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SMS Marketing Tips: how to use bulk SMS to grow your business

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Using SMS to directly text message customers is a very effective way to communicate directly new information and offers. However, the rules that govern the industry are very tight regarding what is considered spam and what isn’t. This means that companies that want to utilize Short Message Service system methods for marketing and communication need to be careful about how they handle the task. A business should be sure that the direct communication system that it has built to address SMS marketing needs was constructed with those specific concerns in mind.

Why use SMS marketing?

There are few forms of communication available to a company that are as direct and effective in taking a message and literally putting it right in the hands of the intended consumer. If a doctor’s office wants to keep patients up-to-date about the physician’s availability, SMS is the perfect way to do it. It is also a much cheaper method of communication that other direct marketing alternatives, such as mailing reminders or making phone calls. As in the example of a doctor’s office, it’s easier and cheaper to send reminders about appointments to patients via text messaging than it is to have an assistant place a phone call and try to talk directly with the patient.

SMS systems also allow senders to check whether a message was properly received. That’s superior to the results that might be expected when leaving a phone message on an answering machine. Since receipts of messages can be tracked, they can also be fed into data systems in order to tie performance of expected tasks to the messages sent. If customers aren’t responding properly to communications, then you know it’s time to brush up on your SMS marketing tips and try something new.

What to watch out for

Firstly, it’s important to be aware that any SMS campaign needs to conform to strict legal guidelines. In many jurisdictions, unless a recipient has fully opted into a campaign and has an easy way to opt out, it is illegal to send them any messages by text. You should always check the legal issues in your area to see what concerns might surround SMS as a communication method.

The biggest thing that’s necessary when setting up an SMS system for marketing and communication is the opt-in/opt-out system. When you solicit information, be it in-person, through a written form, over the web or through an app, make sure that there is plain language explaining how your company will use the information. This explanation should also include a web URL that allows recipients to opt out of the campaign at any time. Also, the agreement to receive messages should always be a direct accession to the terms. When in doubt, be overly thorough.

Most of your sign-ups are likely to be through a web form. It’s vital that the web form has a clearly visible link that takes visitors to a copy of the privacy policy. You should also always include a clearly visible link that directs customers to the opt-out form.

Always treat your SMS campaign as a form of permission marketing. You send messages to a customer’s phone because it is beneficial to them. Don’t overstep the boundaries of that agreement between your business and the customer. If a particular campaign or call-to-action feels spammy, take the time to review it. Think about it through the filter of whether you’d really want to receive messages like the one you’re proposing. Not only will this help you avoid running afoul of regulations governing SMS messaging, but it will allow you to reduce the number of subscribers who opt out of a campaign.

What messages are suited to SMS?

SMS is a very simple format, and it’s wise to limit the verbosity of messages that you send. One of the best SMS marketing tips is to always keep it short and sweet. If you’re passing along this week’s specials for a restaurant, try to stick to the handful that you really want to promote and the types that you would expect to wow a customer.

Customers love to receive SMS tips about a variety of things. Remember, if a customer has signed up to receive messages, they’re already very interested in your product or service. The biggest thing you want to do is focus on that particular type of customer. Every campaign should center on delivering value that the loyal and engaged types of customers will look forward to learning about. For example, a garage will do well sending SMS reminders to customers when their cars are coming due for oil changes and state inspections.

Things that are ideal for SMS text messaging are:

  • Appointments e.g. annual, or monthly appointment reminders for dental or medical checkups, or auto-mechanic service
  • Food/drink specials e.g. daily or weekly special offers from a bars, restaurants, cafes
  • Special offers/competitions: e.g. limited time special discount offers for product and service sales
  • Status updates e.g. auto-mechanic updating customer when servicing has been completed, shop updates customer when status of purchase order has changed

Getting started with bulk SMS

  1. Choose a bulk SMS provider

    Most popular CRM systems already include a way to plug in modules to handle SMS campaigns, so the biggest thing you need to get started is to find a capable bulk SMS provider. This means finding a firm that can handle the volume of traffic that you require at a price that’s appropriate to your needs. You should also ask the provider how much overhead for growth each plan offers and how overages are handled.

    It’s also important to discuss legal issues with the bulk SMS provider. If a company’s approach sounds sketchy, move along until you find a firm whose methods are appropriate to your situation. And finally, you should check that the provider can actually deliver SMSes to the cellphones in your target geographic area. This might involve taking a look at the cell network provider list that the bulk SMS provider can deliver to.

  2. Integrate bulk SMS provider

    You’ll also need to see that the system integrates properly with the CRM and website software that you’re using. For CMSes such as Drupal and WordPress, there will usually be a plugin for the major bulk SMS providers. While integrating the SMS solution with your website is the cleanest solution, even if the SMS provider does not integrate with your website, it might still be possible to use it if it has its own web interface that you log on to and upload your number list to. Always discuss these potential problems in advance and be wary of providers that dismiss your concerns by saying they’ll deal with issues as they come up.

  3. Send bulk SMS

    Once you have everything plugged in and tested, it’s time to send that first text! One of the best SMS tips we can pass along is to make sure that first message is polite and explains why the message is being sent. There will be opt-outs, and the important thing is to make sure that everyone who is receiving messages wants to be getting them. Once you and your customers are on the same page, everyone will find that SMS is a great way to keep up-to-date regarding deals, appointments and critical information.

Main image: floeschie