A quick guide to SMS marketing for small businesses

Business News | 19 Jun, 2018 |

We send dozens of SMS messages each day, and the younger we are, the more that figure rises. SMS messages are enormously popular. Most people will open an SMS message, even if it’s from an unknown sender, whereas we are more likely to ignore an email if we don’t know who it’s from.

SMS marketing is a valuable tool for businesses, but it is very easy to get it wrong. The penalties for spamming users with unwanted text messages are high, so if you are new to SMS marketing, read on for some useful advice.

Why Use SMS Marketing?

SMS messages are a bit like Tweets. It’s hard to be ambiguous when composing an SMS message, as you don’t have space to wax lyrical or go off-topic. The nature of an SMS message means you have to stick to the point, which is helpful because customers don’t have time to read long messages.

In a time-poor society, people prefer pithy, to-the-point marketing messages. It takes a few seconds to read an SMS message and decide whether to respond to the message or ignore it. Because SMS messages are effective, click-through rates are much higher than email messages. This makes SMS marketing a good strategy for small businesses.

What is SMS Marketing?

Businesses are increasingly using SMS to keep in touch with their customers. We are invited to leave our mobile numbers so the company can let us know when a delivery is expected, or when it’s been delivered. SMS can remind is about appointments or give us important information.

Small businesses can also use SMS marketing to tell customers about new products, services, and other important information. However, before you get to that point, you need to collect some phone numbers.

Building an SMS Marketing List

It is very easy to collect email addresses but collecting mobile numbers for marketing purposes takes more time and effort. For starters, people have to actively subscribe to a marketing list if they give you their mobile number. You can’t start sending marketing messages to someone who only gave you their number, so they could get an order update. The penalties for misusing personal information are high. Subscribers must opt-in and be aware that they are opting in for marketing messages. Make sure your opt-in form is unambiguous.

Working with an SMS List

Once you have a marketing list, divide it into segments. Sending out mass SMS marketing messages to every single person on your list is unlikely to be effective. You are much better off targeting specific customer groups on your list.

Do some A/B testing to see what style of content works best for each group. Younger groups might respond well to overuse of emojis and gifs whereas older people will probably prefer simple text-based content. However, until you do some testing, you won’t know for sure.

Devising Useful Content

Personalise your content by referring to the person by name. This helps to reinforce the fact the message is not a spam SMS. Only send information that’s useful in some way. For example, if you have a sale coming up, send out a bulk SMS to everyone who might be interested in the sale. Or, if you have a new product line, send that message to anyone on your list who has bought similar products before. If an SMS is perceived as ‘useful’ rather than ‘annoying’, it will be received better.

SMS messages are usually restricted to 160 characters. You can go over this, but the message is broken into several parts and users are less likely to show an interest in the content. For best results, keep it short and sweet. You’ll find conversion rates are better with short, crisp messages.

Call to Action

Always include a call to action at the end of an SMS message. This can be a link to your website or your phone number. If you include the website URL, make sure you shorten the link using a service such as Bitly, so you don’t inadvertently waste characters.

Sending at the Right Time

Research has found that timing really does matter when sending bulk SMS marketing messages. Most people open an SMS message immediately, so you can use this to your advantage. For example, if you are sending messages designed to prompt people to book a table in your restaurant, sending a message late afternoon or right before lunch could be a good call. But, if your goal is to persuade other businesses to use your services, don’t send your messages outside of working hours. Instead, time them to arrive mid-morning so the recipient has time to read it.

Once again, A/B testing is useful in this regard.

Treat SMS Marketing messages carefully and don’t spam your mailing list. If you adhere to these guidelines, you should enjoy a decent measure of success.

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