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Five Things Every Marketer Needs to Know About SMS

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There’s no better time to take a closer look at SMS marketing – could it fit your marketing strategy?

Smartphone penetration has leapt from 52% to 81% in the UK in the last four years, according to consultants Deloitte’s Global Mobile Consumer Survey 2016, and is expected to continue to rise steadily in the next couple of years. We’re increasingly connected to the things and people around us technologically, but the humble text message has shown almost no sign of losing its appeal. With nearly 100% of phones on the market able to accept text messaging, it’s a channel with the widest reach – something that allegedly fuelled Coca-Cola to spend 70% of its mobile spend on SMS. A study in the US has found that 78% of consumers believe that SMS is the fastest way to reach them, and an astonishing 90% of all text messages are read within three minutes of delivery. Hard to ignore? We think so.

So, what should be at the forefront of your mind when you look at whether SMS could fit with your business? Here are five things you should know before getting started…

1. The Name of the Game: Does it Fit Your Objectives?

It’s easy to approach SMS as a self-contained channel, ready for immediate use. However, before you jump into all that SMS marketing could help you achieve, take a moment to review your marketing objectives against its promises. Will it help you generate the right sales, or develop relationships in the kind of way that fits your business? Approaching any marketing channel as a silo is dangerous – and it’s important to evaluate how SMS might slot into the rest of your marketing activity. Set SMART goals for it from the get-go (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant and Time-Bound) so you’re continuously looking at whether it fits you. Having clear goals will also help you communicate what you want to do with SMS internally, which as we all know, can be half the battle.

2. Collaborate and Cross-Pollinate

Don’t just give your SMS strategy to one marketing team member. It’s designed to work best when integrated with other marketing activity. For example, M&S famously targeted customers with promotional texts for their dine in for £10 offer, timed to be delivered just when most people leave the office, chiming true with advertising in-store, online and on TV, with corresponding extra discount codes as a little thank you for responding to SMS. Build a cross-functional team around it and you’ll get the most from it: customer services, sales, retail, in-store, digital creative, email, IT, social media, promotions… Together you’ll drive home SMS marketing’s effectiveness by integrating it within cross-channel campaigns, but also embedding it into your culture and way of working.

3. Be Clear on Responses: What Do You Want People to Do?

All too often the message you’re trying to get across is lost in the method. For example, TV shows have famously experienced problems when asking viewers to respond by text to vote. And billboards, where keywords appear with quote marks around them (‘Text “FREE” to 80119’) are notoriously problematic. If the customer misspells the keyword or mistypes the number, they may be left with charges on their bill and an inferred negative impression of your brand. This kind of response also relies on instantaneity. A customer is unlikely to remember the keyword and the number for more than a handful of seconds beyond viewing the initial creative, whatever format that may take. Then, for SMS campaigns where you require customers to click a link within your text, this can also create frustration amongst customers who may not have access to the internet to respond immediately. Effectively, the lesson is this: SMS works best if customers can read and respond immediately. Nothing less than ‘now’ will do.

4. Up Close and Personal: Make the Most of the Intimacy

Our mobile devices are one of the most personal possessions we have. Those customers who welcome you into their phone should be considered some of your most loyal, and should be respected. Take advantage of this level of permission by offering them extra offers just for SMS subscribers. In the early stages of building subscribers, discounts can be an effective way of spreading the word and growing your list. Once you’ve got a loyal following, show them regularly that you value their permission with offers you know they’ll value. Consider carefully the timing and frequency of your campaigns against industry benchmarks and any past performance data: SMS customers are hard won and easily lost, but incredibly valuable and loyal when treated right. Remember, it’s not all about the money. You could offer incentives based on personalisation (‘Your favourite item is now back in stock’), reminders (‘Your parcel will be delivered today’), engagement (‘Tell us how we can help you’), access (‘Access our online sale 24 hours early just because you’re an SMS subscriber’), or even privilege (‘We only share this with our SMS VIPs’).

5. Permission is Vital; Compliance is Essential

Like email, SMS is an opt-in channel. Customers can either opt-in by texting a keyword from another channel to your virtual mobile number or giving you their number via a web form or in store. Whatever the method, it must be crystal clear to customers what they’re signing up for. While legally you can send messages to your existing customers as long as it relates to that existing transaction – it’s advised you run an initial opt-in campaign to these customers to double check they want to receive promotions from you going forward. SMS marketing is highly regulated in the UK. Do your homework before sending anything to anyone by reading the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) rules and the Data Protection Act (2008) for starters.

In short, the benefits of SMS marketing can be huge, providing you know what you’re doing, you’ve set up the right support internally, and you’re fully briefed in on the law.

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