Email, once the economical marketing opportunity that was equally accessible to small and large businesses alike, has become increasingly overwhelming for consumers to wade through, rendering it less effective for marketers and businesses. While, despite a universal decline in open rates in 2020, email marketing is far from dead, it is an opportune time for businesses to diversify their digital marketing efforts.  

The Problem with Email

According to the Harvard Business Review, the average professional spends just over four hours a day responding to emails. While that amount of time is certainly not excessively high, the burden and dread that often accompanies the task can often prove so taxing and insurmountable that many never fully clear out our email inboxes. Indeed, it is estimated that approximately 35% of emails go unread with most people picking and choosing which emails are deemed important, often deleting or “marking as read.” A more preferable digital marketing option in 2021? SMS marketing.

The Case for SMS Marketing

With some sources estimating that open rates for SMS messages are as high as 98% compared to the average open rate or 18% for email marketing, SMS, or text messaging, offers businesses a quick and easy way to cut through the clutter and meet customers where they are– on their phones. 

In addition to meeting customers where they are, SMS messages excel at being able to serve up quick nuggets of information that are simple, engaging, personal, and most importantly, easy for recipients to quickly scan in a busy world. What’s more, it’s estimated that between 29% and 40% of consumers click through links sent via SMS messaging compared with 2.6% for emails. SMS also allows for more engagement with customers through two-way communication, whether automated or manual. 

Getting Started

Similar to email marketing, there are a seemingly endless number of platforms designed to simplify the process, and each offering its own assortment of bells and whistles, but regardless of the program, there are a few things to consider when getting started with an SMS program:

1. Less is More. While many people have multiple email accounts, they usually only have one cell phone number. By subscribing to your list, customers are trusting you not to abuse it. The more messages you send out, the more likely people are to unsubscribe. Try to limit your marketing messages to no more than 2-4 per month.

2. Always get Consent. Having access to your customers’ phone numbers does not give you the right to upload them into a texting program and start shooting off texts. Instead, use offers or promotions to encourages customers to opt-in.

3. Use natural, conversational language. Text messaging is a casual platform, with limited word counts. Keep things easy, breezy, and to the point in your messaging.

4. Always include a Call to Action. What do you hope to accomplish via your message? Are you looking to drive people to your store for a flash sale? Are you asking them to confirm an appointment? Are you asking them to provide a review? Whatever your goal, make sure that it is clear.

5. Utilize keywords and shortcodes to maximize your mass messaging campaigns. Assign words to campaigns in order to build audiences based on interests. For instance, Text SALE to 12345 will encourage people to opt-in while building a list of customers interested in knowing more about when your next sale is. You can also provide an added incentive such as a coupon.

6. Never use your personal phone. Using your personal phone number opens your business up to an array of liability and compliance risks. Like email marketing, SMS marketing is governed by the FCC. Utilizing a platform specifically designed for SMS marketing will help you navigate these issues while also protecting your personal number and information.

7. Always be clear. Your first message to a new subscriber should always be a confirmation that they have opted-in, as well as how many messages they can expect to receive monthly. Likewise, there should be clear instructions on how someone can opt out.