SMS marketing can be a deeply polarising topic in a regional market that relies heavily on the medium.
On one hand, SMS Marketing can be a very powerful tool for marketers to successfully reach very targeted audiences. It’s the ability to send out simple messages for 8 to 10 fils a unit makes it a powerful and cost effective tool.1
On the flip side, unstructured campaigns can become an exercise in spamming customers at all hours, leading to dissatisfaction and outright rage. Irrelevant SMS marketing campaigns can actually do more harm than good to brand equity. Users often express frustration at receiving entirely unsolicited messages that aren’t relevant to them – and often at odd hours of the night. Put simply, SMS spam lowers brand equity and annoys your audience.
The fault lies not with SMS marketing per se, but how organisations use it. When used carefully, SMSes are a powerful channel to drive conversions around particular events or offerings.
The facts are hard to ignore. Consider that some 8.6 trillion text messages are sent every year all over the world. In the US market alone, there are 6 billion texts sent every day.2 That’s around 20 times the Tweets sent daily, and around 12 times the number of Facebook messages every day. These are not only huge numbers but also a great opportunity for brands to use it to their advantage.
Xpress Money uses SMS marketing to excellent effect – by ensuring that careful planning and targeting goes into each campaign. Our messages are simple and straightforward to encourage top of mind recall. We also time them to coincide with a specific opportunity, promotion, festival or other events that we believe will be very relevant to our customers. At Xpress Money, we take this a step further by personalising our messages to help build an emotional connect with our customers.
SMS marketing isn’t a panacea. It can’t be the only pillar of a marketing communication strategy. But it does offer an additional channel within an integrated approach. SMSes are particularly useful at the last stage of a marketing campaign – in driving conversions towards a particular action.
When used carefully, SMS marketing can also generate very favourable ROI – calculated by subtracting total revenue generated from the cost of running the SMS campaign and divided by the campaign cost. At Xpress Money, we’ve used targeted messaging on several occasions, including Ramadan and Eid, to run specific promotions. We’ve garnered high ROI and excellent conversion rates.
Speed is an important advantage that SMSes bring to the table. Unlike print ads or radio spots, SMS campaigns can be readied and broadcast quite quickly. The text is also easier to create than the elaborate creative work needed for other channels. And with texts only requiring around seven seconds to go from sender to receiver, the response to your campaign can be seen immediately.
Perhaps the biggest advantage of SMS campaigns is its ability to segment the customer base and tailor the communication accordingly.Good campaigns target based on time, location, demographics, interests and other consumer data. Technologically, linking SMS campaigns to integrated CRM systems can help brands drill down further into customer preferences and allow them to personalise and target even better.
Another important point is penetration. While not everyone reads print magazines and newspapers, just about everyone has a mobile phone. SMSes don’t even require a smartphone, which means they can theoretically reach almost 100% of the region’s audience – from blue-collar workers to business magnates.
SMS marketing strategies can be designed to be very measurable and quantifiable. Texts can contain a call to action followed by a link that drives customers to a landing page. This helps brands track clicks, quantify CPE (Cost Per Engagement) and CPC (Cost Per Click), and gain insight into ROI. Campaigns can be compared against each other, and against other marketing channels, to help optimise budgets.
We’ve established that SMS marketing is a very powerful tool in a marketer’s arsenal. But for an SMS marketing campaign to succeed, it needs to follow some crucial guidelines. First, it needs to be contextual and clear. Customers need to know why they’re being targeted. They should be able to draw a direct line between receiving messages and volunteering their phone numbers to get promotions sent directly to their phones. The offers sent should add genuine value.
The quest for transparency and ethical SMS marketing starts early. Whenever possible, brands should invest in assembling high-quality databases that are updated regularly. They should be able to query these databases based on preferences, geographies and demographics. The key is to avoid unnecessary spillage. Not only does weak targeting drive down campaign success but it can also actively work against a brand by annoying customers. Remember that it is our responsibility as marketers to design specifically targeted SMS campaigns instead of weakly targeted broadcasts. If customers don’t see value in the texts you send, they now have the ability to block the sender.
Messages also need to be timed effectively, and be time-bound. The two ideas sound similar but are quite different in practice. Effectively timed messages are positioned at a time of day when they will be read straight away. They are also constructed in a way that gets people to read them. It’s interesting that while the opening rate for email shots increases gradually for around 24 hours after hitting send, SMS open rates start declining quite precipitously after the first hour.3 Sending at the right time, and getting those messages opened quickly, is key.
Time-bound messages are those that are only relevant for a specific timeframe. The most effective SMS campaigns galvanise people into action by informing them of time-bound events – such as an offer that’s only running for three days, or a campaign that’s only around for the month of Ramadan, for instance. Making time a key factor in a campaign can amplify response rates considerably. SMSes that don’t prompt a rapid response on the part of the consumer, start losing their efficacy quite quickly. If users haven’t taken action within a few days of receiving an SMS, chances are they might never.
And finally, SMS campaigns should delight or at the very least interest consumers by offering them benefits. If brands can create genuinely beneficial offers that customers would want to hear about, and then use SMSes as one of the many ways of telling customers about them, they’ll find audiences to be far more responsive. The goal is to elevate your SMSes from mere annoyance to indispensable bulletins of pertinent information. Trust is key. Customers are more likely to open SMSes from brands that only use them for important information that is likely to benefit consumers.
Written by – Ashwin Gedam, Vice President – Global Marketing, Xpress Money (The article was originally published on gulfmarketingreview.com.