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SMS marketing

SMS Marketing: what’s hot and what’s not.

As a marketing strategist (nerd), I’m always looking at what new tools are available and how they can be integrated with existing strategies to improve the user experience, increase conversion rates and generate a better overall return on our clients’ marketing spend. It seems a little ironic that one of the original messaging platforms (aside from Morse code and telegrams of course) is now coming back around as the new kid on the block.   

Short Message Service (SMS) marketing, with its direct and immediate approach, has exploded in popularity in recent years and the results are astounding. However, like any tool in the marketer’s arsenal, it comes with its own set of pros and cons.  

So why then, with so many other messaging options available, would someone choose to use old fashioned SMS? In this detailed exploration, I’ll delve into the advantages and drawbacks of SMS marketing, accompanied by cautionary tales of how NOT to wield this powerful tool. 

  

Let’s start with what’s hot… 

  

Instant Reach and Engagement. 

SMS marketing boasts an unparalleled immediacy. When you click that send button, BOOM it’s in your audiences inbox. Sure you can schedule messages, but its the same deal when the sending time arrives. That little red 1 appears on our screen and your message has been delivered. This makes SMS perfect for time-sensitive promotions, meeting reminders, important notifications or flash sales. 

  

High Open Rates. 

 Come on, be honest, opening an SMS is almost irresistible! It’s such an intimate and personal communication channel we just can’t wait to see who is reaching out to is. SMS messages enjoy remarkably high open rates compared to other digital channels.

SMS open rates re well over 80% (over 90% in Australia) and over 86% of people open an SMS within 30 minutes of receiving it.  

What this means is that all your hard work and creative input is MUCH more likely to actually be seen by your audience. Now that’s good news!  

  

Wide Reach. 

SMS is one of the few apps you’ll find on virtually every phone. So your prospect doesn’t use Facebook and has no Messenger account? No worries, use SMS. The person you’re communicating with spends a lot of time on the road, or on-site so they don’t access email very frequently? Cool, they’ll probably have their mobile on them so SMS is perfect.  Whatever channels they use, whatever devices they prefer, SMS is a constant and there’s almost no-one who doesn’t use it.  

  

 Engages users 

Like many other communication channels, your audience needs to opt-in to receive SMS from you, and provide you with their mobile number. Because of the personal nature of mobile communication, if someone willingly hands over their mobile number it means they’re expecting to get messages from you, so when those messages come your prospect is more than likely going to be receptive. The key here is that you need to get consent. Make sure it’s clear on your opt-in form that you’ll be using the person’s number to message them. If you don’t, this pro can become a BIG negative, really fast.  

  

High Conversion Rates. 

The immediacy and personal nature of SMS often translates into high conversion rates. Whether it’s a limited-time offer or a personalised promotion, the direct nature of SMS can drive consumers to take immediate action.  

 

Start a chat conversation.  

Selling by chat is showing some exceptional results right now, even in high ticket services (I’ll cover sell by chat in a separate blog, but if you’re keen to know more now and launch a sell by chat campaign of your own, message me for a conversation)  

Again, the personal and immediate nature of SMS allows you to ask a specific question and as long as you have a good understanding of your ideal client’s pain points, get a response. This open the door for a more meaningful conversation and the chance to offer a product or service for sale.  

  

Right, so we know what’s hot about SMS marketing. But it’s not all rainbows and lollipops. So lets take a look at whats not so hot…

  

Limited Message Length. 

You really need to get to the point.  The 160-character limit per SMS poses a challenge for marketers to convey comprehensive messages, especially if you like to waffle on a bit.  Crafting concise yet compelling content becomes crucial, and detailed information may need to be provided through links. You can go over the character limit, but that means you’ll pay for an additional message. If your messaging and offers are on point, the return you get should more than pay for it, but it’s something to be aware of.  

  

Permission-Based. 

This is a big one. HUGE! Since SMS marketing requires explicit opt-in consent, building a subscriber list can be a slow process. The success of your SMS campaigns heavily relies on the size and engagement level of your subscriber base.

Don’t be tempted to break the rules and add people to your database without consent, you really don’t want to be THAT person. It’s spammy, tacky and just unprofessional. So don’t do it.

Offer people something of value and ask for their contact details in return. Check out our blog on Lead Magnets for some great value based content ideas.  

  

Risk of Over-Messaging. 

As marketers, we have a looong history of stuffing up a good thing by abusing it. Look at email for example. There are new rules being introduced as I write this to help reduce the amount of spam emails being sent to people. Facebook introduced rules to stop overuse of Messenger as a marketing platform because it was being spammed. Even SMS is at risk with new rules in the US being introduced this year.  

There’s a fine line between effective frequency and becoming an annoyance. Sending too many messages can lead to opt-outs and tarnish your brand reputation. Finding the optimal balance is key to maintaining a positive customer experience.  

As a rule of thumb, we find it effective to use SMS for specific promotions only, for important notifications and meeting reminders. That’s it. The more tailored the content to your audience, the less spammy it seems, so segment your lists and send them relevant and tailored messages.  

  

Limited Multimedia Options. 

Humans are visual creatures and we like photos ad videos. Unlike some other digital marketing channels, SMS is text-based and doesn’t support multimedia content. While this simplicity aids in delivering concise messages, it limits the creative possibilities that visual and interactive elements offer. The key to making it work is for the messages to be highly relevant  

  

Regulatory Compliance 

SMS marketing is subject to strict regulations, such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and new 10DLC requirements in the United States and the Spam Act 2003 in Australia. Non-compliance can lead to severe penalties. Navigating these regulations requires a thorough understanding of the legal landscape.  

  

Lessons from SMS Marketing Mishaps: What NOT to Do 

  

Ignoring Opt-In Best Practices. 

One of the most serious mistakes in SMS marketing is sending messages without proper opt-in consent. Not only is this a legal violation, but it also damages your reputation and leads to high opt-out rates. Fines for breaking the rules can exceed $200,000 for businesses and $40,000 for individuals. 

  

   *Example:* A retailer purchases a list of phone numbers without explicit consent and bombards recipients with unsolicited promotional messages. 

  

Excessive Frequency and Timing. 

 Sending messages too frequently or at inappropriate times can be a deal-breaker for subscribers. This type of over-messaging can lead to annoyance and ultimately result in opt-outs. Most SMS messaging platforms allow you to schedule messages, and to deliver them based on the recipients time zone so you can avoid being overly intrusive at inappropriate times.  

  

   *Example:* A restaurant sends daily lunch specials via SMS, including late-night messages, irritating customers who perceive it as intrusive. 

  

Failure to Provide Value. 

Like all marketing messages, SMS marketing should offer value to recipients. Failing to deliver relevant, personalized content can result in disengagement and unsubscribes. Properly segmenting your lists and sending only information relevant to the reader will help ensure people see value in what you’re sending them.  

  

   *Example:* An e-commerce brand sends generic promotional messages without considering the specific preferences or purchase history of individual customers. 

  

Neglecting Opt-Out Requests. 

Ignoring or delaying opt-out requests violates consumer trust and regulatory requirements. Properly managing opt-out processes is crucial for maintaining a positive brand image. We suggest creating automations that immediately remove users from any lists when they send an opt-out request. Adding tags, deleting user records or adding people to a ‘no send’ list can all work. Most platforms will have opt-out templates you can use.  

  

   *Example:* A company continues sending SMS messages to customers who have clearly indicated their desire to unsubscribe, leading to frustration and complaints. It can also lead to negative reviews, fines and reputation damage.  

  

Neglecting Privacy Concerns. 

In an era where privacy is a top concern, neglecting to address and communicate how customer data is handled can erode trust. Our advice is to clearly articulate how you’re planning to use people’s data at the point of collection.  

  

   *Example:* A company collects user name, email and phone number on an inquiry form, but fails to mention they may use the data to send marketing communications, tips and advice.  

  

To wrap it all up, SMS marketing, when executed strategically, can be a powerful tool in your marketing toolkit. However, understanding its nuances, respecting consumer preferences, and adhering to regulatory guidelines are essential for success. The cautionary tales outlined above emphasise the importance of ethical practices and customer-centric approaches in SMS marketing. As you navigate this dynamic landscape, remember that each text message is an opportunity to enhance the customer experience and build lasting relationships.  

Having the right tools at your disposal can certainly help. The ones we use are Twilio for carrying the messages, and Go High Level for our CRM to store and segment our lists, and create the messages.  

 

If you’d like help implementing an effective SMS strategy into your business, reach out to us for a chat!