Many brands have teams dedicated to email, but there’s a new channel out there that brands early to jump on trends are eating up: SMS marketing.
Email marketing conversion rates for what Shopify calls BFCM –– Black Friday Cyber Monday –– are the highest out of any other measured channel – they came in at 4.38% conversion in 2018. But email is a crowded channel. There are even tools like MailChart.io that let you spy on your competitors to see exactly what they’re sending, the strategy behind it, and with what technology.
What is it: An SMS marketing definition
SMS marketing, also known as MMS marketing, is text message marketing similar to email. Customers or prospects must opt in and give you their phone number, and they can opt out at any time.
But there are many benefits to SMS marketing –– and plenty that email marketing in particular doesn’t have:
- Not everyone is doing it, which makes it a much less crowded space and allows your brand to get creative with how it works, what you say, and how you use it to engage customers and potential new ones. Plus, it makes your brand stand out.
- Text messages have the highest open rates out of –– well –– absolutely anything. 94% are read in under 5 minutes of being received.
- Customers are over 5x as likely to engage with a CTA (call to action) like a link or coupon code delivered via text over email, according to PostScript.
So far, edgier brands like Urban Outfitters or Andie Swim have been testing SMS marketing, but there is a whole slew of new tools out there that allow any brand to get started –– big or small.
“SMS marketing it’s going to be huge,” says Kaleigh Moore, e-commerce journalist for Glossier, Forbes, and Inc. “Consumers across most all demographics spend more time than ever looking at their devices, and text presents an algorithm-free environment in which brands can connect with buyers directly.”
Features of SMS marketing tools & technology
SMS marketing tools, or MMS marketing tools, offer a host of features depending on your business, what you need, what you sell, the size of your phone number lists and more.
Here are a few good ones to look out for:
1. Phone number CTA and capture
A phone number CTA and capture can be as simple as a pop-up that pops up on your website asking folks for their number in exchange for a discount, or it can be tied in with a retargeting campaign or captured at checkout. However it is you want to capture your customer or potential customer’s email, it needs to feel natural.
One big feature to look for with this is a targeting capability. Do you want the phone number CTA to pop-up when someone stays on the page for a certain amount of time, or if they are coming in from Florida instead of New York? Think through how you’ll want to use this for your overall marketing purposes and for a great customer experience before you choose a solution.
2. Existing technology integration
This is a big one –- and you probably shouldn’t even begin down the path of requesting information from an SMS or MMS marketing solution if their answer to this is no. Does this solution integrate with your existing system –– ideally, your CRM?
Whether you’re using SAP in a B2B capacity or Shopify in an direct-to-consumer capacity, the phone number capture as well as storing of information and automated text nurture streams needs to be housed in a place where it is connected to the customer record.
If you forget this critical feature and do about implementing this without it being connected to your customer record, you run the risk of a highly personalized customer experience, confusion within your sales organization, and lackluster marketing data in which information on an entire channel (your SMS marketing channel) is missing.
3. Nurture stream capabilities
Finally, you’ll want the SMS marketing tool to be as powerful as your email marketing system. This means you’ll want to be able to build out automated nurture streams for your customers or potential prospects who have opted in.
Do they engage with 3 or more text messages? Great –– move them into the higher engaged stream and see what you can do to turn them into raving fans.
Have they not engaged with 3 or more text message? Great –– move them into the lower engaged stream and see what you can do to improve brand equity and trust.
And of course, you’ll want to be able to build out these streams, present them and be able to get feedback on them with managers or anyone else who needs to weigh in, and then measure their success over time so you can tweak and A/B test.
That’s a lot! Luckily, there are tools out there that are already doing this including Avochato for small businesses, and SAP for larger organizations. Either way, there are plenty out there so get your RFP (request for proposal) template ready and begin reaching out to see which tool will work best for your business and use case.
Best practices: Email & text go better together
So many people think that SMS marketing is going to compete against their email marketing. Not true! Instead, it’s a best practice to use these two channels in unison. Honestly, it’s best to use all your channels in unison.
Think about it this way:
- You can send an email about your new products or feature updates.
- In that email, you link off to blog posts announcing those new features, apps, products, whatever it is you need.
- Then, you send a text to those who have opted in –– something along the lines of: “Hey! Hope you’re having a great Tuesday. Good news on our end! We just launched XYZ new features. Get a quick run down of them here (and join our beta tester group), or check your email to learn more about why these features, and why right now.”
- Add a CTA to a unique landing page that makes the SMS folks feel like they are an exclusive group, and you’ve got yourself two channels working to make the other better.
Even digital media agencies are looking to understand how best to implement this new technology. Scott Ginsburg, Head of Content at Metric Digital, offered a few ideas on how to test text message marketing.
“Every brand is trying to answer the same question: How will you reach customers throughout the purchase funnel? And the beauty of SMS marketing is, you can reach consumers in their research and consideration phases. The contextual relevance is extraordinary. For example, you can use text message sales recovery tools like Continuity, which empower your customer’s purchasing power by answering questions and providing discounts via text. If they abandoned cart, you can program an auto delivery sequence like this, ‘Hey Joanne! It’s Scott from XYZ Store! Saw that you added something to your cart earlier today, but didn’t complete your purchase. We’d love to offer you a 15% off coupon, just use the code JOANNE15!’”
SMS marketing requires personalization
No matter what you do as you begin down the research phase of bringing on an SMS marketing tool and a new marketing channel, remember the personalization is key. Ensure that you can tie the new tool in with your CRM so that past purchase data, past conversations, and past issues all are used to better message to a customer or prospect.
Build out a variety of streams for various use cases and personas. And then, track those. Do what you would have done if it were decades ago and you had the ability to build the absolute best email marketing nurture streams for the very first time.
That’s the opportunity you have ahead of you, right now.