So, You Want to Text Your Audience?

We’re kicking off a new three-part series on how to start leveraging SMS for brands that currently don’t text their customers. We’ll take a deep dive into how to get up and running (and make sure you don’t fall flat).

But first, let’s start small: you want to text your customers — now what? If you’re a brand with an outbound strategy using a call center, email, direct mail, or even interpretive dance, this blog is for you.

 

The Problem With Current Outbound Efforts

If any part of your sales/marketing process involves outbound efforts, you probably have seen a decline in engagement. Here’s why:

The Macro Trend

Everyone is busy.

Now, “busy” can mean burning through three seasons of Dexter, trying to burn off the extra calories from last night, or scrolling endlessly on Instagram. The point is, people have unlimited options to fill their time, which means they are going to fill it the way they want.

This is a stark contrast to a decade ago when getting mail, a phone call, or a knock at the door was considered an exciting event. These days, if someone knocks on your door (absent of a pending Uber Eats order), you are terrified. And this is because we, as consumers, demand engagement when WE want it, not when someone else does. This is why holding asynchronous conversations over SMS, over days and weeks, is so important. But we’ll get to that in a bit.

First let’s dig into the various outbound efforts.

 

Direct Mail

Getting your audience to transition from offline marketing to an online task (or even phone call) is an extra step that not many people want to take. Companies have had to employ creative (or even deceptive) tactics to get someone to acknowledge their direct mail piece as important enough to garnish even a modest response.

 

 

Email

Email has become oversaturated with competition, with best in-class ESP (email service provider) average open rates at around 21% (Mailchimp). It’s not unusual for people to have multiple email addresses to weed out the marketing emails they don’t want.

  • The average person receives about 121 emails per day (The Guardian)
  • Globally, 306.4 billion emails are sent and received each day in 2020 (Statista)
    • That number is expected to increase to more than 376.4 billion daily emails by 2025.

 

Outbound Calling

The Macro Trend Strikes Back. As of 2020, only 19% of Americans pick up calls from unknown numbers (Pew Research Center). This is down significantly from 2017 when 22% of unidentified calls were answered (NY Post). Again, people have things they’d rather be doing. It doesn’t matter if those people are your consumers or a family member.

Don’t believe us? Read our CEO’s blog about how he can barely get his mom to answer his calls these days here.

The “Silence Unknown Callers” function is becoming standard on more and more phones. Fewer people are answering than ever before, making it even harder to reach your audience.

 

Opening Up the Channel to “Agents”

There are many tools out there—some are industry specific—some even allow your team to do SMS. But it’s best to get a recommendation from your CRM company as they are often tangential to consumer engagement tools and may know a good tool for you to try.

While this is a great idea for SMBs handling a low volume of direct-to-consumer engagements, for enterprises there are potential issues that you should consider. Here are just a few:

  • Quality Assurance Issues
    • Making sure that people are saying what they should say when they should say it
  • Training
    • It’s difficult to make sure staff hold a party line when it comes to how to leverage SMS
  • Channel Management
    • Just like email, deliverability, creative and cadence are of the utmost importance
  • Compliance and Regulatory Issues
    • Just ask your compliance officers, there are too many pitfalls here to mention. (We’ll go through those in part three of this series.)

 

But getting into SMS doesn’t have to be complicated. And if you’re starting out, you can do it yourself pretty easily.

 

Getting Into SMS

Step One: What’s Your Goal?

The first thing you need to do to get into texting is to determine your goal. What do you want to get out of it? Consider the following questions:

  • Are you looking to simply notify your audience?
  • What do you want your audience to do? (Visit your website? Call you?)
  • What does your current outbound strategy look like? (And how can you connect it to SMS?)

The answers to these questions will determine how you can use SMS. For instance, if you’re looking to notify your audience, you might start with a simple, short code SMS strategy. If you want your audience to visit a website, you’ll want to make sure to incorporate a link in your message. And if you want them to call you, you might want to choose a long code SMS number that matches the number that’s texting your audience.

Obviously, SMS won’t entirely replace your current outbound strategy, but you’ll need to find a way to merge the two approaches so that SMS doesn’t feel completely foreign to your audience.

Once you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready for the second step.

 

Step Two: Start Small

You might be tempted to dive into the deep end with a complicated SMS strategy, but if you’re a brand that hasn’t done SMS before, start small. You don’t need to incorporate a fully developed SMS solution on your first day.

Try a simple confirmation text message that’s designed to prime your audience for your other outbound efforts. It adds awareness where awareness doesn’t otherwise exist, and it makes an impactful difference. For example:

“Hey Mike, its ACME Insurance, we will be calling you in just a moment…”

Something as simple as that could increase your contact rates by over 20%!

Once you’ve integrated an initial SMS program and worked out the kinks, then it’s time to take your messaging to the next level.

 

Step Three: Build Something Meaningful

In our next blog, we’ll talk about building out more engaging messages (and the benefits of humanizing them). See how minor adjustments like adding a name to your messages can make a world of difference.

Want the full story? Check back next week for more!