Businesses that text their customers are 217% more likely to report marketing success than those that don’t. It's not just for big business, either.
I’ll cut to the chase: 90% of the articles on SMS marketing basically copy/paste the same content over and over again, which isn’t necessarily helpful.
We’re not going to share any of that fluff on this page. (Check out the sub-pages of this guide for the basics.)
Read on for a framework we recommend to new SimpleTexting customers as they start their SMS marketing programs. (Yes, you guessed it — SimpleTexting is business texting software).
Here we go.
SimpleTexting is SMS marketing software
There’s an ancient fable about the fox and the cat.
The fox brags that he knows lots of ways to escape from a hunter’s dog. The cat admits she knows only one way to escape.
Just then, the fox and the cat jump at the blare of a hunter’s horn.
The cat immediately climbs up a tree to safety. The fox — on the other hand — thinks through hundreds of ways to escape. But before he’s able to choose a route to safety, the hunter’s dog finds him.
Here’s the lesson: It’s easy to overthink our options. And — like the fox — that analysis paralysis can prevent us from starting.
So if you want to start SMS marketing — and keep it simple — begin by asking yourself these five questions:
Think of these questions as brainstorming exercises that will help you plan an effective text marketing strategy.
First, there are the facts. Text marketing is as close to a sure bet as trees are to a forest.
Next, there are your own reasons to text.
Text marketing can help in all of these areas. But only you know what you want to accomplish with your SMS marketing strategy.
The point here is to think through your options — and let those reasons direct your decisions for who and what you’ll text.
The simplest way to start SMS marketing is to simply collect a single list of contacts. The most popular texts to send are often promotional: Flash sales, coupons, deals, discounts, buy one get one — you get the picture.
You can send these texts to existing customers as well as folks who haven’t bought from you yet.
That said, you might have a handful of audiences to consider. Knowing who you want to text will help you…
This way, you’ll send each person exactly what you want them to receive.
So let’s check out a simple marketing funnel framework. Use this to brainstorm how you’ll get the right messages to the right audiences.
First, there are prospects. These folks are SMS subscribers who haven’t purchased from you yet.
Prospects are toward the top of the marketing funnel. Texting them deals like buy one get one or discounts like 20% off any purchase are popular ways to get prospects to become customers.
Next, there are leads.
Leads are the folks who have shown extreme interest in your products but haven’t bought them yet. Think of leads as in the middle of the marketing funnel.
These people may have filled out a demo request form, a request for information, or did some other action that’s a little deeper in the funnel than a prospect. For example, if a person reaches out to a real estate agent about a specific property, that’s a good definition of a lead.
Texting your leads deals and discounts like prospects can influence them to become customers.
But leads are also good candidates for proactive one-on-one texts. Could you text an individual to help them make a purchase decision?
Finally, there are customers.
Customers have purchased from you in the past. This is the primary audience most businesses text.
Popular texts to customers include deals and discounts. But you can also ask them…
There’s an old — yet extremely current — marketing adage: What’s in it for me?
In fact, it’s so popular, it’s got an initialism: WIIFM. And that initialism comes with another quip:
Your audience will always tune in to W-I-I-F-M.
I know it’s cheesy. But it’s a solid framework to help you plan promotions and create text messages that will help you achieve your goals.
Take a look at this real-life text message offer. (Don’t worry, we modified it just enough to be a learning example for you.)
How could you make offers like this more effective to influence sales?
Here are the 8 qualities of effective text message campaigns:
First, use your brand name somewhere in the text message. This helps the receiver understand who sent the message — which is helpful if they don’t have you saved in their phone’s contact list.
A popular option is to include your brand name at the beginning of your text, followed by a colon.
Second, tailor the message for the individual. An easy way to do this is to include the first name. Alternatively, you personalize promotions based on a contact’s interests or location.
Third, provide clarity in the message. Be specific as to what the promotion is. In this example, the word “clothes” feels really broad. Let’s make that more specific.
Fourth, your SMS offer should be compelling. This could mean a deal or discount, which is what we commonly see.
Focus on what your audience wants and avoid first-person language. Your contacts only care about themselves and what’s in it for me.
Fifth, provide exclusive offers if at all possible. People like feeling special, like an offer is only for them.
This can be as simple as writing “for text subscribers only” in your message. Just make sure this offer truly is for text subscribers only.
Sixth, induce urgency. This will help your subscribers know the timeframe in which they should act to take advantage of the promotion.
It also clearly communicates when the sale is over to avoid confusion.
Seventh, create a clear call to action. Be clear about what you want them to do next.
Should they click a link? Is there an exclusive promo code to enter at ecommerce checkout? Should they show the text message to a cashier when they visit?
Lastly, your messages must be compliant to make sure they get delivered and you avoid potential fines. While there’s a lot to be aware of with compliance, it’s a best practice to include opt out and help instructions.
Now, this example message is longer than 160 characters. That’s important to note because the definition of SMS — or short message service — is 160 characters or fewer. Messages with more than 160 characters are defined as MMS — or multimedia message service.
So this example is an MMS message.
Imagine waking up to your phone lighting up at 3 a.m. If you’re like me, I’d immediately think it’s a family emergency. So you roll over, look at your phone, and find a brand texted you.
That’s not a fun experience.
Defining when and how often you’ll text are important for your success. Knowing these will also make sure you’re compliant with national and regional regulations.
Let’s start with when to send marketing texts.
We reviewed 10 studies on the best times to send SMS blasts and published them in a report.
The results suggest the best times to text are:
In general, think of when folks may be taking breaks or purposefully looking for distractions:
Remember, text marketing is so powerful it’s protected. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act — or TCPA — doesn’t allow promotional texts during quiet hours from 9 p.m. and 8 a.m.
Your local state may also have timing restrictions. Oklahoma, for example, specifically prohibits promotional texts between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.
It might sound scary. But in general, if you send promotional texts between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. in your audience’s time zone, your send times should be compliant.*
In addition to knowing when you’ll send texts, we recommend defining how many texts you’ll send.
Data suggests that 53% of consumers want to receive texts from businesses once every other week. 36% want texts once a week.
We suggest keeping it simple by texting no more than once a week.
Like regulations with send times, there are also rules about how often you can text. For example, Oklahoma allows no more than three texts per day.
So error on the side of fewer yet more impactful texts.
Before you hire a new employee, you’ve probably defined the job they’ll do. You know the outcomes you expect their work to produce.
For example, if you hire an accountant to help you with the books, you expect accurate numbers. Knowing those numbers helps you hire more talent, expand locations, build more products, add more services, and plan ahead for taxes.
Well, every text you send has a job to do, too.
What are you hiring a text message to do?
At the most basic level, the jobs a text message can do include…
So where you direct your subscribers requires your attention.
To summarize: Trust but verify. Make sure what you text offers a great experience for your subscribers.
There are a lot of “what-ifs” with starting anything new. We suggest the best way to start SMS marketing is to:
*Please note that this advice is for informational purposes only and is neither intended as nor should be substituted for consultation with appropriate legal counsel and/or your organization’s regulatory compliance team.
By Nathan Ellering | Published November 27, 2023