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The Marketing Unleashed Podcast – What are some of the best text message strategies?

Joel: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Marketing Unleashed Podcast. I’m Joel, I’m your host, and I’m here with Jamie and Nathan. Today, we are going to be talking about text message of marketing. Now first off, how’s everybody doing?

Jamie: Good.

Nathan: Great.

Joel: All right. The first thing that I kind of want to hit on is text message marketing, is it just for the younger generation or are older people taking advantage of using text message on their phones and their mobile devices?

Nathan: I think that’s only going to continue to expand as the current, sort of, younger generation gets a little bit older, then you’re going to have more opportunities for text messaging in marketing. Also, you know, the older generations are using smartphones now too. There used to be a time when they pretty much could get by without having mobile phones or text messaging. But nowadays, most of the people I know in the generations older than me have mobile phones with text messaging now. I think it’s definitely a possibility. I would say though that younger people who text more often are probably more likely to sign up for text messaging, and make more use of it than an older generation person might.

Jamie: Yeah, I would think they are definitely going to have more use for it. But I think the great thing is is you don’t even have to have a smartphone, you don’t even have to have an Internet connection, you don’t have to have anything super fancy to utilize the text messaging marketing, you know?

Joel: But you have to have a cell phone.

Jamie: You just have to have the phone.

Joel: Right, the cell phone. It doesn’t necessary have to be a smartphone.

Jamie: Yeah, and 95% of people have a cell phone.

Nathan: Right.

Joel: At least it feels that way.

Nathan: In the Western countries, I’m sure. Yeah.

Joel: Right. Now whenever we’re talking about text message marketing, we’re talking about obviously companies and brands sending messaging to consumers direct. Now, I would kind of consider this like the Holy Grail. If you have somebody’s phone number, you have a direct connection. I mean, it’s almost as if you’re sitting in their living room with them in a way. Because we can ignore email, email marketing’s great, but let’s face the fact, I mean we can ignore it.

Jamie: Yes, you can ignore it.

Joel: We can easily delete it. Right, and some people don’t even check their inbox for weeks.

Jamie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joel: I know somebody that I live with doesn’t check her inbox for weeks, and she has like a thousand emails that she has to sort through when I send her one. But that’s my issue.

Nathan: Yeah. Do an experiment, and send her a text message. Even if her phone’s not right in front of her, and see how long it takes her to go get it. It seems like people just can’t resist. Even if their phone’s all the way across the room or something, and they hear the ding or whatever noise their phone makes whenever they get the text message, it’s sort of like a Pavlov’s response where they immediately get up and go get it, and see what it is. Because people are most used to text messages from people they know, and so you can’t really differentiate a lot of times between those texts and perhaps marketing texts. That’s why you have to be very careful with it.

Jamie: Yeah. You don’t want to go overboard.

Nathan: Right. It’s like anything else in marketing, you can use it to help reinforce your relationship or you can completely ruin your relationship with it.

Jamie: I’ve seen hotels kind of ruin… They can be very bad with the timing because it’s almost like they’ll send send you a text message to rate your stay almost right after you check in. It’s like, “All right, come on. I just checked in, and now you’re wanting me to rate my stay.” It’s like okay, you’re doing this all wrong.

Joel: Yeah. It would make more sense if they did it immediately after the system checks you out.

Jamie: Yeah. This happened in Vegas because we got there way too early because I didn’t book my flight right, and so we were their way before check-in time. They’re like, “All right, let me just text you whenever your room is ready.” We’re like, “Okay, great. We’ll just go to the buffet and hang out.” So we just started getting a barrage of text messages, and then it was like right after we were settled in, we got a text message saying something about wanting to rate the stay. It’s like, we just got here, you know? And then it was just a whole bunch of stuff. Of course, they’re sending you promotions and stuff to do in Vegas. It was just they went overboard. That’s how you just don’t do it right. But when they’re sending you-

Nathan: Some of those are transactional though. I’ve gotten four at a hotel where they’re like, “Your room’s ready,” or you know, stuff like that.

Jamie: Those are great.

Nathan: That’s okay, they can send more of those. But the constantly harassing you about, you know, go to this event, or do that, or rate us, or do whatever. I mean, that just gets them blocked as far as I’m concerned.

Jamie: Yeah, you do. You have to be careful. Like, a couple a month is good, and it depends on the business.

Nathan: Two to four a month I would say is… Four a month is max. That’s almost one a week. More than that, and it starts to get obnoxious. It depends on the campaign too.

Jamie: Yeah.

Joel: Right. I mean it really depends on the content that they’re sending. I mean, if it’s a restaurant that you go to, you know, once or twice a week at least, and they’re sending you deals-

Jamie: Yeah, those are good.

Joel: … you’re going to welcome them at least a couple of times a week. That’s not a problem because you were going to go there anyway.

Jamie: Yeah, those are the good ones, the ones that are incentivizing you to do something, giving you a deal, a coupon.

Nathan: Another thing that I recommend whenever we’re talking about text messaging campaigns is make the content exclusive. It’s kind of annoying when you get text message marketing, and then like two seconds later, you go and check your email, and it’s the same offer or the same explanation. It’s sort of like, you know, why do I need to be signed up for this text messaging thing when you’re just going to send me this in email too?

Jamie: That’s a good point.

Nathan: It should be something that’s kind of unique.

Jamie: That’s a good point. Yeah.

Joel: Yeah, but chances are you’re not checking your email nearly as fast as your text messages.

Jamie: So they’re doubling down, I get it. But it’s like, yeah, if you sign up for the text service, you want to feel like that’s a little bit unique and special.

Joel: Right.

Nathan: Yeah.

Joel: Well-

Jamie: Like I gave you my phone number, I want something cool.

Joel: Right, right. No, I totally get that. Now as far as like spamming though. I mean, in email, everybody’s familiar with what email spam is. But is texting considered… I mean, if somebody’s texting you like once a day, and they’re not useful, they’re more annoying than anything. I mean, I don’t know, can you block them? Can you block texts from them?

Jamie: Yeah, because you immediately have to opt in anyways.

Joel: Well, no, no. Correct, but I’m saying after you’ve already opt in.

Jamie: Yeah, usually they have that right at the end it says-

Joel: [inaudible 00:07:06].

Jamie: Text to… Yeah, stop to stop.

Nathan: You can also, it depends on your phone, but I know on my phone, if I get a text message from somebody and I don’t want to get them anymore, there’s an option in the text message screen where I can block future messages for that person. I don’t know if that means they’re gone, and I can’t ever even see them, or if that just blocks them from giving me the notification or whatever. But I know that you can do that.

Joel: Well, and that can get tricky because so many companies often use the same text number.

Nathan: Yeah, that’s the thing. It’s kind of-

Jamie: [crosstalk 00:07:41] The keyword or the short code?

Nathan: Yeah.

Joel: Short code.

Nathan: It’s expensive to get your own. That’s why they share.

Joel: Yeah. A lot of brands will share the number, but they don’t share the keyword.

Jamie: Oh, I see.

Joel: Yeah. So whenever it’s like, “Text marketing to 41978,” or whatever, that 41978 is shared by many different companies. But the key term marketing is not.

Jamie: The keyword is different.

Joel: Yeah. It would just be ours.

Jamie: Fortunately, I’ve never run into that problem where I’ve been getting spammed besides that one hotel incident. And then that kind of just went away.

Joel: Right, yeah. After the stay, it was done and everything. Yeah.

Jamie: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah.

Joel: But you know, it’s weird though because email spam, I mean I usually don’t even like report things as spam. I just delete it because usually it’s on my phone, and I just don’t want to take the time to do it. But text message marketing, or whenever I get texts from somebody… I’m trying to think of like a real example. Because sometimes I do get random text messages, and I’m always like, “Man, I wish I could stop it.” But I don’t have that easy option on my phone, or at least I haven’t found it or haven’t looked hard enough yet. So I just let it go.

Jamie: Yeah. Maybe it’s not that big of a problem yet. Someday maybe it will be.

Joel: Right.

Nathan: I mean, there is a law that governs all of this stuff, sort of like the CAN-SPAM Act, that says if you were to do this, if you were to spam someone, and you don’t have explicit permission to be text messaging them, there’s legal penalties for that. You could be fined, people can come after you for that. And I would say text messaging, they would probably come after you harder just because a lot of people still have the paid text messaging options on their phone. They’re not getting unlimited texts, and so you’re actually costing them money when you send them an unsolicited text.
I think they can really go after people for doing this. One of the things we always recommend is have your opt-in, opt-out list ready. If someone ever asks, we want to be able to go right to the list and say, “Here’s your name, you approved text messaging on such and such a date.” It’s always a good idea to have that and keep it up to date, and make sure you follow that. So when people ask you to stop, you stop. You don’t message people who haven’t opted in, that kind of thing.

Jamie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joel: What type of messaging is useful in a text message? I mean, obviously email is great for some things. Print is great for other things. Text message, it’s pretty lean. I mean, you can only have so many characters. It’s very short.

Jamie: Well, we talked about sending coupons and deals for products. I mean, another good thing would be upcoming products, things like that. I think every text needs to be like a call to action, you know, something like that. Maybe it’s an upcoming notification about your order, or like your prescription is filled. Just a notification, something simple like that.

Joel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nathan: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joel: Yeah, I get shipping updates from Amazon, which it feels like they’re in my text message inbox daily it seems like. But I find it useful because it texts me as soon as the delivery through UPS, or FedEx, or whoever it is delivering. As soon as they confirm that it was delivered, I get something. Now I can like go on my… You know, this isn’t me personally. I can go on my Ring doorbell, the video doorbell thing, and I can actually see it and make sure that it’s there. Or I could see like whenever they dropped it off, and then I kind of know.

Nathan: [inaudible 00:11:29].

Joel: What’s that, Nathan?

Nathan: I said yeah, that’s really handy to be able to verify that the package has actually been delivered.

Jamie: Yeah.

Joel: Right. It’s really good if you have those Ring video doorbells especially.

Jamie: Yeah, so like businesses that are dealing with physical products. Maybe it’s a sneak peek about an upcoming product, and you can get a discount on it.

Joel: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nathan: I think the key to the messaging is it’s got to be useful, sort of what you suggested before. If it feels frivolous, or it feels like the information is not from you, or useless or something, then that’s going to get people to drop off your list.

Jamie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Nathan: It’s got to be something that’s useful. I mean, even if a coupon, you know, not everybody’s going to use that. It still could be useful to someone. It just has to be useful information. It can’t be just random, “Hey, we wanted to interrupt your life to tell you about our product for a second.”

Jamie: Yeah. Nobody’s going to want that.

Nathan: Right.

Jamie: Yeah, because I signed up for text message alerts from our butcher, and every, it seems like, once a month I get one, and it’s always for a free half a pound of bacon. I’m like, “Sweet. Next time I go, I get a free half a pound of bacon.” I don’t get them very often, but whenever I do, it’s for free meat. Score.

Joel: Right. Yeah, so you’re going to take advantage of that.

Jamie: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Joel: Yeah.

Nathan: It also helps to sort of expand what you know about the people that are in your message groups, so that if you’ve got something specific. If you’re a vegetarian, you don’t want to be sending the meat coupons to the vegetarians, things like that. It’s good to sort of segment your marketing so that you know you’re getting people who really want the information.

Jamie: Yeah. Because you can track all of this just like you can track the emails.

Nathan: Right.

Jamie: Yeah, and you probably had a lot better-

Nathan: Track who responds to which campaigns. If they stop responding to your coupons, maybe try something different next time for that user.

Jamie: Yeah.

Joel: Right. Well, and I’d also say you have to create a sense of urgency. Like you said, the call to action. I mean, it has to be like right now, like go do something right now. Because otherwise, text messages, I mean you can get buried really quick. Some people they get, I don’t know, they probably get dozens of texts an hour, which is crazy.

Jamie: Well, I don’t.

Joel: I don’t either, but I’m also not like tied to my phone all the time.

Jamie: Well, the thing with text messages too, it’s kind of up to the customer to do what they want with it too. They don’t have to respond to it, it’s just kind of like no matter what it is, it’s still just kind of a notification. [crosstalk 00:00:14:14].

Nathan: Sometimes we allow them to adjust frequency, so if people are getting too many, we can text less or text more to the campaign to get more or less text messaging. We want them to be able to feel like they can control how much they’re getting, and we’re not just going to put the fire hose of text messages on them, and that’s their only choice.

Joel: Now, how long should these texts be? Really, text messaging, you have 160 character max, and then after 160, it goes to the next message. But whenever I see these come through, sometimes the back part of the message comes in before the front part. Because the way that it’s sent, it’s just sent as one long message, and then it’s up to the data, or the provider, to kind of filter which one’s supposed to be first.

Jamie: In that case, that’s when I would consider doing the MMS versus the SMS. That’s send a video or something versus a long message.

Nathan: Yeah, we try to keep it under so that it doesn’t break it up, so that you don’t run into that problem. We try to keep them under a certain length if and wherever possible.

Jamie: Yeah, because if you’re getting really long-

Nathan: If you have so much you have to explain that you need more than that, then maybe you need to consider an email marketing campaign or something instead.

Jamie: Yeah, or like I said, a video, or like what we do with the… What am I thinking of?

Nathan: Mobile moments?

Jamie: Yeah, the mobile moments, you know, something like that that’s visual.

Joel: Right. Yeah. Well, I mean I’m just trying to think, is there anything else on texting that you guys had notes on?

Nathan: I think we’ve covered pretty much everything. I mean, if you’re trying to get a text messaging campaign going on your own, just understand that you’ve got to have obviously a list, and they’ve all got to be opt-in, and you’ve got to allow people to opt-out. But you also have to have a provider. It’s not like some guy is sitting there on your staff text messaging all your individual users. You’ve got to use a service that allows you to send these things. Like SMS marketing tools that allow you to track these text messages. And then we like to use services that have multiple tie-ins. So if we do get longer messages, more details that we needed to include, then maybe we’ll roll that same person into an email campaign or something like that. But I think we’ve pretty much covered all of the basics. The big thing is don’t message people if you don’t have their consent, because that will get you into a lot of trouble.

Jamie: Right.

Joel: Right, which that’s pretty much across the board. With the exception of snail mail. I mean you can’t send email, you can’t send texts.

Nathan: Yeah. That’s about the only unsolicited thing you can do these days I think is the snail mail.

Jamie: Direct mail, yeah.

Joel: I only imagine that’s because the postal service really needs the cash.

Nathan: You’re right.

Joel: Yeah. I don’t ever see them being like, “No, we’re not going to accept free money basically.”

Jamie: They still get plenty of direct mail.

Joel: And the poor printing industry. We’ve got to support them with our junk mail.

Jamie: Yep. They’re still doing all right.

Joel: Yeah, they are. Yeah. The printing industry’s doing fine, but obviously it’s not the same as it used to be 20 plus years ago.

Jamie: Yeah. That could be a whole new topic we can talk about.

Joel: Yes. It’s on the list actually. It is on the list. It’s on the long list. All right, well, anybody got anything else?

Nathan: I think that’s it.

Joel: All right, cool. Well hey, we will be right back with this week’s Can’t Let It Go.