Business SMS Messaging – Step by Step Guide
A text message is a fundamental communication tool for companies and public institutions. Brands send notifications, offer messages and engage with their customers via SMS. Read on to find out how to start business mass messaging in your company!
12 steps to effective SMS marketing:
SMS marketing essentials
Let’s get down to business! SMSAPI provides companies, institutions, NGOs, and political parties with a mobile marketing channel based on text messages. SMS A2P communication is fully compliant with GDPR, as long as it’s done with respect to the privacy of recipients.
What do you need to start?
- device connected to the internet;
- SMSAPI account;
- GDPR-compliant contact database;
- campaign concept.
The first two are easy to get. The SMSAPI account is free, and the registration takes about 5 minutes. The next step needs more explanation, so we’ll get into details of it later on. Just like the concept of composing a successful message. But before we get there, let’s explain some technical basics of bulk messaging for companies.
What’s an SMS campaign?
It’s a single message or a series of messages with a common goal, subject or target group. SMS Marketing might be a part of a larger marketing campaign consisting of multiple channels, e.g. mailing, ATL or social media.
The choice: Customer Portal or API?
A computer connected to the internet is more than enough to send mass SMS. The web browser version of our service (we call it Customer Portal) has everything you need to run and monitor SMS campaigns. Check the full list of available functionalities.
With your business growing, you’ll need to automatize certain processes. One of them is communication, as you won’t be able to write and reply to every message manually in the Customer Portal. Fortunately, the SMS communication service is an easily scalable solution. Our open API is a key to integrating SMSAPI with any other system, e.g. CRM, e-commerce, or marketing automation.
What’s an API?
In short, API (Application Programming Interface) is a set of commands that allow different applications to communicate. With it, you will be able to send text messages with any chosen system or online service. What’s more, API helps to automate the processes.
Message templates and customizable triggers let you automate messaging according to your needs. For example, a text message API integrated with an e-commerce management software can automatically notify clients about discounted items on their wish lists. There are many applications, and they greatly depend on your industry and concept toward communication.
Contact database 101
Alright, let’s get practical! You’ll need the telephone numbers of your customers. It might sound daunting at first but collecting contact data is in fact straightforward.
Tools that will help you to build your contact database
- SMS Newsletter – nasz our free-to-use widget that allows the customers to sign up to the database directly on your website; ideal solution for e-commerce;
- Virtual phone number – 2-way SMS communication is based on receiving numbers; suited for ATL;
- traditional methods – you can ask clients for telephone numbers at the checkout counter or after payment in an online store.
Using one of the tools doesn’t exclude others – you can even use them all at the same time. Just be sure to do it in accordance with GDPR! Before sending a marketing message you have to acquire consent form the client. This rule doesn’t apply to notifications, like credit card activity, payment confirmation or shipping info and other examples of transactional SMS.
Although you might think otherwise, customers are willing to share their contact details. According to our research, 35% of respondents confirmed that in exchange for a better deal they will give their telephone number to a company. What’s important, the brand cannot fail that trust. Keep in mind that a phone number is considerably more valuable than an e-mail address.
That’s why it’s crucial to set rules for communication. Present them clearly and without ambiguity. It would be a signal to the customers that you take privacy matters seriously. As usual, do everything according to the permission marketing guidelines.
Inform how often do you plan to send messages, and what would be their subject. You don’t have to get into details, just point out that you’ll send discount codes twice a month. Furthermore, it’s profitable to state how to unsubscribe.
Why is it beneficial to let the uninterested clients go? There’s no point in wasting money, time and nerves (yours and theirs). The easiest way to do so is by adding opt-out links to text messages. Clicking the link automatically adds a corresponding number to a blacklist which blocks further messages. It’s best to include the link in the very first SMS, so you can save credits on all further messages.
160 characters is a limit, not a goal
True, you pay for every text sent but it doesn’t mean you have to use every character available. Sometimes a link and couple of words are enough to say exactly what your customer expects.
Be precise: one message, one call to action, one link. If you’re running a larger campaign, remember that you don’t have to include everything in a single message!
A short URL is a way to expand a text message with additional content, and at the same time, to save some characters. Use the cut.li link shortener to make long addresses SMS-friendly. Unlike other services, this one is integrated with the Customer Portal. It will be invaluable during the campaign effectiveness measuring.
Name instead of a number
Theoretically, you could send messages from a number randomly chosen by the system but why would you? By setting your own sender name you gain credibility. Moreover, due to the security concerns, SMSAPI staff verifies all sender names.
SMS Branding is a basic feature of text messaging. We strongly recommend using it, especially because it’s free of charge. Sender names have certain limitations imposed by the GSM standard: they cannot be longer than 11 basic characters.
Keep in mind that your customers won’t be able to reply to a message with a sender name! If you’d like to engage clients – use a virtual phone number instead.
Content is king
Focus on one message when composing the text body. If you want to say more than 160 characters allows for, consider splitting the message into multiple SMS, or if there is a better tool to do it, for example, mailing. SMS is meant to be fast, there’s no time to elaborate about reasons to send a message or to present all the advantages of your offer.
A perfect SMS consist of a single, easy to understand the message and a link. Adding anything more might lower its effectiveness.
Remember, the decision to subscribe is always conscious. The client knows what your company does and what’s in its offer. Setting rules concerning frequency, tone and time will help you to compose consistent messages.
Messaging golden hour
Automated notifications are sent instantaneously when triggered but marketing-oriented messages should be delivered at the right moment. The majority of messages are read within the first 5 minutes upon delivery. And so, you can expect an equally fast reaction from your customers!
When to send messages to customers?
It’s commonly accepted that time between 10:00 and 20:00 is good for business-client interaction. Of course, the choice of time depends on the industry.
All of the above makes SMS an attractive form of communication but it cannot be employed too frequently. Most brands start with 4 messages per month and depending on the results either decrease or increase that amount. Read on to find out how to balance the number of messages according to data analysis.
One of the reasons for SMS popularity is a positive sentiment towards it. Text messages are considered more urgent and closer to the receiver than, for example, TV or outdoor ads. It’s worth to capitalize on it, just remember about certain rules!
Firstly, select the right tone of voice according to the group you are trying to reach. After all, you are not sending messages to strangers. Use the knowledge and collected data to create content appealing to your audience. If the contact database is inhomogeneous, consider splitting it into smaller subgroups.
Secondly, cut the distance! If it’s appropriate, you can approach your audience more directly, instead of relying on formal language. Just keep it consistent with the tone of voice of your company.
And so, we reach the third issue – content personalization based on information from the contact database. Information collected by the SMS Newsletter widget will prove useful and will make your campaign more effective.
Nothing breaks the ice better than a direct call to the recipient. Use name, gender, address to divide your target group and send a highly-personalized offer.
How to gain an edge over the competition?
One of the unique advantages of SMS is the speed of reaching recipients. Furthermore, exceptionally high open-rate right after delivery makes is an ideal tool to inform about time-restricted offers. Instead of planning campaigns for months, you can engage your customers with a quick promotion limited until the end of the day or event they are attending.
If your message is precise, and the time frame is right, you have a great chance of spurring a feeling of urgency. The thought that the offer might be too good to happen again is a very strong sale incentive.
Splitting the communication into separate channels is also a good idea. Prepare exclusive content and offer for each channel. High-quality content draws attention which consequently might make your audience to share it. You can even capitalize on this drive! You could even mention that the offer is exclusive to members of the Newsletter or club and that it shouldn’t be shared.
As a final takeaway: measure the link clicks. If you are using cut.li you can check every click directly in the Customer Portal. You can even go one step further and add a UTM parameter to the shortened URL.
What separates SMS from other marketing solutions is that it’s easily measurable. A link with a UTM not only tests the click-through-rate but also shows the effectiveness of a message’s content. It’s an easy way to track the results of SMS marketing with Google Analytics.
Android and iOS devices show miniatures of the linked webpages by default. Make sure that the preview of your site is shown correctly before sending an SMS campaign.
What if SMS is not enough?
The text message has over 25 years. That’s why, in cooperation with LINK Mobility Group, we are developing a new standard – LINK Conversations. It’s a complete conversational interface that merges B2C communication, sales, and automated customer service. You can test it now!