7 Best Practices for SMS & Text Marketing

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If you are a marketer or a business owner, you’ve no doubt heard about the benefits of SMS marketing. This communication strategy, also called “text marketing,” is a favorite among marketers because of highly receptive audiences, unmatched open rates, and promotions that succeed because they’re delivered to customers and prospects on the mobile devices they carry with them all day.

Over 90% of SMS messages received are opened and read. Since SMS is the one messaging function that’s baked into every device – pre-installed by default – this communication channel is a permanent fixture on everyone’s phone. In fact, the first thing most of your customers do when they wake up is look at their phones. Talk about a captive audience.

Perhaps you are beginning to wrap your head around what SMS and text marketing really are, or thinking about how to integrate this channel with your existing software. Or maybe you're trying to figure out how to incorporate SMS marketing into campaigns already underway or your overall mobile marketing strategy. Let’s take a look at what text marketing is and how can you take advantage of it.
Customer Engagement: The SMS Marketing Opportunity.

SMS marketing stands for “Short Message Service” marketing, also known as text message marketing: a simple but powerful communication tool by which businesses and organizations send promotional messages via text to receptive users.

Enterprise companies in all verticals, including finance, retail, gaming, healthcare, and more, are finding success with SMS marketing. Even small businesses — from pizza restaurants to florists — are using SMS to send hot deals, specials, and coupons directly to their customer’s mobile devices. Why? Because 90% of all text messages are read within 3 seconds. And with some SMS platforms, you can engage customers even more by sending MMS picture messages, emoji, calendar invites, polls, and surveys. You can even send messages in local language.

It’s no surprise that advertising agencies have been among the first to adopt text marketing as an efficient strategy to make personal brand connections with consumers. In a recent example, Sprint’s ad agency bundled SMS and voice marketing to encourage consumers to pick up their phone and text or call Veatrice, a lovely woman celebrating her 100th birthday. The results? Over 500,000 birthday wishes. That’s half a million consumers who opted-in to receive future communications from Sprint.

In a another example, HBO launched a Twilio-powered mobile messaging experience to encourage Game of Thrones fans to subscribe and get a sneak peak of the upcoming season. The service added about 70,000 subscribers within the first two months of launching and the campaign subsequently went viral. One shared episode alone received over 1.5 million views on YouTube. Kay Kinton, director of global communications at Twilio, said “Aside from direct engagement, Twilio SMS also gave HBO the flexibility and freedom to customize their message to distinct markets of fans around the world."

Your Text Marketing Jumpstart

Texting boasts greater immediacy and attention than other digital marketing methods. The benefits of successful SMS and text marketing are undeniable:
•    The open rate for a SMS is nearly 98%. Push notifications pale in comparison, topping at 3.10%, likely due to the saturation of this tech-enabled App.
•    Meanwhile, Facebook posts get delivered to their targeted audience just 2% of the time.
•    Response rates for push notifications, which require an App install, range from 7 to 48 minutes as opposed to only three seconds with an SMS message. (To understand the difference between Push Notifications and SMS Marketing, read our guide.)

As you create your digital marketing strategy, you’ll come to understand that no one marketing method is a silver bullet. But SMS stands out as one of the most reliable ways to reach your customers, especially when used in combination with voice, email, Facebook Messenger, and other channels.

SMS Marketing Considerations
With 65% of marketers reporting that SMS is a very effective marketing tool, you’re bound to try it out. So, to get your SMS marketing programs off on the right foot, consider these 7 best practices:

1. Get permission!
Proper digital etiquette dictates that you should only send text messages to someone who has given you permission to do so. It’s called permission-based marketing and it’s critical to making text marketing campaigns successful. (It’s also imperative that you are compliant and adhering to local laws and CTIA recommendations, which protect consumers from unwanted solicitation.) To entice your users to receive text messages containing special offers, new product updates, or other valuable information you can request they opt-in via an online form, contest entries, or asking them to text a particular keyword to a mobile number or shortcode.

2. Consider a unique, brand-friendly shortcode.
Shortcodes are exactly that: a 5 or 6-digit phone number specifically made for commercial use and mass mobile communications—and you’ll typically want one when using SMS for larger-scale marketing purposes. These codes are shorter than typical phone numbers so they’re easier to remember and type. Best of all, these numbers are optimized for marketing - they are individually approved by wireless carriers for marketing, so your messages won’t be blocked. And you can send messages at a much faster rate than from regular mobile phone numbers. So especially for time sensitive offers, having the throughput of a shortcode is critical.

3. Be clever, concise, and compliant.
Once your users have expressed an interest in hearing from you, don’t abuse the privilege. When you send any text marketing message, be clever, engaging, and brief. Provide them with an offer they can’t refuse or information that really matters. If you don’t strike the right balance, you run the risk of opt-outs and your precious contact list rapidly shrinking. If done correctly, your customer may give you the same attention level as a text received from a friend. Also, make the opt-out process simple. If your customers can’t opt out, they’re likely to start complaining to their wireless carrier, leading to potential filtering of your messages down the road.

4. Associate the right keywords with your business.
In addition to simple messages and shortcodes, you should choose contextually relevant keywords — a word or phrase users will text to the shortcode you’ve provided to encourage them to connect with you.

5. Have a conversation and respond in real-time.
By sending a text message, you’re making a personal connection with your customers: giving them the opportunity to respond and give you valuable feedback on your products. They may tell you how much they love your brand, act on a coupon to make an immediate purchase, or start a productive conversation. To keep them engaged, you’ll want to use an auto-responder to instantly and automatically send personalized, follow-up text messages.

6. Measure what works.
Smart marketers know how their campaigns are performing and can prove their ROI. That’s another great benefit to text marketing: if you have the right SMS solution, SMS marketing offers a direct, measurable, and trackable marketing channel. It allows you to easily determine which messages and promotions are working and which ones aren’t which can help you continually refine your text campaigns, and improve your marketing messages on all other media. Best of all, you can capture leads and all text-based responses and inquiries for sales follow-up.

7. Go global, but deliver locally.
Choose an SMS provider able to scale and grow with your mobile marketing efforts, and one that can send the highest volumes of text and picture messages in the least amount of time. You also need a provider with extensive carrier network to allow for global as well as localized phone numbers. And since nobody wants to receive a marketing text at 1am, your provider should be able to automatically deliver your messages to your audience at the right time in the right time zone.

Many enterprise companies opt to integrate automated communication services within their own systems to ensure a flawless customer experience. Leveraging cloud communication APIs gives them the flexibility they need to better manage customer data, automate the entire marketing process, and remain compliant.

SMS Marketing Starts With A Solid Foundation SMS has emerged as one of the best and most reliable ways for large and small organizations to connect with their audience in a more intimate, direct way. Its use is definitely on the rise and with good reason: when done correctly, it works. In fact, brands using SMS successfully typically reach 95% of users, on both smartphones and non-smartphones. It all starts with the technology behind the message, so you’ll need a sophisticated SMS provider to support your mobile marketing programs.

Twilio offers a comprehensive suite of developer-friendly APIs including messaging, voice, and video to help you build effective mobile applications within your ecosystem. Our communication solutions are built to support your marketing efforts by giving developers the ability to quickly and easily integrate call and text (and a whole lot more) directly into your mobile marketing suite. Whether it’s text messaging, push, email, recorded voice messages, Facebook Messenger, you want a marketing platform that can respond and evolve with the varying needs – and preferences of – your audience to have the right conversation at the right time, every time.