13 August 2019,
Organic Traffic

Every marketing professional knows that an email open rate over 20% is above-average and click rates of over 3% are reserved for the most-engaged customers (sports fans, hobbies, etc). However, these metrics pale in comparison to SMS/text message engagement performance. Year-over-year for the past 10 years, SMS open rates have been over 97% within two minutes of receipt; and near 100% read over the course of 24 hours (though this might often be a user clearing their text messages out). Given the small footprint (i.e., no headers or footers, no 1px trackers, etc) click rate technology is only harnessed by a couple of key vendors in the space. 

But, of those vendors, they commonly report click rates of over 30%. 

The power of the space is a given, but due to the lack of fuller integration into the available CRM and marketing automation (MA) platforms, it remains largely uncharted territory. The lack of integration is a subject for another article (stay tuned), but this article will lay out the practical uses of SMS as an insight to where marketing professionals can leverage existing tools on existing platforms to begin leveraging the most-read medium of all.

First, Compliance

All marketing professionals are aware of and work within compliance in the email space (no doubt complicated by GDPR over the last few years). However, SMS/Text has an equally complex compliance environment. Indeed, there is a proper way of doing SMS and there are now qualified companies and professionals in the space. These professionals can demystify and unlock the power and innovation of SMS, while not running afoul of the regulations or the general rhythms of use.

Start with Customer Service & Basic Communication

The power of SMS can begin simply by including an SMS tag on a page (or in a Google Map listing) to create an inbound, direct channel for customer engagement. The upside is direct customer contact, so it is an excellent chance to connect with customers and qualify potential customers. Also, SMS is emerging as a preferred medium in younger demographics, so this can be a differentiator. Lastly, you can *record* the mobile phone number as a *potential* marketing/promotion option. 

But the downside, outside of replying to the direct inquiry, the most you can do with this new mobile number data point is just record it. A customer service inquiry does not achieve an opt-in for promotional purposes. (More on that later). The other downside is – SMS is almost synchronous communication. So, SMS requires real-time or near real-time attention. This can put a time and human resource pressure on firms that do not have teams in place to handle. There are available external services that have AI chatbots to answer some customer inquiries or autoresponders to provide basic details, but (again) it is not integrated directly to platforms. Of the options that are available in CRM and MA platform’s “marketplaces”, none will have the full-featured options.

Marketing Promotion & Advertising 

All SMS promotion and advertising are permission-based and the regulations are very clear –there has to be a *digital* opt-in record for a given mobile number before an outbound promotion-oriented message can be sent. 

Currently, this means that you will need to utilize a short-code based service. A short code is a 5- or 6- digit number that allows any contact to interact with a brand, product or company. In the US, this means more compliance, but there are many services that can be used that will build an audience, capture the valued digital opt-in and mobile phone number, and provide automated response which are great vectors for getting potential contacts to inline or online steps (either buying, qualifying, or information gathering).

Direct CTAs

The marketer should be pretty familiar with keyword CTAs, but these are vital and pretty easy to work with. A keyword CTA is something like this “To learn more and get an incentive on the hottest deals, text KEYWORD to 12345”, where keyword is your specified term and 12345 is a valid, approved short-code.

The Nurtured Flip

I previously mentioned that starting with customer service-oriented communications is a good way to gain interaction and *record* the mobile number. However, this approach does not allow to you to jump to SMS marketing. But you can execute a flip offer.

The “flip” is super easy and very effective. Previously I mentioned that a customer service implementation benefit is being able to record the mobile phone number. This is important because with the “flip”, you simply record and count the number of unique interactions (meaning separate inquiries) you have received. When you reach at least 3 completed *and* seemingly satisfactory interactions, you can offer the contact to be added to a marketing list. It can be as simple as making your last text at the close of the third seemingly satisfactory interaction read as “I noticed we have texted before. We have some great news that we occasionally send via text (never more than 1/wk). Reply YES to this to be added.” This message includes the magic phrase “Reply YES…” which will cover the compliance needs. With a quick confirmation containing some additional compliance disclaimers (e.g. Text STOP cancel, Msg&data rates apply, etc) and now you have flipped the customer from a successful inbound inquiry to an outbound, direct audience that has the highest engagement rate of any medium.

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