These days, pretty much everyone has a smartphone with them at all times. 

What an opportunity for businesses to connect with their customers in a number of ways, namely — social, email, and text.

Each of these channels has unique aspects that make it worthy of having in your marketing toolbox. 

Social allows you to reach new people, but algorithms limit your reach. 

Email gives you ownership of your audience, and you can reach them on your terms, but you have to compete for your reader’s attention against competitors in the inbox. 

Text messages are personal and immediate — when someone receives a text they look at it — but you must be careful not to abuse this connection, or you’ll turn people off. 

In the end, it’s the businesses that reach customers in the channels they prefer that win. 

And when you figure out how to use these channels in concert in a way that enhances the customer experience, you’re going to get the most from them. 

In this post, I’ll focus on what you need to know about text (aka, SMS – “short message service”) marketing. This way you’ll know how to use this channel to communicate with new and existing customers, so you build relationships that matter most to your bottom line.

Before we get to the fun stuff, here are some compliance-related things you should know.

I know you’re probably already thinking, “I’ll just gather all those mobile numbers I already have and start sending them my marketing messages via text!”

Notice about the TCPA requiring prior consent before texting customers

Let me stop you right there.

Just like email, text marketing works best when you get permission. Doing so also keeps you on the right side of the law. In the U.S., the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) requires businesses to get prior consent in order to send text messages to customers for marketing purposes. And while this isn’t the only rule you need to follow to stay in compliance, it’s the first one you should focus on.

Requiring people to sign up for your SMS text message marketing is actually a good thing for both you and your customers. Since people opt in to receive SMS texts from you, you’ll have a group of people that are more engaged and looking forward to hearing from you via this channel.

When promoting your text marketing list always include the following information and disclaimers. 

As you might imagine the laws in place require you to provide details, so the consumer is aware of what they’re signing up for. Here’s what you need to include: 

  • Description of the program
  • Shortcode or phone number messages will come from
  • The phrase “Msg & Data rates apply.”
  • A number of messages subscribers can expect to receive
  • Instructions on how to opt out 
  • A link to your terms and conditions or privacy policy
  • Contact and support information

A reputable provider will make it easy to include all this required information on your sign-up forms so you’ll be in compliance.

Here’s what you need to do once someone joins your text list. 

After someone joins your text list, you’ll need to confirm their registration to your text marketing list. That means sending a confirmation message. 

Those initial messages should include the following:

  • Identity of the sender – This is your business name, so people know who the message is from. 
  • Opt-out instructions – Let your text subscribers know how to stop receiving messages if they wish. 
  • Messaging quantity or recurring-messages disclosure – Reiterate what your text subscribers can expect in terms of message quantity. 
  • “Msg & Data rates apply” disclosure – This disclosure reminds your text subscribers that they’ll be subject to the fees established by their mobile service provider.

Two other requirements of your text marketing efforts. 

You must follow the guidance for texting times. Text marketing messages can only be sent between the hours of 8 am and 9 pm in the local time of the receiver. 

You must also allow people to opt out. Provide recipients with a mechanism to opt out by replying directly to the text message.

Now that you understand the ground rules. Let’s talk about the fun stuff.

How to grow your text message marketing list

If you want something to happen, you have to make it a priority. The same goes for list growth. Remember, if you have a way to contact customers, you have a way to influence sales and donations. List growth supports your bottom line. 

Always focus on providing value. When asking people to join your text list consider offering an incentive to sweeten the deal. If an incentive like a percentage off doesn’t make sense for your situation offer exclusive information via this channel or something like early access to new products, services, or specials.

You can grow your list in three ways:

  • In-person – When you’re face-to-face in-store or at an event, point people to how they can sign up. 
  • In print – Direct mail. Signage. Whatever you can do to make people aware. 
  • Online – Add a lead generation landing page to your social media

Remember to include the necessary disclaimers on signage and forms when you’re promoting your text list.

Surprisingly, you can grow your text message marketing list the same way you grow your email list.

Here are some other tips for growing your text marketing list.

Start with your email list – When you add SMS to your marketing efforts, craft a marketing email letting your subscribers know why they should sign up while pointing them to a sign-up form or landing page where they can enter their mobile number.

Be clear/Set expectations – Always be clear on how you intend to communicate via the SMS channel. Whether you’ll send a couple of times a month with promotions or multiple times during an event to keep people aware of what’s going on, set those expectations at the point of signup.

8 ways to create a great experience for the people on your text marketing list.

  1. Identify yourself – When you send a text message make sure to identify your business in the message. Doing so will ensure that people receiving the message will know it’s coming from you.
  2. Timing – Regulations dictate that you can only send messages between the hours of 8 am and 9 pm in the recipient’s time zone. In addition to these stipulations, send your updates at times that make sense for your particular campaign.
  3. Be consistent/Frequency – As with any marketing channel, consistency plays a role in its effectiveness. At the very least, plan to send an SMS message at least once a month so at you stay top of mind and your messages don’t feel like they’re coming out of the blue. If your messages are too infrequent you run the risk of people forgetting they signed up.
  4. Be concise – Standard text messages allow for 160 characters (including spaces), so you’ll have to be concise when it comes to conveying your message. That doesn’t mean you want to overdo it with slang or shorthand. Use shorthand sparingly and instead focus on being conversational and to the point. 
  1. Be conversational – Keep messages professional and conversational. Take advantage of the personal nature of the text channel. Use a conversational and helpful tone.
  2. Be exclusive – Remember to provide additional value by sharing things (promotions or content) that are exclusive to your text channel. You’ll want people to feel like they have reason to stay subscribed.
  3. Bring value – Always remember to put the customer first in your communications. If you’re consistently trying to provide value in some way you’ll create stronger relationships and ultimately better results for your marketing efforts.
  4. Be personal – Just as you can expect better results from segmenting your email lists, the same applies here. Use the data available to you to send relevant information to your contacts via text.

One of the top SMS text message marketing best practices is to use SMS and email marketing together.

Here are some text marketing use cases to get you started.

  • Get customer feedback – As part of the purchase process consider sending a follow-up survey link to get feedback from customers.
  • Send promotions and offers – Of course, you’ll want to think about exclusive offers and promotions you can send via the SMS channel to stimulate sales.
  • Recover abandoned carts – If a customer has left items in their shopping cart a well-timed SMS message could be just the thing that reminds them to check out. 
  • Stop forgotten appointments – Sending your clients an appointment reminder — with contact information in case they need to reschedule — can keep your schedule on track.

Don’t forget to measure what works. 

Use the data and reporting available to you so you can make decisions on what’s working and where you can make improvements. What messages are driving actions like sales and engagement? 

SMS text message marketing best practice - check your data
Checking your data, like the number of messages sent, the delivery rate, and the click rate, will let you know how your SMS campaign is performing.

Remember, the upper hand goes to the businesses that use the text channel uniquely.

Brainstorm ways you can use this channel to provide a great customer experience. Perhaps there’s a way you can set your business apart from the competition in how you communicate with SMS. At the very least, consider how what you’ll save as exclusive offers for this marketing channel.

Next step…

Reach out to your existing email contacts and ask them to join your text marketing list. Just remember to give them a good reason to do so!

Make sure you’re following SMS text message marketing best practices. Download this free SMS best practices checklist to help keep you on track.

*This content is not meant to replace legal advice or full regulatory guidelines around text message marketing.