You hear a lot about social media and email marketing campaigns, but have you thought about SMS Marketing or text message marketing? For the right company, SMS Marketing may be a great tool to invest in. When it comes to return on investment for your customer communication strategy, a solid SMS Marketing Plan can bring maximum coverage with minimal expense.
Businesses looking for cost effective and easy-to-implement opportunities to engage with their customers, should consider the strength of SMS or Short Message Service approach. It is a great solution for driving sales and prospecting potential leads but can also be used informationally to notify students of schedule changes or remind patients of upcoming appointments.
Doing it Right!
In many large cities, Amazon uses an SMS marketing strategy to notify customers the current location of the Amazon “Treasure Truck” offering daily specials with deep discounts. The Treasure Truck has become so popular, it even has local Facebook groups that follow upcoming locations and possible deals. And if you miss the truck or can’t make the rendezvous, don’t worry — Amazon lets you simply text back your order.
Nordstrom’s “TextStyle”, in a further nod to their extraordinary customer service (and a decidedly clever play on words), provides custom text messaging access to a personalized shopper that communicates in real time from your preferred store. You can check on discounts or sales, have them hold sizes, send pictures, and then purchase items for pick up or delivery.
And HBO used the platform to great success when promoting “Game of Thrones” by offering sneak peaks at the upcoming final season. Over 1.5 million people opted-in to what became a viral response and increased HBO’s contacts significantly.
How to Jumpstart Your Text Marketing Campaign
Whether large or small, businesses can benefit by sending text messages to customers about the latest deals, specials, and coupons or by sending a link to a video update about a new product launch or a recent blog post. Companies as diverse as healthcare, finance, and the gaming industry have all had great success with SMS marketing programs.
Just remember, part of the secret is consistency. You want to position your company in front of your customers as often as possible using great content — you want them to anticipate your next message!
So how do you do that with limited time?
Two Basic Options for Support
There are two full-service options for automating your SMS Marketing — stand-alone or customizable. With a stand-alone provider, you have access to a pre-determined set of services usually through a dashboard where you can select messages, customers, timing, and set auto responses. This is a good option to hit the ground running and there are a number of great options available.
With a customizable application, there’s more freedom to adapt the programmable API to your specific needs, including custom application development, integration with other software like a CRM or an email provider, specific training, marketing strategy and campaign development support, and streamlined analytics and interpretation. These are usually offered by branding and marketing companies that have the design and development component in-house for full-service support (with a marketing chaser).
What Services to Look for with an SMS Messaging Provider
Whatever type of provider you choose, be sure and look for functionality and ease of use, including:
- Mass text messaging capabilities — Send mass communications to all your customers simultaneously.
- Text to join and opt-in links — Opting in is an important part of legal SMS Marketing. Be sure you have the ability for customers to join by texting a keyword to your shortcode (more about that later).
- Scheduling for multiple messages automatically — Be able to easily schedule multiple messages with unique dates on a dashboard that allows at-a-glance review.
- Auto-reply or auto-responder capabilities — You want to be able to respond quickly to your customers when they reach out. Auto-responders allow you to have pre-defined responses ready to go.
- In-boxing or 2-way messaging — Allows you to reply to an individual customer if necessary.
- MMS or picture messaging — With this capability, you can attach pictures to your outgoing text messages to make them even more compelling, as well as expanded character fields (up to 1,600).
- Sweepstakes capabilities — If you have customers text your keyword to a pre-defined shortcode to enter a contest, your provider should be able to administer the results including selecting the winner randomly and notifying that person.
- Repeating messages or drip campaign messages — Send a series of time-sensitive messages that guide your customer through the sales funnel.
- Direct integration with Shopify — If you sell your products on Shopify, many providers allow direct integration so that a customer can opt-in during the check-out process.
- Email capture and integrations — By capturing emails, you can forward the details to your email service like MailChimp or Constant Contact.
- Personalization — Be sure your provider allows for custom personalization on messages that allow you to call people by name or include other customer-specific information.
- Dashboard and mobile app functionality — Your provider should have multi-functional capabilities from multiple devices that allows you the greatest flexibility.
- Detailed analytics — Useful insight should be readily available through precise analytics 24/7.
Now that You Have a Provider – Here are Some Best Practices
Get a Shortcode!
A shortcode is a 5 or 6-digit phone number for commercial use that you obtain through your mobile carrier. Shortcodes are easier to remember and more effective when asking customers to respond. Choose one that is unique and brand-friendly if possible. For example: Text “POPCORN” to 555555 for our weekly list of flavors!
Get Customer’s Permission
Partly proper digital etiquette and partly legal imperative, customers should give their permission for you to contact them with unsolicited information. There are numerous ways to entice your audience including contest entries, texting to a shortcode, or getting them to respond to a special offer. Like in the example above – by texting POPCORN to the shortcode number, they are giving their permission to opt-in.
And don’t forget to let them opt out easily so you don’t create ill-will if they decide they don’t want to participate.
Don’t Abuse the Privilege
As clever as we think we are, a text is still an interruption in someone’s day. Be sure to be concise and specific in all of your communications. Done correctly, your customer should feel as if they have been contacted by a friend or are “in the know” about a special offer. The last thing you want is to have someone complain to their carrier which could lead to you have your future messages filtered.
Be Engaging by Adding Value
You are contacting a customer personally and should be respectful of their time and intentions. If someone has a question or a complaint, address it quickly. And give them the opportunity to respond — then thank them for their input with a discount or special offer. A productive conversation will go miles in establishing rapport and good will. It may also create a good opportunity to ask them to refer your business to their family and friends or other business associates.
Choose Relevant Keywords
When picking the keywords to use with shortcodes, be sure to use words that are easy to remember and contextually relevant. If it can be catchy and humorous at the same time, all the better.
Keep the Conversation Going
Once you put your information out there, you will hopefully get lots of engagement and tons of responses. This is where an auto-responder is critical. To answer each message individually would be undoable, but with an app where you can personalize immediate follow-up messages to your customers, you can keep the interaction going strong. Remember to be polite, but concise.
Measure What Works Well
Part of a successful SMS marketing strategy entails measuring your results and tracking the response you get as well as how that converts into sales. Use your provider’s support or training group to help you understand the analytics available to you and learn how that benefits you when making future decisions on your overall strategy and marketing budget.
Don’t be a Disruption
Be sure you use a provider and carrier that’s able to handle your customer base – if global, they should consider time zones when scheduling delivery of messaging. The last thing you want is to have your text arrive at 2 am.
SMS Is Not Just for Sales or Discount Offers
While that may seem the most obvious use, there are tons of great ideas for ways to connect with your audience. Here are a few ideas that you might want to incorporate:
- Subscriber-only exclusive offers or flash sales — By promoting exclusivity and making your customers feel special, you strengthen your relationship and ensure their continued participation.
- Promote new content or blogs — Whenever you release new relevant content, use your SMS feed to generate site visits. Ultimately, it increases visits and dwell time which helps with SEO and your Google search results while providing great information to your clients.
- Tips or advice — Blast text your list of interested customers and share special tips or advice on a monthly or weekly basis. For example: a home décor company could send out design tips, color trends, or promote DIY home projects and seasonal information on gardening. Link back to your website for in-depth info.
- Event promotion — SMS can be a great way to build up buzz about an upcoming event and give information about ticket sales, parking information, and day-of alerts.
- Thank you messages — Customers love a personal thank you. SMS is a great way to send a quick thank you after a sale or a showroom visit.
- Ask for feedback — Use SMS as a way to get positive reviews that help your local search visibility. For example: “Thanks for your recent visit to XXX! Please provide feedback on your experience at: xxx.com. Reply STOP to end msgs.”
- Get survey or poll responses — Asking for feedback builds brand loyalty. It’s an effective tool used by everyone from Amazon to food delivery services.
- Share exciting company news — Link to a press release or a video of a product launch to get important information out to customers.
- Remind people of appointments — Hair salons, dentist offices, service providers (i.e., appliance repair service people) all run on schedules and with SMS they can assure their clientele will be there when their appointment is scheduled.
- Backfill cancelled reservations — Restaurants have cancellations all the time, but by using an SMS backfill process, they never have to have empty tables again.
To Sum Up
SMS Marketing strategies can be very effective tools in capturing your audience’s attention and can be as engaging as emails or Facebook ads. Once you have an SMS marketing provider selected, it’s time to get to work on creative and engaging ways to increase sales or encourage customer participation.
Talk with the Brandtenders at Lounge Lizard to learn more about incorporating an effective SMS marketing strategy for your company.