First, what is SMS? SMS stands for Sell More Stuff! Okay, that’s not entirely true. SMS actually stands for Short Message Service and is a standardized protocol for sending text messages between devices. The SMS-enabled device you are most familiar with is probably within arm’s length of you right now. It’s your smartphone. Now that we got that out of the way, I’m sure you are asking yourself, “How can I use SMS to deliver relevant marketing messages directly to a pre-engaged audience?” Okay, maybe not. But I bet you are now! As luck would have it, this is exactly what I’m going to write about today.
Text Messaging Marketing 101
Here’s the short version. So you’ve signed up with a self-serve text messaging marketing service such as SnapGiant. During the onboarding process you will have chosen a keyword that represents your business, brand, or product. This keyword is quite literally the key to subscribing to your opt-in SMS distribution list. Integrating your keyword and short code* into your existing marketing materials allows customers and prospects to discover and opt-in to your SMS distribution list.
Here’s a live example:
Text KEYWORD to 86201.
If you were to text that keyword (which happens to be KEYWORD) to 86201 (the short code), you will receive an automated message that welcomes you to the list along with instructions on how to get help or leave the list. Don’t worry, this is just a live demo keyword that lets you see how it works and unsubscribing is as easy as subscribing. Just text STOP KEYWORD to 86201 and you will be removed from the list.
*Short codes are special short phone numbers that facilitate text messaging.
Examples of Integrating SMS
One of the greatest challenges of introducing a new marketing channel into your business’s marketing plan is integrating it with your current marketing efforts. Many business marketers worry about their marketing programs becoming too thin and thereby diluting the reach of their marketing efforts as a whole. It’s an understandable concern. But here’s the secret: text message marketing can be supplemental rather than incremental. In short, SMS really shines when it is used to support an existing marketing campaign. Here are some examples.
Customer Appreciation or Loyalty Club
One popular method of introducing a new SMS marketing component into your marketing mix is to frame is as an extension of your customer appreciation or loyalty club. You can use in-store displays (complete with QR codes), your social media channels, and any other relevant collateral to build the SMS distribution list that is associated with your club. Once your membership begins to grow, you can start using SMS to supplement the program. Here’s an example:
The VIP Offer: One of the prime advantages to SMS marketing is its immediacy. You can use this to your advantage by offering loyalty club members immediately actionable offers. Here’s a simplified example:
“Joe’s Deli is offering all VIP members $1 off any carry out sandwich
between 5PM and 6PM tonight (7/13). Visit Joe’s Deli on 121st Street.”
- We send this message at 4PM, right when people are wondering what to have for dinner.
- We include an attractive offer: $1 off any carry out sandwich.
- We include an expiration date so we can control the redemption.
- We include a call to action: “Visit Joe’s Deli.” I’ll admit that’s not the strongest call to action, but we have less than 160 characters with which to work.
We could also use SMS to drive loyalty program sign-ups, promote a social media campaign revolving around our loyalty club member’s in-store experience, promote an email newsletter, and so forth.
Coupons and Offers
As I mentioned, the immediacy and directness of SMS marketing is one of its prime attributes. A recent industry study indicated that 90% of all text messages are read within three minutes of being delivered. Few other marketing mediums can deliver that kind of a result bundled with a receptive audience.
So where am I going with this? Coupons and offers. If you are already offering coupons, promotions, offers, deals, sales, or whatever your business does to entice prospects, then SMS can be an excellent way to distribute those offers to pre-engaged customers. How am I defining a “pre-engaged customer?” A pre-engaged customer has opted in to your SMS distribution list, which indicates they are interested in any offers or message you have to send. As such, they are pre-engaged with your business to the point where they don’t mind receiving your marketing messages directly on their mobile device.
Here is what you want your SMS coupons and offers to deliver:
- Immediacy – Customers who receive a well-timed text coupon can act on it immediately. An offer sent at 4:00 might be driving sales within minutes, depending on your audience and your sales venue.
- Relevance – Since you can only send a limited number of messages per month before you start annoying your opt-in subscribers, you want to be as relevant as possible. Save the chit chat for Twitter and Facebook.
- Value – The offer or information you send in your SMS messages must be valuable enough to your subscribers that it not only entices them to act, but also to stay subscribed to your list.
Redemption – I could probably write a book on the different ways redemption can work, so I’ll be brief. In short, SMS coupon redemption can be done in any number of ways. The simplest is to have the customer show the cashier the text message upon checkout and the cashier keeps a running tally of redemptions. Easy. Simple. From there, it can get as complex as you need to be, all the way to total integration with point-of-sale systems using unique redemption identifiers for each of your customers complete with automated follow-up offers via other marketing channels.
Events come in all shapes and sizes. Whether it’s a company picnic or an international tradeshow, SMS can be used to promote the event and keep attendees — also exhibitors, vendors, and the venue — up-to-date. For this example, let’s say you are coordinating an industry tradeshow and you have already developed an SMS list comprised of potential and previous attendees. In this situation, I would typically recommend a dual SMS campaign to keep your subscribers up-to-date.
The Long Term Campaign
The long term campaign is a drip campaign that keeps your event in front of your attendees without irritating them with too many messages. The idea is to send out a message once every 6 to 8 weeks throughout the year as a reminder to attendees that the show is coming up.
Potential messages include:
- Event Dates (Changes, Cancellations, Etc.)
- Venue Information (Directions, Where to Park, Etc.)
- Special Bookings (Speakers, Seminars, Etc.
- Partnerships (Hotels, Car Rentals, Etc.)
I’m not an event coordination pro, so I’m sure you can think of many more.
The SMS Micro Campaign
The SMS micro campaign, as I like to call them, is a relatively quick succession of messages that keeps your event’s attendees up-to-date during the days leading up to the show. For our example, let’s say your event is a weekend event that begins on Saturday morning and ends on Sunday afternoon. Once again, the attendees are the target audience.
- Monday: On Monday, you can send an SMS message that reminds attendees that the event is only days away. This helps attendees avoid the last minute preparation rush and also may tip them in your favor if they are undecided about attending your event.
- Tuesday: No message on Tuesday.
- Wednesday: We can send a reminder on a special booking or speaker along with a link to the event website where attendees can get more information such as maps, schedules, etc.
- Thursday: No message on Thursday.
- Friday: Welcome all your early arrivals and include a welcome offer sent in conjunction with a local partner. A good local partner is a restaurant, because early arrivals may not be familiar with the area and will be looking for a place to get dinner.
- Saturday: Welcome to the event! Also include brief instructions on how to find your visitor information center, if applicable.
- Saturday: Announce an upcoming event. For example, “Guest speaker Dave Smith will be appearing in the Blue Room in 1 hour.”
- Sunday: Announce an upcoming event. For example, “The mobile marketing seminar will start in the Green Room in 1 hour.”
- Sunday: Announce that the show is coming to a close in an hour and that attendees should visit exhibitors before they begin to pack up. Thank them for attending your event. This also helps clear the floor so exhibitors can get to taking down their displays.
- Monday: No message on Monday. They day after a show is usually a “decompression” and travel day, so best not to send any messages.
- Tuesday: Your last SMS micro campaign message is to thank your attendees and say that you are looking forward to seeing them next year.
If you operate an ecommerce website, chances are you are creating content that is of interest to your customers and prospects. For example, let’s say you run a website that retails automotive parts and accessories for a specific make of vehicle. Because of your specialization, you are almost by default creating content that enthusiasts of that make will want to know about. It could be new items added to your catalog, a new series of blog posts talking about new models, do-it-yourself maintenance instructions, educational videos that explain the quirks of the make, etc. Here are a few ideas:
- Announce New Items in Your Catalog (“we now carry Flowmaster products”)
- Announce Sales, Offers, and Promotions (“free shipping through May”)
- Send Updates on Relevant Industry news (“Acura announces new model”)
- Announce Partnerships or Company news (“we’re now members of SEMA”)
- Announce Pricing Changes (“order now and lock in your price”)
But Wait, There’s More…
The examples here are just a tiny fraction of what is possible with SMS. Marketers have used SMS for customer reminders (“your car is ready for pickup”), replace printed literature (real estate agents using SMS instead of brochure boxes), announce limited availability products (“our sandwich of the month is…”), connect with fans (sending updates on a sports team), provide last minute offers (“we have 100 tickets left for tonight’s show”), drive participation (“our non-profit needs volunteers”), and so forth.