10 SMS Strategies to Boost Your Marketing Results

Short message service (SMS) – also called mobile text messaging – is a fairly new way to promote your business. In fact, SMS is perhaps the most effective way to get your message read by your audience, according to Forbes in 2014. SMS may also cost less per target and can achieve a 45% response rate, compared to other marketing strategies such as email that may get just 6%.

Advantages of SMS

SMS has a maximum of 160 characters including spaces that you can send and receive through mobile devices, so your audience can read your short message very fast. 

Pair of hands holding mobile phone with envelope icons floating out of phone

According to the Mobile Marketing Association, recipients open 95 percent of all SMS messages. Mobile text messaging is perhaps the quickest way to communicate with your target audience. The New York Times says SMS is relatively uncluttered and spam-free, and the biggest opportunity is ahead, considering the fast growth of mobile device users. Forbes reports over 4 billion people worldwide — and 75 percent of Americans — regularly send and receive text messages.

SMS marketing is an open frontier. With a few strong strategies, you can boost your sales and enhance customer loyalty. Here are some ideas you can use to help you add SMS strategies to your marketing mix:

Strategy #1: Build Your Mobile List

Before you can send out text messages, you must first have a database of contacts. As with email, you should ask your audience members to opt in to receive SMS. All you need to do is ask them to text a keyword to your short code, which is a five- or six-digit number.

You can build your list of contacts who opt in to receive SMS from you by doing this in other forms of media too. This may include your website email. A good strategy to increase your opt-in rate is to offer a free gift such as a report or a discount off your product. The best way to deliver this report is to send your new contact a text message with a link to the document.

Always ask your audience at what hours they are willing to receive text messages. Make sure you know what time zone they are in so you’ll know how to schedule SMS campaigns accordingly.

Strategy # 2: Engage Your Audience

Since many people may pay to receive texts, you should only send messages to those who opt in to receive text messages. Even if they opt in, people respond most when you engage them personally. Your response will greatly increase when you include messages that are more personal, rather than messages that seem like spam.

Sending your audience a promotion about a product or service may not get you a good response with SMS. However, your audience would more likely appreciate receiving promotional codes for discounts or coupons toward your products and services.

Another way to engage your audience is by sending them a text message when they are within a certain distance of your location. This is especially true if you are a retail operation and want to get them into your store or venue.

A third way to engage your audience is by offering them a free gift in return for a referral or short testimonial of their experience with your company. This is one step toward enhancing customer loyalty. SMS can help you to quickly build customer relationships.

Strategy #3: Increase Your Reach to a Younger Audience

The 18 to 49 year old market is the sweet spot for many television advertisers. This is an ideal market for SMS too. Compared to baby boomers, Gen X and Gen Y segments of the population grew up with mobile phones and are bigger users of text messaging, so it makes sense to use this medium to reach this audience.

Strategy #4: Link SMS with Other Types of Advertising

The best advertising strategy integrates different types and forms of media. Including content in your print and digital ads and social media sites about opting in to SMS can help you increase your audience with whom you can communicate through text. On the other hand, you can share links in your text messages that take your audience to new videos, articles or other content you publish. This can help build your credibility and customer loyalty.

Strategy # 5 Send Your Messages at the Right Time

Timing is everything. Just as with email, your response rates can differ by the time of day you send your text message. The best time depends on the behavior of your audience. Nonetheless, you want to send your messages at a time when your audience is free to receive and respond to your message. An ideal time is before and after work hours and during lunch hour. You’ll need to test market to see what times are best for you. Nonetheless, as a general rule do not disturb your audience members after 9 PM their time.

Strategy #6: Send Previews to Emails

People carry their smart phones wherever they go. Unlike email, which you may check every few hours, text messaging is something you know you’ve received almost immediately. Texting your contacts to give them a heads up about an email you’ve sent can be a welcome message. This is especially true if your email contains a report your audience would like to get as soon as possible, testing results, changes to a scheduled event or a contest.

Strategy #7: Follow Up Email Campaigns

Sending an SMS message after you send an email is like a one two punch. According to Constant Contact, sending an SMS after you send your email can boost your response rates. Your audience can receive both of these messages on the mobile device. And since both types of media enable two-way communication, you are able to engage a conversation that you otherwise would not get with other types of media.

Strategy #8: Local Reach

SMS is a viable media to communicate with your audience when they are in close proximity to your product or services. It’s also best to know ahead of time where and when your audience will be. According to a report in Mobile Marketer, Southwest Airlines connects with its opt-in audience in airports through SMS. The airline acquired new customers in a three week promotion campaign. Southwest continues to communicate with these customers through SMS to confirm flight information. With further opt-in from the customer, Southwest sends them other promotions.

Retail stores can do the same. For example, you could send your opt-in customers who are in the store special promotions of products that have a short expiration, and you can also send your audience specific information about new product trends to get them to ask questions to the sales representative who in turn can close the sale.

Strategy #9: Send Exclusive Offers Not Found Elsewhere

People like to feel special, and there is no better way to make your audience feel special than by making them part of an exclusive club. You can do this by promoting exclusive offers through text that you do NOT promote in any other marketing channel or on your website. Sending your audience these exclusive offers through SMS is called “positive disruption,” according to a report in Marketing Profs. You see, you are disrupting the activity of your audience with your text, yet it contains vital information that they appreciate receiving.

Strategy #10: Follow Up eCommerce Sales with SMS

Building customer relationships is not just about what goes on before the sale. In fact, more of it must go on after the sale if you want to create loyal customers and generate repeat sales and new revenues from referrals. Few and far between are those companies who follow up with customers after the sale. SMS is the perfect medium to communicate your after-sale message.

There are a few ways you can use SMS for sales follow-up. One strategy is to alert them about when you ship out their order and the shipper tracking number. Responsys recommends you add an SMS opt-in in your shopping cart at checkout telling your customer that you will send them an alert when you ship out and deliver their package.

Case Studies

Viking Cooking School
The Viking Cooking School has sixteen locations throughout the United States. Each year they have over 70,000 people attend their program. Viking schedules classes with the objective to fill each one to capacity.

To help speed up registration and more importantly fill in each spot, Viking decided to use an SMS as part of its marketing strategy. It started with a pilot project at one of its locations. Viking sent their current and past students in this location an email to get them to opt-in to SMS. In a three month period they got nearly 300 opt-in members.

Each week Viking determines which classes they have open seats and they send a text message to their audience. One message stated

“Girls Night Out in Vegas! Cook shrimp to perfection, make herbed melt in your mouth biscuits and grilling meat to perfection Sun 4/18 5PM-8PM call 898-8345.”

As a result this one text generated eight registrations at $79.00 each. Yet this text message cost Viking less than $15 total, netting them about $617 for just one class. Now they make SMS strategy part of their promotion.

ABC Red Top Auto Auction
Red Top Auto Auction has nine locations throughout the United States. They act as a broker to both independent dealers and franchises within a given area. Their service helps sellers move inventory quickly to dealers who are looking to buy.

Red Top hosts two dealer-only auctions per week in their Georgia location. Since they compete with other local auto auctions, they seek to get as many buyers to attend their event as possible. Their core marketing strategy included telemarketing to reach five to seven buyers in each of 3,300 dealers in their area. Yet they looked to improve results with SMS marketing.

They sent a text to all their contacts who had provided them with their cell phone number. The message stated:

“RedTopAA: This Friday @ 11AM 5/16 OVER 1000 CARS! Win $10,000 GUARANTEED & $1,000 Early Bird! Free Lunch before sale!!”

This campaign increased overall attendance at the auction. Plus, it induced buyers to request more information about specific cars. As a result of the success from SMS marketing, Red Top reduced its spending on other more costly forms of marketing. Now they regularly send out alerts that describe how many cars they will auction off in the upcoming week. Plus, the messages also announce special payment promotions like 30-day floats, giveaways, and other incentives.

Domino’s Pizza
Domino’s Pizza has a network of company-owned and franchise-owned stores throughout the world. One of its locations is a franchisee in Charlotte, North Carolina next to the university with 25,000 students.

The teams conducted focus groups to determine the best way to reach as many students as possible. The research concluded that Facebook was the place to promote their pizza to reach their target audience. As a result, they decided to promote their page on Facebook at large student events, such as the basketball arena. However, they found that this strategy did not produce the results they wanted, in part because most people do not carry pens or jot down information at the games, and they did not use their smartphones at the game to go to the website.

Instead, Domino’s decided on SMS. Their thinking was that after the game the audience would review the text and visit the Domino’s Facebook page, so they created a new ad for the arena that displayed an offer for a free pizza to anyone who texted 49ER to 313131. They then sent a subsequent text to anyone who texted the code. Their response said

“To get FREE pizza join our Facebook group at UNCCDominos.com once you join post a message (I GOT A TEXT) & you will get FREE pizza code Reply STOP 49ER 2 Optout.”

The results were impressive. Almost 10% of 3,000 students at the game had texted within a few minutes after they saw the ad. Plus another 5% did so by the end of the night. This resulted in nearly 600 opt-ins. Almost 350 students joined the Domino’s Facebook group by the morning, and nearly all of them redeemed the offer. This test confirmed that texting provided far better results than just displaying a URL.

Domino’s began to promote pizzas at a discount. Each time they placed an ad there were 100 to 200 opt-ins, and nearly all of these people joined the Facebook group to get the deal.

By the end of the semester Domino's had collected nearly 2,000 fans for their Facebook group.

Plus, they added over 850 students to their SMS marketing list. And they continued to promote discounted pizza via SMS to members of their Facebook group. One such message was:

“49er Fans get 50% OFF ALL MENU PRICE PIZZAS & Bread Sides All day TODAY for playoffs! Coupon Code (FACE50). Call us at -------“

Domino's used coupon codes to measure the effectiveness of their SMS marketing campaigns. They found that each campaign had between 20% to 25% redemption rates, or about 500 students, resulting in 125 more orders. When comparing these results with a cost of only $25, Domino's decided to continue SMS as a key part of its marketing strategy. The only big challenge ahead is to continue to build their opt-in list.

Next Steps

SMS is a new and fast-growing marketing communication application. There are many ways you can engage your target audience and build sales and loyalty. The first step is to sign up for an SMS service that you can use for your marketing. Add an SMS opt-in on your website and other marketing deliverable, and then start creating and executing some or all of these strategies.

Oh…here is one more tip: In each SMS message, encourage your audience to “like” your Facebook and other social media pages. Like Domino’s did, you may not only increase your sales, but your fan base as well.


Eric Wagner

While Eric now focuses on internet marketing, he also has a background in web development. He loves being among the first to find out about new tech—and better yet, being a part of making that tech succeed. Eric is known to be a good listener, seeking to understand how each individual sees the world. He is a harmonizer in group settings, cultivating unity while constructing the overall goal and strategy. When he’s not busy helping i7 clients dominate the online marketplace, Eric enjoys drone videography (he’s got a UAV pilot’s license), woodworking, community service, and all things outdoors.

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