a line of people on a train platform looking down at their phones, texting
PHOTO: Jens Johnsson

We’ve already covered how SMS marketing is making a comeback, as more B2C and B2B brands find success communicating with customers directly through text messaging. But organizations will need to update their outdated strategies to succeed via this medium.

That’s why we’ve asked practitioners and industry experts for their best tips to get the most out of the marketing channel in 2020, and share what tactics you should be  avoiding.

5 Tips for SMS Marketing Success

1. Be Responsible

Ciara Hautau, lead digital marketing strategist at Fueled, emphasized that brands remember they’re texting an individual. “This is incredibly personal and they will see it.” You need to be respectful to consumers with what you send and when you send it, or you risk your brand’s reputation. “I know an immediate reaction for most is that they'll want to block your number,” added Hautau. That’s why it’s crucial that you’re responsible when interacting with consumers directly. 

“Don’t abuse the opportunity for active, direct engagement,” agreed Scott Anderson, CMO at Intermedia, “and keep messages short and useful.”

And of course, don't forget about the GDPR and CCDP, either.

Related Article: 5 Audio Marketing Trends You Should Be Paying Attention To

2. Send an Introductory Text

“The first thing you message them shouldn't be a deal or an event notification,” said Hautau. Instead, you should establish trust by sending a brief introduction that explains what you’ll share and how often. She also suggests you give the customer options to choose how often they’d like to receive updates or opt-out altogether. “The most important thing is to show that you're conscientious of their time and don't want to be intrusive, but helpful and a valuable resource for them.”

3. Offer Real Value

“Usually I find SMS marketing is best used for really exclusive/awesome sales and event notifications,” said Hautau. That’s why she suggests giving an initial survey to understand what the consumer wants you to send them. In general, however, it’s best to keep your texts relevant and actionable so the consumer feels your brand’s SMS notifications are actually useful.

4. Get the Timing Right

Mark Pratt, marketing manager at ClickSend, said he “can't emphasize enough the importance of timing.” Texting customers in the middle of the night is a surefire way to frustrate people or get your number blocked. Besides avoiding annoyed customers, sending texts during relevant times can also improve conversions, especially if marketers combine SMS marketing with geofencing to reach consumers when they’re shopping.

5. Be Personable

For the most part, texting is used for casual conversations between friends and family, so using business formal communication won’t work. “If you want to truly connect with your audience,” suggested Hautau, “be personable and inject personality into your messages.” She recommends using emojis and using a conversational tone to avoid coming across as robotic or creepy. It takes personality for a brand to get through to customers via SMS without getting blocked.

Related Article: What Marketers Need to Know About Twitch Marketing

SMS Marketing Tactics to Avoid

While adopting the previous tactics will go a long way towards better SMS marketing success, marketers need to ditch these outdated tactics as well.

1. Don’t Request Payments

SMS marketing should be used to generate leads and retarget consumers, but marketers shouldn’t try to directly make a sale through texting. “To protect consumers,” explained Alfredo Salkeld, marketing manager at SimpleTexting, “AT&T no longer allows payment or donation links to be sent over text.” This means there will likely be a large shift from purely promotional texts to conversational messaging between brands and consumers.

2. Avoid Large Text (and Email) Blasts

In 2020, personalization will continue to drive business success. That’s why Pratt suggested, “It's becoming an increasingly poor practice to send one large marketing blast and hope for the best — whether it's by SMS, email or even social media.” He says it’s critical that organizations leverage all the data they’re collecting to segment their audience and personalize the messages they send. As an example, Pratt recommended, “When uploading customer lists to your SMS platform, create different lists and use custom fields to add personalization like their first name.”

3. Don’t Rely on Shortcodes

Fewer consumers will use shortcodes to opt-in to SMS marketing, especially with AT&T recently announcing that they will be terminating shared shortcodes on their network. “If you want to future-proof your SMS marketing efforts,” suggested Salkeld, “add a phone number field to the pop-up signup form on your website.” He says if you’re currently relying on keyword opt-in with a shortcode, collecting phone numbers on your website should be a priority for 2020.

Finally, Anderson concluded, “SMS offers a unique opportunity to cut through marketing noise and engage a customer exactly at the right moment.” SMS, therefore, is a powerful channel to prioritize in 2020.