The value proposition for businesses to use Text Marketing has been thoroughly established. The question remains: how exactly should businesses go about meeting or exceeding subscriber expectations with their execution of SMS Marketing campaigns? In this article we will touch on all the various Best Practices that businesses should think about when sending promotional or other SMS messages.
Keep in mind, this is just an overview. We'll have other articles dedicated to diving deeper on topics that are especially important.
Building SMS Lists and Targeting Intelligently
Here we help define how you ought to think of your target audience(s), what attributes set them apart from the rest of the general populace, and whether you should have just one list or many lists for your SMS marketing efforts. We also discuss how to grow your list of subscribers and various activities you can scale to do so.
Define Audiences and Segment
Building customer personas. Segmenting subscribers before the even subscribe so all messages can be properly personalized. The balance between 1-on-1 levels of personalization and broader personalization efforts.
One List vs Many Lists
Keeping track of how each subscriber opted in to your SMS messages, what they were promised, and how you can deliver on those promises. The advantages and disadvantages of promising specific messaging to specific groups.
Opt-In Options for Different Contexts
How to set up the different opt-in flows, deep links, QR codes, and keywords for the different times and places that customers may want to opt-in. Whether stand alone or through integrations, letting customers join the way they want is important.
Automation vs Manual
What can and cannot be automated, and why. What you gain and lose through automation, and how even fully-automated response systems can be delightful for end users. How to bridge the gap between automation and a personal touch.
Deliberate List Building
Different techniques for building your list that are effective and fast. Some long-term list building strategies that can pay off over time. The kinds of opt-in methods these List Building techniques use, and how the utilization of each can be customized to suit your brand.
Compliance Makes Happy Subscribers
In this section we'll discuss some of the various limitations that should be respected when sending bulk SMS messages to a subscriber list. Some of which are formalized through regulations, and others are industry best practices to keep members positively engaged.
Consent is Required
As obvious as it is, it bears repeating. Explicit permission is required for all recipients on your SMS lists. Here we discuss exactly how you go about getting that permission, give examples of some disclaimers, and show how you can make it easy and obvious for subscribers to opt-out and opt-back-in when they are ready.
Limit Number of Messages
Text better, not more. Depending on your business model, one promotional text message a week is usually best, or perhaps one a month. There are cases when more (or fewer) are called for such as during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Know what your audience expects, and stick to those expectations in terms of frequency.
Disclaimers Set Expectations
There are the standard, required disclaimers per regulations that must be used. But go beyond that to let your subscribers know what they can and cannot expect from your SMS messages. Clear communication up front in the form of disclaimers or other notices helps reduce spam complaints.
Full compliance isn't always trivial or obvious. For example, there are restrictions pertaining time of day that messages can be sent. Also, how many messages can be sent after given events such as cart abandonment.
Making Opt-Out Easy
Opt-out should be much easier than opt-in. Support many different opt-out keywords, and communicate up front what those keywords are. If customers know they can easily leave your messaging list, the good will it establishes could remove a mental barrier to them joining again in the future.
Copy that Resonates
Are your cultural and trending referencing hitting their mark? Do you speak the same language and lingo? Personalization is often much more than just using their first name. For something to really resonate, it should match their cultural and professional method of speaking and thinking.
Omnichannel Dynamic Data
Customers interact with you across many different channels, such as email, voice, eCommerce stores, brand websites, etc. It is easier to establish a tight connection with a customer by referencing something specific they've done through one of the other channels. This often requires technical integrations on the back-end to scale this level of dynamic personalization.
Use Great Copy
"I love writing great copy! Do you?" Make it punchy. Make it snappy. Make it happy. Or make it sad. Work to get their attention, and then to keep it. This is the goal of great SMS copy. Learn more about what constitutes great copy, and how you can generate it on your own.
Using Rich Media (MMS)
"An image is worth ... " you know the rest. It can pay to mix up SMS messages with a great image that has been optimized for delivery on mobile form factors. While it may cost a bit more, the ROI can often be well worth it. No SMS marketing campaign is complete unless MMS A/B tests have been included in the mix.
Avoid Sales Jargon
If you own a turboencabulator, you know how important the prefabulated amulite is for surmounting the malleable logarithmic casing. In short: don't lose your audience as they leave to grab a dictionary! (Do those still exist? I mean "...as they Google it.") You do want to be short, succinct, and use terminology suitable for audience (especially if targeting a technical crowd). But you also want to make sure they can understand what is being said without reference to a third party resource.
Review SMS Marketing Examples
You are not alone. Many have gone before you. Learn from them. Check out our own library of SMS Marketing Examples and look for patterns or principles that you can apply using your own language, suitable for your own audience.
Grammar and Language Tone
Some rules are meant to be broken. But breaking them all the time can lessen the impact of the deviation. Stick to good grammar principles as a baseline. Keep your tone cheerful and friendly in most cases. If you are going to do something different, do it for a good reason. We'll share some examples of do's and don'ts when good grammar you need use.
Deliver Real Value
How you contact someone is one thing. But why you contact them is another matter entirely. Check your value proposition. Is it unique enough to be actionable? Could they get the same value elsewhere with less effort? What truly sets your offer apart? Make sure you are genuinely providing something valuable, even if it's not monetary.
You'll hear this word again and again in SMS marketing. Take your messaging down past the individual level. Everyone uses the first name nowadays. Go deeper by referencing recent customer actions and interactions to really let the recipient know your message is specific to them.
Importance of Variety in Testing
Never stop testing. Even when you've found a formula that works incredibly well, budget a portion of every list towards A/B tests that continually validate that formula with under-performing next-best alternative concepts. The reality is that most of the time you won't have a perfect one-size-fits-all formula that always works. Great ideas tend to loose efficacy when repeated multiple times.
Call to Action
If you nail every other best practice in the industry, and forget to include a CTA, you'll be leaving your customers hanging and you'll leave money on the table. Be specific about the action you want your recipient to take.
Timing is Everything
In this section, we cover all time-related aspects of SMS marketing. Going beyond the what, how, and why, to deliver SMS messages when the customer wants, adds a whole new dimension of effectiveness to your SMS campaigns.
It's best to have naturally occurring time-sensitivity, to give the sense of genuine urgency. Shutting down a sale
Current Trending Events
What's hot? What's viral? What's going on right now? Depending on your brand and your audience, these could be very relevant questions that you can and should answer. Including a reference something trending as an opener can be a great way to incite interest in the right demographic.
Adjust for Time Zones
A pretty straight forward concept. Sadly, the world isn't actually flat. We need to deal with time zones as an inevitable result of living on a ball (earth) being circled by another glowing ball (the sun). But let's make sure we do account for time zones so that our messaging lands at just the right time. Make sure your sending tools accommodate accordingly.
Time of Day Matters
Especially for smaller purchases made more frequently throughout the day, the time a person receives a message is going to have a significant impact on what action they eventually take. This is less true for larger purchases, or for CTAs that can be performed 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Holidays and Calendars
Did you know every day of the year is special and unique in dozens of different ways? Human history is very long, and we've been keeping track of all kinds of zany, esoteric events, especially since the advent of the internet. Finding those days that align especially well with your brand or offering can give you the intriguing historical justification for an engaging SMS message.
SMS Marketing Use Cases
Here are some examples that answer the all important question: Why? These use cases give good justification for connecting with your audience via SMS, along with the benefits your customers can expect to receive.
When users sign up, it's always nice to connect! SMS messaging is a very quick and easy way for consumers to connect with your brand, so it makes sense that they would want to know you support that as an option. Say "Hi!" just after they make a purchase for the first time.
Expand your existing referral program to include SMS referrals, or create a referral program especially for SMS. Nothing is easier than sending a quick text to a friend about a promo. Lean into the referral flow, and design it step by step from the perspective of an existing customer who is trying to refer their friend or colleague to your brand.
Sending SMS order confirmations can be a great way for customers to keep track of their own purchases, without needing to pull up a web browser or custom app and log in for order details. Ask your customers for their texting info just before or after an order, so they can be given their order confirmation through that channel.
Where is my order? Do I need to be expecting a delivery today? Tomorrow? Customers often need to know in advance for practical and security reasons, when their order is going to hit their doorstep. Let them know in real-time with SMS shipping updates.
Whether you are rolling out a new product, clearing out inventory, or just trying to give incidental, associated purchases a boost, giveaways can be a great way to build your SMS list. Make sure the giveaway delivers real value, and that you use proper language when asking prospects to opt-in.
It is possible to expand reward programs to function with SMS interactions, or even initiate reward programs exclusively through SMS messaging. Take advantage of these options to open up another great communication channel for your customer base.
Feedback and Surveys
Let customers give their feedback in a form factor that suits them. It is possible to capture basic survey data purely through SMS channels. Or at the very least, deliver the survey link through SMS. When coupled with the right incentive (giveaway, discount, etc.) you can build your SMS list and get survey data at the same time.
This is the big one. Not only can you connect on the basis of a cart left with unpurchased items, with the right integrations, you can identify what those items are and reference them directly. This is a prime opportunity to convert customers who have already put in 90% of the effort to make a purchase.
In Person Events
We have a full article detailing more about in-person events here. You can utilize SMS messaging, before, during, and after in-person events to stay connected, provide valuable information, and grow your SMS messaging lists all at the same time.
Tools and Technical Details
You can dig a hole with a shovel, but wouldn't you rather use a backhoe? Tools make the trade, and the same holds true for SMS marketing. Use as much automation, as many templates, and software as is beneficial for achieving your goals. These systems and technical best practices will help get you started on your road to SMS marketing mastery.
Dedicated Short Codes
Shared short codes were great when they first rolled out. They still have a place today in SMS marketing, but dedicated short codes may be making a comeback. Know what determines the best choice for your brand. Here we discuss the costs, benefits, and drawbacks of a dedicated short code.
Respond to Start Conversations
Your SMS marketing efforts don't need to be canned, one-directional affairs. Especially for those high-impact moments, the right approach SMS marketing and outreach can be a low cost way to close sales. Apply scalable human to human interactions to build loyalty over time with minimal cost.
Always Track Results
Be diligent in following up on your own efforts. What worked? What didn't? Why? Documenting the results of your SMS marketing efforts and putting the proper reports together over the right time periods will let you reap greater rewards for less effort. By tracking your processes and outputs, even failures can be a valuable asset.
Understand Tools and Platforms
We work hard to make Voyage SMS the go-to solution for bulk, personalized SMS marketing and scaling 1-to-1 SMS conversations. But SMS marketing is just one piece of a larger brand marketing endeavor. Make sure you know what tools integrate with others and how those integrations bring value at all stages of your customer's journey.
Long Codes for SMS Marketing
As opposed to short codes, Long Codes are the standard 10 digit numbers consumers are accustomed to using for interpersonal messaging. Learn more about how brands can and should use long codes in certain situations.
Document Strategy and Technique
We talked about documenting your results, but equally important (if not more so) is documenting the strategies and techniques that generated those results. Have a structured set of instructions for each role in your organization so that team members can cover for each other during days off, and to build more resiliency and reproducibility in your company as a whole.
Length of Messages
How long is too long? Or better yet, how short is too short? If your messages are punchy and to the point, you'll get and keep your members' attention span. Doing this well over time will have a snowball effect, where your recipients actually look forward to getting your promotional messages. Learn about the tools that can take your verbose version-1.0-draft copy and turn it into something you can be proud of.