Here’s one thing we can probably all agree on: Text message marketing has its faults. Between bad timing, alienating jargon, and poorly targeted discounts and offers, it’s possible for text message marketing to do more harm than good.
So … why are you writing this article? (You may be asking yourself this.)
Here’s why. When done correctly text message marketing holds major value. These types of mobile marketing messages reach your audience wherever they are during whatever they’re doing — right in their pockets.
Better yet, the barrier to entry for consumers and customers is pretty low — it’s much easier to send a quick text message to subscribe than it is to open and send an email or navigate through social media.
Text message marketing has lots of benefits as long as it’s done right. And that’s why I’m writing this guide — to teach you. Stick around and you’ll see why you shouldn’t shy away just yet.
What is text message marketing?
Text message marketing is the process of marketing and promoting your products and services via text message. Text message marketing is also known as SMS marketing.
Businesses and organizations typically leverage text message marketing to send coupons, announcements, updates, reminders, and current events to their audience. (Dig deeper into the different types of text message marketing here.)
The immediacy and intimacy of text message marketing provides personalized, one-to-one marketing experience for both large and small businesses — and their customers.
Text Message Marketing vs Email Marketing
How does text message marketing stack up against its bigger, older cousin, email marketing? Does mass texting make the case to replace email?
Absolutely not. Email marketing is a highly effective method of informing, enticing, and converting your audience. Here are a handful of ways in which text message marketing and email marketing intersect.
Both text message marketing and email marketing require a clear opt-in from every member of your audience, whether through subscribing to a list or replying with a confirmation message.
Email marketing can perform even better alongside text message marketing. On the BounceX blog, we’ve discussed the effectiveness of behavioral email marketing (like welcome emails and abandoned cart emails) and how the strategy is uniquely poised to reach your audience at intelligent times triggered by relevant action. When coupled with these email marketing messages, text message marketing can extend the reach of campaigns while customers are on-the-go.
Like email marketing messages, text messages are sent directly to consumers and customers — and both can be received on mobile devices. The difference here, however, is that text messages aren’t faced with a spam folder, nor are they limited by muted notifications — a statistic we’ll touch on in the next section. When it comes to deliverability, text message marketing takes the cake.
While text message marketing is limited by a lack of HTML and relatively tiny character count, it does match our society’s ever-shrinking attention span. This component is another place where text message marketing and email marketing can work together to reach your audience — send your short, snack-sized marketing messages via text and save the longer ones that require custom design and images for your email marketing list.
Text Message Marketing Statistics
Text message marketing is a quicker, easier way to reach your audience with important information. Let’s review a handful of text message marketing statistics that make the case for this uniquely powerful digital marketing method.
- The average reader has an attention span of 8 seconds, which favors the 160-character limit of text marketing messages (unless you’re sending MMS marketing messages, in which you more “room” for images, GIFs, and multimedia messages).
- Text message open rates and response rates are as high as 98% and 45%, respectively — in contrast to corresponding figures of 20% and 6% for email.
- On average, people respond to text messages in 90 seconds. How long does it take your audience to respond to your emails … if at all?
- Over 80% of consumers leave text message notifications turned on. This means a large majority of your audience would be notified when you send new messages, versus having to open a secondary application or browser.
- 78% of consumers say receiving a text message is the fastest way to reach them for important service and purchase updates. This immediacy comes in handy for time-sensitive offers, discounts, and company news.
- 58% of consumers indicated they would view a business more positively if they offered SMS capabilities. In today’s highly digital world, it can only benefit your business to expand your marketing campaigns, capabilities, and communication channels.
- Why do people opt-in to receive mass text messages? What kind of text messages could you send to your audience? Well, according to the Salesforce Mobile Behavior Report:
- 77% of consumers said they opted in to receive coupons or deals
- 33% of consumers said they opted in to gain access to more meaningful content
- 50% of consumers said they opted in to receive personalized alerts
- 48% of consumers said they opted in to be in the loop
- 31% of consumers said they opted in so that they wouldn’t need to visit a physical location or website or app for information
Text Message Marketing Best Practices
Whether you’re a texting novice or veteran, apply these six best practices to keep your audience happy and engaged.
1. Get permission.
This isn’t as much a best practice as it is a non-negotiable. It’s quite literally illegal to send text messages to someone without their permission — according to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), written consent is a requirement to add someone to your contact list.
You can get permission in a couple of ways:
- By promoting your text message marketing through another channel (like your website or a receipt) and asking customers to intentionally opt-in by sending a specific keyword to your shortcode
- By asking for a customer’s phone number as part of another process (online or in-person check-out, a form submission, etc.) and following up with a text asking to confirm the opt-in with a single word like YES or SUBSCRIBE.
Whichever way you choose to get permission, ensure the process is clear and concise for customers. It may be tempting to text any and all phone numbers you may have in your database, but the backlash from customers who don’t want to receive your texts may be worse than never having their data at all.
It’s also good practice to include a disclaimer such as:
Msg & data rates apply. 4 msgs/mo. Reply END to stop & HELP for help.
This warns recipients of possible text message rates, tells them how many text messages to expect from you, and gives them both opt-out and help instructions.
2. Always offer (and honor) opt-outs.
Speaking of opting out, this is another legal requirement of SMS marketing per the TCPA. Every text message you send should give the recipient instructions on how to opt-out, usually by sending a single word or phrase. This opt-out action is typically STOP, UNSUBSCRIBE, or END.
Not only should you always offer this opportunity, but you should always honor it. Once someone opts out, leave them alone.
3. Keep the barrier of entry low.
One major benefit of text message marketing is how easy it is for recipients to open, read, and respond to your messages. Don’t hinder this by requiring a complicated opt-in or engagement process.
For example, let’s say you’re running a contest through which recipients can win a free meal at your restaurant. The best way to get your customers engaged is to offer a simple way to enter — by texting a single word (like FREE or the name of your business) to your shortcode. If you required customers to also go online to fill out a form, that’d raise the barrier of entry and probably lessen the number of people who engage with your contest.
When it comes to SMS text messaging, the simpler, the better.
4. Use universal language with shorthand.
‘sup! Stop wut ur doing n visit r website 2 shop w/ur new discount. Show this txt 2 get 50% off any 1 item. Ends 2morrow. Txt OUT 2 stop.
*cringe* If that took you more than a few moments to read, imagine how long it took for me to type it out.
This type of text message language is dated and even harder to decipher. Regardless of how young your target audience is, no consumer wants to dig through that jargon to get to the heart of your message. When sending text messages to your recipients, keep your language universal and simple.
Now, with 160 characters to work with, it can be tempting to cut words short. I don’t blame you. The brevity of text message marketing can be both a benefit and drawback of the strategy, but don’t sacrifice clarity to maximize your SMS real estate. Start by cutting down simple words like “text” and “message” to “txt” and “msg”. You can also use numbers in place of words, like “2” instead of “two”.
If you still can’t fit your entire message into one text, consider sending two — but only if absolutely necessary. You can also follow up on your main marketing message with one that only contains disclaimers and opt-out instructions.
5. Pay attention to timing.
Many of us sleep with our mobile phones next to our beds. Just because it’s nearby, though, doesn’t mean we look at it all hours of the night. It definitely doesn’t mean we enjoy receiving buzzing text messages before the alarm goes off.
Text message marketing brings you as close as possible to your audience. It allows you to reach them wherever they are, as long as they have their cell phones. But this doesn’t mean your audience will always be ready or willing to engage with your messages.
The timing of your text messages is almost as important as the content. If you don’t catch your audience at the right time, your text messages will go in one proverbial ear and out the other — regardless of their proximity.
The TCPA says you should only send text messages between 8:00 am and 9:00 pm according to your audience’s time zone. Here are a few more timing tips from our SMS marketing guide:
- For general marketing messages like discounts and updates, send mid-morning (10:30 am) or mid-afternoon (2:30 pm). Avoid sending these at the top of the hour to help your messages stand out.
- For time-sensitive messages like flash sales and special offers, send two days before the sale. To be courteous, send reminders on the day of the sale as well as the final day, too.
- For reminders attached to appointments, reservations, or other special events that may require timely cancellation or rescheduling, send at least 24 hours before. This gives your recipients time to act without potential penalization.
- For seasonal and special messages like holidays, events, and new product launches, prepare to send multiple text messages throughout the month prior.
6. Personalize, personalize, personalize.
Text message marketing is a highly personalized medium. Not only do your messages arrive right in their pocket in real-time, but you can further personalize your message by tailoring them to 1) your recipient’s personal information and 2) your recipient’s behavior.
Recipient information refers to their name, neighborhood, pet’s name, birthday, and more. Recipient behavior refers to actions made by your audience when they interact with your brand, e.g. on your website, at your event, or in your store.
Both types of personalization help you send messages that stand out from the crowd and connect with customers when you’re top-of-mind. I highly encourage every text message you send to your audience to be personalized with at least their first name. Here’s an example of a message that features both types:
Hi, [NAME]! Are you enjoying the [PRODUCT] you ordered last week? Take a moment to leave a review here: [LINK]. Msg & data rates apply. Text STOP to end.
One way to personalize your text message marketing campaigns is to accurately identify your audience base. Some customers leave their information when making a purchase or filling out a form — allowing you to link names and other information to certain phone numbers — but most consumers won’t leave behind their data when browsing your website.
Tools like BounceX can help you recognize your customers as they interact with your brand across multiple browsers and devices, regardless of whether they leave their personal information. This makes it easier for you to follow-up with personalized text campaign messages.
Another way to personalize your text message marketing is by segmenting your audience. This could be by gender, age, location, income level, shopping activity (where BounceX can come in handy), or other. This allows you to send discounts, alerts, reminders, and contests to the relevant or appropriate audience.
It goes without saying — don’t personalize your text messages without being 100% confident that your data is accurate. It’s better to send general text messages with the wrong name or to the wrong segment.
Text message marketing works. It’s one of the most immediate, personal, and engaging marketing tools — three features that make mass text messaging something to consider adding to your marketing strategy.
When your audience trusts you with their personal information, they expect you to use it wisely and respect their boundaries. Use your audience’s information wisely by personalizing your SMS messages to send the most relevant content. Respect your audience’s boundaries by sending that relevant content in a timely fashion. These and the other best practices mentioned in this guide will keep your audience opted-in and engaged.