As someone who's worked in the SMS marketing industry for over a decade, I've witnessed many changes. As a co-founder of my own company, I've even helped to pioneer some of those changes. I've seen businesses use this type of marketing in many ways, sometimes achieving great success, while other times falling short. A large part of my job is to analyze these results and figure out what elements lead to success in the field of text message marketing.
SMS is still a relatively new type of marketing. Compared to email marketing and PPC, for example, SMS, at least as a widely-used advertising platform, is still in its early stages of development. As we approach the onset of a mobile revolution, reaching a large audience via text messages suddenly makes a lot more sense. While it was once possible to market to mobile phone users via text messages a decade ago, the number of people using these devices wasn't nearly as impressive back then. Today, this is rapidly changing.
Looking back on the recent history of SMS, it's possible to identify some areas of improvement for more successful marketing strategies. Based on my deep experience in this realm of marketing, here are my top tips so you can incorporate text messaging into your own customer campaigns:
Don't Send Text Messages Without Permission
Sending unwanted text messages to consumers is probably the most blatant mistake SMS marketers can make. Due to regulations, this is no longer commonly done, at least not by companies that follow the law. In 2013, businesses were officially required to get consent before sending text messages to consumers (this was a modification of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, enacted to restrict unsolicited calls from telemarketers). In light of these legal issues, however, it was the practice of sending what amounted to spam to mobile phone users that turned some people sour on SMS in general.
Just as no one wants to receive email spam, sending unsolicited text messages is not a way to endear yourself to consumers. Commercial text messages today, just like emails, must garner initial opt-in consent and as well as an "unsubscribe" option. The more astute marketers, of course, understand the power of permission-based marketing, whether they are sending emails and text messages, or making phone calls.
Don't Overwhelm Your Audience
Even if you have permission to send someone texts, that doesn't mean your customers want to be bombarded by messages at all times of the day. Sending too many texts is another mistake that was more common in the early days of SMS (though it's still done by less sophisticated marketers today). Much like sending too many emails, this only serves to annoy the recipient.
SMS is a powerful technology that gives you the ability to instantly access a targeted audience -- one that is very likely to actually read your message. As such, it needs to be implemented with a certain restraint. Marketers in the past were much too likely to fall into the trap of thinking "more is better" instead of focusing on sending relevant messages using subjects the reader was actually interested in.
A related issue is the act of sending out one generic text over and over again. This might be the company's slogan, a reminder of a restaurant's specials or happy hour time or any type of message that never changes. Even if the basic information stays the same, it's important to vary the language and style of texts so the recipients feel like they are interacting with real people rather than bots.
Segment Your Recipients
Segmentation allows you to split your audience into groups with particular needs and interests. Using this setup, you can create different lists of contacts based on factors such as geography, gender, age and interests. You can also ask people how often they prefer to be contacted, what type of offers and information they'd prefer to receive, and more.
This approach allows businesses to make sure they are sending only the most relevant messages to their audience. It's good for the recipients and helps SMS marketers manage their budgets more efficiently. As SMS marketing gets more refined and sophisticated, it's becoming a way for businesses to provide customers with precisely the type of information they would like to see appear on their screens.
Join the Next Generation of SMS Marketers
These are just some of the ways to ensure your SMS marketing campaigns are successful. Many of these tips can also apply to other types of marketing. By making a few strategic changes, you'll be able to pull ahead of the marketers that are still not up to speed, and leverage the power of SMS marketing to reach your target audience with the messages that matter most.
Kalin Kassabov is a co-founder and CEO of ProTexting.com, a fast-growing mobile engagement and marketing suite of services. He brings with him over 10 years of experience within the text message marketing space as one of the pioneers of the industry as it exists today in the U.S.