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Is Text Message Marketing Right For Your Business?

Amy Nichol Smith
Amy Nichol Smith

Communicate with consumers the way they want it

One of the most confounding parts of managing a small business is determining how to best market your brand to customers.

One of the most confounding parts of managing a small business is determining how to best market your brand to customers. Of all the choices, text message marketing (SMS, specifically) seems like the ideal pick – it's quick, easy, and you're almost guaranteed that customers will see it. A few drawbacks, concerns and misconceptions, though, may keep you from hitting the send button on this form of marketing. 

Is text message marketing effective?

You've likely heard someone complain about having to take a phone call, or you've noticed a co-worker ignore a phone call, only to pick up their smartphone to answer a text message. Texting has become a preferred method of communication.

About 95 percent of adults in the United States have a cell phone (77 percent of them own smartphones), according to a recent Pew survey. Nielsen research shows that Americans text at least twice as much as they call, on average. So, you know people have cell phones and they're texting.

Now here are the statistics that are most important to the small business owner: nine out of 10 consumers want to communicate with brands and companies by text. This finding comes from a study by Twilio, a cloud communications platform company that surveyed more than 6,000 consumers around the world. On top of that, FranchiseHelp reported that 90 percent of their leads preferred to be contacted by text rather than by phone.

If that isn't enough to convince you that text message marketing is a good idea, consider this: Consumers want offers by text message, but 83 percent pointed out that two per month is the limit. People send and receive about 6 billion text messages per month in the U.S., so it's definitely something people want.

Aren't text messages mostly for personal use?

Surprisingly, no. There are a number of businesses that use text messaging to alert customers of all kinds of things. Nail salons text customers to let them know if an appointment needs to change. Restaurants send texts to alert diners that their table is ready. And many people rely on text messages for password verification for security.

Cell phone users are tuned into text message alerts, which explains why 95 percent of people who have opted in for text messages with a business read those messages within three minutes of receiving it, per Mogreet, a text message marketing company.


Can you convey everything in a text?

Although most cell phone owners choose smartphones, there are still a handful of people who use regular cell phones, so it's best to keep your messages short. Think of every text message you send to a consumer like you would a tweet – about 160 characters or less. Ideally, you want to lead with the offer, include a link to your website and add a little fun fluff. Old Navy, Frontier Airlines, Bed Bath & Beyond and others use word play, special characters and more to grab attention in email marketing – all ideas you can use in your text messages.

How to get customers to opt in

You can't just send texts to your customers without permission – not everyone is on an unlimited plan – and text rates from their provider may apply. That's why it's important to get customers to opt in for text messages from your business. To entice customers to sign up for texts, offer them an introductory percentage off, a gift or some other benefit.

Next, you need to make sure the opt-in process is easy. Skip the quotes – these can be confusing and result in a customer not getting a response from your system. Here are some good examples:

  • Want the best damn chocolate-covered caramel popcorn – and a free sample? Text YUMPOP to 12345 now!
  • Be the first to know when your favorite gadgets go on sale! Text GOGOGADGET to 12345 – get your gadget on!
  • Sign up for text alerts for $10 off* your next purchase! Text UMYES to 12345
    *You must spend $30 or more

Remember to include a note that standard message and date rates may apply.

Texting rules to keep in mind

Clearly, those who prefer texting to email or phone calls like texting for its straightforward approach and because it's a huge timesaver. Also, texting is fun. Here are a few tips to keep in mind when launching your text message marketing campaign:

  • Keep it short – think of it like a tweet
  • Don't send too many – no more than two per month (unless you're having a rare flash sale)
  • Keep it fun – emojis can keep things light, but use them sparingly and keep it on trend
  • Make the text interactive – tempt consumers to click; surveys are a great way to get consumers involved and make them feel special
  • Avoid abbreviations and slang – you don't want to alienate a group of consumers
  • Announce who you are – a coupon's great, but with no idea of who it's from, how can your consumer redeem it?
  • Make it valuable – every text should come with some value
  • Give them an out – include a message at the bottom to make it easy for a consumer to opt out of text messages

The bottom line

Text messaging has been around for decades, but it has stood the test of time. Create a marketing plan or hire someone to plan it for you, and have fun with it! You may be surprised at how many people are excited to receive a text from your business.

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Amy Nichol Smith
Amy Nichol Smith Contributing Writer
Amy Nichol Smith is a freelance writer who covers business, technology, food, sports, pop culture, and much more. She's a former features reporter and editor for The Monitor newspaper and has a love of football and video games.