SMS Marketing Best Practices to Keep Customer Engaged and Buying

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Marketers ruin everything.

Email open rates in the 90’s were near 100%, now it’s about 21.33% across all industries. Reach on social media has decreased for businesses, as these platforms are incentivized to push businesses to their ad model, and keep users happy by showing less commercial content.

Though this isn’t meant to dissuade you, that’s how things ebb and flow in marketing. Radio, billboard and television ads used to be a hot commodity until the era of the smartphone - now that’s where the attention (and $$$) lie.

SMS marketing is the latest among digital marketing trends, with recent data in 2022 indicating a 80% click through rate. 70% of consumers are currently subscribed to SMS marketing (indicating a 12% Year over Year growth), with 55% of those consumers subscribed to 1-5 businesses.

Email open rates took a hit because consumers were being spammed with push notifications, to the point laws were enacted to combat this (CAN-SPAM Act). In order for SMS Marketing to stay relevant, here are a few best practices that businesses should implement to keep customers engaged (and buying!).

5 SMS Marketing Best Practices to Increase Customer Engagement

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1. Ask for the Opt-in

The first most important thing to-do is to comply with local laws regarding SMS marketing. As a local business, I receive many calls and texts from shoddy marketing companies or just plain out spammers... and phone service providers (and various apps) are thankfully starting to identify spam so I can focus on actual customers.

Pro-tip: Everyone should register your number on the government’s National Do Not Call Registry, this can help reduce the number of unwanted calls.

For many, your text messages are a personal space where you receive messages from those close to you - the last thing people want is spam inundating their inbox. Thus be clear and concise with how you plan to communicate via SMS - and ask for the opt-in to comply with local laws.

Also, make the opt-out process dead simple. Simply include a line like, “type STOP to stop receiving promotional text messages.” The last thing you want is a consumer reporting your message as spam.

In the United States, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulates SMS marketing through the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991 and the aforementioned Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act (CAN-SPAM) of 2003. Violations could include fines of $500-1500 per unsolicited text message... and at the end of the day you’ll just end up in a spam folder further destroying your CTR’s.

2. Use Short Codes

You’re probably already familiar with these as they’re short 5-6 digit numbers used by businesses, they’re specifically made for mass mobile communications and commercial use. Chances are you’ve received them anytime you’ve received a 2FA verification code, shipping notification, or if you’re just subscribed to a business's SMS marketing.

These numbers are approved by wireless carriers which should mean improved delivery rates and less blocked messages. It’s also a signal that it is a commercial message, thus customers shouldn’t reply expecting a non-automated response.

3. Provide Value with Updates

Look in your SMS inbox at businesses you’re currently subscribed to, chances are they’re not just spamming you with the latest 50% offers. For me personally, I’m subscribed to a lot of businesses that provide appointment updates, security alerts (eg. banking), shipping updates, etc.

Think about that from a business perspective and ask yourself, “How can I provide value to the customer that isn’t marketing related?”

4. Provide a Bonus for Opt-in

One of the easiest ways to get new consumers to opt-in is to provide an incentive, eg. “Get 10% off your first order when you opt-in to our SMS list.” Granted, you’ll likely see a high churn rate, thus calculate that into your model into whether acquiring a customer for $xx is worth it for the incentive you plan to offer.

A great way to decrease churn and keep customers on the list is to balance marketing messages with general updates about their order, shipping, etc.

5. Calculate Your ROI: What gets Measured, gets Managed

Like with any other form of advertising, at the end of the day, your goal is to generate a ROI. Not every ad model works for every business, thus you have to find the ones that work for you. You’ll want to build a model that’s repeatable and scalable, in other words, for every $1 you spend you generate $10 in revenue. As the old adage goes, “If it doesn’t make dollars, it doesn’t make sense.”

Is it right for your business? To get an idea, here’s a list of 5 businesses that need to start using SMS marketing:

  • E-commerce websites
  • Travel
  • Businesses operating in developing countries
  • Events management
  • Service businesses that require appointments

Personally, as a photographer, I use SMS messages as reminders about scheduled photo shoots (I use the all-in-one CRM software, HoneyBook). I also give clients the option of whether they want to be notified via text, or email. Texts sent through HoneyBook utilize the business short code, and then the day-of the shoot, I text them personally with my number when I arrive at the location, I find it’s a more personal touch.

Now I’m a local business, and thus my SMS volume is fairly low compared to a global company. For companies dealing with more volume, you’ll want to work with an SMS platform that can handle your volume at a reasonable price. For example, Twilio costs $0.0079 per message sent for the first 5 million messages, and can be cheaper with more volume:

SMS Marketing Case Studies: Real World Examples

Here we go..

Shatter Records with SMS Reminder

To promote their latest season, Game of Thrones sent a SMS message with a video trailer foreshadowing the season, this helped propel record ratings of 18.6 million viewers per episode.

Reminders were certainly a key driver, but they also balanced their SMS campaign with fun and engaging texts such as clues, trivia and games to subscribed users. The SMS campaign, aptly named the “The Three-Eyed Raven” in reference to a GoT character, gained 70,000 subscribers within the first few months of launching.

Gamify your SMS Marketing

Longmount Climbing Gym utilizes a points-based system with their SMS marketing. You can earn points every time you visit, refer friends etc. Members can then utilize these points for discounts, guest passes and much more.

It can also be a way to deliver important messages, for example, during the pandemic a lot of gyms closed down sporadically, and then turned to social media, or email, to notify their members. That isn’t always seen by everyone, versus a text message, data indicates that 90% of texts are read within a few minutes of being received.

Get Feedback fast with a Survey

When you think of SMS marketing, most associate that with push marketing. In other words, in other words a medium to push your marketing message. But you could also use a SMS platform to receive messages.

The path to least resistance is often a text. Salesforce hosted a conference and was looking to crown the “Best Partner App.” They created a user-friendly app that allowed attendees to text to vote for the best app, creating a fun and engaging way attendees could voice their opinion.

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