Text Message Marketing: 5 Tips to Get It Right

It’s a text-crazy generation. I don’t have to tell you that. If you’re the kind of person that reads blogs on digital marketing, the list of people whose spontaneous phone call you would take is short. Your mom. Your spouse. If that.

Bottom line, you would probably rather receive a text than a phone call. 

This generational preference for cellular text (or it’s official title “Short Message Service” — SMS) is a hot topic among digital marketing agencies. 

Some swear by it, pointing to statistics that 98% of texts get opened, with an average 45% response rate (compare that to a mere 8% response rate for emails).

Others insist that they have tried it and failed miserably. They return, tail between their legs, to the lower-response but less-expensive medium of email.

Text Message and Back-End Sales

As a direct-response digital marketing specialist, we deal almost exclusively with the top of the funnel. Google, Facebook, and YouTube ads remain a powerful way for companies to “buy growth” in the form of new business.

But like most businesses, for our clients the big bucks are on the back-end—taking those new customers that our direct-response efforts create and then selling to them again and again and again. 

Email and SMS are two obvious channels to market on the back end, far less expensive pound-for-pound than direct-response digital marketing (i.e. Google and Facebook ads). We don’t handle it directly, but we do what we can to help clients build their back-end — for both our sakes.

Back-end sales increase the lifetime value of each customer — meaning they can afford to spend more to acquire a new customer on the front end. This is good news for them because they can outspend the competition to win more business. It’s also good news for us as it makes our KPIs better.

The Right Way to Market via Text

So who’s right — the SMS haters or the SMS boosters?

Of course it’s the boosters. Just look at those response rates. Of course SMS is a powerful marketing channel … but there’s a right way and a wrong way to do anything. Companies that failed at SMS marketing probably made one or more fatal mistakes.

Here’s how to do SMS marketing correctly … 

1. Opt-In Is Everything

People hate text messages from businesses … but they love text messages from friends. Reserve SMS for your most passionate customers. Don’t tempt them with a lead magnet like you do for your email list — they should give you their number willingly because they want to hear from you. This typically means you want to save SMS for customers who have already made a purchase or spent money in some way.

2. Less Is More

No one wants a novel in their DMs. Keep your messages short — 160 characters or less. Also, send them sparingly — maybe one or two a month and not on a predictable schedule. Again, you want it to feel like a spontaneous message from a friend.

3. Roll out the Red Carpet

Save the genericism for email. People want to see VIP treatment in their SMS inbox — exclusive offers, members-only content, personalized messages (even if that personalized message is an abandoned-cart reminder).

4. SMS is Not Email

This relates to the “less is more” concept. Peoples’ email inboxes are choked with messages from thoughtless opt-ins, so many companies resort to daily emails in hopes that one breaks through. If you treat text messages this way — a barrage of daily messages — you will contribute to ruining SMS the way robocalls ruined the phone. Keep your texts potent and rare!

5. SMS Should Not Replace Email

That high open rate may tempt some brands to abandon email in favor of text. Don’t! SMS is a complement to email, not a replacement. Keep your email list engaged with routine messages; save SMS for special offers to your best customers.

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