Marketing a business effectively requires the coordination of multiple marketing strategies. The most effective marketing strategies include direct mail marketing, email marketing, and SMS marketing, as well as having a strong customer loyalty rewards program in place.
While direct mail marketing has been nearly phased out, it's still around, and while the open rate of emails isn't always great, email marketing is clearly here to stay. But there is a new, instant, short-form marketing strategy that can do what direct mail and email can't--get opened, read, and acted upon fast.
We're talking about SMS marketing campaigns, or what you might otherwise know them as, text messages. For both personal and professional use, SMS has been proven to have a higher open rate and response ROI than other forms of communication, though app push notifications certainly give SMS a run for its money. These "short message service" text messages, when used for promotional reasons, can provide recipients with instant rewards and gratification, but only if SMS is used in ways that customers actually want. In other words, it isn't hard to accidentally abuse this marketing method and drive customers away.
In this article, we'll go over how to properly use SMS to increase brand awareness, boost customer engagement, generate more sales, and achieve the ideal result of causing your customers to feel excited to hear from you every time they receive a text message from your business.
Before you can launch a promotional campaign and begin using SMS marketing to its fullest potential, you will need to obtain expressed written permission from each prospective recipient. When text messages first came on the scene in 2000, regulations had not been established regarding how businesses could contact consumers via SMS. Today, however, the law is clear thanks to a 2012 amendment to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act mandated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). The amendment addressed text messages and issued additional protections so that consumer mobile numbers wouldn't be abused with spammy, harassing, or otherwise unwanted offers by businesses that had obtained those numbers. This means that unless a recipient has given you their expressed consent to receive text messages from your company, you cannot contact them. If you do, you could face significant legal ramifications.
You can obtain permission by devising an opt-in campaign. The best time to offer customers the chance to opt-in is when they visit your website, sign up for your loyalty rewards program, or complete an order on your eCommerce site. Your opt-in campaign can be as simple as using a pop-up to ask, "Want [store name] to send deals, discounts, and exclusive sales directly to your phone?" Include a short-form opt-in code and say, "Text OFFERS to [code number] to start receiving weekly offers!"
Equally important to providing customers with a way to opt-in to SMS is a straightforward opt-out option in every text message you send, which states, "To no longer receive texts from [store name] reply now with STOP."
Take advantage of the two-way communication that SMS marketing provides. One of the most powerful aspects of SMS is that recipients can respond, which means you can set up automatic protocols, such as opting a recipient in or out depending on their response.
In today's world, digital technology has provided numerous ways for businesses to communicate with consumers. A company can extend offers and alert their customers to special sales by using email newsletters, social media posts, and even mobile app push notifications. Technology has created a lot of messaging channels, and each uniquely performs different functionalities. The functions that SMS can perform stand out from app push notifications in that SMS has an open rate of 98%. Consumers respect the immediacy of communicating by text message, so when their cell phones bing or buzz, they tend to open and read the text on the spot. This is a remarkably different response than those of email newsletters, which have a low open rate, and mobile app push notifications, which can rack up unopened within the app before the user gets around to toggling through the notification list.
A great, interactive way to incentivize recipients to respond to the SMS contact you make is to text them personalized, SMS-only offers. If each text message you send contains a special deal, discount, or sale that cannot be found anywhere else--not on your eCommerce site or in-store--then it won't be hard for you to establish the unique value that your SMS offers in particular provide.
When it comes to personalizing those SMS offers, you will have to do some customer segmentation work beforehand. Be sure to keep an eye out for our upcoming March article Why Personalization Matters if you want to learn the nitty-gritty how-tos of implementing personalization in your marketing campaigns and customer loyalty rewards program. Once you've defined your customer segments, you will be able to effectively upsell and cross sell via SMS when you launch new products or services that are relevant to your customers' preferences.
You can also use SMS to send appointment reminders if you run a service-based business, such as an auto repair shop or hair salon. The bottom line is that using SMS marketing to contact your customers can add special value to your offers, whether your recipients have Android or iPhone iOS devices.
USE INTERACTIVE CONTENT
As we mentioned earlier, SMS offers two-way communication, which means that your recipients can respond to the text messages you send them. Use this feature to your advantage by soliciting more than mere opt-in and opt-out options. While it's critical to be sparing when sending texts, you can include interactive text message content here and there to foster a more dynamic relationship with your customers. Ask them engaging questions with multi-choice answers regarding what products to develop next, for example. Short, simple, one-answer surveys can also benefit your business, while helping to nurture customer relations. You can even link to one of your social media accounts, asking SMS recipients to post their reply in order to enter a social media contest you're hosting.
When you connect your SMS campaigns to customer order histories, you can auto-generate text messages to follow up with customers on their recent activity. For example, once a customer has received the shipment of their order, contact them with SMS text asking them to leave a product review by clicking the provided link. If a customer recently spoke with your customer service department about an issue, you can follow up with an SMS text to make sure their issue was fully resolved. If it was, you can ask them to rate the service they received. The more interaction you automate, the more customer insights you'll be able to leverage in future promotional campaigns.
SMS marketing is a powerful way to increase member engagement in your customer loyalty rewards program, and by implementing interactive content you can succeed at greatly enhancing your loyal customers' experiences with your brand.
Additional forms of SMS interactive content can include short videos, GIFs, memes, and other animated graphics. You can even send out randomly timed incentives where the first recipient to reply to the SMS campaign will win a free product. Using creative methods such as these has the power to quickly train your customers to open your text messages as soon as you send them.
Specific SMS Marketing Ideas
Well-timed and sparing SMS with clearly defined calls to action will be far more successful than contacting your customers haphazardly. When should you use SMS marketing instead of sending out an email newsletter blast? There are five specific instances where the immediacy and simplicity of SMS is ideal. If you're new to SMS marketing, start with these ideas:
● Welcome Offers--This can be used to welcome new members to your loyalty program, new subscribers to your email newsletter, or new shoppers who gave their phone numbers in order to receive a discount code.
● Birthday Discounts--Show you care with an SMS happy birthday text. Remember to keep it short and sweet, and it never hurts to offer a discount code your customer can use for all of their birthday shopping.
● Special Time-Sensitive Deals--Are you running a seasonal sale? Do you have a new line of products? Maybe you just launched an extra special loyalty campaign. All of these are great reasons to contact your customers via SMS.
● Cart Abandonment--When customers abandon their shopping carts on your eCommerce site, your store can end up losing a significant amount of income. Cart abandonment emails can be overlooked, which is why sending an instant SMS has the power to remind your customers to return and complete their purchases.
● Order Confirmation & Delivery Updates--Save your customers time and effort by providing SMS notifications every time the delivery status of their orders change so that they don't have to keep checking the online package tracking.
Always Include a Call to Action
A common pitfall to avoid when using SMS marketing is forgetting to include a call-to-action within each text message you send. First, be sure to identify yourself, and second, make sure that your messages clearly contain the next steps you would like the recipients to take, whether it be visiting your website, using a new discount code, or leaving an online review. Invite your customers to the following calls to action:
● Newsletter Sign Up--Your SMS invitation text can be as simple as, "Want to be the first to know about the hottest deals from [store name]? Subscribe to our newsletter through [this link] to receive our weekly deals, discounts, and incentives."
● Discount Incentives--Use personalization to alert shoppers to relevant deals such as, "Use [this discount code] before Friday for free shipping on your [store name] orders."
● Surveys--Gather valuable customer feedback by incentivizing survey participation with an SMS like, "Got a minute? [Store name] would love to hear from you! Answer [survey link] now for a chance to win exclusive prizes!"
● Redeem Points Reminder--Customers will appreciate redemption expiration reminders that save them from losing their earned points. Compose a simple message to nudge them like this one, "Don't forget, you have [number of days] to redeem [number of points] at [store name]! Visit [this link] before it's too late to get the most out of our loyalty program!"
Additional Best Practices for SMS
When SMS marketing is used properly, i.e. sparingly and with personalization, not only will it result in a sales boost, but your valued customers will appreciate never missing out on a deal that's relevant to their interests and preferences. Best practices must be maintained at all times, however, if you want to excite and not irritate the recipients. Keep these additional best practices in mind to get the most out of every SMS marketing effort you make:
● Only use the mobile numbers of customers who have given you permission to contact them via SMS.
● Make sure your SMS marketing uses as much personalization as possible, and only contact customers when the sales offer or incentive is relevant and absolutely necessary.
● Automate your marketing campaigns with SMS triggers, and target customer segments to maximize personalization and relevancy.
● Compose short and sweet messages to get the point across clearly, and always include calls to action with clickable links.
● Set up automated workflows for shipping updates, cart abandonment, and special occasions like birthdays.
SMS marketing offers instant message delivery to your recipients, and while it can't replace email marketing due to limitations on the character length of a single text--160 characters is not a lot of space!--it can serve as an effective lead generator for your sales campaigns to drive customer traffic to your store, website, and loyalty program.
Consider using SMS marketing for your time-sensitive messages if you want to boost sales that day or that week. SMS offers a much higher open rate than email marketing, however, if you send too many text messages, you will run the risk of your recipients getting annoyed and opting out.
When it comes to SMS marketing, timing and personalization are everything. Once you master properly scheduling your SMS campaigns to targeted recipient segments, you will start to see an immediate ROI. As customer engagement increases and your loyalty program becomes more popular, your business will grow.
Are you using a customer loyalty rewards program with SMS marketing tools built in? Loyal~n~Save offers this powerful marketing solution as part of its full suite of loyalty strategies. Our attractive platform comes with a mobile app, and every proven method to engage customers and drive sales is included. The Loyal~n~Save rewards program serves all industries, including B2B. To learn more, contact us or visit our website.
This article was written by Loyal-n-Save, an omni-channel customer loyalty solution for retailers looking to increase customer retention and new customer acquisition.