These days, everyone has a smartphone with them at all times.
This provides a great opportunity for businesses to connect with their customers in multiple ways, namely — social, email, and SMS text message marketing.
Each channel has unique aspects worthy of having in your marketing toolbox.
Email marketing and social media allow you to grow your audience’s attention so you can reach them on your terms. Still, you have to compete for your reader’s attention against competitors in the inbox and on the social media feed.
SMS text message marketing provides the added benefit of direct contact with the reader. When a person receives a text, they look at it — there isn’t a subject line to gate them from the message. In this post, we’ll explore SMS text message marketing best practices, like providing opt-out information and valuable content, and things to avoid, like sending marketing messages to parties who haven’t subscribed, sending irrelevant or spammy content, and sending messages during quiet hours.
Additionally, check out this email marketing best practices article as a frame of reference. Email marketing best practices, like following compliance rules, segmenting your list, etc., are similar to those you’ll want to follow to support SMS text message marketing.
When you figure out how to use each channel in a way that enhances the customer experience, you’re going to get the most from them. In the end, it’s the businesses that reach customers in the channels they prefer that win.
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 to build relationships that matter most to your bottom line.
Without further ado, here are the best practices for SMS text message marketing.
SMS Text Message Compliance Standards and Guidelines
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!”
ust 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 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 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 who are more engaged and looking forward to hearing from you.
Additionally, the CAN-SPAM Act serves to protect consumers from misleading information in commercial messages and poor business practices, such as:
- Failing to identify a message as an advertisement
- Misleading or false information in subject lines, header content like sender information (To:, From:, Reply to:) and message body content.
- Falsifying business location
- Failing to inform subscribers how to opt-out
- Failing to honor unsubscribes
Not in the United States? Make sure you’re in compliance with the following standards:
- Sending SMS Text Messages in Canada
- Sending SMS Text Messages in Australia
- Sending SMS Text Messages in the UK
What to include
As you might imagine, the laws outlined in the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) require you to provide education 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.”
- The number of messages subscribers can expect to receive
- Instructions on how to opt-out
- Contact and support information
A reputable provider will make it easy to include required information on your sign-up forms.
Best practices for sending SMS text messages
The following set of SMS marketing best practices will help you to craft a successful, sustainable SMS text message marketing strategy to help you grow your business and engage your customers.
Send a confirmation text message
After someone joins your text list, you must 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, a familiar name of an employee, and a recognizable phone number. Keep identity criteria consistent to instill trust and increase brand recognition.
- Opt-out instructions – Let your text subscribers know how to stop receiving messages. Make sure to include opt-out instructions for future automated messages.
- Messaging quantity or recurring messages disclosure – Inform subscribers what they can expect regarding message frequency.
- “Msg & Data rates apply” disclosure – This disclosure reminds your text subscribers that they’ll be subject to fees established by their mobile service provider.
Be mindful of message frequency and timing
No one likes to be bothered, or worse, woken up by a text message from a business in the middle of the night. Make sure to comply with the TCPA’s standards for timing your text message marketing sends, and respect your subscribers by not overwhelming them with too many texts. Text marketing messages can only be sent between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. in the local time of the receiver.
Keep SMS messages concise, relevant, and engaging
As you write text messages to send to your subscribers, remember to keep them short and relevant to your audience. People’s phones are personal; you want to ensure the content you are sending is valuable to promote and maintain trust with your audience. Describe the product, service, sale, or event you are advertising and provide a link or shortcode for subscribers to take action.
Tip: If your organization provides emergency information via text, indicate when a message is serving that purpose. Only send emergency messages when necessary.
Personalize messages based on customer preferences
To keep messages relevant, segment your list based on customer preferences. Customers who previously attended an event or scheduled service with your business will likely find text messages about future events or sales on services relevant to their interests.
Craft compelling calls to action
Action-based text messages, e.g., texts to direct traffic to a product/service page or an event sign-up form, should have a call to action that leads the subscriber to take the desired action. Calls to action are commonly phrased as “buy now,” “schedule an appt,” etc.
Test, monitor, and analyze campaign performance regularly
Check delivery rate, click-through rate, and unsubscribes to monitor campaign performance. Use your campaign results to help you craft better text messages for future campaigns. Watch which texts achieve a high rate of clicks and which text messages cause unsubscribes, then tweak and test text messages to see what drives better results.
Integration with other channels
Grow your list by linking your SMS sign-up form to your email marketing campaigns and social media accounts. Use features like text-to-join and QR code signups to collect subscriptions at events.
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 must prioritize it. 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.
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.
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 sale doesn’t make sense for your situation, offer exclusive information or early access to new products, services, or specials.
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 happening, set those expectations at the point of signup.
You can grow your list in three ways:
- In-person – When you’re face-to-face in-store or at an event, direct people to sign up.
- In print – Snail mail. Signage. Whatever you can do to make people aware.
- Online – Link a lead-generation landing page to your social media accounts, share info in marketing emails, and promote your list on your website.
Remember to include the necessary disclaimers on signage and forms when promoting your text list.
Tip: Surprisingly, you can grow your text message marketing list the same way you grow your email list.
8 ways to create a great experience for subscribers
- Identify yourself – When you send a text message, identify your business in the message. Doing so will ensure that people receiving the message know it’s coming from you.
- Timing – Regulations dictate that you can only send messages between 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. in the recipient’s time zone. In addition to these stipulations, send your updates at times that make sense for your campaign.
- 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 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 risk people forgetting they signed up.
- Be concise – Standard text messages allow for 160 characters (including spaces), so you’ll have to be straightforward when conveying your message. Don’t overdo it with slang or shorthand.
- Be conversational – Keep messages professional and conversational. Take advantage of the personal nature of the text channel to make your audience feel special and seen by your business.
- Be exclusive – Remember to provide additional value by sharing things (promotions or content) exclusive to your text channel. You’ll want people to feel like they have reason to stay subscribed.
- 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 better results for your marketing efforts.
- Be personal – Just as you can expect better results from segmenting your email lists, the same applies to segmenting your marketing text message list. Use the data available to send relevant information to your contacts via text.
Tip: One of the top SMS text message marketing best practices is to use SMS and email marketing in tandem to build a omni-channel strategy.
SMS text marketing use cases
The following use cases will help you start your SMS text message marketing journey.
- Get customer feedback – As part of the purchase process, consider sending a follow-up survey link to get customer feedback.
- 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.
- Send appointment reminders – Sending your clients an appointment reminder — with contact information in case they need to reschedule — can keep your schedule on track.
- Promote events and holiday specials – Encourage customers to attend an event and direct them to your sign-up form via text. Send messages including promo codes and sale information.
Remember, the upper hand goes to the businesses that use the text channel uniquely
Brainstorm ways you can use SMS text message marketing 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 what you’ll save as exclusive offers for this marketing channel.
Contact your existing email contacts and ask them to join your text marketing list. Just remember to give them a good reason to do so by providing quality content that enhances their customer experience. For current Constant Contact customers, add SMS text message marketing to your account today, and for newbies, try giving email marketing a whirl by signing up for a free trial.