Best Practices for Engaging SMS Messaging Campaigns
It’s fall, folks. Kids are back in school, the heat is finally breaking, and if you find yourself near a Starbucks, the sweet smell of Pumpkin Spice Lattes is wafting through the air. The infamous Starbucks signature drink came back to menus across the country on September 6th. But for select customers, Pumpkin Spice Latte day came early: Starbucks sent superfans an early access code for the drink through a clever Short Message Service (SMS) campaign. SMS messaging isn’t just for big retailers anymore—everyone from on-demand economy startups and software services are using it as well. Why? It’s an incredibly effective means of communicating with current and potential customers: marketing SMS message click-through rates hover around 35%, over ten times the click through rate of marketing emails. And if companies follow best practices for incorporating SMS into their customer messaging strategy, it can be even higher. As with email, developing your SMS campaign is all about combining three key elements: relevance, timing, and a clear call to action. But while there are many parallels with email marketing, there are a few key differences worth highlighting, or you risk getting blocked. Here’s what you need to know to get started:
In order to build a long and happy relationship between company and customer, tailor messages to customer interests as much as possible.
This is doubly true for SMS, since you’re reaching a customer’s direct line. That’s why SMS should be reserved for really relevant messages to users, not a spray-and-pray technique.
By writing “To maintain your response rate, reply in 18 hours,” readers know that there’s a clock ticking, and that they’re risking something by not responding. Since Airbnb does a good job of succinctly conveying urgency and a next step, the text doesn’t feel spammy—it feels important and merits taking action.
By gently suggesting what the reader should do, they encourage behaviors that will make the reader more successful Facebook Messenger users.
By eliminating any uncertainty regarding how they’re supposed to respond, Seamless removes all friction from a 2-way interaction.
Instacart sends me order confirmation and receipts via email, which are types of messages that can be asynchronous. Plus the format of emails are best for confirming details and record-keeping, since they’re longer form, searchable, and archivable.
Emails also allow for extra engagement opportunity. This email, even though it’s primarily transactional, is able to convey a quick call-to-action for Instacart Express. It doesn’t feel salesy, because you know that this recipient just got value out of your app. It’s relevant and well-timed.
If an SMS is over 160 characters, your message will get broken up into a bunch of texts, which comes across as spammy. That’s why SMS is awesome for conveying information when it’s really urgent, but email can be better for communicating a lot of information.
1. Relevance: Is this valuable to the reader?Spammy emails are annoying. But spammy texts are reflexively insufferable. No one likes this coming from out of the blue:
A little personalization goes a long wayFinding a business-related message in your text messages is inherently less personal than a friend texting you, especially when it starts out loaded with industry jargon, the legal disclosure that “Messaging and data rates may apply” and the mandatory cancellation option (e.g., press STOP to cancel). That’s why a little humanizing personalization goes a long way, even just using someone’s name, or adding a conversational touch of personality or pleasantness. This SMS from 1-800 Contacts sounds human, not robotic, when they say “Thanks for sending your Rx.” It also wishes you a great day and uses the recipient’s name, much like they’re talking to an actual help desk.
Segmenting by behavior makes messages relevantLiquid tags for inserting personalized details into messages is one step to making messages feel relevant. Using user behavior data to craft your messaging strategy helps your messages feel personalized to that reader. It’s a strategy that scales, even though it feels one-to-one. Use segmentation to send personalized SMS messages to groups of people whose behavior you’d like to impact. Here’s a couple examples:
- Behavior: User hasn’t ordered from you in 14 days.
- SMS: It’s been a while since you ordered from us! Your next order is 50% off.
- Behavior: User is about to hit their cap for widgets.
- SMS: You’re about to run out of your allotted widgets for the month! If you want to keep using our tool, upgrade now or wait until the next billing cycle.