Mass text messaging is becoming one of the most popular new methods for marketing and outreach today. Because most people have their mobile devices within an arm’s reach at any given time, it’s really a no brainer why many brands are starting to adopt SMS. If you think about it, when was the last time you ignored a text message? If you’re like most of us, you probably can’t remember.
The SMS marketing industry currently stands in great shape too. It still hasn’t hit critical mass and isn’t doesn’t have the spam reputation that plagues email marketing is.
In fact, stats show that 65% of brands don’t yet have a strategy for text marketing. It’s important that we as marketers defend that position by following specific industry and legal guidelines to prevent it from being tainted. Whether you’re just exploring the idea of SMS marketing or already using SMS, here are 5 of the core best practices for mass text messaging that everyone should be following.
1. Get Them to Opt In
You cannot send text messages to people that haven’t opted in. In all cases, you must get explicit consent from your customers before you start texting them. Many businesses find themselves thinking they can use existing customer lists but they really don’t have the proper consent.
Having a previous business relationship or release clause in your terms and conditions doesn’t constitute permission for sending SMS marketing messages. People must either opt in by texting a keyword to a short code, double opt in after completing a web form, or filling out a paper form and signing by hand.
There can be serious legal consequences for sending unsolicited text messages without consent and it could land you in some really hot water. The good news is that getting people’s permission is simple. The most common way people opt into mass text messaging programs is by texting to join. Make sure to offer a valuable incentive for people to opt into your list and create a clear call to action for doing so.
2. Set Expectations
Just like any other form of outbound marketing, it’s good practice to let your subscribers know what to expect before opting in. You should be clear about what your text program is, the types of messages you’ll be sending, and how often people will be hearing from you. Setting their expectations will give people comfort in knowing that you won’t be sending junk or spamming their phones with text messages every day.
Making this happen is easy and straightforward as well. You only have to focus on doing this in two key places. The first is wherever your opt in call to action is. In every place that you’re advertising your text program and asking people to join you should clearly call out the name of your text program, what it offers, and how many messages per month you’ll be sending.
Secondly, after someone opts into your mass text messaging program, they should receive a customizable text message that confirms their subscription. There, you’ll want to reiterate the same things…what they just opted in for, what they’re going to receive and how often they will get messages from you.
An example would be…
“Thanks for join the Dress Barn’s VIP text list. Stay tuned for exclusive deals and discounts!
Up to 6 msgs/month. Msg&data rates may apply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to opt out. Terms & Privacy: example.com/terms.”
3. Provide Value in Every Message
It’s easy for businesses to lose steam when it comes to creative content and offers to send. This holds true not just with SMS but with email and other outbound mediums as well. Don’t send low value messages to your subscribers just to stay top of mind. You must make sure you’re providing meaningful value with every single text message. Brands that don’t wind up driving their customers away and causing people to opt out. Not delivering on the expectations set when people opt in is a great way to kill your ROI as well.
There are plenty of resources out there that will give you ideas for SMS marketing campaigns in your industry. Do some research and learn from the successes that others have had. Furthermore, it might make sense to map your campaigns out ahead of time. Plan your offers out for 6 months and pre-schedule them run at specific times. This will help prevent you from sending low quality offers and keep you within the set frequency of monthly send that you originally promised your subscribers.
4. Don’t Text Too Often
As mentioned earlier, part of setting customer expectations when they opt in is to include a frequency of send. This is simply how often they can expect to receive text messages from you. There is a reason for including that number up front. It’s to put people at ease that you won’t be blowing their phones’ up with messages all the time. It’s best practice to stick to that frequency that you stated in your disclaimer. It’s ok if you send less than that number but don’t send more.
Before you kick your mass texting program off, you should take some time to think about how often you’ll be communicating with your customers via text. Also think about whether or not you’ll have enough regular valuable content to match that frequency of send.
Make sure you’re thinking longer term as well. You cannot increase your frequency of send after people have started opting in. If your subscribers agree to a specific amount per month, and you increase that on them, you’ll surely see spikes in opt out rates. Before you start advertising your text program, take these things into consideration when deciding on a number of messages per month.
5. Let People Know How to Opt Out
One of the most important best practices for text messaging is to make sure people understand how to opt out if they so choose. People should be able to opt out of any text marketing program by replying with the word STOP or CANCEL to any text message they receive. Most SMS marketing services today will handle this for you.
Additionally, you must clearly include your opt out instructions on all CTAs advertising your text program and in the first confirmation text message people receive after opting in. This is required by the CTIA and the cellular carriers who are the governing bodies for all SMS marketing programs.
In addition to citing your opt out instructions during the opt in process, it’s best practice to include “Reply STOP to Opt Out” at the bottom of your text messages every so often. It’s not required every time but should be at regular intervals. You may think that doing so will hurt your list size and while it can, it’s good to remove anyone that doesn’t want to be subscribed. This will ultimately improve your click through rates and ROI.
The 5 best practices outlined above are key in maintaining any successful mass text messaging program. While there are more, these core principles will help keep you on the fast track to success and maintain a compliant text marketing program. Text messaging is quickly becoming one of the most popular ways to reach your customers and it’s everyone’s job to ensure we respect the rules and regulations around it so that it can continue to drive value for years to come.
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