SMS used to be a communication tool that wasn’t available for the common business to use. However, with the rise of new and more affordable marketing automation solutions like Platformly, many small and medium businesses now have the chance to use this means as a marketing solution to let consumers know about news and offers. However, there are several legal regulations surrounding what’s called “text marketing”, to protect customers from messages they didn’t ask for. Consent is not only essential to make SMS marketing work for your business, but it is also a legal requirement that transcends countries. We’ll go back to consent once we list the best practices in SMS marketing, but this is an example of why you have to be careful when using text marketing. Ignoring some of the tips we’re about to give you might land you into trouble or earn you a spammy reputation, which, of course, you don’t desire. And that’s why we’ll list all the best practices you should follow for SMS marketing in this article. Remember, SMS marketing is now available on Platformly as one of our main features for all our clients, so stay tuned to figure out the best way to use it as a means to improve the ROI of your business. So, read on to find out our recommendations about SMS marketing for your campaign! 1. Get consent from your contact list There are several ways to go about this that you can use exclusively or together. You can get your prospects' or users’ phone numbers from an opt-in form in which they have to tick a checkbox to confirm they authorize you to send them messages. However, the most common way to make sure you have consent is to have your users come to you. You can do this by showing a number on your website and providing a code-word for your users to send in order to accept your messages. We recommend getting an easy number from your provider: ideally, a four to five digits number that will be easy to remember. Your code-word should also be easy to remember: let’s say you have a store that sells artisanal soap bars. It’s better to use SOAP as a code-word than THEFLOWERYSOAPSTORE. You don't need to worry about your code-word not being original or unique since those messages will only be sent to your number. It’s very unlikely that some other soap store (using the previous example) is using a similar number to yours, so you can rest assured this is the best strategy. 2. Make it easy to opt out of your messages Another step to avoid being seen as spammy is to make it easy for users to quit receiving your updates. Your first message should have a sentence saying something along the lines of “Text STOP to opt-out”. This is essential for your SMS marketing campaign to comply with legal requirements and will also make your recipients feel a lot safer knowing they can withdraw their consent to receive your communications at any time they wish to do so. You don’t have to include this text in all your messages, just the first one and every now and then if you haven’t messaged your recipients in a while as they may have forgotten they subscribed in the first place. You just need to make sure it’s easy to opt-out, not only because of the laws involved but also because your recipients will be extremely annoyed if they don’t want to receive your updates anymore but they have no idea how to stop them. Companies that don’t offer a way to opt-out easily are often viewed as using some shady practices in their SMS marketing. Of course, you don’t want to be seen that way. With Platformly’s SMS service, this text is automatically included in some of your messages so you don’t have to worry about being seen as shady. Another bit of text that should always be included when you start messaging some recipient is “message and data rates may apply”. In this day and age, most people have unlimited SMS and calls and a data plan with a reasonable amount of traffic included, but nevertheless this warning is mandatory. This message is also included in your first text automatically if you use Platformly as your messaging service, so there’s something else you don’t need to worry about when using our service for text marketing. Being on the safe side will avoid a lot of complaints and headaches later on. As you can already tell from these first two tips, you want to make your users comfortable and safe while using your communications. SMS is highly personal. You don’t want to be seen as an intruder in this relationship you’re trying to create: you want to be well-received and welcome by your recipients. So make sure all your recipients welcome your messages, there are also other tips you have to follow. Keep on reading to find out how to elicit a positive type of response from the people you’ll message. 3. Offer something in return You want to make sure you’re offering something valuable to your recipients when they are comfortable enough to be so closely available to you. That should be explicit when you offer to send them updates: You can message your users with special general offers that they cannot get any other way; You can use SMS to let them know about new features of your product or new services your brand is offering; You can send them special codes or coupons to get discounts in specific products they showed interest in, segmenting your messages; You can let them know about news about your company that may affect their usage of your product or service; You can message them about all of the above subjects. One thing that has to be clear is that, by offering you such a close means of contact, your recipients will get something useful for them in return. There are other things you can think of offering, as an advantage in a contest for getting free products or anything else you feel is relevant. The point is to make your users feel like they’re not being bothered by useless texts, but getting value for their commitment. This is another way to make your recipients happy they subscribed. If you’re texting your customers about new deals and offers, they’re less likely to text STOP. They’ll want the offers to keep on coming because they would make purchases from you anyway, so you’re helping them. If you can’t be of help, don’t send them any messages. Just because you have their contacts does not mean you can send them anything you like. You can read more about how your messages have to have a purpose in the next tips. 4. Establish reasonable expectations from your recipients If you’re going to be so close to your recipients, another way to make them feel safe is to establish healthy expectations. First of all, your recipients should know why you’ll be messaging them. In our tip #3, we set out some examples of things your users can expect from you. Now, if you tell your users to expect a specific content, you can’t just stray away from the offer you made and start messaging them at random with information that is useless for them. You need to keep your word and make your promises count. If your recipients request to receive your messages because you promised them offers and then you end up annoying them with content that is of no relevance in that context, you’re likely not only to lose the recipients in your list but also to lose customers. As we mentioned previously, text marketing is quite personal. With 91% of Americans claiming they keep their mobile phone close at all times, messaging can seem like a very exasperating disruption if not done well. So, you have to stick to your promise about the content of your messages. 5. Establish your messaging frequency The number of times you message your recipients is also of the utmost importance regarding expectations. You should define the number of texts your users expect to receive per month and stick to it. Never message more than you promise or you’ll become a nuisance. The number of messages you can send per month will vary, depending highly on your type of business. However, most SMS marketing providers agree that the number should never be higher than six messages per month, with some platforms arguing that between 2 to 4 messages a month is the right frequency. This is similar to establishing the type of content your users should expect to receive: the first time you message your new users, you can include something like “receive 2 to 3 messages a month” or similar in your text. Once again, if you make this promise, you have to stick to it. If you message your users too often or so rarely that they forget about you, your campaign is not going to work. Sending bulk SMS has a bit of trial and error, but try to think of it as if you were the receiver. Would you like to be bothered with commercial messages every two to three days? Of course not. So, it’s reasonable to think your customers expect that courtesy. Keep your schedule consistent and only send a communication to your recipients if you have a good reason to do so. Like we mentioned before, don’t message for the sake of messaging. You’ve got a good relationship with your users if they allow you to message them, so don’t ruin things by being exhausting or irrelevant. 6. Send your messages during business hours This can be tricky if you’re messaging people who are in different time zones. In that case, you’ll have to schedule your send timing to make sure you are messaging everyone at a decent time of day. Nobody is going to answer your messages if you send them in the middle of the night, no matter how amazing the offer is. If you want answers, reactions, purchases, send your messages during business hours when your users are going to have time to read your messages carefully and think about your content. You can send emails at any time of day because people are not constantly checking their inbox. However, 90% of all text messages are read within three minutes or less. People check their phones constantly, especially if your target audience is between 18-35 years old. Even plenty of boomers are constantly alert to messaging, with 76.4% of people aged 55-65 using smartphones. According to the same Emarketer article, 47.2% of people ages 65 and above have smartphones too and use their features to some extent, so it wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to think that pretty much everyone pays close attention to the texts they receive. This also means that you have to be extra careful not to abuse your recipients’ patience with careless timing and frequency. Plus, if you send your customers a message about an offer, you want them to contact you or visit your store to make a purchase. How are they going to do that if you message them outside business hours? As you see, this is a matter of convenience for your recipients but for you as well. If you want to make business, you contact your customers during the times in which you are available to provide them with the offer you just told them about. 7. Do not write long messages (and don’t use abbreviations!) It’s easy to get carried away about how your offer will make your customers extremely happy. However, in text messages, you have to be straight to the point and keep your messages short. Users are put off by great walls of text in their messages, and you risk having your message truncated anyway if you write too much. One SMS only allows for 160 characters – less than a tweet these days. So you have to be smart. If you have a buy one get two offer or a discount on a specific product, that should be at the beginning of your text marketing message. However, do not resort to SMS lingo like weird abbreviations and such. Using abbreviations will make your message sound too juvenile (even if your target audience is younger, it’s not a good practice) and will make your company seem unworthy of respect. If you need to make a sentence shorter to fill the 160 character limit, think about how to change the sentence completely instead of using abbreviations. That’s a lazy solution. Your customers and prospects deserve more. 8. Use segmentation One of the best practices to use when sending bulk SMS campaigns that is often overlooked is to segment your audience according to the stages your recipients are in the sales process. You can use this technique to not only make your response rate higher but also to make it easier to offer your customers what they need at the moment. As an example, if you’re messaging people who abandoned their cart, it’s useful to send them a coupon for their first purchase that gives them, let’s say a 10% discount. Now, if you’re texting users who have already bought from you, you can get creative and send them communications about new products or services or any changes to your offers. If, on the other hand, you’re texting people who just subscribed to get updates, you can use storytelling as a means to bring them to where you want them to be in your sales funnel (you can remember how a sales funnel works in the digital era in this article). Send them an enticing CTA with a link towards a blog post. Let them know you have added free shipping for sales over a specified price with more details on your website. As we mentioned before, most people use smartphones. Integrate your SMS marketing into your whole strategy. Failing to understand how SMS marketing can help you achieve your business goals and using it as an isolated means of communication can compromise your whole view of sales and marketing for the brand you’re promoting. Think about marketing holistically. 9. Use personalization If you collect your users’ phone number through an opt-in form, it’s highly useful not only to get their number and email but also their name. This way, you can go further than segmenting your contact list into personalization. Personalization is a form of targeting your message directly to the user you’re sending a text to but can be done by simply using your recipient’s name. If you don’t overdo it (which is difficult considering the character limit), it’s a nice way to get closer to the person that’s reading your message. This is pretty easy to set up using Platformly. As you can see, personalization doesn’t take much to do and you can cross data between your opt-in form and the number texting your code word to your number to ensure you personalize your message from the get-go. 10. Use your reports! This should go without saying, but a means of sending targeted marketing messages should always have some form of reporting. We talked about the importance of email marketing analytics here and SMS marketing should be no different. You need to set up measurable goals and make them easy to well, measure. If you don’t know what’s working and what’s not, how can you optimize your campaigns and understand what’s going wrong? As with all means you use to communicate with your customers, reporting is everything when it comes to establishing success and trying different approaches. Maybe you need to change your tone to resonate more easily with customers. Maybe your messages have a tone that is too salesy. Or maybe you can be more straight to the point and you haven’t been so because you’re afraid to be too intrusive. The only way to know is to test, adapt, and keep on experimenting. Don’t be afraid to test different approaches with your customers. Obviously, you cannot go from one end of the spectrum to the other all at once. You need to make subtle changes each time and then measure your results. Don’t be afraid to experiment, but also be reasonable to keep on matching your users’ expectations of your brand. Wrap Up So, with these tips in mind, it shouldn’t be difficult for you to start using our new SMS feature in Platformly. You can connect either Twilio or Nexmo to your account and send SMS marketing campaigns right where all your marketing automation features already are. The main takeaway from this article is that you should always keep in mind you’re using a means of communication that is highly personal and close to your recipients. It’s important to remember that your users have given you a direct line to reach out to them when you desire to do so – never abuse that privilege. Make it easy to opt-in and opt-out. With such a personal channel, you want your users to know their information is always safe with you. Never message anyone without their express consent, being spammy is unforgivable in text marketing. Keep these tips in your thoughts when you start using SMS marketing and you should do just fine. Everything has to be adapted to your target audience and your industry, but you know them better than anyone.