Have you ever gone down an internet rabbit hole trying to find answers to your most pressing SMS marketing questions? Great news—we’ve collected them all in this post.
SMS is an effective channel to not only drive more sales, but also to build relationships with consumers and increase brand loyalty. If you’re new to SMS, you might be wondering what best practices you should follow as you’re getting started to make sure your program is set up for success.
Or, if you’ve been using SMS for a while now, you may be wondering how you can make the channel work even harder for you.
These are the questions our team hears over and over from both customers and prospects, so we’ve collected them all in a single post that you can reference anytime you need a refresher. Did we miss any? Reach out to us on Twitter or LinkedIn and share what you’ve been wondering about.
1. Who should run my SMS program?
While it depends on your brand, the size of your team, and your goals for the channel, you’ll want someone who has mobile marketing savvy and a strong understanding of your brand voice to run your SMS program. Although we’re seeing a rise in specialized SMS marketing roles, dedicating one person (or a small team) to text messaging isn't necessarily required. We see a lot of digital, CRM, and email marketing managers oversee SMS for their brands. Others might choose to work with a digital marketing agency to support their SMS strategy.
2. What should I focus on first?
Your subscribers are the foundation of your SMS program, so your first order of business should be growing your SMS marketing list. You’ll want to create and launch sign-up units to provide a place for shoppers to opt-in to your SMS channel.
Part of this includes determining your incentive strategy. Many brands opt to offer a discount in exchange for signing up for text messages. Others have seen success with non-promotional offers, like early access to shop new products, loyalty perks, or a free gift with purchase.
Next, you need to draft an engaging welcome message that introduces new subscribers to your brand and highlights the value they’ll get from your SMS channel. If you want to set the stage for more interactive and personalized content, we suggest leading with a two-way text message in your welcome flow. Attentive’s Two-Way Journeys™ help you gain a deeper understanding of your subscriber's personal preferences by using keywords to save unique attributes based on subscriber replies. Then, you can use that information to better inform your segmentation and overall SMS strategy.
Once you’ve checked those items off your list, think about integrating SMS with the rest of your tech stack (e.g., your e-commerce platform, email provider, loyalty program) to create a more cohesive brand experience.
Need a walkthrough of how to successfully launch your SMS channel and start driving results from the get-go? Check out our 30-day plan for driving results from a new SMS program.
3. How can I grow my SMS subscriber list?
Convert browsers into subscribers by adding sign-up units to your mobile and desktop websites, in-store signage, social channels, and more.
With Attentive’s patented two-tap mobile technology, all potential subscribers need to do is tap the button to load a pre-populated text message. Then, they simply press send to opt-in and begin receiving messages. Giving shoppers this easy sign-up option can help you quickly grow your list of SMS subscribers.
To improve subscriber growth on-site, we recommend showing a fullscreen sign-up unit on a shopper’s first session, and then a smaller pop-up on their subsequent site visits.
You can create and schedule these sign-up units to display at the most opportune time for your shoppers. For example, display your sign-up unit when a customer first lands on your site, or wait until they demonstrate exit intent to help encourage a second look (and keep them from clicking away).
These desktop best practices apply to your mobile site, too.
Your social media channels, like Instagram, are another way to capture the attention of a highly engaged audience and convert them into SMS subscribers. Drive opt-ins from your loyal following through paid and organic social posts and stories. If your brand works with influencers, you can also create dedicated landing pages that they can link to from their bio (or in their stories) to encourage more sign-ups.
Commercials and in-store signage
If your brand has retail locations, try displaying in-store signage that invites shoppers to opt in to SMS with a Text-to-Join (TTJ) keyword. Draw window shoppers into your store by offering a sign-up perk they can redeem at checkout. Or, include TTJ information in your TV ads and on package inserts to drive even more offsite sign-ups. You can create a unique welcome journey for subscribers who opt in through TTJ, to introduce your brand, offer exclusive discounts, or link to specialized content.
4. How can I combine my SMS channel with email?
Multi-channel marketing lets you create a unified experience across multiple communication channels to promote brand loyalty. If you’ve integrated your email and SMS platforms, or if you manage both under one roof, it can be pretty easy to use these two channels together successfully.
When you’re figuring out your email and SMS strategy, consider the unique strengths of each channel—and what format would be most effective for communicating with your customers. SMS is great for time-sensitive content and two-way communication, while email is best for long-form, visual content that isn’t as urgent or can be read later.
Common use cases to consider when using email and SMS:
- Drive your email subscribers to SMS: In your welcome email to new subscribers, include a sentence about how they can sign up for text messages from your brand, too. You can also periodically include a graphic or a CTA in your campaign emails, encouraging people to opt in to SMS for additional perks and benefits.
- Tailor your triggered messages: With browse and cart abandonment messages, for example, send the first reminder to a shopper via SMS. If the subscriber hasn’t converted from your text within 24 hours, send an email reminder to encourage them to take a second look.
- Deliver relevant order updates on both channels: Send a confirmation email when the initial transaction is complete, then use SMS to send more timely status updates, like when an order is shipped or has been delivered.
- Create a sense of urgency with restock and other timely alerts: Double down with email and SMS together, and encourage faster purchases when an item a subscriber has browsed is back-in-stock, has low inventory, or recently went on sale.
Keep in mind that not every email subscriber will want to opt in to text messages, and vice versa. Give them options, and let them decide which channel(s) they want to use to engage with your brand.
5. What type of texts should I send?
The most common types of messages brands send are one-time campaigns and triggered messages, which are sent based on specific behaviors or actions subscribers take. But if you’re working with an SMS marketing platform like Attentive, you may also have access to transactional and conversational messages.
When determining what kind of messages you want to send, you should first figure out what you want to accomplish with your SMS channel and get a sense of what resonates with your audience. Many of our customers use A/B testing to learn what works best.
Single-send or one-time campaigns are great for on-demand messaging when you have time-sensitive offers or announcements.
- Running a sitewide sale to celebrate a marketing holiday? Send a campaign message with a seasonal promotion.
- Looking to highlight a line of products? Create a two-way campaign to direct subscribers to specific items based on their interests or preferences.
- Want to make your subscribers feel like VIPs? Roll out the red carpet and give them exclusive access to shop a sale or new product launch before anyone else.
- Want to re-engage lapsed customers to maximize their lifetime value? Our most successful customers send campaign messages to their less engaged subscribers to boost retention and incremental revenue.
Couple your campaign ideas with a creative segmentation strategy to send targeted messages to unique groups of subscribers and boost message performance.
Triggered messages (also known as journeys) allow you to target specific subscribers at critical touchpoints in the customer lifecycle—like when they browse particular products, leave items in their cart, or make a purchase. Because these journeys are “always-on,” they’re constantly driving incremental revenue for your brand in the background.
Determining how and when to use campaigns vs. triggered messages will depend on what outcome you want from your message. If you want to inform customers about their order or subscription status, use triggered transactional messages to send shipping, renewal, and delivery updates. If you’re looking to target shoppers who viewed sold-out items, send them back-in-stock alerts via text to create a sense of urgency and recover the otherwise lost revenue.
For a more human and personalized approach, create and send two-way text messages that prompt responses from your subscribers. Then, use their responses to tailor your strategy going forward. You can also use Attentive Concierge™ to provide your SMS subscribers with people-powered customer support, answering their questions and offering helpful advice in real time via SMS.
Need some more inspiration? Explore hundreds of messaging examples in our SMS gallery, Texts We Love.
7. When is the best time to send a text message?
Every SMS audience is different, and yours will likely have specific preferences. A/B testing will help make sure you’re sending the right message at the right time for your brand. But, our data has found that you should send SMS campaigns between 1pm - 5pm EST to maximize revenue and click-through rates (CTR).
We’ve also seen that text messages sent on weekdays typically drive more revenue per send than those sent on weekends, although weekends tend to see higher CTRs than weekdays.
For the best performance, we recommend scheduling messages to send based on a subscriber’s local time zone (if you’re using Attentive, you can easily do this by using our time zone-based message sending feature).
While sending messages at the right time is key, it’s also important to know when not to send messages. Setting quiet hours (typically between 8pm and 12pm) can help you follow SMS regulations and be mindful of when your subscribers might be sleeping or just starting their days, so you don’t message them too early or too late.
8. What are some best practices for writing effective text messages?
There are many reasons to send a text message. Launching a new product collection. Announcing a site-wide or seasonal flash sale. Promoting a loyalty program to drive new sign-ups. Brand marketing initiatives, like sharing an environmental impact report or donation campaign.
Whatever the reason, it’s important to make sure each message you send has a purpose—and that your copy is working in your favor to encourage clicks and conversions.
Here are a few best practices to keep in mind:
- Write concise copy: We’ve all got that one friend who doesn’t get text etiquette and sends messages that read like a novel. But shoppers’ attention spans are short, so we suggest keeping your SMS copy concise (between 75-115 characters, or 3-4 lines long).
- Inspire action: Include a clear call to action that creates a sense of urgency for your subscribers to do something specific after reading your message (e.g., shop your sale, join your loyalty program). Including an incentive, like free shipping or a discount code, is an easy way to increase the likelihood that someone will click through and make a purchase.
- Bonus points for creativity: Try capitalizing important words for emphasis (e.g., FREE, SALE), incorporating an image or a GIF to make your message feel more animated, or using keyword prompts to make it more interactive.
Still, there’s no secret formula for writing and sending effective text messages. It’s important to experiment with different approaches and variables (e.g., incentives, tone of voice, message length, emoji usage) to understand what works best for your audience.
The results of your A/B tests should help you determine if your content is compelling, if you’re using clear calls to action, if you’re targeting the right segments, and more.
Need help crafting your next SMS campaign message? AI tools can help you get started. Magic Message powered by Attentive AI™ generates high-performing copy tailored to your audience and goals. It also generates images, creates and automates A/B tests, and has features to help you write and design high-performing emails.
9. How can I measure the success of my SMS marketing campaigns?
The first step in assessing the performance of an SMS campaign is to set specific goals during the planning phase. Think about what you’re trying to accomplish with the message you’re sending and how you want to define “success.”
Is it based on how many people engaged with your message (i.e., click-through rate)? How many people made a purchase from it (i.e., conversion rate)? Or, are you mostly interested in the impact on your bottom line (i.e., total revenue generated from the campaign)?
Whichever metric you choose, it's important to benchmark each campaign against similar message types to get an accurate picture of how it performed. For example, a new product launch announcement will garner a different level of engagement or revenue than a site-wide sale announcement. Non-promotional or brand-building campaigns will have a different impact than a message that’s more directly designed to drive purchases.
If your campaign was an A/B test, you’ll also want to look closely at which version performed better—and why—so you can apply any learnings to your next send.
Want more guidance on how to measure the success of your entire SMS program? These are the SMS marketing metrics you need to know (and track).
10. How can I personalize text messages for my subscribers?
Text messages that are tailored to your subscribers’ individual wants and needs are more likely to inspire action (i.e., clicking a link, making a purchase). Adopting a smart segmentation strategy is a crucial piece of the personalization puzzle because it allows you to reach the right audience with the right message at the right time.
There are many ways you can segment your SMS audience:
- Engaged/unengaged: An engaged subscriber is actively opening and clicking your text messages, so they’re more likely to convert. It’s good practice to get your less active subscribers to start engaging with you again by sending them exclusive content, offers, and product updates.
- Past purchasers/non-purchasers: For the past purchaser group, you can create upsell and cross-sell campaigns based on the item they purchased most recently. If you’re running a sale, send last-minute promotion reminders to non-purchasers to avoid fatiguing those who’ve already bought something.
- High-intent: Subscribers who've recently browsed your site or abandoned their cart are as close to purchasing as they can be without actually clicking “buy.” That makes them an ideal segment for personalized follow-ups and reminders that get them to come back and complete their purchase.
- Geo-location or time zone: Location-based segmentation is useful for targeting weather-related or location-specific events. For example, if you’re hosting a pop-up at your retail store, message subscribers within that city and invite them to come shop in-person.
- VIP or loyalty status: Make sure your "VIP” shoppers" feel valued and in the know by sharing exclusive offers and program updates—like first access to shop sales or reminders to use their rewards points.
- Content or shopping preferences: Message subscribers about relevant items based on their favorite products, categories, or styles. For example, you could create a segment of shoppers who’ve purchased work wear in the past, and prioritize letting that group know first when similar items are on sale.
11. How can I use SMS to increase customer engagement and loyalty?
Loyalty often starts before a customer has even made their first purchase from a brand. If they’ve signed up for your text messages, you’ve successfully captured their attention—but keeping their attention is really the key to building long-term customer relationships.
It starts with the very first message you send new subscribers. Use your welcome series to introduce them to your brand, thank them for being a part of your community, and let them know what to expect from their SMS relationship with you (think: exclusive offers or behind-the-scenes content).
We recommend incorporating two-way messaging into your welcome flow to start learning about what your subscribers are interested in from the moment they opt in to SMS. That way, you can use those insights to deliver personalized content and recommendations—another valuable strategy for increasing engagement and loyalty.
Keep the conversation going with recent shoppers by using their purchase history to suggest complementary items, or share specific care instructions and product usage tips. The goal is to make sure your brand stays top of mind until they’re ready to buy again.
It's also important to balance your promotional messaging with educational content that helps your subscribers feel connected to your brand on a personal level. Share your brand story, bring customers behind the scenes to show them your design or production process—anything that makes them want to keep supporting your brand, even when they're between purchases.
12. What are some effective SMS marketing strategies for specific industries?
SMS can help increase engagement, retention, customer lifetime value, and revenue in any industry. The core strategies are the same, but you might use them differently depending on your goals. Here are some examples broken out by industry:
- Incorporate your loyalty program or mobile app into your SMS experience to drive enrollment and downloads.
- Send geo-targeted campaigns and offers to connect with local customers and increase foot traffic or delivery orders.
- Convert in-person and take-out diners into SMS subscribers by displaying TTJ information in your physical locations and on your packaging (e.g., receipts, takeout containers).
- Increase reservations and ticket sales year-round by promoting vacation packages that people might be interested in based on their location (e.g., target subscribers in the Northeast with a beach vacation package during the winter months).
- Improve the overall travel experience by sharing relevant recommendations and upsell offers—like local restaurants and spa deals—via SMS during someone’s trip.
- Create a triggered journey that invites recent travelers to join your loyalty program after their trip, so they can earn points when they book their next trip or stay with your brand.
- Build awareness and anticipation before a new product launches by dropping exclusive hints for your SMS subscribers—then give them early access to shop before anyone else to start driving sales immediately.
- Let subscribers know in real time when products in your store are back-in-stock, have low inventory, or have had a recent price drop, and create a sense of urgency for them to shop.
- Use two-way text messaging to learn about your customers’ preferences, then create targeted segments to engage them with campaigns and offers that are tailored to their specific interests.
These ideas just scratch the surface of what you can do with SMS. Get inspired by the strategies our customers are using everyday to drive results for their brands.
13. What are the legal requirements for sending text messages?
Disclaimer: the materials in this section are for informational purposes only, and not for the purpose of providing legal advice. You should contact your legal counsel to obtain advice with respect to any particular issues or problems.
SMS is a regulated channel with specific rules for compliance that vary from country to country.
In the United States, you must be compliant with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the carrier guidelines of the CTIA. In Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, you need to adhere to other regulations like Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL), the UK General Data Protection Regulation (UK-GDPR), and Australia’s Spam Act 2003, respectively, as well as carrier guidelines.
The exact regulations you need to follow will depend on the country you're sending to, but at a high level, most require you to:
- Get express consent from mobile subscribers before sending them marketing text messages.
- Explain to potential subscribers what they’re signing up for (e.g., that by sharing their phone number, they’re agreeing to receive recurring marketing text messages from your brand).
- Allow subscribers to opt out of your SMS program at any time by responding with a recognized opt-out keyword—and you must respect their opt-out requests.
Knowing the answers to your top SMS marketing questions will help you take your program to the next level and make SMS one of your top revenue drivers. Bookmark this resource, and request a demo to learn more about how Attentive can help you engage your subscribers at every stage of the customer lifecycle.
Want to experience Attentive in action? Sign up for texts to unlock our exclusive, interactive SMS overview and see what might be missing in your current SMS program.