Five Tips to Optimize SMS Campaigns

Originally published in collaboration with Teradata on the Teradata blog.

SMS marketing is one of the most immediate and powerful ways to reach your customers, and yet it’s often overlooked, in deference to other more traditional approaches, like email.  That’s potentially a significant strategic mistake, considering:

  • Open rates: The open rate for texts is a whopping 98 percent –compared to a  22 percent for emails.
  • Immediacy: One study showed that 95 percent of texts are opened within 15 minutes. Emails can languish unopened for days.
  • Cutting through the digital noise: The average number of emails a customer receives a month is 1,216. The average number of texts? 178.

Of course, SMS campaigns do have certain limitations, and one of the biggest ones is this: With SMS, you have 160 characters to deliver a message that will engage your customers and spur them to action. Not 160 words – 160 characters! Obviously, you have to make each one of those characters count.

What else can you do to optimize an SMS campaign and take advantage of all this platform has to offer? Here are a few tips:

Targeting and Segmentation

As with planning for any campaign, one of your initial steps must be to carefully define your target audience. What age range do you want to reach? If you’re developing an SMS campaign, you need to keep the age of your customers top of mind. According to a 2010 study, the sweet spot for SMS is between the ages of 20 and 34, where 60 to 70 percent of those polled text every day. The percentage drops after age 35 to about 45 percent. In other words, I wouldn’t recommend an SMS campaign aimed at senior citizens. It’s becoming increasingly important to target different demographics based on the communication tools they use in their every day lives.

Along with age and other preferences, marketers are going to have to start paying more and more attention to segmentation based on customer location, too. What offers can you make to customers that are location-specific?  Studies have shown that –provided they have opted-in –consumers welcome this kind of relevant, real-time interaction. Never underestimate the power of a targeted, location-based SMS campaign to excite customers about your business! 

Adjusting Copy

Once you have fine-tuned targeting and segmentation, you need to adjust your copy accordingly. As I mentioned above, you have only 160 characters to spur recipients into action. So for SMS, think small and precise. Leave longer, more in-depth messages for email. For example, if you’re planning to market a special event, use email to promote detailed information about the event to your audience. Then, send a short text message reminder/alert on the day of the event.

Think like your customer and focus on these three questions while composing your message:

  • What is it? (What is the product? What is your service?)
  • What’s in it for me? (How does this benefit the customer?)
  • What can I do next? (How can the customer take action?)

Answer those questions in 160 characters or less and you’re on your way to creating highly relevant and targeted messages, special coupons or discounts.

Regular Customers: Sending Messages and Improving Response Rates

Regular customers require different messaging than prospects. You’ve already hooked them, and they trust your company (perhaps even to the extent of anticipating your messaging). But, maybe the response rates aren’t exactly where you’d like them to be. What else can you do to inspire action?

SMS communication can be a valuable two-way street. It can foster a dialogue between you and the customer.  One way to make this conversation happen is by embracing shortcodes. They can help your brand engage customers with news announcements or activities including polling, surveys or charitable giving.

Savvy marketers are finding that SMS campaigns help regular customers get –and stay –involved. 

Test, Measure and Learn

Marketers need to always be learning.  How can you adjust your SMS campaign if you discover the messaging isn’t driving the desired result?

First, don’t send messages to your entire list at once. Consider segmenting that initial contact to 100 customers instead of 1,000. Then, track response rates, response times and follow-throughs from this first batch. Are these customers engaging with you (the two-way street)? Why or why not? Find out what works. Be honest about what doesn’t. Then, apply these insights as you move forward. 

Fine-Tune for Different Devices

Not every device is the same. How many on your list are using iPhones? Androids? Blackberries? Simple flip phones that only receive texts and calls? Be sure to test your campaign on a variety of different devices so you can witness first-hand the experience that your customers receive. Different screen sizes and display features can wreak havoc on your intended presentation. Test before you send.