The Basics of Text Messaging Campaigns and How to Launch Your Own

Did you know that text messages have a substantially higher open rate than e-mail? Texting isn’t a new marketing initiative but there are still relatively few organizations doing it. Part of the reason is that text marketing – while very personal – can also be very risky. When an unprompted text comes in, it can really feel like an invasion of privacy. There are lots of reasons to pursue text marketing and when it’s done correctly and thoughtfully, it can be a really powerful way to reach customers or clients right where they are … in front of their phones.

Smartphones are so ingrained in our culture now that many people will look at their phones at least once every five minutes, whether they’re prompted by a notification or not. Texting is the most used feature on cell phones, and because of this, there is literally no learning curve to use it versus downloading an app or using a new online interface. And for older customers or clients, texting represents an easy way to interact with your organization without the need to download or view social media graphics, infographics, or other online content.

But does it actually work? Marketing studies say … yes.

  • It’s a much faster delivery method than e-mail or other forms of marketing.
  • Most people would rather receive texts than emails from brands they follow, according to research done by AT&T.
  • The inclusion of text support is a determining factor in some buying choices.
  • Finally, texting outperforms e-mail marketing in four major KPI categories: open rates, click-thru rates, response time, and conversion rates. What the below image from CMI shows are remarkably high engagement rates and an average response time of fewer than five minutes compared to more than 90 minutes with e-mail.

If It’s So Good, What Can Go Wrong?

  • Legal non-compliance
  • Failure to address correct context
  • Failure to test and troubleshoot

Probably the worst way to start is by mining your current database for cell phone numbers and just sending texts. This approach assumes that because users are already clients or have given you permission to email them that you can also text them. Not true. Maybe they expect to receive emails from your business, but you also need them to opt-in to receive text messages before starting a campaign. User opt-in is simple and easy – “text yes to 1234 to receive text messages from Company A” and “Thanks for signing up! You can opt-out at any time by responding STOP” – so there’s no excuse not to do it.

Don’t assume that people on your contact list want you to text them. They want you to respect their time and privacy, not spam them with texts out of nowhere. Opt-in, always.

Speaking of compliance, your text marketing program has to respect customers’ wishes if they do opt-out. I’ve used one local retailer for client gifts the last few years. They started sending text messages about sales and discounts out of nowhere. I didn’t opt-in. And when I responded “STOP” to opt-out, I continued to get text messages – for another three months. After the fourth time of opting out, it finally worked. Maybe. It was an irritating process.

According to CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association), only 27 percent of consumers like receiving unsolicited text messages from an organization or campaign.

Failing to appreciate user context is a little more nuanced but can be worked through by putting yourself in the customer’s shoes. For example, maybe a winery (I do love wine) has a text marketing program for repeat customers. Let’s say that part of the program involves texting customers various specials, new releases, and events. But as soon as I make a purchase, the winery immediately texts me and asks me to leave a review of the wine. It’s too soon. I literally just checked out and am driving home. In this instance, waiting a few days to send the follow-up text is more relevant. Note that this scenario is hypothetical although to any wineries who may read this: I would definitely sign up for a customer loyalty text marketing program.

Another way I’ve seen text marketing campaigns go awry is by not troubleshooting first. There’s a meal delivery service I used before that started texting customers for updates on their order and payment status. But there would be multiple texts for the same order. In the middle of the night, or early in the morning. With differing information. And if an order was wrong, despite the saturation of text messages, many customers had trouble getting through to their delivery driver. This has happened for several weeks. Less than ideal. Don’t skimp on the testing and troubleshooting phase.

Types of Text Marketing Campaigns

There are nine main types of text marketing campaigns. Which one(s) would work best in your organization?

  1. Broadcast: Single, mass text message sent to an entire audience segment at the same time
  2. One-to-one: Individual text messages sent to one person triggered by a unique action, such as a new subscription, download, help message, etc.
  3. Recurring: Automatic messages sent on a recurring basis
  4. Sweepstakes: Text messages that build a contact database using a contest
  5. Alert: Messages that promote a one-time sale or promotion
  6. Loyalty: Messages for repeat or loyal customers offering specific rewards or incentives
  7. Text-to-join: Basic list sign-up
  8. Transactional: Confirmation of purchase, shipping order, delivery, etc
  9. Events: Text messages sent to individual users based on an event trigger, such as a birthday or appointment reminder

What Do You Need For a Successful Text Marketing Campaign?

Three main things:

  • A well-thought-out communications strategy that maps out customer/client journey
  • Sufficient automation tools
  • A trustworthy third-party partner

Once you have a good understanding of data and privacy laws, start with the basics. It’s best to wait to begin a text marketing campaign until you’ve thought through how the communications journey will look. Because text marketing operates on automation, you need to map out each stage of the process and what customers’ likely responses (and questions) will be. Simple text campaigns won’t be too involved here, but drip campaigns especially will require some forethought as to how the back-and-forth conversation will go.

A successful text marketing campaign relies on automation. A timely response is key to keeping customers engaged, and that probably isn’t possible without at least some level of marketing automation. When you map out the communications strategy, you can anticipate user questions and responses, and have automated replies pre-set. Text marketing should link in with your other marketing tools and metrics, be it e-mail, website, event, etc so the result is a more holistic view of engagement and overall communications. An effective CRM is essential.

Finally, choose your text marketing partners wisely. The core member of this team will be a third-party text marketing expert. Make sure the expert can scale with your operations and offers a reliable, secure means of storing user information and features that allow you to view and analyze user engagement. Available features and fees vary by provider.

Beyond that, you’ll need a copywriter to draft the content for the text messages and how they interact with other elements of your marketing program. Sometimes this person is already in-house, and sometimes it’s an outside consultant. You’ll also need access to edit your organization’s website, e-mail platform, social media, and contact database. Again, this may reside with one person in your marketing department, or you may be looking at pulling in a few different people depending on how large your organization is.


Other Tips For Text Marketing Campaigns

When you’re creating a text marketing campaign, you want to include trackable links and landing pages to measure ROI. Make sure to use a URL shortener in the message with a clear call-to-action. You can also include images, emojis, polls, surveys, QR codes, and calendar invites.

  • Choose a keyword that’s unique to your organization. A keyword is what users will text to opt-in and it should be about five to six digits.
  • Segment your text marketing campaign so that it can accomplish a single objective with a well-defined audience segment. You can do one-size-fits-all for smaller campaigns or more general calls-to-action, like registering for an event or a promotion, but it’s best to consider a single, easier-to-measure purpose and smaller audience segment.
  • Emojis are okay, but abbreviations are not preferred.
  • Avoid open-ended messages in favor of a clear call to action.
  • Link the text campaign to your other marketing channels, especially your website, social media, and e-newsletters.
  • Set expectations in your first message, such as how often users can expect to receive texts and under what circumstances.

If you are using text marketing for your organization, stay compliant! You can download the complete Messaging Principles and Best Practices from CTIA here.

Texting may not be appropriate for every business, Have you used text marketing in your organization, and if so what was your experience? If you haven’t used texting yet, what’s stopping you from trying it? I’d love to hear your thoughts and questions. Leave your comments below or contact Seventh Gear Communications here.

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