10 Do's and Don’ts for Text Marketing
It’s been 15 years since the number of texts sent first exceeded the number of phone calls placed. The enduring popularity of chatting with our thumbs may be surprising, but it’s also a fact that texting is an amazingly powerful marketing tool. According to one compendium of text marketing statistics, people check their phones every nine minutes on average, marketing texts have an incredible 98 percent open rate, and text response rates are up to 295 percent higher than phone call response rates.
That said, it’s important to handle text marketing with care. There are plenty of pitfalls to avoid and best practices that can help you build lasting relationships and customer loyalty. Here’s a closer look at some text marketing do’s and don’ts that can help you get the balance right.
Do text customers regularly and consistently. Most text marketers are eager to get the conversation started, so a lag between the customer opting in to receive texts and the first message sent won’t be an issue—going overboard and communicating too frequently is more common. But do keep in mind that if a customer opts in to receive texts from you, they’ll be expecting a text. So don’t wait weeks or months, or they’ll forget they ever gave you permission. Plan to text customers at least once a month so they don’t forget you.
Don’t focus solely on promotion. Remember that people share their contact information with you in the expectation that they’ll get something valuable in return, so make sure you deliver. Some examples of how businesses use texts to deliver value include a furniture business sharing home décor tips, a property insurer providing tips to weatherproof a home, a gourmet outlet sharing tips on home entertaining, etc. Promotions are great, especially if they help recipients save money, but don’t make all the content promotional.
Do provide exclusive offers to people who’ve opted in to receive texts. If a customer gave you permission to text them, essentially they’re asking for a closer relationship with your company than the average Joe who hasn’t opted in. So don’t just text the same promotions that you’re advertising to the general public. People are smart, so if they see your ads everywhere and receive the exact same offers via text, they’ll notice and wonder why they bothered. Provide exclusive offers such as a first look at new products, special discount codes, etc.
Keep data clean, and don’t wait to start texting. Another mistake some text marketers make is to wait until they have a big database before starting text outreach. That’s not fair to people who signed up early and are expecting to hear from you, and it can skew the data in addition to negatively affecting the customer experience. So keep data clean (e.g., ensure you’re collecting valid mobile numbers only, not landlines), start texting when customers opt in, and make sure that anyone who opts out is added to a suppression list to respect their preferences.
Do allow people to move between channels via the text message. The smartphones people use to receive text messages today are not only a million times smarter than the Apollo space program mainframes—they’re faster than modern laptops and more powerful than top-of-the-line executive computers from 10 years ago. So since your customers are carrying powerful computers in their pockets, give them the ability to complete a task via text, such as visiting an abandoned shopping cart, closing an insurance claim, or making a premium payment. Take advantage of that expensive hardware and make it seamless to move across channels.
Don’t take today’s text marketing environment for granted. In 2022, 60 percent of recipients open text messages within one to five minutes of receipt, but keep in mind that text marketing is evolving as usage changes. People will react differently when they receive a handful of texts versus dozens a day, and now that many are opting in to receive texts from businesses and more companies are adopting text marketing strategies, the volume has increased. Some phones are starting to feature text message folders, which could relegate marketing messages to spam status if not handled correctly, so be aware of shifts in the text marketing landscape.
Do remember that text messages aren’t a guarantee that a customer sees the message. High open rates suggest a strong likelihood that customers who receive your text message will engage with it, but it’s not a guarantee. Unlike with text, you can verify receipt of email messages, though with the passive security checks some email providers now feature, it’s no guarantee that the customer actually opened the email either. As with email, the best way to confirm receipt is the almighty click, so consider including a linked call to action in your texts.
Don’t forget to have fun and let your brand personality come through. Although businesses are communicating with customers via text more now than ever before, text remains a platform that people primarily use to chat with friends and family. That makes it an ideal venue to showcase your brand’s personality. Aim for creating the types of messages that are so good recipients forward them to their friends.
Do make sure messages vary in type. While keeping in mind that each text should provide something of value to the recipient, make sure you use a variety of message types so that your texts don’t have a stale or cookie-cutter feel. Annual or seasonably appropriate tips can be a great way to reach out—like reminding furniture store customers to flip their mattress, or providing tips on contrasting color shades on walls and ceilings to highlight decorations, etc.
Don’t forget to treat the relationship with respect. Customers who opt in to your text messages are giving you the gift of their attention on a platform that they use for personal chats. They are inviting you to build a relationship, so don’t forget to treat that relationship with the respect it deserves. People can be fickle, and customers opt in and opt out all the time, but if you make it clear you respect their time and provide them with information and/or perks they value, they’ll be more likely to keep the conversation going.
These 10 tips can help you level up your text marketing strategy, but it’s critical to make sure you’ve got the basics covered first. Ensure you have the appropriate permission before texting. There are federal and state regulations that govern opt-in/ opt-out agreements and rules on advising customers about potential charges, so you’ll want to make sure you are complying with all applicable regulations.
It's a good idea to consult with an automated communications specialist for expertise on opt-in and opt-out management, regulatory compliance issues, and the technology infrastructure required for a successful text marketing program. Once you have the basics in place, you can start building a relationship with customers via texts, which are an incredibly powerful tool for creating customer loyalty and generating lifetime value.
Tara Kelly is the founder, president, and CEO of SPLICE Software, a customer engagement company that specializes in using Big Data, small data, and artificial intelligence to create messages that drive customer engagement and the desired call to action.