An Essential Guide to SMS Marketing for Business Start-ups

in Marketing by John Allen

An Essential Guide to SMS Marketing for Business Start-ups

How many SMS (Short Messaging Service) messages did you send today? And how many did you receive? An amazing 2.2 trillion text messages were sent in the US during 2020. That makes it one of the most popular forms of digital communication.

Despite this, many businesses don’t make use of SMS messaging at all. With the best cloud hosted phone system allowing you to send SMS messages to external contacts as part of their business communications plans and prospects reading every text sent, why are more organizations not taking advantage of SMS texting for marketing purposes?

In this post, we’ll guide you through adopting an SMS marketing strategy and getting the most out of it for your business.

What is SMS marketing?

First of all, there are two types of text marketing; SMS and MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service). With the former, your messages are text only (and usually limited to 160 characters unless you have an extended messaging plan). You can, however, include links in that message to images, landing pages, or social media pages.

With MMS, you can have up to 1,600 characters, and you can include images, audio, or videos in your message. Of course, many carriers charge higher rates for MMS messages, and, especially if you are new to using text messages for marketing, you may want to start off more simply with SMS marketing.

SMS marketing is the process of sending business messages to your customers. While these will mainly be marketing messages, such as notifications about discounts, you could also include other information, such as shipping updates from your customer service team.

Just as you may send multiple personal text messages every day, you can also choose to send regular business-related SMS messages to customers (and potential customers) who have provided you with their contact details or who are already on your subscribers list.

So, how do you actually embark on your SMS marketing journey, and what sort of messages should you be sending?

An essential guide to SMS marketing

There’s no limit to what you can send via SMS messaging. This means you’ll be able to boost your marketing efforts without spending a fortune. However, before you start, you need to know that SMS texts are covered by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

This means that you must obtain written consent from the customer or already have it (from when they gave you all their contact details, for example). There are some exceptions to TCPA rules, and these include:

  • Security updates sent out by banks or other financial institutions.
  • Job openings sent out by recruitment agencies.
  • Healthcare-related texts such as appointment reminders sent by hospitals, clinics, or doctors.
  • Service updates from utility providers.

If your startup is considering using SMS marketing, here are the 10 best SMS messages you can send.

1. Welcome messages

You hopefully get new customers or subscribers every day, and it’s nice to say “Hello and welcome”. Perhaps someone has signed up to get information on stock or just because they have an interest in the products you sell. Either way, a simple personalized welcome message is a nice way to start the relationship.

2. Consent/opt-in.

As already mentioned, SMS messaging is covered by the TCPA. So, unless you’re exempt from TCPA regulations, your next message to the customer is to explain what they’ve signed up for and to obtain their consent to receive further SMS messages from you. Your opt-in message should include the following:

  • A comprehensive description of what they’ve signed up to.
  • How many messages they’re likely to receive in any given period. It’s best to include the minimum and maximum number of messages they're likely to receive.
  • A link to your privacy policy and T&Cs (Terms and Conditions).
  • An opportunity to opt out of your SMS marketing program (usually as simple as replying with ‘STOP’) or seek more information (usually just ‘HELP’).

3. Shipping updates

When a customer places an order, they like to keep updated on its status- when it’s dispatched, out for delivery, and so on. SMS messages are a great way to keep customers updated on their order status. You can let them know when their parcel leaves your facility and, if you’re shipping internationally or using different carriers, when it reaches and leaves different stops en route to its destination.

4. Special alerts

With such a large proportion of people opening and reading the SMS messages they receive, it’s a great medium for notifying your customers and subscribers about important information. This could include personalized offers, low-stock notifications on favorite products, or any issues with customers’ accounts.

5. Time-sensitive information

You should notify customers of limited offers. For example, you may offer a discount on a rephrasing tool, but only for the first hundred customers or the next 24 hours. With people typically responding to texts within minutes, SMS messages offer a great way of letting people know about time-sensitive offers.

6. Personalization

SMS messaging allows you to personalize your marketing efforts quickly and easily. Is it a customer’s birthday? Set up your system to send an automated and personalized greeting. You can also personalize messages according to products or services they have previously expressed interest in and send them info if something special is happening with those products/services.

7. Customer Service

SMS messaging is a fantastic way to deliver great customer service. Let’s say you’re a SaaS company that specializes in communications. Customers might ask questions like “what is a PBX phone system, and how does it differ from a traditional landline?” when they’re deciding between the solutions available. You can quickly respond and explain the value of your offering over that of competitors.

Remember, providing excellent customer service is crucial as a startup, as this will enable you to retain customers. So, offering speedy service for anything from questions to tech support is crucial.

8. Triggers

You probably already have triggers in place to automate your email marketing. For example, if a customer abandons their cart without making a purchase, you'll automatically send them an email. Why not switch to SMS messages (or use both)? This will boost conversion rates significantly.

9. Loyalty texts

Having a good level of customer retention means that you can increase your CLV (Customer Lifetime Value) figures and decrease your CAC (Customer Acquisition Costs). These can both be crucial for a startup’s growth. SMS messaging is a great way of letting your loyalty program members know about exclusive offers and discounts not available to others. You can even personalize those messages to make your customers feel even more special.

10. Drip campaigns

Email drip campaigns can be highly effective. They guide a potential customer through your sales funnel all the way from initial interest to becoming a loyal customer or even a brand ambassador. If these have worked for you in the past, try out an SMS drip campaign instead.

If you’re aiming to double your conversion rates, with higher open and conversion rates, there’s a good chance your SMS messaging campaign will outperform any email drip campaign you’ve run.

Get texting today

Given how many SMS messages are sent each day, it’s hard to believe that there aren’t more businesses utilizing them as a marketing tool. With people more likely to open an SMS message, more likely to respond quickly, and more likely to click on any links, it makes good business sense, particularly if you are managing your small business finances carefully.

Perhaps the most critical component of any SMS messaging strategy is ensuring you’re compliant with the relevant sections of the TCPA. Obtaining consent from your subscribers and informing them of what to expect from you (including how you’ll use and manage their data) should lie at the heart of any text-based marketing strategy you implement.

Once you have consent, it’s up to you and your business model as to how you use SMS messaging. You may choose to focus primarily on customer service, or you could have a well-rounded strategy that includes most or all of the message types listed. You can always incorporate SMS marketing into your wider strategy and continue cold calling using auto dialler software in addition to this.

Whatever route you take, you’ll find that SMS marketing is a highly effective way of reaching your customers quickly and, just as inventory forecasting ensures that you’ll never let customers down, messaging customers directly about discounts and low-stock products will stop them from missing out and boost your sales and conversion rates dramatically.

Startups face many challenges as they try to establish a market presence and nurture business growth. A well executed SMS marketing strategy can deliver results from the get-go.

About the Author

John Allen

John Allen is the Director of Marketing for 8x8, a leading communication platform with intelligent call routing and integrated contact center, voice, video, and chat functionality. John is a marketing professional with over 14 years of experience in the field, and an extensive background in building and optimizing digital marketing programs across SEM, SEO, and a myriad of services. This is his LinkedIn

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