SMS: Surprisingly effective

SMS: Surprisingly effective
By Erika Reed
Feb 12, 2020
Text message marketing isn’t new or groundbreaking, but it’s highly effective when utilized correctly. Here’s how.

A phone number is personal. It’s given out to close friends, family, neighbors, people you trust, and those you want and expect to hear from. If a brand has done a good job of building a relationship with you, it may be included in this group.

The concept of brands texting customers or loyalty program members is not new or groundbreaking. There is, however, a right and effective way for them to do so. The reward is well worth the effort of building that trust. A brand’s text message will have a 98% open rate within two minutes of sending. Talk about engagement: that’s many orders of magnitude larger than the average open rate in email.

While email is still a vital channel for customer communications, part of personalization is knowing how, when, and where to communicate with your customer. That goes for email, direct mail, text message, or carrier pigeon. Here's how to get started with text message marketing:

1. Ask permission

Just like with email, your customer must give you permission to text them. If you’ve already collected their phone number, bravo, you’re one step closer. But you still need customers to opt-in to text messages before you start the conversation. Don’t have their phone number? Promote your text messaging program in your email campaigns.

2. Be timely (and respectful)

Sending a text message every day is not effective. It’s annoying and it loses its flair quickly. Your cadence will vary depending on your product, and data will play an important role. Say a customer ordered dinner delivery on a Friday night last month. A text offer of free delivery this Friday may inspire the customer to order again versus picking up take-out on their way home. Because of the high open rate, sending a text message is the way to go in this situation rather than an email. It’s a win-win situation because your customer now has dinner on the way, and your brand profits.

Our work for the National Cancer Institute’s SmokefreeTXT program is a great example of the efficacy of this approach. Transparency is key to this data-driven program to help people stop smoking, all through text messaging. We tell the customer when they sign up exactly when and how often they will receive text messages. With 213,000 text message subscribers to date, we’ve been able to get out an effective message and make a positive change in the lives of many.

3. Be relevant

It’s just as easy to read a text, as it is to reply STOP to that text. If customers give you their phone number, it’s because they trust you and are interested in your content. So keep being authentic to your brand — and use customer data to make the message relevant to them. A mom on the go is unlikely to respond to an offer on 50% off men’s socks, but way more likely to take advantage of an offer on diapers.

4. Send offers

According to a report by Code Broker, customers prefer receiving offers via text over other popular methods like email, app push notifications, or going to a website. What’s more? 85% of customers use the coupon they received via text within one week. The text method creates a sense of urgency, which can turn into revenue for you. Sending an offer every week or even every month might be overkill, but text messaging should be your primary option for offer delivery when you are ready to send.

DSW, for example, sends text messages to customers who have birthdays coming up. The brand also sends messages to loyalty members letting them know they earned points on each purchase, and messages when points are due to expire. Not only are you sending offers that customers want to act on, you’re keeping your brand relevant in order to keep your customer loyal.

Being relevant means being personal. It’s important to know your customers’ channel preference. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, so ensure your communications strategy is multi-faceted. A successful text messaging strategy will result in timely and relevant messages that resonate with your customers and benefit your brand.

ICF’s global marketing services agency focuses on helping your organization find opportunity in disruption.
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Meet the author
  1. Erika Reed, Associate Account Director
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