Text-message, or SMS (Short Message Service) marketing continues to be one of the most underrated channels in marketing. Despite the fact that almost everyone has a mobile phone these days, with some people even having more than one, text-message marketing has tended to get a bad rap due to how heavily legislated it is in the United States.

But provided you operate within the appropriate codes of conduct, text-message marketing can represent a significant opportunity for your business. And with the open rate for texts reportedly at 98 percent, compared to a comparable open rate for email of around 20 to 30 percent, the real question is, why wouldn’t you try it?

What is Text-Message Marketing?

Text-message marketing is a marketing method that companies can use to reach consumers with promotional messages via permission-based text messages.

Businesses that want to get started with text-message marketing typically go through a third-party provider, managed through the Web, mostly via a monthly paid plan based on volume (some with flat message pricing, others with packs of credit that you buy in lots).

Each plan offers a range of features. Most offer provision for a keyword or keywords that your customers can use to text in and receive a special offer. Some offer social media integration through common channels such as Facebook or Twitter.

If you are looking to get started with text-message marketing, check out these introductory guides and resources:

Everything You Need to Know About SMS Marketing by Buildfire
SMS Marketing 101 by Authority Labs
7 Strategies for Better SMS Marketing by iZigg

5 Benefits of Text-Message Marketing

We’ve covered what text-message marketing is, but why should you consider adopting it for your small business? Here are 5 benefits that might persuade you.

1. Text-Message Marketing Is Permission-Based

To access customers’ mobile numbers for marketing in the first place, customers must have opted in to give you their details. Furthermore, they need to give you permission to contact them with marketing or promotional details.

This is a major advantage for your business, meaning that your text-message marketing approaches will be permission-based, and thus potentially much more acceptable to your customers. That’s provides a contrast with traditional methods, which may be unwanted and ineffective.

2. Text-Message Marketing Is Efficient

Unlike much content marketing these days (think email newsletters, long-form sales letters and 1200-1800-word blog posts), text-message marketing is highly effective, with messages limited to a maximum of 160 characters in most cases.

The short message length makes text-message marketing ideally suited to quick updates, flash sales, promotional reminders and punchy marketing messages, rather than more extensive content.

You can dash off your messages and still have time to do the things you really want to do, rather than slaving away at your computer, crafting carefully constructed content—content to which you’re not really sure anyone is actually going to respond.

3. Text-Message Marketing Is Flexible

Most text-message marketing services offer highly flexible options that mean you can design and send highly specific campaigns, or send the same blanket message to everyone on your list. It’s up to you.

You have the ability to personalize messages by adding in subscriber names, enhancing the chance that they will be opened and acted upon. Beyond this, the capacity to segment your markets based on preferences, demographics and location offers a sophisticated means of quickly accessing the right customers at the right time with the right message.

4. Text-Message Marketing is Cost Effective

Most text-message marketing is relatively cheap to implement, with a relatively inexpensive cost per message, and most pricing packages depend on volume.

However, given the very high open rate on most messages, along with a relatively high conversion rate, the associated return on investment makes it a very attractive option compared with many other marketing channels.

5. Text-Message Marketing Has Extensive Reach

Consider how quickly access to mobile devices has spread across the world. In 2014, we passed the global tipping point in which the number of global mobile users accessing the internet outstripped the number of desktop users. This penetration of mobile usage is only set to continue well into the future.

Accordingly, you can expect that virtually all of your customers are contactable on mobile phone. With an effective opt-in strategy, there is no reason why you can’t access a large proportion of them at times of mutual convenience, with messages you know they will want to see.

Getting Started with text-message marketing: 5 Quick Tips

Want to jump right in? Here’s a whirlwind tour.

1. Understand What You Hope to Achieve

Like any marketing strategy, you need to start with the end goal in mind. Your ultimate objectives for your text-message marketing strategy need to be clear before you begin, and you need to make sure they are directly aligned with your broader business and marketing goals.

2. Segment Your Audience

Blasting your entire list with the same marketing message and hoping some of it connects with your target audience is like searching for a needle in a haystack. The top firms in this field recommend that you narrow it down by segmenting your audience.

Top tip: Sparkpage suggests integrating your CRM with your marketing platform to achieve a much more precise match between your marketing messages and your audience.

3. Include A Call to Action

If you’ve done the hard work of defining your marketing goals are and segmenting your market, make sure you include a call to action as part of your messaging. It’s no use knowing what you are trying to achieve if you don’t invite your customers along with you on the journey.

4. Create Clear Value

Let’s be honest – even a permission-based marketing message represents somewhat of an interruption to your customers, even if it is a welcome one. Increase your chance of having your messages acted upon by infusing your offers with irresistible value for your customers.

5. Track Your Metrics

They say you can’t improve what you don’t measure, so if you are going to implement or alter a text-message marketing strategy, be sure to take some baseline metrics and then to track them on a regular basis as time goes by.

Tatango suggests that there are four critical metrics you should be measuring in attempting to track your text-message marketing. The four critical metrics are as follows:

  • List growth – number of people joining your list or campaign.
  • Churn rate – the rate at which people stop subscribing to your list.
  • Redemption rate – how many customers respond to your marketing with an action like a sale
  • Cost per redeeming subscriber

Like anything, text-message marketing can seem complicated before you try it. But with the many streamlined services available these days, and the relatively high open and conversion rate for text-message marketing, it can be a reliable option for those small businesses that are willing to embrace the challenge.

A. Parker Davis is CEO of Answer1