Sending Out an SMS: Treat Your Best Subscribers Like BFFs

David Taitelbaum, Marketing Strategist

David Taitelbaum, Marketing Strategist

Author Bio

As the leader of West Coast strategy services for Oracle's Bronto Software, David Taitelbaum consults with brands on digital marketing strategy and customer engagement campaigns throughout North America and Asia. He has over 15 years of experience leading ecommerce organizations and developing successful marketing campaigns for companies of all sizes. Most recently, Taitelbaum oversaw global ecommerce operations for City of Sleep, including support, marketing and channel distribution. He is a regular contributor to Bronto’s Commerce Marketing blog. When he is not guiding Bronto’s clients to strategic marketing success, he is spending time at home with his lovely wife, raising their two children.

Leading retailers know they have to keep their best customers close, and one of the most effective ways to do so is an exclusive SMS campaign. Let’s review the key strategies for building up your SMS squad and the frequency and messaging that will tend to work best with your brand’s BFFs.

Choose the Right Keyword

The most important piece of any great SMS campaign is the keyword. A short keyword tends to lead to higher conversions. In this case, conversions mean sign-ups for your SMS list. But your keyword should still reference your brand name or at least remind customers of it. When you’re trying to build out your promotional messaging database, you’ll want to keep the keyword as simple and straightforward as possible.

Ulta Beauty definitely got it right. They invite shoppers to receive all the latest news and exclusive offers by texting the word ULTA to sign up for SMS notifications, connecting the program directly back to the brand with a short, sweet keyword that’s easy to remember.

ULTA example

Promote Your Program

The biggest hurdle to overcome is growing your list. It’s a tricky proposition. You want highly engaged subscribers to opt in to SMS, but not just anyone will want to give you their cell number. So focus your efforts in areas where you’re more likely to have highly engaged customers. Here are a few key areas where you can optimize your SMS list growth:

Feature your SMS program in your email template. Somewhere near the header or footer of your email template, include a callout for the keyword and short code for opting in to your SMS campaign. Your emails likely have several thousand opens per send to people who have already opted in to your email program, which makes this a great tool for growing your SMS list.

Include a callout in your transactional messaging. It has become more common for customers to opt in to receiving order updates, such as shipping confirmations, via text. If you offer transactional messaging updates via SMS, you can use this opportunity to invite customers to sign up for your promotional SMS program, too.

Highlight your SMS campaign in your welcome series. Promoting your social media channels as part of your welcome series has been a best practice for years. It just makes sense as it allows the subscriber to further engage with your brand. Subscribers at this new stage with your brand would also be a perfect fit for your SMS database.

Include your SMS details in your social media profiles. It’s not likely that your social media footprint overlaps completely with your email database. And those Instagram and Facebook fans get your brand, making them great candidates for your SMS promotional messaging.

Optimize Your Send Cadence

With email marketing, it’s not uncommon for retailers to email once a day and even follow up with a remail later the same day. That send frequency will never go over well with SMS messaging.

The clients I work with tend to have the most success with one SMS message per week at most. One of my clients even found that it was more effective for them to send less frequently, with a new notification only going out once every two weeks. Just remember that you must clearly state your program’s cadence at sign-up, and you must stick with that frequency to stay compliant with current SMS legislation.

Feature the Best Content

Your SMS program will only be successful if you can convince subscribers to interact with your messages. As with emails, imagery can help encourage recipients to click through. Animated GIFs can add movement to your images, but due to file size limitations, you may have trouble finding options that will successfully send to all carriers.

In terms of other content, this isn’t the time to promote fringe products. Instead, feature those that have a very broad appeal, or offer a more general promotion. Here are a few examples:

  • A percentage off site-wide + free shipping over $X
  • Free shipping with no limits
  • A percentage off on a popular category
  • New arrivals
  • Flash sales

Keep it simple. Feature a highly engaging offer that doesn’t require any coupon codes. Use a short URL to link back to your site. Include a great image from time to time. These tactics are the keys to killing it in the SMS game.

Final Thoughts

A strong SMS program is a great way to engage with your BFFs – those customers who truly love your brand and want to get the inside track to all the latest you have to offer. If they’re willing to hand over their number and consent to receiving regular texts, they’re much more likely to interact with you and want to hear what you have to say. And by following the steps above, you’ll be on your way toward growing a strong SMS list, strengthening customer engagement and generating more revenue.

For more on creating effective SMS messages, read “Say It With a Text: The Secret to Success With SMS.”