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Text Message Marketing: Annoying, Brilliant or Both?

BySam Bocetta,
business.com writer
|
Oct 06, 2019
Image credit: ViewApart/Getty Images
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Is SMS text message the second coming of email marketing or the new spam?

The technology we use for marketing is developing at a rapid pace. Things that seemed like science fiction even a few years ago, like artificial intelligence-driven campaigns and virtual reality experiences, are now mainstream.

Sometimes, this means that we can forget about one of the most basic technologies of all: the humble text message. Marketing via SMS can seem like an old-fashioned way to go about things, but it's not. It actually can be an effective marketing tool.

It's worth considering that even the most advanced marketing campaigns still make use of smartphones, and text messages are typically displayed in a much more prominent way than the notifications from apps. If you send your customers an SMS, you can be assured that their phones will beep, and they will look at the message. That's more than can be said for a notification or even an email.

That said, text messages can be a little annoying if you don't use them correctly. In this article, I'll review some principles that will help you get the best results out of your SMS marketing efforts. 

Reasons to use SMS marketing

The primary value of text messages for marketers is in generating leads. In comparison to other forms of direct communication, the simple text message has a number of huge advantages:

  1. Believe it or not, SMS is still the most used messaging platform today. Ninety-seven percent of people text at least once a day, even those who also use other apps. SMS is also particularly useful in reaching (slightly) older demographics like boomers.
  2. Unlike email, SMS messages are not screened by a spam filter, and this means that you can be confident that your messages will reach your intended audience. Fully 98% of people will open and read an SMS, as opposed to just 20% who will open an email.
  3. If you are using SMS to deliver offers and coupons to your customers (which you should), you are also doing them a favor. Most people say that they want to receive special offers via text message rather than email because an SMS is simply easier to find when they are in a store.

For these reasons, SMS is one of the most direct ways to reach your customers. It's also one of the cheapest, especially compared to Facebook or Google ads. Typically, the cost for a company to acquire a new customer and generate $1 is about $1.18. It's scary math, but SMS can reconfigure the equation. However, SMS texting must be used carefully in order to avoid annoying them.

How to use SMS marketing

There is one key principle when it comes to using SMS or any other kind of marketing: your messages should provide value to your customers. A message that merely draws attention to your brand is going to be seen as annoying. 

This means that you should integrate, as far as is feasible, your SMS marketing with your other systems. This is good news for all those online marketers out there making use of website and page-building tools or popular e-commerce platforms, all of which offer SMS functionality, allowing your customers to seamlessly move from an SMS to your online offering without getting hung up on the tech. 

In general, there are three types of messages that are effective when deployed as part of an SMS campaign:

  1. Marketing messages are effective, but they should be specific. Use your SMS to draw attention to a specific offer or sale, rather than the general good value you offer. You can also tell your customers that these specific offers are only available to people who indicate that they are happy to receive text messages, which will encourage people to sign up for the service.
  2. Customer service is another area in which SMS is particularly effective because customers value the direct communication that it offers. You can, for instance, send bespoke offers to customers after they have made a purchase, or just use SMS to keep them updated about the delivery status of their orders.
  3. New products and services can be announced by text messages, but be careful. If your company offers hundreds of different products, customers can soon become irritated by constant messages about product launches.

In short, put yourself in the shoes of your customers. If your phone beeps, and you look at the message, you want it to contain a specific piece of information, or – even better – a personalized offer, rather than a generic marketing message.

 

SMS marketing tools

On a practical level, the best way to implement an SMS marketing campaign is to download and use a tool that has been designed to manage these campaigns. Hubbion is a popular option that allows you to integrate your SMS marketing with your broader strategy. 

One of the most useful features of this kind of tool is that it allows you to schedule messages, so you can set up a messaging strategy and then let your software handle the actual sending of the messages. More advanced tools will also let you set replies to incoming text messages and analyze how successful your campaign is in real-time.

These tools also allow you to easily scale-up your SMS campaigns as required and will adapt to your needs as your business grows.

A word of warning about SMS text message marketing

Though SMS marketing can be very effective, you need to be aware that it raises some issues about consent, data management and privacy from technology. Because this form of messaging is so direct, plenty of people are a bit freaked out when they receive a direct message from someone other than a friend or family member, especially given how common phishing scams have become.

If you are going to use SMS marketing, therefore, you need to tell your customers this before you text them. You might have their phone number stored, but unless you get specific consent from them, you shouldn't send them an SMS. Doing that is a quick way to get a fine.

You should also be very careful about managing the phone numbers you collect to use in SMS marketing campaigns. These are among the most commonly leaked and stolen pieces of customer data and failing to implement good cybersecurity practices could mean you fall victim to a hack. 

Keep it short, keep it direct

At its best, SMS marketing can be a very direct way of staying in touch with your customers, and for keeping them engaged.

In order to be effective, though, it needs to be used sparingly. Customers will be delighted to receive a message with a personalized offer but are likely to get annoyed if you bombard them with constant (and generic) marketing messages. Plus, the federal government has decreed that it's illegal to send these kinds of messages without permission. 

With the extra intimacy that text messages afford, you should also pay particular attention to your tone of voice and carefully craft each message. just because text messages are short, you shouldn't spend any less time on them!

An effective SMS campaign can be brilliant, and as long as it is planned carefully will not annoy your customers. Cast your vote on whether or not text marketing the new email marketing.

Sam Bocetta
Sam Bocetta
See Sam Bocetta's Profile
Former defense contractor for the Navy. Security analyst and freelance correspondent for a number of media outlets. I find radical -- often heretical -- solutions to "impossible"? network security problems, and push early stage concepts from research to development. Program setup, people acquisition, deployment. Specialties: Naval engineering, Mechanical engineering, Marine Ops. Agile Management. InfoSec. Cryptography. Cyberwarfare & Cyberdefense. PRESENTLY: KRACK attack prevention, micropower systems defense. Writing my first book, democratizing personal privacy solutions for the broader public, due to publish in early 2021.
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