Home Advertising How to Create a Fun SMS Marketing Campaign That Provides Value

How to Create a Fun SMS Marketing Campaign That Provides Value

  • Short-message-service, or SMS, marketing can be a powerful way to engage customers.
  • Too many texts can be annoying, however, so be strategic about content and timing.
  • Consider segmenting customers so texts are more personal, as well as allowing replies.
  • This article is part of “Marketing for Small Business,” a series exploring the basics of marketing strategy for SBOs to earn new customers and grow their business.

When Ashley Vasquez started TBD Coffee Co. alongside her boyfriend, Zachary Dripps, in 2020, they spent much of the time selling their fresh-roasted coffee at local markets, enjoying the direct interactions with customers. To stay in contact with those customers, the Los Angeles company tried text-message marketing.

Over the past two years, short-messaging-service marketing has become an important aspect of their overall strategy, providing a touchpoint for customer engagement alongside other channels. 

“Maybe we’ll hit them with an email message on a Monday, and then we’ll follow up with a similar message via text on a Thursday, and then they’ll see it on our social on Saturday,” Vasquez told Insider.

Unfortunately, an aggressive text-message campaign can easily alienate customers. In a recent survey of consumers by Validity, 96% of respondents said they had become annoyed at least occasionally by marketing text messages, and 28% said they abandoned a brand because of them. 

When a company cracks the code, however, it can pay off. Over the past six months, TBD Coffee Co. saw a 2.5 times return on investment from its SMS campaigns, according to data verified by Insider. It uses a program called Emotive to send texts and measure results.

Insider talked to Vasquez and the marketing consultant Danielle Reid to understand what small-business owners should know about setting up a successful SMS marketing campaign.

Get phone numbers honestly and engage quickly

Reid said her biggest piece of advice was: “Do not buy a list of phone numbers and add them into your system.” She said this could lead to not only poor engagement but also legal trouble. 

Headshot of Danielle Reid, wearing a black top and a white pearl necklace.

Danielle Reid, a marketing consultant.

Britney Kelsey

Instead, use a discount or other lead magnet to get customers’ phone numbers, or ask them to sign up for text messages when they make a purchase. 

Once a customer gives you their phone number, text them quickly with a welcome message so they don’t forget they’ve opted in. 

Customers who opt in to SMS messages from TBD Coffee Co. get a string of four messages over three days: a discount code and a thank-you for supporting a small business; a fun introduction to Vasquez and Dripps’ dog (the “director of consumer affairs” at the company); an invitation to text back with questions; and a reminder about the discount code and when it expires.

Reid said it’s a good idea to regularly remind customers that they can opt out of SMS marketing if they no longer want you to contact them.

Offer something of value

Before she schedules any text message, Vasquez asks herself: Is this providing value? Do people want to read this? Is there something that they’re going to gain from this?

“The goal is not just to get eyeballs on the content — the goal is to drive conversions. If you’re annoying people, that’s not going to work,” she said.

About one in three consumers surveyed by Validity said they preferred to receive texts from brands only when there’s an important announcement. 

Still, an element of surprise can work in your favor. Seventy-seven percent of survey respondents said they learned of an interesting sale or promotion from a brand’s text message that they wouldn’t have known about otherwise.

Examples of valuable texts include special discount codes, sale reminders, custom-product recommendations, and reorder or cart-abandonment reminders. 

Reid suggested using text messages as an extension of a VIP program, such as a flash sale for your most engaged customers.

Infuse your texts with brand personality

Writing effective text messages involves understanding the language of your customers and speaking in your brand voice, Reid said. 

Vasquez said infusing messages with personality was how her company stood out from other brands.

“We think about it as if we are texting our friends,” she said. 

Texts from TBD Coffee Co. often come with cute photos of the co-owners’ dog, making it feel less like a sales flyer. A Fourth of July campaign, for example, included a photo of their dog wearing a festive shirt and a 15% discount code. The text got a 4.31% response rate and 6.72% click-through rate — an increase of about 2 percentage points and 1.4 percentage points, respectively, from typical figures.

Personalize messages

Segmenting customers can be another powerful way to send texts they’ll appreciate. 

“To lump everybody into one big bucket is just so much engagement and money left on the table,” Vasquez said. “It’s really important to understand exactly who you’re talking to and when they want to be talked to.”

For example, Vasquez asks customers which type of coffee they prefer and uses that information to target texts and recommendations. About one-quarter of customers who receive personalized messages respond, and 15% click the link, Vasquez said.

Reid said it’s a good idea to segment customers based on behavior and spending as well. For instance, if a customer abandons their cart while shopping on mobile, she encourages brands to set up an automatic trigger that will text them a reminder after an hour.

It’s also smart to treat customers who spend a lot with your brand each year differently from those who spend less, Reid said.

Let your customers text you back

Vasquez’s favorite thing about the SMS program she and her team use, she said, is that it allows customers to text them back, which helps customers feel like they’re connected to the brand and understand that there are humans behind the company.

To facilitate this without overwhelming her small team, Vasquez has automated responses for common questions, and multiple people on her team get notifications about texts so anyone can easily respond. 

“You can make a big splash and learn a ton with a really small investment,” she said of implementing a paid SMS program. “There are really low barriers to entry — it’s worth doing the free trials or sending a few text messages to see if it’s viable for your brand.”