Advantages & Disadvantages of SMS Marketing
Despite the onset of popular instant messaging apps such as Messenger and Whatsapp, text messaging has firmly held its ground as not just one of the most common modes of communication, but also one of the most popular. It’s no surprise then that it also continues to be a popular tool for marketing too. Use of SMS messaging has seen a decline over recent years, but with close to 100 billion SMS messages still being sent in the UK as at the end of 2016, it is far from finished.
Number of SMS Messages sent in the UK – 2007 – 2016
SMS Marketing offers an incredibly powerful way to interact directly with users, create clear calls to actions and instigate a response. SMS marketing is also very different to most other more traditional marketing tools though, specifically because of its short-form, text only nature. This certainly shouldn’t put you off though. In this article, we revisit and refresh our popular article especially for 2018, looking at both the best things about SMS marketing and some of the potential challenges, and how to work around them.
Advantage - Recipients Must Opt-In to Receive Messages
What can easily be perceived as an obstacle at first glance is actually one of the keys to the unrivalled success of SMS Marketing. The basic regulations, as governed by the PECR regulations (and soon to be strengthened further under the forthcoming GDPR) dictate that in order to receive SMS marketing messages, users must have at some point prior to receiving any message explicitly opted in to the service – naturally, you may have questions or concerns about ensuring compliance, but this is a positive; essentially, it means that you have an audience who has already acknowledged some level of prior interest in receiving the communications that you are sending out relating to that specific product or service. This can be much more effective than trying to market to a blind audience, such as may happen in magazine or television (outbound) marketing, and your conversion rates are likely to be higher as a result. Given the increasing use of tools such as ad-blockers this advance declaration of interest in your product or service is more important than ever. One recently published report from PageFair found global ad blocker usage grew 30% to 615 million devices in 2016. In contrast, the open rate for SMS Marketing messages is close to 100%.
Remember, marketing success isn’t measured by how much you shout, but by how many people listen and then act.
Advantage - SMS Marketing is Both Personal and Expansive
Broadly speaking, marketing largely falls into two categories. On the one hand, you have very personal offerings such as telemarketing, where each person is called individually. This gives the opportunity to engage on a very personal level but can be costly and time consuming. It is generally agreed that telesales can be expected to see a closure rate of just 2-3%, meaning that it is best suited to higher ticket price transactions and not the general retail market.
On the other hand, you have mediums such as a television advert. This allows you to reach a large audience with one message but it is largely impersonal, with no individual engagement or personalisation – and again costly to implement, although more likely to be successful for lower value sales. According to tvadvertising.co.uk, the following are representative costs per thirty second TV ad on the UK’s leading channels:
The total cost per campaign generally varies between £3000 – £30,000 depending on the time of day. Of course, in addition to this there is also a significant outlay in preparing the creative too, which can often run into thousands of pounds and requires a long lead time.
In a lot of ways, SMS marketing strikes a happy balance between the two. For a relatively low outlay per unit, you can send the same message out to all recipients (and can personalise the content), whilst still directly receiving individual feedback back from them, which leads us on to our next point…
Advantage - SMS is Highly Interactive Yet Non-Intrusive
Perhaps one of the main advantages of SMS marketing is the way that you can obtain huge amounts of information and feedback from your customers. You can urge them to vote in polls, complete questionnaires and take part in surveys. The best part is how simple it is for your audience to actually respond to those calls to action though. Instead of having to login to a different website online, or complete a form on Facebook, or fill in and return a slip in a restaurant, they can simply text message you back like they would a friend. This can be done from anywhere – on the sofa watching TV, waiting in line at the supermarket, under the desk at work. Click here to learn more about receiving SMS messages online. SMS marketing is one of the simplest ways for your customers to interact with you without taking too much of their time.
Advantage - Perhaps the Most Cost-Effective Channel Available
As illustrated in the previous section, one of the big draws of SMS marketing lies in its simplicity. There’s no advert to film or long-form copy to write. It is cost effective both to produce and also to distribute, as you can send one message to all of your customers at a touch of a button.
With no subscription fees, lengthy contracts or commitments, you only pay for the messages you send meaning your SMS marketing strategy can be flexible and work around you. If you don’t run a campaign one month, it doesn’t cost you anything – meaning your ROI is always high. It is also possible to adjust your campaign in real time to increase effectiveness – something that channels such as TV advertising simply do not offer.
Advantage - Text Messages are Delivered in Real Time
The real time nature of text messages means you can keep your finger on the pulse and respond to wider events as they happen, rather than trying to preempt trends ahead of time. If you are a bar and suddenly there’s a heatwave, send out a message to your SMS mailing list offering them a free cocktail that afternoon. Real time means you can keep your content fresh and relevant, respond quickly in ways you can’t with lots of other marketing tools.
Challenge - It Can be Difficult Getting People to Engage
Although, as discussed above, the potential for interaction is high, it can sometimes be difficult to get users to engage via SMS marketing. The first hurdle you have is encouraging them to opt in and, even then, you can’t guarantee that somebody will open and read the messages.
Solution: This problem is is easily overcome if you add real value to your messages. For instance, lots of restaurants, especially food delivery services, send weekly reminders about their deals. These can be highly valuable to regular customers, who therefore continue to opt in to the communications. The basic rule is simple – you need to give to receive.
Challenge - Limited Advertising Space
There’s no way around it: SMS provides a short form marketing tool. This is both one of its strengths and a potential hurdle to overcome if it’s something you’re new to. You simply don’t have the space to be vague or go into detail and communications need to be kept very to the point.
Solution: This is where it is key that SMS marketing integrates well with your wider marketing campaign. It can be an incredibly powerful supplement to other more traditional methods of marketing. Create brand awareness elsewhere, then use SMS to create a clear and powerful call to action.
Challenge - You Can't Use the Same Content Repeatedly
With a print, TV or radio ad, an advertisement is typically repeated over and over – often as part of the technique to keep the brand in the attention of the public and instigate both conscious and subconscious reaction. SMS ads, on the other hand, must be worded differently each time or your users will almost certainly switch off and start to feel like they’re being bludgeoned with your marketing hammer – they might even start to consider the messages spammy and unsubscribe.
Solution: On the flip side of this argument, it must of course be considered that the production costs and time investment of each individual SMS message, versus that of a whole TV ad, are considerably lower, and the ability to adjust the campaign in real time at no additional cost can only be an added advantage. Used correctly, SMS is an important tool in your marketing arsenal reserved for your most attractive offers rather than simple brand awareness.
Challenge - Your Audience is Going to be Smaller
The downside of having a niche audience which has opted-in is that realistically you are going to be reaching less people than you would with an ad in a local or national newspaper for instance.
Solution: This isn’t automatically a negative – it needs to be considered alongside conversion rates. If you reach only 100 people but have a conversion rate of 10% and sell to 10 people, then your sales are going to be the same as if you reach 1000 but a conversion rate of only 1%.
Ultimately, the majority of things that could be considered a challenge for SMS marketing are the same reasons it’s a must have for your overall marketing strategy – variety is key.
Ready to add SMS Marketing to your marketing mix? Get in touch with our experts for a free consultation and we’ll be happy to discuss how you could benefit from SMS marketing. Call now on 0800 954 5305 and we’ll get you connected with a specialist in your sector.
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