If you’ve added SMS marketing (aka bulk texting) to your marketing strategy, you’ve likely done a lot of prep work already. You’ve weighed the pros and cons of texting vs. emailing your customers, you’ve identified the benefits, and you’re ready to send out that first mass text blast. Congrats! But, before you take the plunge and fire off your first round of messages, make sure you’re not doing one of these easily avoidable “don’ts” and alienating your customers before you have the chance to hook them.
So when rolling out SMS marketing, make sure you don’t…
1. Send messages after hours:
While this is a common courtesy (you want to keep your customers happy, after all), it’s also a violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA.) If you haven’t familiarized yourself with the TCPA, it’s a good idea to do that before you send your first message so you stay in compliance and don’t end up with some hefty fines. Under the TCPA, businesses may only call or send text messages to subscribers between 8 A.M. and 9 P.M. in their timezone in the United States. You might have subscribers from all over the country, so factoring that into your automation will be key. If you have an international audience, make sure you are compliant with those countries as well.
2. Make people opt out instead of opt in:
In order to text customers, you need to receive their consent (another TCPA stipulation). This consent can come in a few ways. Texting a keyword, filling out an online or paper form, or checking a box on your website are all ways to obtain consent. Just remember, they have to opt in not opt out so this box can’t be pre-checked.
3. Only offer a one-way street:
This isn’t a TCPA compliance requirement but a recommended best practice. By making your SMS marketing a two-way communication, you can facilitate customer feedback. This can strengthen your consumer-brand relationship and can lead to better brand sentiment and customer retention. By having an easily accessible and responsive channel for feedback, you can foster more customer loyalty. The catch? This can take more time and energy, so don’t encourage two-way communication if you don’t have the bandwidth to respond promptly and thoughtfully.
4. Write the next great American novel:
Keep it simple! You might write lengthy texts to friends and family, but text messages are meant to be a short-form marketing communication tool. Don’t forget that while people have opted in to receive your messages, depending on their phone plan there might be messaging rate associated with receiving your texts. The last thing you want is an angry customer contacting you because you racked up their phone bill. By keeping them short and the number of messages low, people will be less likely to feel like you are spamming them. However, you don’t want to cut corners and use a bunch of shorthand or emojis. If you absolutely have to, keep the acronyms to a minimum and only use well-known ones. Writing effective copy for text messaging is hard! But, as Shakespeare said, “Brevity is the soul of wit.”
And speaking of those messaging rates…
5. Leave off the disclaimer
Never assume your customers are aware of fees. Even if those fees are coming from their own phone plan. Tack on a disclaimer to the opt-in message that clearly states standard message and data rates may apply to the text messages they’ll receive from you. This will help you avoid any backlash down the road, and it shows you’re conscientious of your customer’s needs.
6. Forget your call to action
As we mentioned earlier, you want to keep your messages short and to the point. And the best way to make your short copy as effective as possible? A call to action. The five Ws will be your friend here: Who, what, where, when, and why. Couple it with a “how,” and you have yourself a great call to action. Let the recipient know why you’re messaging them: You’re having a sale, and you’re offering them a discount code. Great start. Then, make sure to add on how they can redeem that code (or how they can receive it if it’s not in the initial message.)
7. Make it difficult to stop receiving messages:
Of course, the last thing you want is for people to unsubscribe, but it will happen. The best thing you can do? Make it easy for people to do so. In their initial opt-in message, tell them how they can unsubscribe (usually by texting STOP or another keyword) and remind them often when you’re sending out your blasts. By making unsubscribing easy, your customers won’t feel like you’ve locked them into something.
8. Forget to introduce yourself
You’re likely not the only brand someone receives messages from on any given day. By clarifying who you are upfront, your texts will be better received and feel more engaging to the recipient. And don’t just say who you are in the initial text! Make sure you remind them every time you send a message. Don’t assume your customers have saved your number to their contacts. This will also make sure your messages don’t get mistaken for spam they didn’t sign up for.
Play it cool. The sweet spot for how many messages you send and how frequently you send them will vary by your customer demographics and industry. However, regardless of industry, it’s easy to over-communicate with your customers. It may take some trial and error to find the right cadence, so be sure to listen to customer feedback. If a few people reach out saying you’re sending too many messages, chances are they’re not the only ones who think that.