7 Tips for Incorporating SMS Into Your Marketing Efforts

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With 5.25 billion mobile phone users worldwide, many marketers have started incorporating SMS into their messaging mix. But if all you’re doing is sending generic one-off text messages, you’re barely scratching the surface of what you can do with this dynamic communication channel. Download our tip sheet and learn about seven advanced ways you can use SMS to enhance your marketing efforts.

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We live in a mobile world. Consumers are carrying their mobile devices with them day and night, using them to engage with brands in ways never imagined even a decade ago. The statistics are staggering: 8.6 trillion text messages are sent every year on average, including 6 billion per day in the United States alone.

With 90 percent-plus open rates on SMS and engagement rates of up to eight times higher than email, SMS marketing presents a huge opportunity for businesses. Savvy marketers have picked up on these mobile trends and have started incorporating SMS into their messaging mix to better communicate with customers and prospects, a smart move given the incredibly high open rates of SMS.

But if all you’re doing — or thinking about doing at some point — is sending the same generic one-off text messages to all your mobile subscribers, you’re barely scratching the surface of what you can do with this dynamic communication channel. Here are seven ways to use SMS to enhance your marketing efforts.

Tip #1: Keep it short, sweet and simple

This may be the most important tip to follow if you want your SMS campaign to be successful. For starters, keep in mind that most carriers limit the length of a text message to 160 characters. Beyond that, a good general rule is that the faster you get to the meat of your message, the better. For example:

50% off your next order. CLICK HERE. Expires Sunday.

That’s a fantastic message, since it gets right to the point, offers easy instructions on what to do, and tells the customer that the deal expires soon.

It may seem obvious, but you also want to make sure you’re not sending trivial content to your customers. Since texting is an “interruptive” medium, frivolous text messages are likely to annoy your customers. Instead, seek to deliver an outstanding mobile experience by taking the time to create text messages your contacts are likely to be interested in pursuing further.

Tip #2: Give contacts the ability to choose the channels through which they receive communications.

With endless information at their fingertips and a bevy of social networks a keystroke away, today’s buyers have more control than ever over the customer-business relationship. In response to these shifting dynamics, many savvy companies are giving customers and prospects more control over how they communicate with them.

To improve the customer experience, consider enhancing your preference center and allowing contacts to choose what types of messages they want to receive through various channels. You’ll likely find that some customers prefer to receive certain messages via different channels, such as sales alerts via SMS and monthly newsletters via email.

You might, for example, set up a grid within your preference center listing different types of communications you send and enabling the contact to select “email,” “SMS,” “print” or a combination thereof for how they receive these messages. Providing this added flexibility – along with offering contacts additional control over the type of content they receive and the frequency with which they receive it – helps decrease list churn and boost engagement.

Tip #3: Gather “explicit” data via SMS that you can leverage across other channels.

Has your SMS data been relegated to its own lonely silo? Bust through those walls and start using SMS to gather key data you can use in other digital channels as well as traditional offline channels, such as contact centers and direct mail.

For example, promote email opt-in via SMS across key touch points, including POS signs, ads throughout stores or in mall locations, or on transaction receipts. Test incentives, such as “Text your email address to 46745 to sign up for our email program and get 10% off your next purchase.”

Don’t stop there. Encourage customers to provide other pieces of information via SMS, such as ZIP code (for promotions specific to their location), mailing address (for print catalogs) and phone number (for service assistance), which you can use to drive cross-channel communications and provide a more integrated and rewarding experience for customers.

To increase conversions, consider providing details on why contacts should share the information you’re requesting. For instance, instead of just asking for a person’s birthdate, say “Text your birthdate to 57892 to receive a special gift on your big day.”

Tip #4: Integrate other channels into your automated email campaigns.

Today’s on-the-go customers are weaving in and out of channels and hopping from one device to another throughout the day. To increase your chances of engaging these customers, get creative and build campaigns that reach across channels.

For example, let’s say you’re setting up a four-touch automated campaign geared toward getting customers to perform a certain action within a 10-day time frame. You start by sending an email at 10 days out, and then another seven days out. Instead of just sending non-responders emails again at three days out and one day out and hoping for the best, you might add an SMS message on these days. If there’s still no response at the end of the 10-day period, you could then route the customer to a call center or have the contact’s inaction trigger a print mailing.

Once set up, these campaigns run on their own — in this case, only sending follow-up reminder messages to those people who haven’t responded. And not only do these multichannel automated programs free you up to focus on other tasks, but they allow you to rest easier knowing that you’ve pursued all available avenues to elicit a response.

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SMS Success Story: Bridgevine

Bridgevine, a reseller for cable and telecommunications companies, was challenged with prospective customers not following through with conversions – in this instance, calling in to the call center to schedule an installation appointment. So, the team decided to implement an automated email and SMS campaign with the goal of being more proactive.

Bridgevine placed a short form including both email address and mobile number on its TimeWarner microsite. If a prospect completes the form and opts in to receive future communications, but doesn’t immediately schedule an appointment, the individual is automatically placed into an automated re-touch program.

In this program, the lead receives an automated SMS and email – both triggered via the Silverpop digital marketing platform – upon submission of the form. The first SMS is delivered within one or two minutes of the form submission. The lead continues to receive automated SMS and email messages for up to three days, unless it becomes a conversion before then. If the prospect in the program calls to schedule an installation appointment, the Silverpop platform is tied to Bridgevine’s call center via an API, therefore automatically removing the prospect from the program.

The program has resulted in a 300 percent increase in conversions, with a call-back rate of 33 percent. More than 30 percent of the prospects who provided their email addresses also opted in to the SMS program.

Tip #5: Segment and target individuals based on a person’s cross-channel behaviors.

Experienced digital marketers know that delivering emails based on a contact’s actions, preferences or demographics delivers more ROI than just sending general broadcast messages. The same principal applies to SMS, yet many marketers take a “one size fits all” approach to text messaging.

Instead, increase relevance by setting up rules so contacts receive certain messages when they meet specific criteria. You might start by setting up triggered text messages based exclusively on actions within the channel – if a contact opts in for your SMS programs and sends “SpringContest” and “SummerPromotions” texts, for example, that might trigger a text message offering a sneak peek at your new fall product lineup.

To drive even more ROI, consider setting up increasingly sophisticated rules that take cross-channel criteria into account. You might run a query of all your SMS subscribers who have visited your website in the last week, and send them an exclusive presale offer for their local store via text. Or, maybe an SMS subscriber who retweets your blog post gets a “thank you” text message with an invitation to follow you on Twitter. Inactivity can also be the trigger — someone who’s signed up for your SMS program but hasn’t opened your email in the last two weeks, visited your website in the past month or made a purchase in the last 60 days might receive a text message aimed at driving him or her back to your website.

Tip #6: Enhance your loyalty program through SMS gamification.

Today’s sophisticated marketing technology platforms enable you to take advantage of the advances in mobile and marketing automation to create personalized loyalty programs that build affinity for your brands.

Setting up an individualized SMS rewards program is a creative way to build your database, gather information and extend message reach. And as an added bonus, it’s also a lot of fun for your customers. Imagine setting up a “loyalty” scoring model in your marketing automation platform and then rewarding participants with points for actions both within the SMS channel (e.g., texting you their birthdate) and in other channels (e.g., making a purchase or retweeting content).

You could then build an SMS campaign in which participants receive different texts based on their loyalty points, with these messages containing URLs that direct recipients to personalized landing pages with individualized content and calls to action. Texts might include:

  • Message #1: Welcome to the club! Stay tuned for details on exclusive badges, special offers & VIP info. Max 8 msg/ month. Rply STOP to quit. Msg&Data rates may apply.
  • Message #2: Here’s UR 1st chance to get an exclusive offer & earn your 1st badge - Rewards Insider. Go to http:// bit.ly/PRG9dk for details. Rply STOP to quit.
  • Message #3: Congrats! U earned the Email Insider badge. View UR badge & share the news with UR friends. http:// bit.ly/hts5oj. Rply STOP to quit.

Bottom line? You’re limited only by your creativity. And if you already have a loyalty program in place that incorporates mobile in some way – a loyalty app or a check-in rewards program, for instance – it’s a natural progression to use SMS in conjunction with these programs to better connect with customers.

Tip #7: Drive dynamic content in your emails and on your website using SMS behaviors.

Using behavior-driven dynamic content within emails and on your website is a potent way to build engagement, strengthen loyalty and boost revenue. Assuming you have a unified marketing database in place capable of capturing cross-channel behaviors and attributing them to a single person, there are countless customer actions you might use to customize email and Web content – including those within the SMS channel.

So, look for ways you could capture behavioral data via SMS and use it to fuel content in email and on your website. For example, a new SMS subscriber who visits your website within two months of opt-in might see a content block advertising your recently released mobile app. Or, all email subscribers who are actively engaged with you via SMS and whose device equals “iPhone” might see a content block inviting them to download your new iPhone app.

You could also use similar principals to drive SMS opt-ins. For example, mobile app downloaders might see dynamic content blocks on your website advertising your SMS program – or could be prompted to opt in upon opening your app.

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