Have you ever gone down an internet rabbit hole trying to find answers to your most pressing SMS marketing questions? Great news—we’ve collected them all in this post.
SMS is an effective channel to not only drive sales but build relationships with consumers and ultimately increase brand loyalty. If you’re new to SMS, you might be wondering what best practices you should follow as you’re getting started to make sure your program is set up for success.
Or, if you’ve been using SMS for a while now, you may be wondering how you can make your channel work even harder for you.
These are the questions our team hears over and over from both customers and prospects, so we’ve collected them all in a single post that you can reference anytime you need a refresher. Did we miss any? Reach out to us on Twitter or LinkedIn and share what you’ve been wondering about.
1. Who should run my SMS program?
While it depends on your brand, you’ll want someone who has mobile marketing savvy and a strong understanding of your brand voice. Although we’re seeing a rise in specialized SMS marketing roles, dedicating one person (or a small team) to text messaging is not required. We see a lot of digital, brand, loyalty and retention, or email marketing managers oversee their brand’s SMS channel. Others might work with a digital marketing agency to support their SMS strategy.
2. What should I focus on first?
Your subscribers are the foundation of your SMS program, so your first order of business should be growing your SMS marketing list.
You’ll want to create and schedule sign-up units to provide a place for shoppers to opt-in to your SMS channel. Part of this includes determining your incentive strategy. While many brands opt for a discount in exchange for signing up for SMS, others have seen success with offering early access to shop new products, loyalty perks, or a free gift with purchase.
Next, you need to draft an engaging automated welcome message that introduces new subscribers to your brand, and sets expectations for the value they’ll get from your SMS channel. If you want to set the stage for more interactive and personalized content, we suggest leading with a two-way message in your welcome flow. Attentive’s Two-Way Journeys™ help you gain a deeper understanding of your subscriber's personal preferences using keywords to save unique attributes based on subscriber replies. Then, you can use this information to better inform your segmentation and overall SMS strategy.
Once you’ve checked those items off your list, think about integrating with your e-commerce platform, email provider, or customer support tools to create a seamless brand experience.
Read our 30-Day Plan to Driving Results From a New SMS Program, if you need a walkthrough of how to successfully launch your SMS channel and start driving results from the get-go.
3. How/where do I grow my subscriber list?
Convert browsers into subscribers by adding sign-up units to your mobile and desktop websites, in-store signage, social media, and more.
Using Attentive’s “Two-Tap” sign-up, subscribers tap the button to load a pre-populated text message. Then, they simply tap “Send” to opt-in and to begin receiving messages. Giving shoppers this easy sign-up option can help you quickly grow your text messaging subscriber lists.
To improve subscriber growth on-site, we recommend showing a fullscreen sign-up unit on a shopper’s first session, and then a smaller pop-up on subsequent site visits.
You can create and schedule these sign-up units to display at the most opportune time for your shopper. For example, display your sign-up unit when a customer first lands on your site, or wait until they demonstrate exit intent to help encourage a second look.
These desktop best practices apply to your mobile site, too.
Your social media profiles, such as Instagram, are another way to capture a highly engaged audience. Drive opt-ins from your loyal following through paid and organic social posts and stories. If your brand works with influencers, you can also create dedicated landing pages that they can link to from their bio (or in their stories) to drive more sign-ups.
Commercials and in-store signage
If your brand has retail locations, try displaying in-store signage to invite shoppers to opt-in with a Text-To-Join (TTJ) keyword. Draw window shoppers into your store by offering a sign-up perk they can redeem at checkout. Or use TTJ on your TV ads and package inserts to encourage even more offsite sign-ups. After a shopper texts this keyword, your brand can send unique welcome messages to introduce your brand, offer exclusive discounts, or link to specialized content.
4. How can I combine my SMS channel with email?
Multi-channel marketing lets you create a unified experience across multiple communication channels to promote brand loyalty. If your email service provider is integrated with your SMS platform, it can be pretty easy to use these two channels together successfully.
When you’re determining your email and SMS strategy, consider the unique strengths of each channel—and what format would be most effective for communicating with your customers. SMS is great for time-sensitive content and two-way communication, while email is perfect for long-form, visual content that isn’t as urgent or can be read later.
Common use cases to consider when using email and SMS:
- Welcome series: In your welcome email to new subscribers, include a sentence about how they can opt in to your text messages, too.
- Browse/cart abandonment: First, send the time-sensitive reminder to the shopper via text. If the subscriber hasn’t converted from your text within 24 hours, send an email reminder to encourage them to take a second look.
- Order updates: Send a confirmation email when the initial transaction is complete, and use SMS to send more timely status updates, such as order shipped or order delivered.
- Restock alerts: Double down with email and SMS together to create a sense of urgency and encourage faster purchases when an item the subscriber has browsed is back in stock.
Keep in mind that not every email subscriber will want to opt-in for text messages, and vice versa. Give them options, and let them decide which channel they want to engage with your brand on.
5. What type of texts should I send?
The most common types of messages brands send are one-time campaigns and automated messages, which are triggered by subscriber behavior. But if you’re working with an SMS marketing platform like Attentive, you may also have access to transactional and conversational messages. When determining what kind of messages you want to send, you should first figure out what you want to accomplish with your SMS channel and get a sense of what your audience wants. Many of our customers use A/B testing and segmentation to learn what works best for them.
Single send, or one-time, campaigns are great for on-demand messaging when you have time-sensitive offers or announcements.
Running a sitewide sale for the holidays? Send a campaign message with a seasonal promotion. Looking to highlight a line of products? Use a conversational, two-way campaign to boost visibility and gain insights into subscriber preferences. Want to make your subscribers feel like VIPs? Roll out the red carpet and send them exclusive access to shop your sale or product launch before anyone else. Couple your campaign ideas with a creative segmentation strategy to send highly targeted messages to unique groups of subscribers and boost message performance.
A simple text can make all the difference when re-engaging a subscriber to maximize their lifetime value. Our most successful customers also send campaign messages to their less engaged subscribers to boost retention and incremental revenue.
Automated Journeys allow you to target specific subscribers at critical touchpoints in the customer lifecycle—like browsing particular items, leaving items in a cart, waiting for order updates, and more. Because Attentive’s Journeys are “always-on,” these messages are constantly driving incremental revenue.
Determining how and when to use campaign and automated messages will depend on what outcome you want from your message. If you inform customers about their order or subscription status, use an automated transactional text to send shipping, renewal, and delivery updates. If you’re looking to target shoppers who viewed sold-out items, send automated back-in-stock text alerts to create a sense of urgency and recover that lost revenue.
For a more human and personalized approach, you can also take advantage of Attentive’s Two-Way Journeys. These let you send engaging and personalized conversational messages that prompt responses from your subscribers. They can also help you increase revenue and improve customer satisfaction while reducing customer churn using automated replies. If you’re interested in a more hands-on yet scalable strategy, we’ve also invested in people-powered replies with Attentive Concierge™ and our acquisition of Tone.
For more ideas of what types of messages to send, explore Texts We Love—our SMS gallery with hundreds of text messages sent by our customers.
6. How often should I send campaign messages?
Based on internal performance data, we recommend sending at least eight campaign messages per month to your full subscriber base to hit the sweet spot for both revenue per send and opt-out rate. However, this should always be optimized to fit your brand’s specific goals.
Keep in mind that messaging your full subscriber base doesn’t mean you need to send everyone the same message. We highly recommend creating unique segments to improve targeting and overall message performance. The segments can be based on different demographics and locations, frequent buyers versus one-time purchasers, engaged versus unengaged, and more.
7. When is the best time to send a text message?
We’ve seen that messages sent over the weekend drive higher CTRs than those sent on weekdays, although weekdays tend to see higher revenue per message than weekends.
While the click-through rates remain relatively constant throughout the day, revenue per message is much higher for texts sent after 1pm vs. those sent in the early morning (before 9am). For the best performance, schedule messages to send based on each subscriber’s local time zone, and use tools like Attentive’s smart sending feature to maintain a balanced message frequency and prevent fatigue. And while sending messages at the right time is key, it’s also important to know when not to send messages. Using quiet hours can help you follow SMS regulations while also avoiding messaging subscribers too early or too late.
But remember, your SMS program is unique. You should always be testing different options and adapt based on learnings. We suggest testing different messaging and send times, monitoring the performance through metrics like CTR, CVR, and revenue-driven, and adapting your SMS program based on what resonates with your subscribers.
8. What should I send in a text message?
Although Attentive provides a robust library of message templates with built-in best practices, we all experience writer's block from time to time. What you should send is highly dependent on your reasons for adopting SMS in the first place. Based on your priorities, there are a few message components to take into consideration.
- Content themes: There are many reasons to send a text (e.g. you’ve restocked a product or someone recently made a purchase), so make sure you always have a purpose behind each message. Common marketing initiatives can include product launches, site-wide or flash sales, seasonal promotions, and loyalty programs. Other themes or purposes may be around post-purchase, order updates, and more. Explore more text examples on Texts We Love.
- Length: We’ve all got that one friend who doesn’t understand text etiquette, and sends messages that read like a novel. Shoppers’ attention spans are short, so we suggest keeping your copy succinct and to the point (no more than 320 characters).
- CTA: Include a clear CTA and make sure you’re creating a sense of urgency or inspiring your customers to take some sort of action. Including an incentive, such as free shipping or discount, is an easy way to increase conversions.
- Creativity: You can try capitalizing important words for more emphasis, incorporating MMS to make your message feel more animated, or using keyword prompts and automated replies to make it more interactive.
There’s no secret formula to follow when setting up your messages, so it’s important to test and determine the best approach for your subscribers. Ask yourself questions like, “Do my subscribers prefer messages that include only plain text? Or are they more likely to read and engage with messaging that includes images or GIFs?” Discover what works best by experimenting with different incentives, copy, and message length using A/B tests.
Some other variables you can test include:
- Emoji usage
- Link placement
- Tone of voice
- Send times
Results of these tests should help you determine if your content is compelling, if you’re using clear calls to action, targeting the correct segments, and sending at the optimal time.
9. How should I segment my subscribers?
To deliver the best experience for your customers, you need to collect accurate data that you can use to create your segments and send targeted, personalized messages.
Adopting a smart segmentation strategy plays a critical role, allowing you to reach the right audience with the right text. For your SMS channel, you can segment subscribers by criteria such as:
- Engaged/unengaged: An engaged subscriber is actively opening and clicking your text messages, so they’re more likely to convert. It’s good practice to re-engage your less active subscribers by sending exclusive content or new product offerings.
- Past purchasers/non-purchasers: For the past purchaser group, you can create effective upsell and cross-sell campaigns based on the item they purchased most recently. Send last-minute promotion reminders to non-purchasers to avoid fatiguing those who already shopped the sale.
- High-intent: Your browse/cart abandonment segment of subscribers are as close to purchasing as they can be without actually clicking “buy,” which makes them an ideal audience for personalized follow-ups and reminders.
- Location: Geotargeting, or location-based segmentation, is useful for targeting weather-related or location-specific events. If you’re hosting a pop-up at your retail store, message subscribers within that city.
- VIP/loyalty status: Share exclusive offers and program updates with your VIP segment to make them feel valued and in the know.
10. How do I ensure my messages are compliant?
Regulations surrounding compliance vary from country to country, but here are a few laws and associations to familiarize yourself with when it comes to SMS compliance in the US:
- Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA): A federal statute with related FCC regulations that require marketers to obtain prior express written consent from mobile subscribers before sending them text messages using an “automatic telephone dialing system” (e.g., legal disclosure in the sign-up unit).
- Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA): A mobile industry association that publishes a list of self-regulatory requirements for short code programs, and audits program operators against these requirements on behalf of mobile carriers (e.g., compliant Terms and Conditions, the disclaimer in the welcome flow).
- Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA): A civil rights law that prohibits discrimination against individuals with disabilities in all areas of public life and requires reasonable accommodations for anyone who is impaired (e.g., using bold legible text in sign-up creatives).
We recommend consulting your legal counsel to obtain advice with respect to any particular issues or problems.
Knowing the answers to your top SMS marketing questions will help you take your program to the next level and make SMS one of your top revenue drivers. Bookmark this resource, and request a demo to learn more about how Attentive can help you engage your subscribers at every stage of the customer lifecycle.