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Five Big Fat Lies About SMS Marketing That You Probably Believe

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We've all been there. We hear something that sounds somewhat believable and without thinking or researching further, we take that little story as fact. The problem with this? Typically, what we hear, read, or see is far from the truth. Like rumors flooding the middle school hallways between classes, there are many false beliefs and misconceptions regarding SMS marketing.

Let's quash them right now.

If you're skeptical about SMS marketing, this post is for you. Read on to better understand the truth about mobile messaging and what you'll miss out on if you fall victim to the rumor mill.

1. SMS marketing is too expensive

If I had a dollar for every time I heard this, I'd be rich. Well, definitely not rich, but richer, because this one comes up a lot. Let's get right to it: SMS marketing is not expensive—especially when you compare it to major ad buys and app development costs.


Many people believe SMS marketing is expensive because they're not familiar with the process. Sending an SMS message is much cheaper than most marketing channels, and it can deliver the same (if not higher) level of ROI.

Moreover, marketers who use SMS messaging identify its high-speed delivery rate (63%), high open rates compared to email (45%), and low cost compared to other channels (45%) as its primary benefits.

Depending on your program and whether you use a dedicated short code or a shared short code, your out-of-pocket costs are nominal compared to the level of engagement you'll gain from directly messaging your opted-in, loyal subscribers. I'm talking fractions of a penny per message sent.

In addition, working with an SMS marketing provider like Waterfall, your costs will include all of its software and targeting capabilities, strategic campaign help, best-practices recommendations, detailed reporting, and much more. Now, that all comes with a caveat: There has to be a marketing budget to have an SMS marketing budget. Makes sense, right?

If the majority of a business's budget is spent on SMS, then there's hardly any money left to advertise and promote the campaign itself. After all, any form of marketing is an investment in your brand and brand awareness gives you the recognition you need.

2. Messaging is a dying communication, and visual apps are better

Sorry, but what? There is no way you could claim that messaging is a dying communication. That's like saying eating is a dying form of nourishment. Or riding a bike is a dying form of transportation. It's true that your friends and family members use a multitude of apps to communicate, but they're mostly all messaging apps. That being said, there is still a massive untapped opportunity for businesses to leverage mobile messaging.

Research shows that messaging apps are the No. 1 most used app on users' phones, not graphical user interface apps. Eventually, all visual apps will be housed under one main messaging app, according to Mary Meeker's Internet Trends Report. Learning how to use hundreds of new apps is taxing, confusing, and sometimes not worth it. But texting is fun, easy, and inexpensive, and it drives measurable business objectives.

3. People won't react to a text message

I don't know about you, but any time my phone blinks with a new text, I immediately check it out. I'm not alone. Research shows that 98% of SMS messages are read within 90 seconds of receiving. Let's compare this to email. The average business person receives 121 emails per day, according to the Radicati Group. Do you think he or she is reading every single one within 90 seconds of receiving? I sure don't. Plus, if a brand consistently emails me, I almost always unsubscribe, especially if I never signed up in the first place.

Because SMS is an opt-in channel (people must proactively opt themselves into your SMS marketing program before you can message them, or you can face huge fines), you do not run the risk of spamming customers. Further, the people that opt-in to receive your messages are going to be your most loyal customers. Think about it. If someone gives out their phone number, it's because they love your brand and genuinely want to stay in the know.

In regards to marketing messages, SMS is pretty spectacular. Companies typically see engagement rates as high as 8X that of email campaigns. In other words, SMS coupons are redeemed 8X more than emailed offers. For retailers that use promotional messages with a limited time frame to redeem and a strong call-to-action, conversion rates often reach 23%. Further, if programs are promoted correctly, databases can grow by over 41% during the holidays.

4. An SMS program is too difficult to set up

Like anything else, this really depends on how simple or complex you want to get with your program. For the purpose of this post, we'll focus on setting up a straightforward loyalty campaign.

Let's think about setting up an SMS marketing campaign like baking a cake. For any cake to come out delicious, you need to have the required ingredients and follow the sequential steps in the recipe. So, in our SMS marketing campaign recipe, your necessary ingredients are a short code, a goal, an offer, a call-to-action, a message, and an SMS marketing provider.

After you have those ingredients, you can choose to have your provider set up the entire campaign for you, or you can set it up yourself.

To set up an SMS marketing campaign, you need to focus on key steps. The first is setting a goal for your campaign. Once you have that, you need to create a compelling call-to-action. Next, you need to create an opt-in message for your customers to receive after they've seen your call-to-action and opted into your program. Once they're opted-in, you've made it. You can then send them targeted, helpful, relevant marketing messages to increase their customer lifetime value.

Now, obviously, there are super-intricate, 15-layer cakes out there, just like there are extremely intricate SMS campaigns full of complex integrations with POS vendors, email service providers, and advanced targeting components. Sometimes, though, basic vanilla cake is often the easiest.

Baking analogies aside, setting up an SMS marketing campaign is no harder than any other marketing campaign.

5. Nobody wants to receive offers from a company

That's clearly not true. Look at how many online coupon websites exist. RetailMeNot, Groupon, Slickdeals, Fatwallet, Coupons.com, Couponcabin.com, Couponmountain.com, etc. People love a good deal and will always go a little further to save a few dollars.

And I'm not only talking about the devoted coupon queens of the world cutting up the Sunday Savers. Some 126.9 million people are projected to use digital coupons in 2016, up from 92.3 million people in 2012, according to Statista.

Moreover, 16% of a person's SMS activity happens with a brand, 7 in 10 reported that using SMS/text message is a good way for an organization to get their attention, 64% think that organizations should use SMS/text messages more than they currently do, and 62% would like to use SMS/text messages more to communicate with organizations.

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So, there you have it. The numbers really do speak for themselves. After reading this, I hope the SMS marketing rumor mill is shut down for good, and you feel inspired to create your first SMS campaign.


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Krissy DeAngelis is marketing manager for Waterfall, a mobile messaging and CRM platform that helps companies engage their customers on their phones.

LinkedIn: Krissy DeAngelis 

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