How to Kick Start Your SMS Marketing Program: A Guide for Small-to-Mid-Sized Businesses

So you’ve got a healthy business, a good marketing plan, and you’re pretty sure you know which half is working. But you can’t shake that nagging voice in the back of your head: “I’m not doing SMS…”

SMS, or text messages, are typically read within 3 minutes of receipt, vs. 48 hours for emails.

Well the voice has a point. SMS is sometimes overlooked, but it remains one of the most powerful marketing techniques: just about every phone can accept text messages, and 90% of text messages are read within 3 minutes! (SinglePoint) Furthermore, US mobile customers prefer offers via text message to those via mobile Web, apps, and voice mail. (DMA UK)

SMS marketing doesn’t have to be difficult…so don’t get discouraged! Here are five steps to help you begin using SMS in your marketing today:

1. What do you want to accomplish? If you run a business, you probably want to drive sales (duh!). But consider that SMS is a much more personal medium than email or even social media to some extent. Think about how you can use the opportunity to grow long-term relationships, and harness the power of SMS beyond a one-off promotion or bulk alert.

2. Get a short code. A short code is a five or six digit number from which you can deliver messages, and consumers can message you back. There are two basic types: dedicated and shared. Dedicated codes are great for maintaining the most control over your brand messaging, but they are costly, so shared codes are often a good bet for small- to mid-sized businesses.

3. Build your opt-in list. SMS marketing is a fantastic tool for driving repeat business, so start by inviting your Facebook fans, Twitter followers, or in-store patrons to text a keyword to your short code to begin receiving offers and alerts. Get off on the right foot by offering an incentive to sign up. Remember, you can’t send anyone a text until they’ve opted in, and you must always give them an easy way to opt out. Check out the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA)’s best practices for more information.

4. Make it personal. These days, even friends have to be careful about mass texting for risk of appearing impersonal, and the same is true for marketers. While you still want to respect your audience’s anonymity, the content should be customized. For example, ask about a customer’s favorite dish or product in the sign-up form, then send a related offer.

5. Optimize. As with any marketing program, it’s important to test and compare. Are you sending most of your texts during the week? Try sending on the weekend and see how this affects response rates. Are some offers being redeemed more often than others? Move the underperformers out and test some new ones.

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