How to use SMS marketing for business.

Getting the required prior consent (“opt-in”) from your customers isn’t easy, text software seems complicated, and promotions can frustrate customers. Only 12% of local businesses use SMS in their marketing strategy, even though it gets up to a 98% open rate.

However, done correctly, SMS marketing can actually strengthen relationships by inviting responses. With well-timed messages and relevant content, it feels more intimate than other marketing messages and encourages continued engagement in a way only text can. The key is knowing how to message the right way.

And that’s exactly what we’re going to show you. In this ebook, you’ll learn the secrets to successful SMS marketing and how to run an effective campaign as a local business. For many local businesses, SMS marketing can feel daunting.

What is SMS marketing? 

SMS marketing or text message marketing is the practice of using text to convert leads and keep customers engaged. As a rule of thumb, messages are usually 160 characters or less. While there are multiple ways to utilize this channel, this ebook will focus on using text to communicate promotions, updates (changed business hours, status updates), and events to your customer base.

Benefits of SMS marketing: why it matters. 

As a consumer yourself, you’re probably aware of just how much consumers are inundated with marketing materials every day. This has consequences, which include desensitization. Research has shown that consumers aren’t as receptive to traditional marketing methods as they used to be. 

  • The average open rate for emails: 18%

Engagement is low:

  • Average click-through rate: 2.6%
  • Average click-to-open rate: 14.1%

With our catalyzed digital transformation, consumers expect a modern

customer experience with communication that meets them where they are.

They expect convenience, personalization, and humanlike connection. That means text marketing.

Text messages have an open rate of up to 98%. Here's the scoop on the stats.

According to Podium’s research, SMS marketing is traditionally underutilized by local businesses. Since texts have a 98% open rate there is such a lost opportunity for businesses in this marketing channel. Think of the simplicity and potential that can be used by sending a promotion all through a simple text message instead of email. Statistics show the following benefits of SMS marketing:

Using different channels of reach, this chart shows how businesses can improve SMS marketing.

SMS Marketing is Cost-Effective 

SMS marketing campaigns is also one of the most cost-effective marketing campaigns you can run as a local business. Compared to digital campaigns, SMS campaigns are extremely low-cost to run, allowing you to drive new leads and increase customer lifetime value at very little cost. Recent data also shows that providing options such as text directly increases a local business’s revenue.

SMS marketing has one of the lowest costs per click and send.

Like email marketing, SMS marketing is trackable and provides valuable insights into

customer behavior. But unlike email campaigning, it reaches customers where they want to be reached instantly.

The convenience of automated text messages. 

When it comes to SMS communication, many businesses spend a significant amount of time scheduling appointments or sending review invites manually. It is a core part of driving their revenue. However, many of these types of messages don’t need an actual employee to send them. That’s where automations come in. 

Automated text messages save time for the important responses by giving local businesses the ability to automate basic messages to consumers, clients, patients and patrons. These texts can be timed, based upon a triggered event so customers get messaged at the right time, every time.

Automated messages can be customized for any purpose including appointments, product delivery, lead conversion, and customer follow up in order to win more business, keep more appointments, convert more leads and keep customers coming back. It’s like having another employee 24/7.

Automated text messaging also helps businesses get more reviews. Every business has a moment when the customer is most excited and willing to leave a review. Perhaps it’s right after the purchase, fitting, or service.

When you tie your automations in with your CRM and set them up with review invites, you can trigger invitations to be sent consistently at the right time in your customer journey, capturing the moment of customer joy. 

Automated text messages also optimize the entire customer experience by giving your customers the information they need when they need it. No customers fall through the cracks. With these benefits, automated text messages help businesses collect hundreds, even thousands, of high-quality reviews

Gain more results with personalized text messages. When employing automations, it’s important to keep texts sounding human-like instead of botlike. The key to this is personalization. In our current marketplace, personalization is make or break—and it gets results. 98% of people open a text image if it’s personalized. 

Your customers and clients like to work with companies that personalize their experience. Personalization in the customer journey is what takes good customer service to amazing customer service. 93% of customers will make repeat purchases with companies who offer excellent customer service.

Approximately 90% of consumers use customer service as a factor in deciding whether to do business with a company. And 58% of consumers will switch companies because of poor customer service. Text messages sent at the right time and with relevant content go a long way in helping customers feel like you know them and have a real relationship with them. 

One major way you can make your text messages more personal is through live chat. With an autoresponder feature on your site, you can make your text messages feel relevant and convenient for your customers. A live chat such as Webchat collects all lead information upfront, giving you more data and helping leads feel like they’ve invested in your brand. 

Webchat connects your customers to you immediately and routes them to the specific team members who will be most likely able to help them. This has obvious benefits for your customers and for you as it:

  • Connects customers to someone who actually knows how to answer their questions. 
  • Significantly shortens your sales cycle.
  • Greatly improves your customer experience by increasing convenience and speed.

With Webchat, conversations happen over text and can move from desktop to mobile and back again asynchronously. You meet your leads with flexible, valuable, conversational messages where they’re at—on their phones. And it doesn’t get more personal than that. 

What you need to be aware of.

What’s the difference between SMS and MMS

When text messaging, it’s also important to know the difference between SMS and MMS. SMS stands for “Short Message Service” and MMS stands for “Multimedia Messaging Service.” While SMS allows you to send text messages up to 160 characters long, MMS allows you to do more—like send messages with media such as GIFs, videos, pictures, and audio. 

When you try to send images with SMS, the images appear as links. In MMS messages, they appear directly in the messages themselves. SMS and MMS also vary in length. While SMS texts can only be 160 characters long, MMS can be up to 1,600 characters in length. Because of the added length and media options, MMS messages tend to be costlier to send.

However, this cost pays off. MMS campaigns’ opt-in rate is 20% higher than that of SMS campaigns. These types of messages are also 8x more likely to be shared on social media platforms. GIFs and images are much more engaging than just text, allowing you to connect more efficiently with your customers and send messages they’re excited to receive. 

Both SMS and MMS marketing have a place in your promotional strategy. However, because their purpose and layouts are different, knowing best practices and when to use each is important. Generally, you should use SMS when communicating basic information, such as appointment confirmations and business hour updates. You can use these messages for:

  • Appointment reminders
  • Inventory, shipping, and tracking updates
  • Follow up messages
  • Review invites
  • Simple promotions with specials offers and links

When you need to communicate more information, like pictures of a specific product or videos of inventory, you should use MMS. Use MMS for:

  • Mobile coupons
  • Product and inventory details
  • Increasing customer engagement 

MMS messaging can go a long way in helping customers visualize your customer experience. But remember—while MMS messages can boost your engagement efforts, SMS messages can often do much more than you think they can. Get creative with your emojis, link placement, and promotional content to make your SMS messages count.

How to retrieve deleted text messages.

We’ve all been there. The moment you accidentally delete a message you realize you actually needed or see one disappear due to a glitch is sickening. As a business owner, losing potential leads that come from text messaging because of deletions can be nerve-wracking. Luckily, retrieving deleted text messages on a phone or with your SMS marketing software is quick and easy. 

If you’re texting customers the old-fashioned way with a smartphone, there are a few things to consider. First, when you delete a message, this action doesn’t actually erase it from the system right away in most cases. Usually, the file is marked as inactive and doesn’t disappear until it is replaced by something else. To retrieve deleted text messages:

  1. Stop using your phone (so the deleted files won’t be replaced). 
  2. Check your backup storage. (your iCloud, etc.)
  3. Contact your carrier. (Carriers often have your texts stored, but will only provide this information in urgent situations.)
  4. Download data recovery software.
  5. Make sure to use backup software so that you won’t lose deleted messages again!

While retrieving messages on smartphones is possible, keep in mind that it’s not always guaranteed. Software like Podium’s messaging tools makes retrieving deleted messages never an issue as its efficiency and platform stores messages long-term. 

Staying compliant: TCPA compliance and more.

Before getting started, you need to be aware of a few things. Text is more intimate—even more invasive—than other forms of communication. Text messages appear directly on a person’s phone whether they are at home, work, asleep, awake, on a date with friends, or sharing a personal moment with family.

Because of this, local businesses have an obligation to use messaging ethically, which means following applicable rules and regulations.

First, some myth-busting:

  • SMS marketing always gets businesses in trouble. False.
  • SMS marketing laws are too complicated to understand. False.
  • SMS marketing is spam. False.

The truth is, SMS marketing in a compliant way comes down to being transparent and only messaging people who have “opted-in,” that is, provided prior express consent to the sender. In the United States, this involves abiding by the rules set out by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and other similar regulations. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA, was put in place to protect customers from spam, including unwanted calls and texts.

Other countries have similar protections in place. Spamming customers is poor practice and carries repercussions. Not only does it severely damage customer relationships and trust, but it can also result in hefty fines.

Campaigns above a 3% unsubscribe rate also put your textable phone number at risk with carriers. It’s crucial that you only message contacts who have opted-in to receive promotional messages from your business. SMS marketing in a compliant way isn’t complicated—you just need to know what to watch out for and put your customers first.

Some things to keep in mind when text messaging:

  • Make sure you have proper consent from each recipient of the message
  • Mention your business’s name
  • Alert the customer about possible messaging fees
  • Mention frequency of monthly messages
  • Include the option to opt-out of all future texts
  • Honor those opt-outs

Best Practices 

Use SMS Marketing to Convert, Not Hurt

Now that we’ve talked about staying compliant, let’s talk about how to be effective.

As a local business, you want to use SMS marketing to engage new customers, increase customer lifetime value, and drive more revenue. You don’t want to annoy customers, damage your brand, or contribute to consumer burnout. The real goal is to give your texts the feel and value of one-to-one interactions. There are a few key practices you can keep in mind to achieve this.

The dos and don’ts of SMS.

Do: Use conversational language

One of the biggest turn-offs with marketing messages is that businesses sound like they’re shouting, “BUY NOW!” “OFFER ENDS TODAY!” To appeal to your customers, keep messages light-hearted, short, and conversational—just like you’re talking to a friend. And yes, you can include emojis to keep the conversation personal and informal!

Do: send during business hours

If your customer receives a promo at 4:00 am, they won’t be happy. Send texts during the hours people are regularly working to respect your customers’ privacy and increase human-like feel. Keep in mind that sales and events promotions are most effective when they’re last-minute impulses. If you have an event on Wednesday night, consider sending the message as late as Wednesday afternoon.

Do: Use simple messages

Remember, your messages should be 160 characters or less. Try not to use any complex messaging that could be misinterpreted or misunderstood. If you’re sharing information about an event or a promotion, include the date(s) so your audience has all the information they need.

Do: Provide Value

The key to successful SMS campaigns is providing actual value. Employ unique content that is specific and relevant to the demographics you’re targeting. Don’t send a 20-year-old college student in Chicago a promo for carpet cleaning at your Boise location. Do send a 40-year-old male in Arizona a promo for tennis gear similar to what he has bought previously at your Phoenix location a month after his purchase.

Do: Include a CTA

If you miss the CTA, you miss the point of SMS marketing. Messages should include a direct call to action such as “check this out!” “stop by!” or “leave a review!”

Do: Include a link.

Don’t let your links eat up the valuable space in your messages. You can use link shorteners or purchase an SMS Marketing system that includes shortened links so customers can engage with you conveniently.

Do: Respond in real-time.

A seven-hour delay in response time doesn’t feel like a real conversation—it feels like a bot. Try to respond as quickly as possible to avoid disengagement and increase connectivity.

Do: Track Performance

It’s crucial to keep an eye on how your campaigns are performing and monitor how your audience is responding to your messages. If you aren’t getting much engagement after your first few promotions, revisit this ebook to see if there’s anything you can tweak.

Do: Address the customer by name.

Just because it’s not 1:1 doesn’t mean it shouldn’t sound like it. Use your messaging system to address each customer by name. Using someone’s name in business conversation is crucial for authentic sound and feel.

Don’t: Send too frequently 

Inundating your customers with messages leads to frustration and “STOP!” replies. (Often this has to do more with the content of your messages than how often you send them. If your campaigns have high value, you’re less likely to have a problem).

Don’t: Use slang.

While slang (dang, freakin’, lit) certainly increases casual feel, it risks unprofessionalism and misunderstandings with your customers. You should also avoid wordplay, superfluous words, and anything that could be misleading.

Don’t: Forget to identify yourself.

Figure out how to do this creatively with each successive message so it doesn’t get old. You might try versions such as, “This is Stella at Oak & Table!” “We’re so excited that you loved your Oak & Table dining set.” “Hoping to see you at Oak & Table soon!”

Don’t: ignore opt-in and opt-out rules.

We emphasized it once, and we’ll do it again. Incompliance undermines trust and damages your reputation. Only message customers who have opted-in, and make sure to respect their decisions. Because you want strong relationships and happy customers, messaging in a compliant way is in your best interest.

Don’t: Sound like a mass text.

As we mentioned, your message may be going out to 700 people, but it should sound like it’s going to one. Let’s talk about personalization.

Personalization: How to market like a human. 

You can use SMS marketing like this to offer cross sells and promotions.

Today’s consumers crave personalization in their brand interactions. They want to feel like a real person at your business is contacting them and only them. If you want your threads to feel like individual interactions, it’s critical to make your SMS marketing messages as personal as possible.

You can do this by including personal details in your messages and marketing according to those details. For example, Ryan wants to be sent a promo message with a special discount relevant to her last purchase on her birthday, addressed specifically to her. When sending messages, businesses should anticipate customer wants and needs by considering the following components:

  • Name
  • Date of birth
  • Location
  • Last purchase
  • Previous feedback
  • Website journey
  • Seasons and holidays

Maximizing Your Opt-ins. 

Use this complete guide to SMS marketing to learn how you can leverage it to your advantage.

Many businesses find maximizing their marketable SMS list to be the hardest part of SMS marketing. But it doesn’t have to be. There are a number of touchpoints along your customer journey where collecting an opt-in is natural and even expected.

If you take advantage of them, the list will build itself. Remember, it’s important to receive opt-ins at multiple entry points so you are consistently growing your contact list and your ability to nurture those contacts into transactions.

SMS Text message template examples 

What “good enough to get a response” looks like. 

There are hundreds of valuable use cases for SMS marketing. As a retailer, you might use text to build loyalty with 5-star review customers by offering an exclusive VIP discount.

In-home services, you might re-engage customers who asked for a quote via webchat recently but didn’t follow through. Almost any use case can be extremely effective if done well. The key is to utilize your business’s unique strengths and creativity while keeping best practices and compliance front of mind. To that end, let’s take a look at what good looks like. 

Here's a greate example of SMS marketing in motion.

Here are two examples of how SMS marketing can connect you with customersUse this complete guide to SMS marketing to learn how you can leverage it to your advantage.

Good looks different in every scenario. The most important thing is that your messages demonstrate a thorough understanding of your customers, anticipate and meet their needs, and respect their choices and privacy.

This is a wonderful example of SMS marketing in motion to gain webinar signups and reconversions.

How to use a mass texting service for promotions.

Not all SMS marketing tools are built equally and choosing the right one is crucial to your business’s success. So, what factors should you consider? 

The right mass texting service will empower you to easily build and manage an opt-in list, use targeted offers to engage your customers via messaging and report on engagement efforts. Without any hassle. 

Your texting service should: 

  • Be purpose-built for local business SMS Campaigns, providing exactly what you need to simply build, send, and report on promotional activity.
  • Maximize opt-in opps, allowing every customer interaction to be an on-ramp for you to grow an engaged, compliant SMS database.
  • Provide a comprehensive customer conversation platform, powering a convenient, complete thread with each customer in a single inbox.

The right SMS marketing platform helps you facilitate valuable interactions with your customers. It allows you to strengthen, instead of hurt, relationships through its conversational feel while raising your bottom line. And it puts your customers first, every time.

Send a free message to 50 free subscribers today with Podium Campaigns

Nico Dato
Nico Dato Executive Vice President of Marketing

Nico Dato is the EVP of Marketing at Podium, the premiere messaging platform that connects local businesses with their customers. He fuses his passion for statistics, design, and digital marketing to produce measurable results.

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