4 tips for crafting a valuable SMS marketing campaign

By Dan Slavin

It is a question that has bedeviled concert performers since the beginning—how do you get butts in seats for an event?

Unless the act is Taylor Swift or Coldplay, both of whom could sell out Madison Square Garden on a rainy Tuesday in February, there are few shows that can sell themselves. The vast majority require the assistance of savvy promoters to assemble a receptive audience for the performer.

This same question of “how do I build an audience” applies to SMS marketing. In an age where most messages (email, phone calls, and the like) are routinely screened and ignored by consumers, text messages enjoy an almost 100d percent open rate, according to Mobile Marketing Watch, creating an opportunity for Taylor Swift-level revenue generation.

SMS marketing represents a real opportunity for marketers. Unfortunately, a text message with no recipients makes as much an impact as a musical event with no fans. How does one build a distribution list to get the word out?

Sending a SMS implies it is high priority and likely to be read. When someone gives you their permission to text them, you are entering their circle of trust. Marketers can facilitate this trust by providing value to their SMS subscribers, following SMS marketing regulations, and openly disclosing to subscribers how their information will be used. In a PwC study, 80 percent of respondents said they were willing to share personal information if the company let them know upfront how they were going to use it.

Tip 1: What’s the value for consumers?

Heavy-handed, one-size-fits-all marketing rarely works. Good SMS marketing answers, “what’s in it for them?”

With this in mind, give customers a reason to join your list by offering an incentive or offer for joining the list. We’ve seen huge success with one-time use mobile coupons and discounts. Make subscribers feel as if they are joining an exclusive program or elite club with benefits that sets them apart from the crowd. Sweepstakes, giveaways and contests are also an effective means for increasing SMS subscriber numbers. A happy subscriber is your best advocate.

Tip 2: Integrate and promote

One of the best things about SMS marketing is how simple the sign-up message is: “Text SIGNUP to 78527.” These simple call-to-action instructions can be easily integrated into all your promotional efforts including website, signage, billboards, newsletters, advertisements, social media. Watch the subscriber numbers climb as these short instructions become as ubiquitous as your company web address and phone number.

Tip 3: Relevancy key to retention

Winning subscribers with special offers is only half the battle. A hard truth of marketing is that an audience is hard won and easily lost. Keeping subscribers engaged and holding their attention is key. Protect your subscriber numbers by considering each message before sending it out. Ask yourself—is it relevant to their interests? Is it exclusive to your SMS list? Are you sending out too many messages? Too few? What time is it being sent? Messages need to be timely and personalized. Consider these best practices:

  • Do A/B testing to weigh the best option
  • Have a standard cadence
  • Don’t announce generally available offers
  • Don’t deliver generic messages
  • Make messages timely, relevant and exclusive

Again, it’s all about putting your subscribers’ and prospects’ needs ahead of your own. Respect your audience and leave them wanting more.

Tip 4: Stay within legal limits

This remains the number one rule of all good marketing but is of particular relevance to text messaging. SMS is a powerful tool, but it comes with complex rules and regulations. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) that governs the use of SMS for marketing can seem daunting for the uninitiated. To ensure a successful and compliant campaign, it’’s wise to choose a partner who will help you stay in compliance with TCPA. A good partner can help you build a sign-up process that follows mandatory rules and guidelines.

In summary, when building your SMS marketing list remember the old saw, patience is a virtue. Taylor Swift did not achieve overnight fame. Focus on building good relationships with a wide network of clients and partner for the long term.

Dan Slavin is CEO and co-founder of CodeBroker. He was CEO of Framework Technologies, VP of Open Market, and CEO of International Testing Services. He earned a BS in Electrical Engineering from Yale and an MBA from Harvard. His articles have appeared in Retailing Today, Retail Customer Experience, and Street Fight. You can reach him at dan.slavin@codebroker.com.