Make the best of your limited space by starting with something exciting. Flag a sale as “4 hours only!” or let SMS subscribers know when a deal is on its way out by telling them it’s their “LAST CALL” to shop. You can also just start with the goods. “BOGO” and “50% off” are things customers love to hear. Crafting the perfect SMS marketing message takes more time than you have characters, but doing it right pays off.

5. Lean into the conversational tone

Your text message marketing efforts should respect the medium’s primary purpose: conversation. Readers should feel like you’re talking to them, not at them. SMS is a great place to bring your brand’s voice to life in a more personal way.

Start by using personalization and segmentation to send messages that reflect consumers’ interests and past behaviors. Then, write a text message, not a subject line. Messages should sound like they’re for one person rather than your entire marketing list.

The following efforts from bebe and Sally Beauty show why these details matter. One reads naturally and creates a connection with the customer. The other is a pain to scan and looks like a mass text sent by a computer.

6. Use SMS as part of an omnichannel strategy

Your SMS marketing strategy can benefit from integration with other marketing efforts. If you have a CX or CRM system, connect it to your SMS marketing software to take advantage of existing data and add new insights. The lessons you learn from other customer interactions can guide your text message marketing efforts. Likewise, SMS campaigns may surface interesting data points that point to new opportunities elsewhere.

Successful omnichannel marketing means sending the right message via the right medium. Not everyone will sign up for SMS, which means you can’t rely on it as a primary mode of reaching people. Given the other constraints we’ve discussed — namely message length and frequency limits — SMS works best when integrated with email, social media, and other marketing tools.

A table showing which situations you should use SMS, email, or both.

Email and SMS work best when they’re used strategically — picking the right medium for the right situation. This table shows some common use cases where you might opt for email, SMS, or both.

 

7. Test, test, test!

As is the case with any marketing channel, testing will be key to your success in SMS. As much as we as marketers like to think we know what will perform best, we’re all just guessing. The only way to learn about our audience and what they respond to is by testing.

This means trying out different types of offers, different text lengths, different send times — pretty much any variable you can think of — and seeing how your audience responds.

Amplify your marketing with Campaign Monitor SMS

Ready to create stronger connections and grow your business? Then Campaign Monitor SMS is for you.

See how you can add SMS to your marketing mix – talk to us today.

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