Best Practices for Successful SMS Campaigns, Part 1

In a previous post, I shared that SMS enjoys a 98-percent read-rate along with 10 other compelling stats that prove it’s a great marketing channel. Now that I’ve convinced you to embark on your own SMS campaign, I’d like to kick off a three-part series of posts on best practices to maximize your ROI.

In this first part, I will concentrate on those practices that are critical to get consumers to opt in and, just as important, stick with you for the long haul. The next two parts will delve into how to create text messages that maximize conversion and how to make sure you’re sending the right message to the right customer at the right time.

Opt-Ins – Why and Where

It’s simple and straightforward. Sending a text message to someone who hasn’t opted in is illegal. That’s why it’s crucial to get consumers to opt in before you include them in your SMS campaign. You can invite them to opt in through a wide range of methods, including the following:

Indeed, you can ask your customers to fill out a form to opt in to receive SMSs, but that’s not the only option! You can just let them text you, for example: “Text SUBSCRIBE to 51456 to receive monthly exclusive offers.” No need to install anything and no need for an active Internet connection.

People won’t necessarily respond to your first invitation, so use as many channels as possible to convert them. Inbound marketing is not intrusive so send multiple inbound reminders that you offer cool things by SMS. Finally, make sure they really meant to opt in by asking them to confirm their subscription.

Making the Case so Consumers Opt In

I only accept SMS opt-in invitations from brands when they promise to provide more value than email offers I get from the brand. I’m sure I’m not alone in this.

If you think about it, opting in to receive text messages gives permission for the brand to put their marketing message on that very intimate space—the home screen of the consumer’s phone, likely sending out a chime to make him take notice. If you want to get that permission, you have to make a compelling case for the value proposition of receiving SMS from your brand. This could include:

If your case is compelling enough, the consumer will opt in and stay opted in.

Explain How to Opt Out

It may seem counter-intuitive, but offering a clear explanation of how to opt out is good for business. First, it shows you care about the consumer’s wants and pay attention to them. It also shows you’re transparent.

Since how to opt out from marketing SMSs is unclear to most consumers, it’s best practice to make the process simple and repeat in each SMS how to do it. It should be as simple as, “Reply STOP to unsubscribe.” It may be annoying, but it’s the price you pay for read rates close to 100 percent—there’s a high risk of opt-outs. The best practices I’ll get to in the next two parts will help minimize that rate.

Let Your Customers Optimize SMS Frequency

As mentioned in my post on SMS stats mentioned above, text messages are very intrusive, which leads to the tremendous open and click-through rate they enjoy. However, it also means you’re walking a tightrope between sending too few messages, which reduces your marketing effectiveness, and sending too many, which increases the risk of opt-outs.

The problem is compounded by the fact that you CANNOT guess the right frequency for your customers. Where one customer would be fine receiving a SMS from you daily, another will become upset if you send him one SMS per week. In fact, the first customer may be fine with a daily SMS today but may want to reduce that to a monthly SMS next week. It all depends on their personality and on how your offers mesh with their current interests and plans.

For example, if you’re a real estate agent, people may want to receive daily or even several-times-daily updates when they’re looking for a home. If they go out of town for a weekend, they might want to pause these messages since they can’t do anything with them. They may want to avoid receiving any messages during their work hours. As I said above, you simply have no way of guessing what is ok for any given person at any given time.

The short of it is this, give your customers full control of the frequency with which they receive text messages from you, including the option to modify that frequency or even pause it at any time. A simple and easy-to-find online form or in-app screen will help minimize the number of customers who take away permission for you to send them texts by opting out. If you don’t want to follow my advice on this, do yourself a favor and at least minimize your SMS frequency to no more than 1 or 2 messages per month.

Takeaway on Getting and Retaining Opt-Ins

Opt-ins are a legal requirement for sending SMS messages to consumers. The above best practices tell you where you can invite customers to opt in and what programmatic steps minimize the rate of subsequent opt-outs. In the next post of this series, I will go into best practices of creating text messages that maximize engagement and further minimize opt-outs.