Growing a small business doesn’t require a library of fancy marketing tools. Leave it to the humble text message to bring more customers through your doors or to your website without the high price tag.

SMS text marketing works because it’s the highest priority medium for consumers and their most preferred way to communicate with businesses.

Below, we outline 9 SMS marketing tips for your small business to get you started on the right foot. These tips start with texting tools to consider, content to include and ways to use texting for your marketing efforts.

1. Don’t text customers from your personal phone

It may be tempting to dive right in, but don’t text customers from the default texting app on your personal phone. Aside from the absence of marketing features that businesses need to efficiently reach their customers, texting from a personal phone without texting software installed could be a liability for your business.

We cover a few reasons why in a separate blog post you can read here, including risking leaking private information and breaking compliance laws. Which leads us to our next tip …

2. Get familiar with TCPA guidelines

Before getting started with SMS marketing for your small business, brush up on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The TCPA is legislation that protects consumers from malicious phone calls and text messages and covers ways to prevent your text messages from being misconstrued as spam, such as:

  • Only text customers who have opted to receive text communications from your business. Never (ever) text a customer who hasn’t given you consent to text them. There are many ways to gain opt-in, and they’ll vary depending on your business.
  • Give clear instructions for opting out. Customers should know how to unsubscribe from your messages, and the process should be easy to complete. Simple language at the end of a text message, such as “Reply STOP to unsubscribe from future texts” is recommended, along with using software that supports the STOP command by automatically removing those users from your list.
  • Keep texts short and relevant. Customers will dismiss your messages and unsubscribe from them if they don’t contain the content they want to see. If your customer signs up for weekly deals, they should only receive weekly deals.

We wrote an e-book about best practices to follow under the TCPA that you can download for free right here, and we also hosted a webinar on the subject below.

3. Reconsider using short codes

Short codes are five or six-digit numbers that are used to send mass text messages to customers. They’re best used for one-way communications like marketing blasts, two-factor authentication and alerts, but they don’t offer consumer-preferred two-way texting. Three out of four consumers say they feel frustrated when they can’t reply to a company’s text message according to our 2019 State of Texting report.

Instead, consider texting from your existing business phone number, made possible with texting software. Not only do your customers get to text the same number they can call, but they’ll always have the option to reply to your texts with questions they may have.

For example, let’s say you texted your customers an offer code for a big sale your store is having this weekend. Because it happens to be a holiday weekend, a customer replies to your message with the question, “What are your store hours on Monday?” If a short code is being used, they’ll get a canned reply along the lines of, “We’re sorry. We didn’t understand your command. Please send us an email or call for assistance.”

With two-way texting, employees would see the text and have the capability to reply to the customer’s question in the same text conversation. It may seem like a minor exchange, but the importance of making yourself available to your customers shouldn’t be overlooked. Being available will set your business apart from your competition and your customers will remember you for it.

4. Copy is important

Just as you would carefully put together copy for your advertisements, store signs, emails and brochures, your text messages should be thoughtfully prepared too.

  • Use natural, conversational language. Your customers are human and so are you! Avoid sounding like a robot (it could signal spam to the recipient), and text using language that engages your customers.
  • Stay on brand. Your integrated marketing communication strategy should extend to your text messages. Don’t confuse customers with slang and quippy copy if your brand doesn’t present itself that way across other communications.
  • Include a call to action (CTA). Create a strong CTA that gets your recipient to click on a link, take advantage of a sale, visit your store or whatever it is you want them to do. They don’t have to be elaborate, but they should be clear: Tap on the link to shop the sale; Show this text at the register on your next in-store visit; or Reply with QUOTE for a free estimate. (You can also use a tool like Rebrandly URL Shortener to track how your CTAs perform.)

There won’t be a lot to write (text messages should be concise with a few exceptions), but keep in mind that copy sets the stage for the customer experience.

5. Use images when applicable

Images can make your SMS marketing campaigns much more memorable and entice your recipient to take action.

For example, when running a promotion for a product, you could add a photo of the item to your text message. Or, create an eye-catching image to announce an up upcoming sale. Images can be especially helpful to get extra copy in your message without taking up valuable character space.

SMS marketing text message to a customer about a flash sale

An example of how to include an image with SMS Marketing

6. Don’t send too many texts

Sending an abundance of marketing texts to your customers will only lead them to opt-out of your texting list (they might view your messages as spam).

When they opt-in, be clear about your intended frequency if possible and stick to it. If customers sign up for alerts to upcoming events, they should only receive texts when those events come around; If they’re signing up to be notified of new product releases and first access to special sales, only send texts during those times.

7. Keywords are your friend

You’ve likely seen examples of keywords out in the wild. With keywords, businesses can assign a word, such as TAKE20 or FLASH, to an SMS marketing campaign, and when someone texts that word to the business’s phone number, it will trigger an auto-reply message with further instructions or a confirmation.

Keywords are commonly deployed with short codes, but as we mentioned, short codes have limitations (and they can be expensive for their limited capabilities). Instead, business-texting software is a less expensive option that supports keyword use and comes with additional features that can boost your SMS marketing campaigns. Keywords can be used for:

  • Exclusive coupons. Offering deals that customers can’t get from your social media, email list, etc., is a great way to grow your subscriber list. Contests. Customers can text a keyword to gain entry into contests to win prizes.
  • Flash sales. These are perfect for social media. Let your followers know to text a keyword for access to a limited time sale.
  • Audience voting. Let your customers choose your next product release or menu item.
  • Online reviews. Getting customers to leave reviews for your business can be difficult but the likelihood can increase when you make the process easy for them. Set up a keyword, such as REVIEW, and include a link to your Google My Business Page, Facebook page or Yelp profile in your auto-response.

Keep your keyword simple so customers have less room for error when typing it out.

8. Use texting to capture leads

Texting helps your business engage with existing customers, but it’s also effective at capturing leads. It’s as easy as adding “Text or Call” next to your phone number on advertisements, online forms, chatbots, etc. You can capture leads who may not want to call your business but see texting as a low-pressure option to connect with you.

Another option is to embed a Click-to-Text button on your website. When a visitor clicks or taps on the button from their phone or desktop, a window will pop up asking for their phone number and message. After hitting “send,” the visitor will receive the message on their default messaging app where their conversation will be picked up by an employee. Click-to-Text gives website visitors a super simple way to reach you over text without having to pull out their phone.

For best practices when implementing a Click-to-Text button, we’ve got a dedicated blog post about the topic here.

9. Don’t forget about the metrics

Measuring the performance of your SMS marketing efforts is vital to growing a small business. When searching for business-texting software, look for features that track texting volume, so you’ll understand what time of the day customers are more likely to text. And consider tools that have keyword reporting to help you determine which keywords have a higher response rate and have better engagement.

Interested in learning the ins and out of texting your customers? We wrote an entire e-book to help you get started, including insight into how to determine the right texting tool, etiquette, templates to use and much more. Download The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers here.

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