What would be your best guess for how often you checked your email today? Perhaps three times, five times, nine times? Or maybe if you’re really obsessive-compulsive about email…20 times?
Ok, now try to think about how many times you checked your phone today? How many times did you glance at it, just for a moment, to see if you had any unread messages? For most of us, we couldn’t even begin to calculate a number.
Why is that? Because, for most of us, email is a conscious activity that we engage in periodically. But checking our phones has become almost like breathing. We do it all throughout the day without even realizing it. It’s just part of our daily state of being.
And therein lies the power of text message marketing. With SMS marketing, you get to connect with customers where they already are — on their phones. But, like any other form of advertising, an effective text message marketing campaign requires a solid strategy and the right tools. Here’s how it works and how to get to started.
What Are The Advantages Of Text Message Marketing?
If the introduction didn’t convince you that you need to be doing text message marketing, here are three more benefits to consider.
High Open Rates
According to Gartner, open rates for SMS messages have been reported as high as 98%. This is in stark contrast to email, which some studies have found to be as low as 20%.
Does this mean that email marketing is dead? No, most companies still believe that email plays an important role in their overall advertising campaign. You can simply add so much more information and detail in an email than text messaging allows.
However, you also need to understand that open rates will always be a struggle with email. But that’s typically not the case with text message marketing. People just don’t tend to automatically delete unread text messages like they do emails. When you send a message to your text message marketing list, the chances are high that the majority of them will see it.
But what happens after your customers see your text message? That’s what really matters, right? Did they click on the link that you sent? Did they sign up for the waiting list for your new product that will be launching soon?
With other forms of marketing, like email or social media marketing, it may take you several days or weeks to get a solid gauge on how your campaign performed. But with text message marketing, you may only have to wait minutes to start seeing and tracking audience engagement.
In addition to faster engagement, your chance of receiving a response at all is much higher with text message marketing. According to Gartner, SMS response rates can be as high as 45%. Again, this beats email marketing by a wide margin, with its often dismal response rates as low as 6%.
Strong Tracking Tools
One of the reasons why social media marketing and email marketing have become so popular is that they offer a lot of tools for tracking performance. But some marketers may be surprised to learned that SMS marketing is strong in the analytics department as well.
Many of the top text message marketing platforms can track a variety of metrics, such as open rates, link clicks, churn rate, list growth, and more. And this kind of data can provide valuable insight into the effectiveness of your campaigns and highlight opportunities for improvement.
Is Text Message Marketing Legal?
Yes, SMS marketing is most definitely legal. But you do have to follow certain rules. If you already do email marketing, you’ll find text message marketing rules to be very similar.
The most important federal law which regulates text message marketing is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), The law was first passed in 1991 but has been amended several times. The TCPA requires that marketers only send text messages between 8 am and 9 pm in the recipient’s time zone.
In 2015, the FTC strengthened rules around unsolicited text messages and phone calls. The new rules holds text message marketers to the same level of scrutiny as those who make automated phone calls. In other words, you could be held liable if you send a text message to someone who hasn’t first given their consent.
To steer clear of legal trouble, you must make sure that every customer has opted in to your text message marketing list before sending them any communications. For more SMS marketing “best practices,” check out the recommendations of the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) and the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA).
How Does Text Message Marketing Work?
Now that we’ve discussed the value and legality of SMS marketing, let’s discuss how it actually works. Here’s how to get started with text message marketing and the best ways to use it to interact with your customers.
Create A Short Code And Keyword For Customer Opt-in
After signing up with a text message marketing company, the first thing you’ll need to do is create a shortcode. This is the 5-6 digit number that you’ll use to send and receive text messages from your customers.
If you can think of a number that is, in some way, easy to remember, that’s great. But don’t stress too much on the short code. Choosing the right keyword is really where you want to put your time and effort. Your keyword is the word that your customers will text to your short code to subscribe to your list.
Try to choose a keyword that is descriptive of your business, but also concise. For example, if you own “Frank’s Coffee Shops,” you’d actually probably want to avoid using “frank’s coffee” as your keyword. First, including special characters in your keyword is a no-no. And, second, two-word keywords double the chances of a subscriber making a typo.
Instead, you could simply choose “coffee” as your keyword. Or “yum” might be a good option as well. Or you could keep things simple and just choose a generic keyword like “join.” Being clear is more important than being clever.
Promote New Products Or Upcoming Events
One of the best ways to utilize your text message marketing list is to inform your customers about new products, services, or events.
For example, if you just added a new type of sandwich to your menu, send out a quick message to your list to let them know. Or if you have a big holiday sale coming up, promote it with a text message to your subscribers.
Send Coupons Or Freebies
Chipotle was one of the pioneers of text message marketing. And, today, they are still one of the companies that best utilizes SMS to advertise their business.
I admit that I’ve been often lured into visiting my local Chipotle because of a text message that they sent me. Being the cheapskate that I am, the texts that really get me are the messages that offer me things like “free chips and guacamole!” or “$2 off a burrito bowl!”
We can all learn from Chipotle’s strategies. If you’re a hairdresser, why not send out a “$5 off your next haircut” coupon code to your client list. Or if you own a tire company, you could send out a “buy three tires, get one free” coupon. These types of promotions are easy to run with text message marketing and could quickly lead to bursts in traffic.
Poll Your Community
If you own a purse company and you’re wondering what features you should include in your next product, why not run a text message poll to get the advice of your community? Or if you’re looking for feedback on your team’s customer service, why not use text message polling to get honest answers?
Run Contests And Giveaways
Offering the chance to win something for free in exchange for subscribing has long been one of the best ways to build any type of advertising list. And it works for SMS marketing too.
For example, if you own a sub shop, you could place a sign in your window that says, “Text SUBS to 12345 for a chance to win a FREE Samsung 65″ 4K TV and get tasty sub deals sent to your phone!”
As people walk by your shop, many will quickly send their “SUBS” message to your shortcode for a chance to win. And, going forward, you’ll also be able to send each new subscriber messages promoting your food, deals, and coupons.
What To Look For In A Text Message Marketing Service?
If you’ve decided that SMS marketing is right for you, you’ll want to be careful when choosing your service provider. Here are a few things you’ll want to look at when comparing text message marketing services:
- Price: Which service offers the best price for the number of subscribers you have and the number of messages you plan to send per month?
- Analytics tools: How many metrics are able to be tracked and how simple is it to access and understand the data?
- Personalization: Can you customize the text message that each customer receives by inserting their name or other personally identifiable information?
- Scheduling Capabilities: Is it possible to schedule messages days or weeks in advance?
- Templates: Can you create a library of texts that you plan to send frequently?
- Inbound text messages: Is is free to receive messages back from your customers? Or will you be charged separately for inbound messages?
- Automated campaigns: Can you build campaigns that automatically send texts that are triggered by a customer’s actions?
What is The Best Text Message Marketing Service?
Where can you find companies that are able to check all these boxes? Here are a few popular text message marketing services that offer all the features mentioned above and more.
SlickText is one of the largest text message marketing services in the world, currently serving over 40,000 companies. Their client list includes names like FedEx, ESPN, Universal, and the American Cancer Society. Here are a few of the numerous features they offer:
- Text to join
- Text message scheduling
- MMS/picture messaging
- 2-way text messaging (free incoming messages)
- Text to win contests
- Text to vote and SMS surveys
- Birthday texts
- Detailed analytics (including link tracking)
SlickText’s pricing starts at $0/month for up to 50 texts per month and 1 keyword. Their top tier, The Big Bro, costs $139/month and allows marketers to send up 3,600 monthly texts and to reserve up to 8 keywords.
Whether you run a retail store, a church, or a restaurant, EZTexting may have exactly the kinds of tools that you need to connect with your audience using SMS. Over 160,000+ customers have used their platform and they currently serve the likes of Lowes, Home Depot, Jackson Hewitt, and Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA).
Here’s a quick round-up of EZTexting’s available features:
- Drip campaigns
- Sign-up forms
- MMS picture messages
- Text-to-Vote SMS polls
- 1-on-1 chat (free incoming messages)
- Text to landline
- Link shortening
- Recurring messages
You can try EZTexting for free by taking advantage of its 14-day trial. After that, its plans range from $39 to $119/month and can provide 1,000-3,300 monthly credits and 1 to 3 custom keywords.
As its name indicates, SimpleTexting prides itself on its software’s ease of use. They boast about the user-friendliness of their platform, both on the web and on their mobile apps. SimpleTexting’s clients include Starbucks, Cisco, Century21, and Samsung. Here are some of their top features:
- 2-way messaging (free incoming messages)
- Custom fields
- Data collection
- Link tracking
- MMS marketing
- Multiple users
- Mailchimp integration
SimpleTexting plans range from $25 to $625/month and can provide 500-50,000 monthly credits. Most impressively, all plans come with unlimited keywords.
No matter the size of your company, Textedly has the features and tools that can help you grow your business through text message marketing. Their clients include household names like Chick-Fil-A, Lyft, GoDaddy, and the New York Yankees. Here are some of the features they offer:
- Supersize message length
- Automatic text replies
- CTIA and mobile carrier compliance
- Unlimited subscribers
- Comprehensive analytics
- Free incoming messages
- Custom subscriber data
- Built-in link shrinking
You can try Textedly for free by signing up for its 14-day free trial. After that, plans range from $29 to $350/month (billed annually) and can provide 1,200-30,000 monthly messages and 1 to 10 custom keywords.
Wrapping It Up
In 2020, people are using their phones more than ever. There’s truly never been a better time to start taking advantage of text message marketing. And with so many services and plan sizes available, every small business owner can find a text message marketing plan that meets their needs and budget.
But, like all forms of marketing, don’t put all your eggs in the SMS marketing basket. You’ll still want to invest in other channels like Facebook and email marketing. And don’t forget to take advantage of all your free advertising options like claiming your free profiles on review platforms and leveraging search engine optimization (SEO).