Be honest: If you were an adult in 2007—the year the number of texts sent first surpassed the number of phone calls made—did you ever imagine we'd still be using our dexterous primate thumbs as a primary form of communication?
Yet here we are. People love texting, and because of that there are a ton of reasons for marketers to love it, too.
Statistically, it's hard to beat text/SMS as a marketing and communication tool because it's so popular. A full 64% of people want businesses to text them more, one texting statistics roundup found—83% among Gen Z. Americans check their phones up to 160 times per day, another study from the same compendium found. Millennials prefer two-way texting as a way to communicate with brands, another survey found, and 83% open texts within 90 seconds of receiving them.
Still not convinced? Then consider this: Texting converts better than other types of marketing outreach. In fact, businesses that texted customers after starting the conversation on a different channel improved their conversion rates more than 112%, according to one study.
But texting as a marketing tool is at a crossroads. If your business isn't already texting customers, you're behind the curve; and if you are using text, you may be finding it harder to stand out.
Texting as a communication strategy among businesses is at a tipping point in effectiveness. It's time to fully commit. Because although two-way texting is a great tool for marketers, it is evolving, and you must be aware of what that means for marketing.
For one thing, folders are coming. They're already here—if not on your phone, probably on one of your friend's. It's the first step toward text's becoming more like email.
But there's still time to ride the texting wave. Here are four tips that can help you avoid a wipeout.
Text Marketing Tip 1: Don't blast people—build conversations
Spam folders—the bane of email marketers' existence—have arrived on text. Text folders first popped up as apps that people could install to organize SMS messages, and now the function is offered preinstalled on new phones. The most common way for marketers to land their messages in the text spam folder is to send out blasts.
Instead, build conversations, whether via two-way agent or salesperson chat or a high-quality automated response. Your messages need to be conversational—like everything else in the main folder.
Text Marketing Tip 2: Use first-party data and add value in your text interactions
Making text interactions conversational requires first-party data—the volunteered information the customer entrusted to you. So, use that data to personalize your text messaging initiatives, and ensure that every message provides something of real value to your customers.
There's a reason customers gave you that data: They expect you to use it to make information or offers you send their way relevant to them. They expect something valuable in return for the information.
Discounts and exclusive offers are obvious ways to deliver on that expectation, but you can also create a better customer experience by using first-party data that tells you how customers buy and what their preferred channels are for engagement so that you can be responsive on their terms.
Text Marketing Tip 3: Continue to collect clean opt-in consent forms in digital format
As a marketer, you know that people often forget they gave you permission to text about a month after giving said consent. And you know you shouldn't be texting people without prior express, also known as a clean opt-in consent form, in digital format. Right? Right?!
Good for you—keep making sure you collect those clean, compliant opt-ins and store them in digital format.
Text Marketing Tip 4: Accept that people are fickle and will opt-in and opt-out when they feel like it
When consenting to receive texts, the customers giveth, and the customers taketh away. But an opt-out doesn't mean they never want to talk to you again. It may just mean they've got other priorities right now, or maybe your outreach frequency was too high.
Now is the time to dust off and apply all of the great lessons you learned about email marketing; they're becoming relevant to text, too, since folders are being established.
* * *
Text messaging is surprisingly resilient as a communication form, but it won't dominate as the preferred communication choice for customers forever. At some point, we'll probably move on to platforms that offer a more natural way to communicate rather than continuing to chat away with our thumbs.
Maybe a fully voice-enabled environment will emerge eventually and we'll start using our voices again—to talk to each other and talk to brands. Plus, the rise of the metaverse means we likely don't even realize the full realm of possibilities for communicating with each other.
All of those factors could profoundly change marketing again.
In the meantime, let's enjoy the world we live in now, which is pretty great for marketers because text is still king. Two-way text success means talking to your customers, not blasting them. It requires the use of the first-party data you've collected and having the express consent you scrupulously obtained squared away in digital form. Success also requires being realistic about how much of their screen customers want to give you.
With those four rules in mind, you're ready to ride the text marketing wave.
More Resources on Text Marketing
Five SMS Campaigns for B2B Marketers to Try
11 SMS Marketing Best-Practices for Better, Results-Driven Text Messaging Campaigns
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