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Learn / Blog

SMS Marketing 101: A Comprehensive Guide to Promotional Text Messaging

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|  6 min
SMS Marketing 101
In this article

Dating as far back as 1993 (when the first cell phones began using T9 keyboards), short message service or SMS text messaging has grown to become one of the most popular and accessible forms of quick communication available. Consumer phones don’t need to be smart in order to use SMS, and the medium doesn’t require an internet connection. As a result, over 6.5 billion people worldwide currently rely on SMS text messaging in some form.

Consumers are also highly receptive to this communications medium. Statistics from various analyst firms suggest that SMS messages have a near-100% open rate, with recipients reading over 90% of messages within three minutes of delivery. This is almost four times as high as the opening rates for email.

This popularity of text messaging is good news for commercial enterprises. Today’s consumers remain highly willing to subscribe to receive SMS communications from brands to get regular updates on products and sales promotions. In fact, some 75% of consumers are comfortable getting SMS messages from brands, as long as they can opt in for this service.

What Is SMS Marketing?

SMS marketing or promotional text messaging is a form of mobile marketing that enables businesses to send text messages to their customers and prospects who have subscribed for or opted into this service.

SMS marketing can take various forms. At a very small scale, it can occur as person-to-person or P2P messaging – for example as a two-way communication between customer support agents and service users, or a dialogue between a small business owner and a select clientele.

Promotional text messaging may also manifest as bulk SMS, where an organization can simultaneously transmit the same message to a very large audience. Often, this type of communication is initiated by enterprise software applications or systems rather than individuals, in what is known as application-to-person or A2P SMS.

These forms of business SMS or enterprise SMS communications are ideal for running promotions, conducting surveys, issuing special offers, or providing information about new products and services. A2P SMS is also routinely used for transactional purposes – for example, in two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA) for user verification and systems access or the issuing of One-Time-Passwords (OTPs).

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The Structure of a Promotional Text Messaging Campaign

To understand how SMS marketing works, we can look at the structure of a typical promotional text messaging campaign. Activities usually occur in a set of progressive stages, as follows.

Initial Phase: Identifying and Onboarding Subscribers

To get started with SMS marketing, organizations first need to identify their target audience (from buyer personas, ideal customer profiles, etc.) and give these people some incentive to opt into their SMS subscriber list. Incentives may include free samples, free software or service trials, special discounts, or exclusive access to new product or service ranges. Besides mobile communication, brands may use other channels to encourage consumers to opt in for SMS marketing, such as social media or email.

Having developed a subscriber list, the next step is to welcome the consumers with a series of text messages that introduce the brand, educate them on what the brand has to offer, and provide reasons for why customers should buy into it.

Using A/B testing helps in optimizing these early communications. Analytics can reveal the effectiveness of calls to action, numbers of subscribers opting out, and sales conversions.

Intermediate Phase: Following Up to Maximize Revenue

At this stage, your organization should have a healthy subscriber list, and should have generated some revenue through successful transactions. During the intermediate phase of an SMS marketing campaign, you can focus attention on partially completed transactions, to increase your revenue stream.

Bearing in mind that over 70% of website visitors will tend to abandon their cart before completing a purchase, this is the time to run an abandoned cart SMS campaign. Here, messages should contain a link to the products they abandoned in your store. Multimedia message service (MMS) elements like photos and GIF files can act as visual reminders. To incentivize the customer, you can also send them a code to redeem an offer on the abandoned purchase.

Ideally, you should send three abandoned cart text messages with a good time interval between each one.

Fully Operational Phase: Engaging in Dialogue and Diversifying Your Marketing Efforts

With subscribers now having experience with your brand, this phase is all about engaging in a two-way conversation with engaged consumers, and integrating SMS with your other marketing channels.

Using an SMS keyword tool, you can send keywords to your subscribers to invite their consent to a two-way text messaging exchange. You can use these conversations to provide customer support, answer questions, and exchange ideas or views relating to the needs, preferences, and pain points of your consumers.

This is also the stage at which you can begin SMS integration with your email and/or social media marketing. You can use these channels to overcome the short message limitations of SMS, and to provide access to longer form resources like eBooks, articles, product guides, and tutorials.

How to Get the Most Out of Your SMS Marketing

You can follow these recommendations and best practices, in order to make the most of your SMS marketing efforts.

Use Concise Messaging

The conventional limit for a single SMS message is 160 characters, so you try to adhere to this. Note that some SMS service providers issue text credits as part of their billing, with 160 characters equivalent to a single credit.

The best strategy is to use clear, concise messaging that gets to the point quickly, and includes some clear purpose or call to action (CTA). In fewer than six sentences, you should communicate your company name, the customer’s name, the particular offer or promotion, a CTA, and an opt-out option.

Identify Your Brand Early

This is particularly important during the early phases of your SMS marketing campaign. Your messaging will likely come to the consumer’s phone as an unknown number – and you don’t want them to delete your text before they read it. If you include your brand name at the beginning of the message, this lets customers know who you are right away.

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Only Send Texts to Customers Who Have Opted In

There can be legal and financial consequences for delivering unsolicited SMS marketing. In the US for example, organizations must comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and its privacy laws and regulations, while operators in Europe must comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Online opt-in forms can automatically add consumers to your subscriber list, so long as they give their name, mobile number, and consent to receive your brand’s promotional SMS. The Welcome messages you send after customers subscribe can serve as an additional way to ensure that subscribers are aware they’ve consented and signed up for your campaign.

Make It Easy for Subscribers to Opt Out

As an added layer of protection for your organization (and to preserve your compliance status in certain jurisdictions), you should make it easy for customers to stop receiving texts from you by including an unsubscribe option in each message. This can be something simple, like “Text STOP to unsubscribe from this list.”

Invite Customer Feedback

As part of the survey and poll output of your SMS marketing campaign, you should occasionally request feedback from your subscribers on how you’re doing. For example, you can ask customers how useful they find the SMS service to be, and ask for suggestions on what they would like to see more of in future.

Use Technology that Ensures Maximum Flexibility and Ease of Use

As you may appreciate from all of the above, running an SMS marketing campaign is an ongoing process that requires careful planning and implementation. SMS marketing also demands close monitoring and management.

To achieve all this, you’ll need to use technology that can reduce some of the workload on your marketing team through automation, and provide a selection of tools and features that enable your team to craft the best messaging possible, while remaining attentive and responsive to your consumers. Your technology choice should also provide the campaign management and analytical tools needed to maximize your SMS marketing efforts.

SMS API technology can make all of this possible.

SMS API stands for short message service application programming interface, which is a set of protocols and tools that enables software applications to send and receive text messages programmatically. It allows developers to integrate SMS functionality into their own applications, websites, or systems, facilitating the automation of SMS communication.

With the IDT Express SMS API, you can seamlessly build customer journeys by fostering interactive conversations, all within the framework of your app. The IDT Express SMS API has a user-friendly wizard-driven code generation process that is fast and effortless to utilize. In just minutes, you can enhance your sales and foster customer loyalty by leveraging impactful SMS advertising targeted at your customer base. Quickly send SMS polls, surveys and request customer feedback with two-way messaging, and create highly personalized SMS notifications that cater to any use case with unmatched flexibility.

To learn more about how the IDT Express SMS API can enhance your SMS marketing efforts, book a demo.

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