SMS Marketing for Businesses: How to Get Started
Editor’s note: This article was originally published on May 27th, 2020. It has been updated to reflect current data and insights.
It might feel daunting to add a new marketing channel to your mix. But if you already personalize your emails and segment your audience, you know more about how to set up an SMS strategy than you might think.
Keep reading to discover five steps to help you get started with SMS marketing:
- Step 1: Collect consent
- Step 2: Set up the types of SMS messages you want to send
- Step 3: Understand SMS marketing best practices
- Step 4: Unite your email and SMS strategy
- Step 5: Set up your creative materials and content
No one wants to receive unsolicited marketing messages from companies they never subscribed to. That’s why collecting consent from your audience to send them SMS messages is so important.
The best way to collect SMS consent and phone numbers from your subscribers is through an on-site form, like a popup or a flyout. You can request email addresses, phone numbers, communication preferences, and other information from your customers, similar to sneaker brand Greats:
If you already have a list of email subscribers, you can target your SMS signup forms to only appear to that group of people. When you’re initially getting started with SMS, this is a great way to collect SMS subscribers from your existing customers.
Once someone submits their phone number, you’ll also need to follow up with a text that confirms their subscription, like the one below:
After someone subscribes to your SMS list and confirms their subscription, you have additional opportunities to show them you value their business and respect their personal boundaries.
Here are two ways to create a post-signup experience that puts your customers first.
1 | Provide an option to unsubscribe
Always make it easy for your audience to unsubscribe from your SMS list. In your initial opt-in text, include clear and concise language that tells your subscribers how, if they choose to, they can stop receiving text messages from your brand. This may include allowing your customers to simply reply “STOP,” “NO,” or “UNSUBSCRIBE,” for example.
If you make the unsubscribe process difficult and confusing, you could damage your relationship with your customers and risk losing their business in the future.
2 | Manage text preferences
Another way to put the wishes of your customers first is to make it easy for them to manage their text preferences. Let your subscribers specify how and when they receive email and SMS messages if they sign up to hear from you on both channels.
The more you know about how often people want to hear from you, what kind of content they’re looking for, and how they want to receive it, the better you can tailor your marketing outreach to meet their expectations.
You can send promotional SMS messages through two distinct methods: campaigns and automations.
1 | Text campaigns
SMS campaigns are one-off messages that you send to a list or a segment of your subscribers. Some of the most common text campaigns promote new product information, offer sales and promotions, and share company announcements.
While the nature of an SMS campaign is similar to an email campaign, you shouldn’t send them as frequently. Be selective with what you send to your customers over text and how often you send it. Remember, it’s a more personal marketing channel than email so use it appropriately.
2 | Text automations
SMS automations are based on behaviors, triggers, and filters. Unlike the subscriber list or lists that you send SMS campaigns to, your customers will only receive an automated text once they meet certain conditions or take a certain action, like adding an item to their online cart.
SMS automations include a welcome series, an abandoned cart or browse abandonment text, or a post-purchase upsell. When sending SMS automations, always filter out your subscribers or customers who’ve recently received a text from your brand.
An abandoned cart SMS automation can be an effective way to get a potential customer to complete their purchase. But if they receive a text message from you after they received a promotional text two days ago, this negative experience could deter them from returning to your site.
Your SMS subscribers may also be receiving your emails. It’s best to build every automation with email and text together—that way, you can decide exactly what type of message you send and when your subscribers receive it.
When you use SMS and email communications together strategically, you can ensure you’re not over sending on either channel.
Once you set up your SMS campaigns and automations, it’s important to keep some best practices in mind as you start sending texts to your audience.
1 | Personalize and segment your SMS messages
Just because you have a list of SMS subscribers doesn’t mean everyone on that list should receive the same message. Like email marketing, the more you personalize your SMS experience for different customers, the more positive your customer engagement will be.
You might send content about new arrivals to SMS subscribers who have purchased from your brand in the past, for example. For new subscribers who haven’t purchased yet, you might want to let them know about a flash sale you’re running.
You can also use your signup forms as an opportunity to collect preferences from your customers, and then use your customer’s data to further personalize and segment your SMS communications—like targeting certain collections to men instead of women or promoting gold jewelry to some subscribers and silver to others.
2 | Limit the number text messages you send
In email marketing, you use filters in your automations to segment your audience and make sure you’re not sending emails to the same person too often during a certain time period. The same idea goes for SMS marketing—but it should be much stricter.
Customers might not mind hearing from their favorite brand more than once a week via email, but receiving multiple text messages is a lot more intrusive.
Save your best offers for text and consider only contacting subscribers through this channel once or twice a month. Rather than overdoing it, start slow and build an engaged audience from the start.
How do you add SMS marketing to your existing email strategy? The keyword there is “add”—SMS shouldn’t replace what you’re currently doing with email marketing, but rather complement it.
Treat your SMS subscribers like your VIP customers—send them the most exclusive news, updates, and promotions. Instead of sending your best offers over email and text at the same time, for example, try staggering them. Send your offer over text first, then follow up with your subscriber over email.
Alternatively, you can use text messages to offer the sale to SMS subscribers first and then send it over email, but exclude your SMS segment.
Don’t always send the same communications over text and email—if customers are subscribed to your email and SMS lists, decide which channel will be a more effective means of communication for your message before each send.
Text messages are better for short, simple messages that you can communicate in under 160 characters and that have a single call-to-action (CTA). You can use emails to communicate more thorough messages that cover more than one topic of interest, like including product recommendations along with new arrivals, or relay more creative media and branded designs.
An email includes a lot more information than an SMS message, like more copy, images, and products. Text messages are short, simple, and to-the-point. You can communicate that your brand is running a sale now, while providing a direct link for your subscribers to shop the collection.
You can use images or GIFs in an MMS message, but you’re much more limited with what you can include in your SMS message, which means you have to think strategically about what content will best communicate the message you’re trying to share.
For example, an SMS welcome series will probably have one welcome text, with a coupon code or some other incentive to encourage the subscriber to shop and buy immediately—maybe the coupon code is only good for 24 hours to create a greater sense of urgency.
In your second text message, you can ask your subscribers if they have any questions about your brand or ask customers if they’re enjoying their purchase, similar to the ways you might check in on a friend via text.
Use SMS marketing to build customer relationships
The more you experiment with SMS as a marketing channel and see what kinds of content resonates over email compared to SMS, the better you’ll be able to craft a truly effective text message marketing strategy.
Ecommerce has only scratched the surface of SMS marketing. Once you have the SMS basics down—collecting phone numbers, segmenting subscribers, and developing a strategy that complements your email marketing communications—it’s all about fine-tuning your customers’ experience.
Looking for more tips? Learn how to build an effective SMS marketing strategy.
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