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The golden rules to follow to ensure SMS marketing success

by jcp
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By David Greenberg, CMO, Act-On

To ensure a positive future of SMS marketing in 2021, and beyond, marketers need to gain the confidence to realise customers want to engage with brands they trust on their mobile phones – so long as campaigns are permission-based and are truly helpful.

Marketers have previously been a little lost with how to leverage SMS effectively, some may still think of the old days when a minority of rogue operators sent out spam messages, exactly as they have always done with email too. Given that it is such a personal device, some brands have been cautious.

The big trend ahead of us is for marketers to wake up to the fact consumers have moved on. If they take a look at the research, they will soon realise how modern consumers now expect automated SME marketing because it simply makes their lives so much easier.

The figures show 90% of consumers prefer SMS to a phone call and 75% want to receive special offers on their phone, according to SMS Comparison figures. That is why average SMS click-through rates are riding high at 19%, compared to just 4% for email.

SMS use cases to help build relationships with customers

This realisation comes at a time when marketers are forming strategies around building up the long-term value of each customer. It’s here where automated SMS campaigns can make a substantial contribution.

The key is to build a strategy around information your target audience will find helpful. Here are a few that should form part of any brand’s strategy:

1. Time-saving events details

Nobody wants to go through their calendar or email endlessly, so give people that have an appointment, product demonstration or reservation with you all the details they will need. Directions are really valuable here too, so include nearby transport hubs, the satellite navigation code for a car park and what lift they will need to take to whichever floor.

2. Confirm a purchase or reservation

Customers love to be reassured their order is placed with a confirmation code just in case they need to call customer services.

3. Delivery updates

Let customers know when their order has been dispatched, when it is expected to be with them and then when it has been delivered.

4. Further information links

Help customers find out how to get the most out of their latest product, perhaps by downloading a manual or registering for an extended warranty.

5. Feedback surveys

People are very open to letting brands know how they did. Use surveys to find out and put right any issues before they escalate.

6. Polls

If you’re wondering what you should do next, ask customers. Whether it’s a question over their favourite colour or designs, or what type of product to launch next, or feature in the next flash sale, just ask your customers.

7. Loyalty points

They don’t always feature on every strategy, but customers love to feel valued by being told how many points they have and what that means in terms of progress to the next level. Messages along the lines of “Spend X amount more money by the end of the month, and you’ll get VIP discounts” is a very strong incentive to push incremental sales.

8. Reminders

These can be part of building up the excitement about attending an event or receiving products, as well as helping to jolt a customer’s memory that their pre-order is about to ship, or you are looking forward to hosting them and their guests for dinner.

9. Promotions

Marketers can be wary of sending out offers but the truth is, they’re the most popular type of SMS communication that opted-in consumers expect and hope to get from a brand. It can be a coupon or code for their next purchase to get a discount off their next purchase or a tip-off and early access to the event of a sale.

Mobile’s golden rules to keep front of mind

The smartphone is the perfect place for these messages to land because people are permanently on their mobile phones, meaning the average text message is read and responded to within just three minutes. Get your permission-based, automated SMS marketing strategy right and analytics suggest text open rates can exceed 95% and click-through rates will reach as high as 40%.

However, to do so, it’s crucial marketers avoid annoying customers at all costs. To do so, there are a few best practice tips to ensure the focus is on helping the customer and building a respectful dialogue:

  • Secure fully informed consent. It’s the decent thing to do, it’s also the legal thing to do. You can ensure this step is always adhered to by using an automated SMS marketing platform that has best practices built-in to how it operates
  • After permission is given, openly share confirmation of SMS enrolment, data policies and opt-out options
  • Ensure B2B messages are never scheduled to be sent out of office hours
  • Set customer actions that are best supported by SMS
  • Pre-set frequency caps to avoid frustrating customers – using the right platform can help support this
  • Keep volumes and frequency low to start, then build up gradually
  • Let your customers guide you but using A/B testing. This will help you understand where to set frequency capping and which message drive the most engagement on which day and at which time of day

Get these golden rules right and you will find automated SMS outreach is highly effective at building strong relationships with consumers on their most personal device. By being respectful and helpful, brands can engage customers in a two-way dialogue that will also deliver their ultimate goal of building up a base of loyal users with a higher lifetime value.

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