SMS messaging is now regarded as an "old" form of communication, but the art of SMS marketing is making a comeback all the same, particularly in the B2B space. 

According to recent data, amongst B2B marketers, SMS messaging increased by 197% between 2015 and 2017 alone. That’s because the majority of consumers would rather text with a business for scheduling or appointments than by email or phone. Meanwhile, social media and marketing influencers like Gary Vaynerchuk are asking their audience to text them directly.

With all this in mind, we’ve asked marketing experts why SMS marketing is making a comeback in 2019. We also asked them to share some tips for leveraging the technology to engage with new leads and existing customers alike.

Why SMS Marketing Is Growing

SMS Marketing — texting customers and leads — is a viable direct marketing strategy for both B2B and B2C brands. “Consumer behavior is constantly evolving and today mobile devices are becoming more personal than ever,” said Fara Rosenzweig, chief content officer at ManyChat. She believes the instantaneous and personal feel of SMS marketing makes it enticing for businesses looking to create relationships and satisfy customers.

“CMOs and senior marketers are investing heavily in business texting as a means to engage potential customers and drive the digital customer experience strategy,” said Matt Reid, CMO at EZ Texting. He believes text messaging is one of the most exciting technologies for direct marketing today because the strategy yields much higher engagement rates than email, print and even social media. “It can act as a proxy to email marketing when you find your target audience is ignoring email newsletters,” explained Aaron Watters, CEO of Leadhub. Consumers prefer texting and are much more likely to respond to texts from brands, so it’s an excellent method for customer re-engagement.

SMS Marketing Tips & Strategies for 2020

While it’s clear that SMS marketing is effective, there are some best practices to make the most of the strategy.

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Respect Consumer Privacy

Watters warned that “buying a bunch of cell phone numbers and sending blanket texts to everyone on the list is frowned upon and will yield similar results to an ineffective email campaign.” He believes it’s critical to respect consumers’ privacy, or it could negatively impact your brand’s reputation. Watters added, “If you're going to text them, make sure you have substance and a specific purpose.”

Get Permission First

Rosenzweig suggested brands get permission from consumers first. “People forget when they opt-in to lists all the time,” she said, “so make sure you keep a record of people with opt-in agreements.” And don’t forget to include the option to opt-out as well. Otherwise, you could violate consumer data and privacy laws if you’re not careful who you message. Text marketers, therefore, need to focus on respectful and compliant communications.

Learning Opportunities

Don’t Spam Consumers

Since texting is a more direct form of communication, it’s especially important not to spam consumers. “No one wants to receive a ton of messages from any business anyway,” Rosenzweig said. That’s why she suggested limiting the text messages you send to only two to six per month. “Occasional texts throughout your text sequence should also include an opt-out option,” she added. Following these tips will help your brand to avoid being perceived as too spammy.

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Own Particular Keywords

You need to reserve particular keywords for consumers to text and subscribe with. “When people text your shortcode — or the special five or six-digit number for your business — with the keyword,” explained Rosenzweig, “you can respond back with an automated and customizable response.” It’s critical to make it easy for people to subscribe, so consider owning multiple keywords for specific promotions and deals as well.

Focus on Lead Generation

“You can collect leads from your SMS campaign,” Rosenzweig recommended, “It’s then ideal to move them to other marketing channels.” She believes promotional texts in the hopes of a sale aren’t nearly as effective as lead generation and driving traffic to other marketing channels. “Use text conversation to start building the relationship, then encourage people to move the conversation on other platforms like a messenger bot, which you can use to guide them to purchase,” she said.

Stop Overlooking SMS Marketing

“SMS marketing is a powerful tool to use for shop abandonment, appointment reminders, tracking, promotions and more,” explained Rosenzweig, “as well as a way to create conversations and build relationships with your customers.” That’s why digital marketers shouldn’t overlook SMS marketing to engage with new leads or re-engage with existing customers.

In the end, Reid concluded, “SMS marketing and service provider features help businesses interact more seamlessly with new consumers, garner more leads, provide effective customer service and maximize team effectiveness." SMS marketing, therefore, is making a strong comeback in 2019, and the strategy is one that digital marketers shouldn’t overlook.