Text messaging is growing in preference as a communication channel between businesses, business professionals and consumers. However, conversational messaging for marketing is not the same as whipping out your smartphone to fire off a text to friends or family. An advanced messaging platform is a business tool that requires a strategy for your SMS campaign—just as a marketing automation platform requires for your email marketing campaign. The technology is tactical; what you put into it will directly impact what you get out of it.

Before you start your SMS campaign you need to answer three questions to ensure you have a strong foundation and purpose that’s aligned to your business objectives.

What do you want to get out of it?

In other words, what’s the business goal for your SMS campaign? Here are a few to consider:

  • Velocity – move leads faster through your pipeline to shorten time to purchase
  • Leads – acquire new leads and develop them into sales-ready buyers
  • Feedback – learn from a voice-of-customer initiative how to improve your brand’s relevance
  • Sales – create urgency for buyers to take action to acquire your products
  • Loyalty – ensure your buyers return and buy more to build customer lifetime value (CLV)
  • Satisfaction – initiate immediate support to resolve customer issues more responsively to increase customer satisfaction or Net Promoter Scores

How will you get your target audience to opt-in to your SMS campaign?

SMS messaging is all about subscribers. This shouldn’t be new to you. Most marketers have been using content marketing to grow audience subscribers for a number of years. This means your content must be compelling and designed to address a relevant context for the recipient.

There are also regulations which mean you have to disclose a few things when asking people to opt-in.

  • Tell them the purpose of the campaign:
    • Exclusive offers
    • Special promotions
    • Product arrivals
    • Product updates
    • How-to tips and advice on X
    • Executive event invitations
    • Loyalty points and rewards
    • Alerts and reminders
  • How many messages they can expect per month
    • Best practices advise 2 to 4 messages per month
  • How to join
    • Text “keyword” (JOIN) to “short code” (123456), for example
    • Publish opt-in information on your website, as a P.S. in your emails, in social posts, on in-store posters, in direct mail, at the end of your white papers, and other marketing collateral, as is relevant to your campaign
    • You also have to tell them how to opt-out, should they so choose (e.g. Reply STOP to end)

How will you motivate them to take action?

Just as in any other campaign you run in other channels, there must be calls to action (CTAs) that are compelling enough for your audience to act upon. In an email campaign it’s usually a transactional CTA to click on a link or button to download/view content. With an SMS campaign you have several options, both transactional and interactive.

The transactional CTA is the same as an email: a link to a content asset, such as a product in your catalog, a video, an infographic, or a short blog post. Transactional messages can also be for utility, including a delivery update on a recent order, a status update on a service request, a helpful tip, or a password verification code.

Where SMS campaigns have an advantage over email is in their two-way, interactive capabilities. One thing your customers unanimously want is responsiveness. SMS messaging is a two-way street, allowing your customers to initiate conversations and respond to them in real time.

Several examples of interactive messaging include:

  • Post an invitation for your customers to request service and support by sending a text
  • Send a text that offers them information or a promotion if they text back a keyword
  • Send a poll after a purchase or service interaction to request feedback
  • Ask questions for progressive profiling so that you can serve them better
  • Send an appointment reminder that allows them to reschedule by reply, if necessary

The immediacy of messaging is also conducive to time-based offers that create a sense of urgency to act, such as last minute sales, limited quantity offers, new product arrivals, and more.

Many of these interactive messaging flows can be automated with workflows that trigger additional messages based on activity or keyword responses. Even better, messaging platforms can alert a human to step in when opportunity arises to extend the conversation as it deepens.

Messaging is concise and easy to use, enabling responsiveness from both parties. With near real-time responses, you’ll have insights to act on immediately. Creating experiences that customers’ value is a top expectation. Messaging is being used in all stages of the customer journey to build more engaged relationships that deliver on those expectations.

And, because messaging is the top-used application on mobile phones, business professionals and consumers alike are always within arm’s reach. In fact, the majority of both groups prefer to communicate with brands and companies via text message. Recent research from KPMG found that half of the people in the U.S. check their phones without being prompted by a notification at least every 10 minutes—evidence that you have a ready audience if you’ve made the effort to create messages that resonate.

Just remember to answer the three questions above before you start your SMS campaign to ensure that your program puts the audience at the center and that you’ve aligned it to business outcomes. Simply the same way you’d approach any other successful marketing program.