How to Use SMS as a Marketing Channel?

SMS Marketing

SMS marketing has practically been around as long as the medium has. It is no wonder that omnichannel promotions have become a gold standard in e-commerce marketing, with SMS as an integral platform, coupled with advances in marketing software.

SMS marketing’s importance lies both in its format and in its proximity to customers. Cell phones are not only always at arm-length, but text messages are often fast and quick to consume.

What is SMS Marketing?

SMS marketing stands for “short message service.” Brands use SMS marketing to connect with their clients, also referred to as text message marketing.

SMS differs from email in that, with a 160 character limit and more immediate delivery, the messages are very short. The message appears on the mobile phone of your customer just seconds after it is sent, often providing a push notification to your customer that it has arrived.

For three primary things, SMS marketing is great:

SMS marketing offers e-commerce marketers a peculiar opportunity to build a relationship with their customers.

SMS as a Marketing Channel

Step 1: Build Your Marketing List

You need an audience, aka a subscriber list of mobile phone numbers you can send your messages to, before you can start your first SMS campaign. And these cannot just be any mobile numbers: these must be contacts who have opted to receive your company’s SMS marketing.

For individuals receiving SMS marketing, the US and other nations require explicit opt-ins, meaning that even brands with a healthy email marketing subscriber list or a considerable number of mobile app downloads cannot start sending SMS messages out of the blue to these individuals. In other words, you need to ensure that you have a vetted list of textable people before brands can leverage SMS messages as part of a cross-channel customer engagement mix.

As with any strategy for customer acquisition, considering a mix of organic and paid marketing channels makes sense. You may want to consider promoting the benefits of opting to receive SMS updates from your brand via some of the channels detailed below, depending on the target audience of your brand, your overall budget, and your customer engagement objectives.

  • Organic channels – Email marketing, social media marketing and campaigns, in-browser and in-app messaging. The basic goal here is to leverage your own (organic) channels to cross-promote SMS as another way to receive updates for the clients of your company. The challenge is not to convince customers why your brand is incredible, but simply to share why your SMS campaigns should not be missed and otherwise secure those SMS opt-ins from contacts who are already part of your larger customer network.
  • Paid channels – Digital advertising, paid social advertising, TV advertising, and out-of-home (OOH) campaigns, such as billboards or public transportation ads: Since these audiences may never have heard of your brand before, you will have to do the job of explaining why it is worth paying attention to both your brand and text messages.

You’ll want to track your stats as with any campaign and see which attempts lead to sign-ups, keep track of the average cost per acquisition, leverage campaign testing to see if certain images or calls to action perform best, and more.

Step 2: Weigh Your SMS Marketing Customer Acquisition Growth by Channel

Once your paid promotional efforts lead to sign-ups and SMS opt-ins are generated by your organic efforts, it is time to dig into the information that you have begun collecting in the previous step to see which channels or strategies lead to the most opt-ins (or the lowest cost opt-ins) to optimize your acquisition efforts.

For example, if you find out that email is more successful in convincing existing customers to opt-in to receive SMS, then you may want to utilize this channel to send additional promotional messages to customers who have not subscribed yet.

Step 3: Conduct Your Marketing Campaigns

However, do not exclude the customer segmentation. You want to be ready to deploy your first welcome campaign as soon as clients begin to opt-in to receive SMS campaigns from your brand. This can be as easy as a warm note thanking clients for subscribing to text updates from your company that include a special promo code or other offer. And this onboarding campaign should be sent in a timely manner (within minutes or hours of signing up, not days or weeks), leveraging marketing automation.

As your SMS sign-up efforts lead to a larger audience of opted-in clients, you may find that there is an opportunity to start sending SMS campaigns that build on the specifics of the various acquisition campaigns that you are running. For example, if your OOH campaign uses creativity that is significantly different from your email campaign, then you can segment your audience through the acquisition channel and tweak your copy of your SMS marketing campaign to ensure that there is continuity between the messages they have received and the subsequent messages you send.

Step 4: From Single-Channel Mobile Marketing to SMS Cross-Channel Outreach

Brands that start using a single channel see customer engagement rates rise by nearly 180%. It’s just impressive. And businesses that follow a cross-channel strategy? They see engagement grow by up to 800%. That’s transformational.

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