Is SMS Marketing Effective?

Leading up to the 46th Presidential election last year there was not a single full week in September and October that I did not receive multiple unsolicited SMS (aka text) messages asking for my vote or my opinion on certain issues. If you asked for my thoughts on using SMS for marketing purposes then, I would have advised that you avoid it like the plague. Today, not so much. 

The reality is that text messages have an open rate that is astronomically higher than email. In fact, a report from MobileSquared cites that 90% of SMS marketing messages are opened within 3 minutes of receipt. Even more impressive is that 99% of these messages are opened within 20 minutes!  

However, SMS marketing is much more direct and intimate than email marketing and, if not used properly, the open rates will not matter if the recipient replies with STOP! 

Nine Tips and Tricks for SMS Marketing 

Build Your Opt-In List  

Getting permission to contact your customers (or prospective customers) via text message is a must and failure to do so can cause more harm than good. However, building your opt-in list is much easier than you’d think. The best way to get customers to opt-in is to give them the chance to do this at every point of contact. 

  • Social Media. Add a “Mobile Number” field to your Facebook page sign up and an “Opt-in” button for them to agree to receive text messagesNote that not everyone has unlimited messaging plans so be sure to include a disclaimer (Example: “Message and Data rates may apply”) 
  • Website. Make sure SMS opt-in is a prominent feature on your website. Try adding a fly-in that reads “Enter your phone # to get weekly job alerts”.  
  • Newsletter. Make SMS opt-in visible on your newsletter and offer an incentive to opt-inFor example, run a contest to build candidate referrals. “Text 1000dollars [to Company SMS #] to receive our referral bonus form” 
  • Snail mail. When you send direct mail to clients or prospects, add the message “Text 5off [to Company SMS #] to get 5% off your next invoice or 20off to get 20% off your first invoice (new customers only)”. 

Consider the Timing of Your SMS Marketing Messages 

See above…90% of text messages are opened within 3 minutes. Imagine that you just fell asleep at 10:00 pm and hear a “ding” only to find out it’s a marketing message! Likewise, don’t send messages too early. Some states and countries even have laws that say when you can and can’t marketing via SMS (make sure to know what you can and can’t do). As a general rule, don’t schedule messages before 9:00 am or after 7:00 pm, and make sure to consider the time zone of the recipient. 

Keep it Short and Make Your CTA Clear 

Limits on characters and your audience’s attention spans mean you need to get to the point quickly. If you have an offer, identify yourself then lead with the offer. If your message has important information about their interview, employee, or special offer, include the details in the messageUse all CAPS to call attention to important information and always include a link so they can get more details if needed. 

Use Branded Links 

Speaking of links, branded short links will add a more polished look and less spammy feel to your message. You can get all the benefits of shortening a link, without losing any of your brand’s power. Plus, if anyone wants to repost your link, it’s nice to know they’ll be boosting the visibility of your businessExample: https://staffing.company/10off  vs. https://bit.ly/offer31d. 

Use it to Enhance (Not Replace) Email Marketing 

Right message. Right place. Right medium. Email is the ideal medium for sharing longer messages. Unfortunately, email has a much lower open rate than text messages. Some marketers try to get around this by drafting great email subject lines but that doesn’t matter if the email isn’t ever seen. With SMS marketing, you can send a short text message that tells prospects or candidates what to expect from an upcoming email message. This gives you the advantage of using more words than your email subject line would allow and increases the chances of them knowing about the existence of the email. If you keep the message to 160 characters or less, there’s no need to scroll and a link to the full email message can be included. 

Don’t SPAM 

When someone opts into your SMS marketing list, set clear expectations on what you will send and how often. Treat this as a promise and keep it. If you tell them you’ll only use SMS for weekly job alerts, don’t use it for anything else. Remember, just because you’ve gained permission to contact your audience via SMS, it doesn’t mean that they’re open to hearing from you whenever you feel like reaching outOverusing the channel will result in the audience member opting out. 

Use SMS Marketing Software 

Like any large scale, well-planned marketing campaign, SMS campaigns need a system that is capable of managing delivery, metrics, and marketing automation. Some of the best options allow you to integrate SMS as part of a broader marketing automation campaign that includes email and social media. 

Make it Personal 

Today, more than ever, your customers, candidates, and employees expect contextual, relevant, and timely communication. Successful SMS marketing campaigns must make use of all the data you have available (name, user profile data, user behavior, etc.) to deliver personalized message content. Using CRM and marketing automation software will help you target the right user with the right message at the right time. 

Start a Conversation 

By sending a text message, you’re making a personal connection with your audience. While your initial message should be short and to the point, that does not mean it should be one-way. To keep them engaged, you’ll want to use an auto-responder to instantly and automatically send personalized, follow-up text messages that are relevant to their response. A “thank you” can go a long way but more sophisticated chat-bot conversations can also be built into the program.  

SMS marketing is a powerful medium that has the potential to help your message stand out. However, because of its personal and intimate nature, it also has a high potential for being overused causing your audience to opt-out. Make sure that your plan is well thought out and building a long-term relationship with the audience is at the top of your priority list. 

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