How you can use SMS in modern marketing

How you can use SMS in modern marketing An experienced digital marketer who has owned and run agencies for almost 15 years, Adam is the head of cross-channel marketing automation specialist Force24. Combining his love for cutting-edge tech with a passion for lead nurturing best practice, Adam has developed a platform that is built by marketers, for marketers. An outspoken advocate of the ‘less is more’ approach, Adam is a regular commentator on industry topics including intelligent multichannel marketing, holistic eCRM strategies, optimising customer journeys, personalisation, digital marketing and retargeting.

With the ever-growing use of smartphones, brands would be foolish to overlook the role of SMS in a modern marketing strategy. But this form of marketing tech must form part of a holistic eCRM programme for its value to be truly realised.

The figures are changing all the time, with one staggering statistic being unveiled after another. But whichever headline you hone in on, there can be no disputing the importance of smartphones.

It is predicted that by 2017, for example, 4.77 billion people will have a mobile – that’s more than two thirds of the world’s population.

Add to that the fact that 63% of smartphone owners keep their devices with them for all but one hour of their waking day, even on a weekend, and it’s no wonder that mobile marketing is such a big deal.

Coca-Cola reportedly invested 70% of its mobile budget on SMS marketing, perhaps because more than 90% of SMS messages are read within three minutes of receipt. But that doesn’t mean texts will automatically work for a brand.

There’s a fine line between nurturing the customer relationship and just creating additional, unwanted ‘noise’ that intrudes on their lives and actually turns them off from your brand.

As always, it comes down to strategy. So where exactly should SMS fit in to your eCRM programme?

SMS and the buying cycle

It’s perhaps one of the most overused phrases in marketing. So much so that it now sounds nothing more than a cliché.

However, this is definitely one of those ‘right message, to the right people, via the right channel, at the right time’ moments.

SMS shouldn’t be thought of as an acquisition tool. Its success in that respect is likely to be limited. Instead it should be respected as a powerful medium to drive customer loyalty, satisfaction, brand advocacy and retention.

After all, it’s a widely quoted statistic that attracting a new customer costs five to ten times more than keeping hold of an existing one. But the data doesn’t stop there. A 5% increase in customer retention is also said to boost a company’s profitability by a staggering 75%.

SMS should therefore create a sense of ‘we’re always on and we’re always with you’.

How to make it work

It’s important to note however, that such benefits will only be realised from SMS if the communication is timely and relevant. Bombarding customers with ad hoc, impersonal and uninteresting messages will purely be viewed as spam.

The content therefore needs to mimic that of human conversation, whilst working at an acceptable speed.

Force24 research found that consumers are more likely to keep replying to SMS messages if the response takes into account information already known about the individual, and it is received within 10 seconds.

As a guide, the tone should be friendly and informal, yet succinct and in line with the character of the brand

This is no mean feat of course, but marketing tech can ensure this happens. Utilising the latest digital innovations, SMS decision engines are capable of managing thousands of concurrent conversations whilst maintaining ‘real life’ response times.

This brings a new layer of relevance to automated mobile marketing by facilitating a sophisticated two-way, humanised process without any detrimental impact on speed. In less than a second, marketers have the power to process, queue and send personalised text messages.

So when is the best time to use it?

Of course one brand’s marketing strategy will be different to the next so it’s impossible to suggest a ‘one size fits all’ approach to SMS deployment. However, there are a number of ways to ensure SMS supports lead nurturing best practice across varied B2B and B2C sectors:

  • Pre-purchase/pre-order: Utilise SMS to provide useful contact numbers to potential customers or announce a flash sale/short-term product availability
  • Mid-purchase/during an order: An SMS can pose a handy way to update a customer on an order/application status, provide reference number confirmation, delivery tracking details, appointment information (including cancellation & rebook procedures) or transactional data such as a balance request
  • Post-purchase/order: Say thank you, send a satisfaction survey, forward a digital receipt, request a call back, updating marketing permissions or obtain meter readings – whatever you choose to use a post-purchase SMS for, there are multiple ways to boost customer satisfaction and obtain more information about that individual that will fuel further, personalised communication in future

It’s all part of keeping the conversation going and protecting the customer experience throughout. For example:

Pre-appointment SMS

“Hi, it’s ABC Utilities. Here’s a reminder that our engineer Jeff will be with you tomorrow between 08:00-12:00. If you don’t need us any more please text back NO. Otherwise, see you then.”

Appointment day SMS

“Hi, it’s ABC Utilities. Here’s a reminder that our engineer Jeff will be with you today between 08:00-12:00. If you don’t need us any more please text back NO. Otherwise, see you soon.”

Appointment completed SMS (triggered within one hour)

“We hope your appointment went well today. Customer satisfaction matters to us. How likely are you to recommend ABC Utilities to a friend? Text back with a score between 0 (not at all likely) and 10 (extremely likely).”

“Thanks. Now, on a scale of 0 to 10, please rate Jeff for his helpfulness, with 0 being not at all helpful and 10 being extremely helpful.”

“Thanks. And finally, we’d love to hear why you chose those rating or how we could improve things further for our customers. Please text us any comments you have.”

“Thank you for your feedback. We promise to use the information you’ve provided, to continually improve ABC Utilities. Bye for now.”

Of course, this is just one way that SMS can be used throughout a customer’s journey with a brand. But the principles highlighted within this scenario hopefully provide some helpful guidance:

  • SMS should primarily focus on service-related communication, such as questionnaires, reminders and confirmations. Questions should be asked in order of importance to encourage dialogue, but the responses should remain closed where possible.
  • The content should be personalised, for example with the customer’s name or order details, to increase relevancy.
  • SMS should not be exploited as an opportunity to sell. If it has to be used for sales, an exclusive incentive should be incorporated, for using that channel.
  • As a guide, the tone should be friendly and informal, yet succinct and in line with the character of the brand.
  • Frequency is important – with 2-4 messages per month usually appropriate. These messages should only be sent during normal hours too, so as to limit the disturbance they may cause.

Intelligent use of SMS requires some thought, as does any marketing activity. However, integrated into a holistic eCRM strategy, the tool can reap some very quick and worthwhile wins.

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