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Marketing, Mobile Marketing

Text Message Marketing: The Complete Guide

 

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The past few years have witnessed an explosion of new mobile apps, new methods of social media marketing, and lots of media hype about the ways that businesses are using these new tools to reach customers on their smartphones. But with all of the attention being given to mobile apps, is it possible that text messages – one of the “older” ways of phone-based marketing – have been unfairly overlooked?

The truth is, text messages (also known as SMS messages, or “Short Messaging Service”) still have a lot of potential for small business marketing. Mobile apps and social media are great, but there’s something very powerful about being able to contact customers directly via a well-placed text message. Small business owners who want to reach customers in a way that cuts through the digital clutter should consider trying something “old” that is becoming “new” again – a text message marketing campaign.

The Case for Text Message Marketing

Text messages are still a more effective way to reach almost all U.S. adults, even if they don’t own the latest mobile devices. While smartphone and tablet ownership is increasing significantly, lots of Americans still don’t own either of these mobile devices. According to January 2014 stats from the Pew Research Internet Project, only 42 percent of American adults own a tablet computer, and 58 percent own a smartphone, but 90 percent have a cell phone.

Not only does almost everyone have a cell phone, but the way people use their cell phones makes them more receptive to text message marketing. Text messaging is the most popular activity that cell phones are used for – according to a 2013 Pew study of cell phone activities, 80 percent of Americans use their cell phones to send text messages (compared with only 60 percent who use cell phones to access the Internet and 52 percent who use their phones to send email).

Also, people use their phones in an intense, obsessive way that is ideal for short bursts of information that can be delivered via text. It’s no secret that people are constantly checking their phones – but the Pew Research Internet Project illustrates just how important cell phones and text messages have become to people’s everyday lives. The research found that “67% of cell owners find themselves checking their phone for messages, alerts, or calls — even when they don’t notice their phone ringing or vibrating,” and “44% of cell owners have slept with their phone next to their bed because they wanted to make sure they didn’t miss any calls, text messages, or other updates during the night.”

Text messages work, too! Compared to emails, text messages are much more likely to be opened and read. According to stats cited by Sendmode in the article “SMS vs. Email Marketing,” 98 percent of text messages are opened and read, compared to only 22 percent of emails.

Text messaging, roughly speaking, is also cheap, fast, and easy to set up. An article from the New York Times on text message marketing found that, generally speaking, most small businesses could get set up with text message marketing for less than $800 per month – which can vary depending on the volume of messages and the complexity of your campaign.

So maybe you’re intrigued – maybe you’re wondering how to get started doing text message marketing for your small business. But what are some best practices to follow and mistakes to avoid?

Getting Started with Text Message Marketing

The first rule of text messaging is “NO SPAM.” Every customer who you send text messages to must opt-in to your text subscription list.

You can only send texts to people who have specifically signed up to receive texts from your business. This is different from traditional direct mail marketing, where the goal is to blast a message out to as many people as possible with the expectation that 1% of them will respond. With text messaging, the goal is to deepen your business relationship with a smaller, more focused audience who is more likely to be interested in your messages and more likely to buy from you.

You can use texts to send highly personalized and relevant messages, offer discounts or special deals, and even send location-specific texts to reach people where they live, work, and shop. This is what makes text message marketing such a great customer loyalty channel to generate repeat sales.

There are a wide variety of SMS marketing (“text message marketing”) platforms and online tools that small businesses can use to send text messages. These service providers make it easy for your company to get set up with professional-looking, automated solutions to send text messages to your customers. People sign up to receive texts from your business by texting a “keyword” to a special short code number hosted by the online text message platform – your text message platform will help you get set up with all of the legally-required disclaimers.

Here are a few text message marketing service providers for small businesses:

  • EzTexting: EzTexting is a do-it-yourself SMS marketing service for small business owners to communicate with customers and grow their business revenue. Their online user interface makes it easy to manage your list of customers and create groups of contacts to receive specific text messages. You can try EzTexting for free with no obligation, and there is no minimum number of texts that you have to send per month. EzTexting paid plans start at $49 per month.
  • MobileStorm: MobileStorm is a platform that combines text messaging, email marketing, and social media accounts with a focus on mobile solutions. MobileStorm is a good solution for medium-size businesses that need a higher level of support. but are not quite ready to outsource their mobile marketing to an agency, or who prefer to keep it all in-house. Mobile Storm’s plans start at $99 per month, and you can request a free demo to learn more.
  • Group Texting: Group Texting is a text message marketing service that is similar in focus to EzTexting, but with one technology difference – Group Texting uses “long codes” instead of short codes, which makes it faster and easier to get your company’s own text messaging keywords set up and approved. This might be a better solution for companies that are in industries where there is a lot of competition for texting keywords, like “PIZZADEALS” or “BUYFLOWERS.” Group Texting also offers a free trial with no obligation, and paid plans start at $10 per month, with no contracts required.
  • Bot Way: Chatbots can be used in marketing campaigns, sales, to provide information about products and services, to provide customer support and so on. They work 24/7, and they always provide immediate answers to customers.Botway can help your company to create a chatbot for WhatsApp, Messenger and for your website! All of these solutions have gotten favorable reviews from industry blogs and boast long lists of corporate clients. Check out their websites and see which one is the best fit for your business’ needs.

Text Message Marketing Best Practices

There is a great infographic featured on Inc.com that shows some recommended text message marketing best practices, including the “right ways and wrong ways” to use text messaging to market your business. Here are a few of the key takeaways:

Opt-in: As mentioned above, NO SPAM. Only send texts to customers who have specifically gone out of their way to ask to receive your texts. There are big penalties for spamming people’s cell phones. Avoid this at all costs.

Tell people what to expect: When people first sign up for text messages from your business, they will receive an automatic subscription confirmation message. This message needs to tell subscribers:

  1. What types of messages they will be receiving (“Thanks for signing up for our monthly special deals texts!”)
  2. How often (“You will receive up to 4 texts per month.”)
  3. How to opt out at any time (“Text STOP to cancel.”)

Your online text messaging platform/provider can help you set up this subscription process with all necessary disclaimers.

Don’t text too often: Ideally, you should only send 2-4 texts per month to the people on your list. Any more than that, and it starts to feel annoying and excessive – people don’t like to be interrupted all the time with sales offers.

Text at the right times of day: Keep in mind that most people are literally sleeping with their phones next to their beds – don’t wake them up with ill-timed texts in the middle of the night. Texts are powerful in part because they’re so immediate – people almost always look at their phones as soon as they receive a text. This means that your text message marketing should be urgent and should help create a sense of action – to get people to want to buy.

For example, if you run a pizza restaurant, send a text with a “Hot pizza deals!” discount offer right at 5:00 p.m. to cash in on the dinner rush. If you run a flower shop, text “Did you forget? It’s not too late to buy her flowers!” at 9 a.m. on Valentine’s Day. Get creative and make the texts fun while staying true to your business image and being respectful of your customers’ time.

Conclusion

Text message marketing is an often overlooked, highly underrated method of marketing for small businesses. Since people love to look at their phones, they might as well get a few timely, helpful, value-adding text messages from you each month that show them how to save money and get special deals!

Text messaging is not meant to replace your other online marketing efforts, but it serves as a complement to your overall marketing strategies. One advantage is that text messaging – because it’s so often overlooked – is relatively uncluttered. At a time when every small business is trying to get more social media followers, and people’s email inboxes are full of spam and sales pitches, the small screens of our cell phones are still relatively clear. Text message marketing gives your customers special deals and gives you repeat sales from your most loyal audience.

Text messaging is a more personal and targeted form of marketing that extends an invitation to your customers to stay in touch with your business in a way that works well for both of you.

Have you tried using text message marketing? What text message marketing service would you recommend? Leave a comment and let us know, or tweet us @KabbageInc.

 

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Kabbage Team

Kabbage is here not only to provide access to the small business funding you need, but to also help you grow your business through free marketing tips, webinars, tools and more. Is there something you'd like us to cover or want to get your small business featured on our blog? Send us a note at content@kabbage.com.