Guidelines for SMS business marketing

Nine out of every ten text messages are opened and read within three minutes of being delivered. But if your business is in the habit of sending ineffective, irrelevant, or untimely text messages, you’ll see those numbers drop and you may even see open rates decline and opt-outs increase. The following 15 best practices can ensure that your customers will be excited to receive and read your texts.

Include your company name

Even if you register a shortcode, the average person won’t memorize the five or six digit number and remember who is texting them. You don’t want to count on them saving your shortcode as a contact and assigning a name and you don’t want customers to have to search through old texts to find out who’s texting them so make sure your company name is in every text you send.

Personalize the message

Try to segment your phone numbers database according to demographic or interests so that the messages you’re sending feel more personal. A one size-fits all message doesn’t work when one recipient is a 14-year-old girl and the other is a 60-something-year-old man.

Start with a hook

You were taught in school to begin every essay with a hook. That’s good advice for a two-sentence text as well as a five-page paper. The first sentence, phrase, or word should get the recipient’s attention.

Make sure each and every text offers value

There’s never a situation where it’s okay to send a text that does absolutely nothing for the recipient. You’re sure to get opt-outs if you do that. Whether you’re offering a great deal on a product or sharing insightful information or sending a shipping notification, every single text must be doing something to improve the life of the recipient in some small way.

Use clear and concise language

Texts are limited to 160 characters. You can’t afford to be wordy. Carefully proofread each text before sending and make sure there’s not a single word that you could remove without negatively impacting the clarity of the message.

Use dynamic and compelling prose

Study up on creative writing and make sure your writing is interesting and compelling. Use power words like surprising verbs. Play around with syntax to create interesting sentence constructions. Vary your sentence length. Use intentional sentence fragments. Have fun in constructing your text messages.

Use, but don’t abuse, all caps

ALL CAPS ALL THE TIME MAKES IT SEEM LIKE YOU’RE YELLING. You don’t want your recipients to feel as if they’re being yelled at. You can use all caps for a single word here or there to create emphasis.

Include a call to action

Don’t leave it up to your recipients to guess what you’re getting at. Tell them to redeem that coupon, or to click over onto your Facebook page, or whatever it is you want them to do.

Use a URL shortener

A URL shortener is a great way to make a link to a webpage or video look more appealing and it also makes it easier to stay within the character limit for SMS so your text is delivered in a single message and not broken up.

Include opt-out instructions

It’s not just a good idea, it’s the law. Keep it short and sweet though: “Reply ‘STOP’ to opt-out.”

Make sure offers are relevant

Going back to segmentation of your phone number database, you can ensure that you’re only sending offers that are relevant to the people that you’re sending them to.

Make it sound urgent

If recipients don’t act right away, they’re likely to forget about it and more recent texts will move yours to the bottom of the inbox so make every message seem urgent.

Be mindful of timing

No matter how good the offer, people won’t take kindly to receiving it early in the morning or late at night. People are also less receptive to texts received during stressful situations like sitting in traffic or business meetings. Aim for lunch hours, early evenings, weekends, and holidays.

Avoid text speak

Just because all the kids are typing huge strings of letters that are actually acronyms doesn’t mean you should. Though they help keep your character count under control they’re also likely to be misunderstood by a sizable percentage of your recipients.

Limit emoticons

Seriously, just don’t. They’re a waste of valuable characters. Including a 😉 uses three characters and adds nothing of value to the text.