Gone are the days of single-channel marketing. Instead, marketers now have access to multiple contact points across various channels. Customers expect businesses to use them all to deliver the best experience.

SMS marketing can be an effective complement to social marketing, allowing you to reach customers and prospects in real time with targeted and effective messaging.

Let’s take a look at what SMS marketing is and how you can incorporate it into your marketing strategy.

What is SMS marketing?

SMS marketing is the practice of sending marketing messages by text message.

It is a form of participatory marketing that requires people to subscribe. This distinguishes it from social marketing, where the marketer posts publicly available content that people can choose to like or follow.

Common SMS marketing examples include:

  • personalized promotions
  • offers or discounts
  • remarketing
  • surveys

Consumers are increasingly interacting with businesses on their mobile devices. In most cases, they expect to reach businesses via message or text.

So it’s not surprising that even in January 2020, more than half of US retailers plan to increase their digital marketing investments in messaging and SMS before COVID-19 changes the way businesses interact with customers.

By June 2020, this number had risen to 56%, outstripping other potential investment areas.


Source: eMarketing

What is SMS customer service?

SMS customer service is the practice of serving customers via SMS messages and allowing them to “talk” to customer service representatives via text.

Juniper Research found that global mobile business messaging increased 10% to 2.7 trillion messages in 2020. SMS accounts for 98% of this messaging traffic, with the retail industry accounting for 408 billion of these messages.

Juniper found that retailers primarily use messaging to:

  • order confirmations
  • send notifications
  • tracking information
  • delivery updates

All these functions fall under the larger umbrella of SMS customer service.

Gartner estimates that by 2025, 80% of customer service organizations will use SMS and messaging instead of native apps.

Customers perceive this service SMS messages as the most valuable messages sent by businesses. Appointment reminders, delivery updates, and booking confirmations all rank above product or service discounts in terms of perceived value.


Most valuable text messages from businesses, according to US adults

Source: eMarketing

This means that if you plan to include text message marketing, it’s a good idea to include SMS customer service as well. Customers are more likely to subscribe to SMS messages when they see real value in the messages you send.

Of course, SMS customer service isn’t just about these automatic confirmations or reminders. It also includes allowing customers to chat directly with customer service representatives using one-on-one text messaging.

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SMS marketing best practices

Do not post without explicit participation

You probably already collect phone numbers from your customers. That doesn’t mean you have to start mass messaging them. Much like email marketing, SMS text marketing requires clear engagement.

You can ask customers to select text messages on your website or other online channels. However, before you start posting, you should get a text confirmation that they really want to subscribe.

One way to do this is to send a thank you SMS (and only one) for subscribing and ask them to confirm their participation with a simple Yes or No. If they don’t respond, don’t message them again. And frankly, if they text you No, don’t text them again.

Another way to collect engagements through your website. Knix offers a 10% discount coupon for text messaging subscription. Clicking on the link in the offer automatically opens the messaging app on the user’s phone to subscribe.


Knix 10% off next order SMS

Source: Knix


Knix text message personalized marketing alerts

Source: Knix

Add instructions to disable

This is best practice (and often a legal requirement) for all marketing communications. But it’s especially important for a more intrusive method like SMS. Repeatedly texting people who don’t want to hear from you is more likely to lose customers than sales.

Even for transactional messages such as shipping updates or appointment reminders, you must include unsubscribe information. Not everyone wants to receive such details via text.


IKEA, disable text message notifications

Since SMS messages are consistently open rates much higher than email, your unsubscribe rates will also be higher. If you see an increase in unsubscribes after a message is sent, don’t panic.

But analyze your unsubscribe rates over time. Once you have fully implemented your SMS marketing program, you can establish an unsubscribe basis. Check all future messages on this basis and see if there are any outliers. If the unsubscribe is unusually high or low, review the message to see if you can pinpoint what ultimately caused the change.

Introduce yourself

You cannot assume that your customers are your SMS connections. This means your message will appear from a number they don’t recognize and will appear without any natural identifying information. If you want them to get past the first few words, you need to define yourself right away.

A simple way to do this is to put your brand name at the beginning of the message followed by a colon, as Victoria Emerson does here:


Victoria Emerson SMS

Source: Victoria Emerson

And here is an example of what not to do. Yes, I can tell from the content of the message that it came from my mobile service provider. But they never introduce themselves and the buyer doesn’t need to play a guessing game.


mobile phone provider clear text message

Send at the right time

It is important to choose the best time for any marketing message. But for SMS this is critical. This is because people are more likely to turn on alerts for text. And although some people put their phones in Do Not Disturb mode when they don’t want to be disturbed, you can’t rely on that.

The last thing you want to do is wake your customer up in the middle of the night with a marketing offer. Your customers probably don’t want to receive messages that will interrupt their meals.

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The good news is that area codes make it relatively easy to identify your target audience’s time zones. Instead of sending a burst message to everyone at once, choose a convenient time and send it gradually according to the time zone.

Another great option if you have a face-to-face business is to send SMS messages right after the appointment. You’re already on the customer’s mind and you know they’re ready. For example, my dentist recently sent this message right after an appointment.


Atlantis Dentist tracking SMS

Source: Atlantis Tooth

It’s a good idea to run some tests to see which times get the best response and lowest unsubscribe rate.

Know your character count

SMS messages are maximum 160 characters. That’s not much to work on when you need to identify yourself and provide an opt-out option. You need to know exactly what you want to say and not waste any characters.

Get to the point quickly and use links (and link shorteners) to fill in the details of your message.

SMS marketing software

SMS marketing and SMS customer service require more than a simple messaging app on your phone. Here are some SMS marketing platforms to help you incorporate SMS into your marketing and customer service strategies.

Sparkcentral by Moyens I/O

Sparkcentral brings all your customer service messages from SMS, social media, WhatsApp and apps into one inbox. Because customers can be reached across multiple platforms, this is an important way to ensure your SMS customer service response is part of a unified customer service approach.

Sparkcentral also allows you to include chatbots. Routine maintenance requests can be handled automatically without overwhelming your customer service team. When it’s time for an agent to intercept the SMS, they will have access to data from your CRM and current chat. They will be well equipped to delight your customers with the most helpful response possible.

You can connect Sparkcentral to CRM systems such as Zendesk, Microsoft Dynamics CRM, and Salesforce CRM.


Sparkcentral conversation view

Source: spark center

EZ Messaging

EZ Texting allows you to send a broadcast SMS campaign to your preference list. Your SMS marketing campaign may include contests, coupons and promotional codes, as well as transactional messages such as appointment reminders.

They also offer a built-in web form that helps you convert email subscribers and website visitors into SMS subscribers.

Omnisend

Omnisend has prebuilt SMS templates and workflows for order and shipping confirmations, as well as cart abandonment and birthday offers. They also provide SMS engagement tools like pop-ups and landing pages.

Omnisend also supports MMS so you can send GIFs and images with your text messages.

Attentive

Attentive is an enterprise-grade SMS marketing platform used by brands like TGI Fridays, Pura Vida, and CB2. With a focus on compliance, it helps you create personalized, targeted text messages that generate direct revenue.

Use Sparkcentral by Moyens I/O to interact with your customers and respond to messages via SMS, email, live chat and social media – all from a single dashboard. Deliver a seamless cross-platform customer service experience with Chatbot and CRM integrations.