S is for SMS

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S is for SMS

As schools prepare for an exciting new academic year, it’s time school administrators added SMS messaging into their communication plan. SMS messaging is particularly effective in crisis situations, as it can provide parents and teachers with information even when the Internet is down. But SMS is also an effective channel for routine communications between teachers and students, schools and parents, and school staff and their administrators. 

Teachers and Students (and their Parents)

The average student is in fourth or fifth grade when they receive their first smartphone. Teachers have the opportunity to instill positive phone usage in their students, by encouraging their pupils to use SMS to keep up with schoolwork. 

To that end, teachers can send text messages to their students reminding them of upcoming tests, or alerting them that the book report they had been working on for the last month is finally due. 

Triggers can be set up to automatically text students who have missed a few days of school or habitually forget their homework, asking them how they are feeling or reminding them to do their work. 

For schools that have an online student portal, two-factor authentication can be used to maintain a student’s online privacy and protection. 

Schools and Parents

Over the course of a school year, administrators and parents require multiple touchpoints. They remind parents to attend school events like teacher conferences, plays, or basketball games. In colder climates, schools could use SMS to let parents know that there will be outdoor recess, and students need to dress warmly. 

The always-on nature of SMS makes it easier to alert parents when their child is sick or injured. While many working parents might not answer their phone during a business meeting or while on the job, most parents check text messages within minutes of its arrival.

Administrators and Staff

SMS is a highly effective tool for managing a large teaching and administrative staff. Sick teachers can text their supervisors that they will be out, while administrators can use the channel to find available substitutes. 

For schools that require teachers to participate in recess or lunch duty, SMS can also be used to communicate those schedules and help coordinate teacher’s participation in student activities. 

A Better Way to Share Information

SMS messages aren’t about to replace parent-teachers conferences, but it can create a more effective path of communication coming from the school. To find out more about how your school can create an SMS communication plan, contact our SMS team today.

Incorporating SMS into your Marketing Automation Program

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Incorporating SMS into your Marketing Automation Program

Marketing automation, like that done with tools from Constant Contact or HubSpot, sends out emails automatically based on a lead’s behavior. For example, if a known lead reads your blog about fly fishing, the system will automatically send out an email with a related offer for a fly fishing vacation. 

Essentially, the backend CRM system notes the lead’s activity, and triggers an email. Yet, analysis by Campaign Monitor, an email marketing provider, found that the average open rate for emails is just 17.92%. More than 80% of all emails sent to opt-in customers either sit unopened in the lead’s inbox or are deleted.

What many marketers and businesses owners don’t realize is that they could be developing the same marketing automation process using SMS messages instead of email. The CRM would recognize the activity by the known lead and trigger a text message with a related offer. 

The difference between SMS and email open rates is stunning. SMS boasts a 95% open rate. When you contrast the numbers, 19 out of 20 SMS recipients open text messages that they receive from brands, whereas only 4 out 20 email recipients see their email messages. 

So why aren’t more marketing managers creating marketing automation programs that run through their leads’ phones rather than their inboxes?

Comparing Email vs SMS Costs

There is a perception that SMS messages are expensive, and email messages are free. It’s certainly true that when SMS technology first came out, text messages were expensive. There were stories in the news of teenage girls racking up thousands of dollars in phone bills from their SMS usage, but the reality today is that the price of an SMS message in the United States and Canada is less than a penny, and between 2-5¢ throughout most of Europe (Try our online calculator for any country Messagewhiz.com > Resources > Calculator) without any type of set-up fee, subscription, or registration cost. 

Email, of course, is free, although the services you would use for marketing automation programs is not. If you’re using Constant Contact, you’re paying $20 a month for unlimited emails. For the same $20, you could send out 2,857 SMS messages to customers in the United States. 

Keeping Your CRM Updated

A CRM is located on a computer server. Email, even when it’s opened on a phone, is on a computer server as well. The offer you are sending will take recipients to a landing page, also located on a server. With all the marketing automation elements sitting on the same type of platform, it’s pretty easy to see how CRM could capture all the information it needs. 

SMS messages leave the familiar world of computer servers and moves to the telephone network to deliver the message. After clicking on a link in the message, the recipient is transferred back onto a computer server. Jumping back and forth between platforms may give marketing managers pause, as they worry that important interactions will not be captured by their CRM. 

However, today’s CRM systems are smart enough to track a customer journey that moves onto a phone network. The CRM can easily record that a SMS message was sent, capture whether or not the SMS was read, and see if recipients clicked on the link to the landing page. 

Creating the Message 

Email allows marketers to share newsletters made up of pictures, articles, and calls to action, while SMS is only capable of 160 characters, including links. Many marketers prefer the aesthetic of email over the utilitarian functionality of SMS. 

Interestingly, it is the subject – and not the design – that draws readers into an email. The same text that is luring users into reading an email can be utilized in a text message, with a link that opens up a perfectly designed and executed landing page. 

Incorporating SMS into Marketing Automation 

While there may be any number of preconceived biases leading marketers to choose email over SMS, the difference in open rates should be enough for marketers to test automated SMS marketing. 

Contact our SMS experts, and run some marketing automation tests with your leads. You’ll be impressed with your text’s performance. 

 

SMS Messaging and Your Landing Page

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SMS Messaging and Your Landing Page

For many SMS campaigns, where you are trying to entice your audience to buy or download something on a landing page, there are two tiers of success. The first occurs within the text message app, and it’s pretty straightforward. Simply look at the number or percentage of people who clicked on your link. If the number reaches your goals, part one of your campaign was a success. 

However, businesses aren’t looking for clicks on their messages. They want conversions on their landing pages. Success on the landing page is sales, downloaded assets, appointments made, or any number of different activities. Which means that true success of your SMS campaign very often relies on the quality of your landing page and the customer experience. 

Here are four tips to ensure that your landing pages contribute to the success of your marketing campaign.

Speed First

Before you think about your headlines or landing page content, think about your webhost and web developer. Users have enough patience to wait 2 seconds for your page to load. Once you reach the four second mark, 25% of your traffic has already abandoned you. 

You can increase speed with a faster host, or by reducing the number of HTTP requests your page needs to make. If you are targeting an international audience, talk to your webhost about content delivery networks (CDN), which use local servers to deliver content all around the world. 

You can test your website speed using a number of online tools, including pingdom.

Mobile First World 

In an SMS campaign, your web traffic is almost entirely coming through a mobile device. If you’re relying on a responsive web site that contains the same information as your desktop version, you’ve already lost much of your audience. Mobile visitors browse differently than those on desktops. A ringing phone, interesting text message, or notification that a treat is ready in Candy Crush could be all it takes to pull users off your site. 

Messaging needs to be adapted for a mobile audience. Shorter text blocks and videos are the types of content pieces mobile users prefer. If you want to convert on mobile, you have to cater to your mobile audience. 

Aligned Content

Businesses all over the world struggle with this one. If your message offers a lodge ski vacation in Colorado, don’t send your audience to your home page with a dozen different lodge ski vacations that you are offering. 

Instead, create a dedicated landing page where your audience can quickly and easily find the information you promised. Your headline should mirror the offer in the SMS message, and the clickable assets should be limited to things like download a brochure or book your reservation.  

Ditch the Form – Go with the Chatbot

Forms are hard to navigate on mobile. Even mobile-friendly forms require users to click in and out of fields. Often times users click next to go into the next field and they aren’t sure what information needs to be added into the new field.

Chatbots, on the other hand, use mobile-friendly tools like chat to retrieve the same information. A chatbot can ask for a name, contact information, and purpose for your visit. The chatbot can then direct users to download an asset, or direct them to the information they want. 

SMS Campaigns are Part of a Bigger Program

At MessageWhiz we’ve always understood that your SMS marketing campaigns fit within a bigger marketing program. Talk to our SMS experts, and find out how SMS messages can deliver the marketing results that you need. 

Does SMS Marketing Work?

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Does SMS Marketing Work?

Ensuring Your SMS Marketing Works

To the casual observer, SMS service providers seem very similar. For the most part, users go online, create an account, and connect a payment mechanism to their account. From there, they upload their phone list, and start sending out messages to their customers.

The customer is typically charged a set rate based on the number of messages sent and the location to where they are sending their messages. The system gives them a price, and when they click ‘Continue’, their credit card or PayPal account is charged, and their messages are sent out.

However, once they click send, the transaction is over between the service provider and the customer. The customer pays the same price regardless of how many messages don’t reach their intended target. The customer can see, through a number of different metrics in their Google analytics or dashboard, how successful they were, but the bottom line is that most SMS service providers don’t have any skin in the game, and don’t care whether or not your messaging efforts were successful.

Performance-Based Pricing

At MessageWhiz, we take a unique approach when we send out your text messages. While most SMS messaging providers base their pricing on the number of messages sent out, MessageWhiz stands behind its digital marketing tool, and offers an array of performance-based payment structures.

We empower our clients to tap into the power of SMS with risk-free and low-risk pricing models. The goals of our campaigns are as varied as the clients who undertake them, and payment is based on successful engagement, not the number of messages delivered. Our clients measure success by activated accounts, sales, downloads, link clicks, new subscribers, new customers, new leads or fraud reduction.

Think about it. Messages that aren’t read, don’t incur a charge. Messages that aren’t acted upon don’t incur a charge either. Depending on the payment model that you choose, you only pay for your successes.

Coming Full Circle

We asked in the title "if SMS marketing works". Truth be told, I couldn’t tell you if other SMS providers deliver results. But I can tell you that at MessageWhiz, our text message marketing team knows that if our clients don’t reach their goals, our company doesn’t get paid. And our company likes to get paid.

When text messages are strategic and deliver value to their recipients, they strike a chord. They get opened and acted upon. Links are clicked, software is installed, and customers engage. Like social media, SEO, PPC, and other measurable digital marketing tools, SMS consistently delivers results to our clients.

3 Ways to Implement Conversational Marketing on SMS

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3 Ways to Implement Conversational Marketing on SMS

There’s nothing new about using conversations to move a customer through the marketing funnel or buying cycle. It’s the original sales tool. But what has changed is the channel of those conversations. Over the last hundred years it has shifted from in person to face-to-face meetings to phone calls, and now, SMS.

Conversational marketing helps guide your customers toward a sale on their pace and terms. It makes it easy to gather information, qualify customers, and provide needed support. 

Filling Out Forms 

Mobile devices are less than ideal for filling out forms. The fields are small, and when users touch a field to type, the keyboard covers up half the screen. It’s easy for users to lose sight of the requested information as they move from one field to the next. 

Conversational marketing transforms the form-filling experience. Rather than trying to key information into a form, a chatbot on SMS can get the same information from the customer. Using a text-messaging application, that chatbot can conversationally ask for users’ names, email addresses, contact information, and whatever other information the form needs. It’s easier on users, who can provide the required information through a more comfortable SMS window. 

Businesses can easily add a button to their forms, giving customers the option to fill out a form online or via text message. 

Qualifying Customers

Implementing chat and one-to-one conversations with mobile visitors to your site simplifies site navigation and helps direct your customers to the information they need. By offering SMS chat and asking a few key questions, you can improve your user’s online experience. 

A law firm can ask its web traffic what kind of attorney they are looking for, while an advertising agency can ask questions about industry or budget. With those answers, the bot can direct individuals to the right place on the website.

Improve Customer Support

Customers calling support aren’t interested in waiting on the phone until the next available representative is available. They have a problem, and they’re looking for a solution. 

Fortunately, SMS can create a two-way conversation, where a customer engages a chatbot asking for support. Depending on the complexity of the issue, chatbots can either resolve the issue or pass the messaging on to a service technician to handle the problem. 

For example, a restaurant might have an SMS chatbot capable of handling reservations or answering basic questions about the menu. However, if a complicated question comes up about food allergies or handicap accessibility, the chatbot can pass the conversation over to a manager. The manager can quickly read through the conversation, saving the consumer the trouble of repeating everything, and provide the answers the customer needs. 

Adding Conversational Marketing to Your Marketing Mix

Adding conversational SMS tools to your marketing mix can help you engage with customers, and deliver a higher, faster level of customer service. Get in touch with our team of SMS marketers to see how you can integrate conversations into your marketing mix.  

Growing your Phone List

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Growing your Phone List

The best SMS marketing campaign ever imagined won’t deliver much of an impact if your phone list is too small. Let’s face it, all lists start out small. So how can you, as a restaurant owner, travel agent, or retailer build up a list that delivers the traffic you need to succeed?

Here are four ways our experts recommend so you can generate more names and numbers for your SMS campaigns.

Go Social

If you’ve got any social media presence, use those channels to cross-promote your SMS offers to your followers. Create Facebook posts, tweets, and LinkedIn posts where you promise something of value to any followers who text an opt-in keyword to you. 

The key here is offering something of value. It can be a discount code, special sale offer, or free side of fries with purchase. 

For your post, create an image showing the offer, alongside the number they need to text to receive the offer. The better the offer, the more shareable it will be, making it more likely to get attention from your audience. 

Run a Contest

Create a quick SMS contest, where entrants can win a prize by sending you an SMS, or by filling out a form and including a phone number. 

Be sure that the prize is relevant to your business. For example, if you’re a travel agent make sure that the prize relates to travel. If you give away an iPhone, you may get a really great response, but many of those people might not be interested in travel. However, if you offer a lightweight 4-piece luggage set, you’ll fill your list with individuals who are ready to fly and see the world. 

Email Your List

If you’ve already developed an email list, add some CTAs for your new phone list in your next newsletter. Present the service as a VIP SMS list, where your customers can get limited time offers and exclusive SMS offers if they sign up. 

There is real value in having your customers on both email and SMS lists. SMS messages are more likely to be read than emails, so by encouraging your customers to opt in to your phone list, you’ve increased the likelihood that they will see your messages. 

Check Out Time

For online customers, add a pop-up box or opt-in check box at checkout. If your customers valued the service they received from you, they’ll be happy to give you their number, and continue patronizing your store.

Brick-and-mortar stores can also collect numbers at the point-of-sale (POS). For those with advanced POS systems, they can ask consumers for their mobile number during check out. Stores with older POS systems can simply have a sign-up sheet, or a sign encouraging users to send an SMS for future store discounts. 

Successful Campaigns

Successful campaigns have a large audience and deliver value to customers. Contact our team of SMS experts to see how MessageWhiz can help your campaigns grow. 

Are Your Customers Happy?

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Are Your Customers Happy?

Your customer arrived on your site, browsed a few pages, and made a purchase. Sales are always a good thing, but as a business owner, you want to know more than simply a Google Analytics description of your customer’s browsing and buying habits. You want to know if that customer was satisfied, and whether or not their purchase will lead to more purchases in the future.

Customer satisfaction surveys are an underutilized measuring stick that not only builds affinity with customers, but also helps brands improve their user experience. Asking key questions can help you gauge the overall experience as seen through your customer’s eyes.

Using an online texting service to pose the survey means using a channel with a 98% open rate, and a response rate that is 8 times as effective as email.

6 Rules for Effective SMS Customer Satisfaction Surveys

Keep it short – Your customers are in the middle of their lives when your survey arrives. Be mindful of their time and limit your survey to 5 questions or fewer. Some surveys, like asking if a customer was satisfied with a recent purchase, can be completed with just a single question.

Be Targeted with Your Questions – If you want to understand if your customers were satisfied with their search results on the site, don’t ask if they were satisfied with their purchase. Limit your questions to the area you are focusing on.

Provide Options… - Limiting the response to Yes and No; True or False; or Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree, and Strongly Disagree makes it easy for your customers to quickly answer the questions with the type of answers you can easily categorize and react upon.

…But Leave Room for Free Text – Some customer comments provide fantastic feedback on their experience. By leaving a space for free text, you can pick up some great customer insights.

Avoid Questions with “And” – If you ask “The product descriptions were clear and the images were accurate – Yes or No,” you’ll never know if their answer refers to descriptions or images. Instead, you’ll want to turn that into two different questions.

Take Another Leap – If your survey is dynamic, direct satisfied customers to review sites like Google, Yelp or Facebook, and ask them to leave a review. Ask an open-ended question to unsatisfied customers to learn the reason for their disappointing experience.

Sending SMS Surveys

Before sending bulk text messaging surveys to your customers, it’s always best to ask them during the checkout process to opt in to agree to receive messages from you.. You’ll find that they are much more likely to participate in your survey if they know it’s coming.

Logistic Companies Can Use SMS Messages to Protect the Environment

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Logistic Companies Can Use SMS Messages to Protect the Environment

The logistics and delivery industries contribute to environmental decay by burning fuel, polluting the air, and emitting enough carbon dioxide to be a significant contributor to global warming. Effective use of text messaging services by logistics and delivery companies can reduce the environmental footprint produced by these companies.

Fewer Miles on the Road

Transporting and delivering packages poses a significant challenge to delivery companies. When customers aren’t home, delivery trucks need to return to the same address multiple times. All that extra mileage increases delivery costs while adding to the strain on the environment.

Two-way text messaging between delivery companies and package recipients can ensure that the recipient is home the first time or provide an alternate address for the package to be delivered. Delivery companies can even create triggers that give a 15-minute SMS “heads up” before the truck arrives.

Improved Operational Efficiency

Supply chain delays cause havoc to logistic companies. A minor mishap at a port can cause delays to delivery trucks, warehouses, distribution centers. Those delays leave trucks idling, and warehouses running extended hours.

An effective SMS text service can notify drivers and warehouse workers when things are running behind, allowing them to find more efficient and environmentally-friendly ways to deal with the changes in their pick-up and drop-off schedules.

Staying Out of Traffic

Poor routing increases the amount of time delivery trucks stay on the road, which contributes to environmental damage. However, even perfectly plotted routes are impacted by unexpected traffic events.  

Effective 2-way SMS communication between the dispatcher and driver can help the driver find better routes on the fly and reduce the amount of time spent idling on the road.

Better Logistics

Using SMS tools allows logistics companies to improve efficiency while reducing the strain they put on the environment. Talk to our helpful professionals to learn more ways text messages can help improve the way you do business.

 

 

 

5 essential strategies for successful business SMS campaigns

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5 essential strategies for successful business SMS campaigns

Not all SMS marketing messages are created equally. Some brands consistently get better response rates, click-throughs, and opens. It’s not just about content. You might think sports teams and entertainment messages would easily outperform retail hardware stores, but that’s not necessarily the case. The most successful SMS marketers understand the medium and use that knowledge to drive results.

Follow these guidelines written by our top business SMS service experts, and give your text message marketing efforts the best chance for success.

Business SMS Tactic #1 Opt-in Audience

Text messages are not the place to raise awareness with unknown audiences. Sending unsolicited messages to a purchased phone list is a sure way to trigger complaints, generate bad will among your recipients, and reduce your credibility in the market.

Opt-in audiences, on the other hand, are already primed to receive your messages and offers. Generating opt-in phone lists might be easier than you think. Create text-to-win offers, host text contests, or ask for phone numbers at exhibitions and events. With every message, make sure your recipients have an easy way to opt out of your phone list.

Business SMS Tactic #2 Say Who You Are

When members of your list receive your messages, you want them to know that it’s your business that is sending the message. When possible (sometimes government regulations prevent it), always include your business name as the sender. That way, your brand name will appear in your recipients’ massaging application.

Some countries require registration to do this. In those locations, make sure to include your brand name in the first words of the message. That way, customers can easily see who is contacting them, and more often than not your brand name will appear on the notification for your message.

Business SMS Tactic #3 Branded Short URLs

Short URLs use fewer characters than regular website URL. Bit.ly, a well-known link compressor, can convert a link with hundreds of characters into about 12 characters. This is important when dealing with character limits in an SMS.

However, marketers who are looking to get more out of their text messages should consider branded short URLs. While in short form like a bit.ly, these URLs can begin with your brand name. Research has shown that branded links receive up to 39% more clicks than the generic short links. 

Business SMS Tactic #4 Personalized Messages

When brands personalize messages to individuals, it helps forge a stronger connection between the brand and recipient. The messages are more relevant, and the customer feels like the brand is more of a colleague than a business.

Personalization can take different forms. In some instances, it uses the recipient’s name, while for others the offer is customized based on the buyer’s history with the brand. Either way, this technique tends to increase conversion and response rates.

Business SMS Tactic #5 Trackable UTMs

UTMs are a method Google Analytics utilizes to track web traffic. While your bulk text agency should be able to tell you how many people clicked on your link, the UTM can tell you what happened once those people arrived at your site.

UTMs can tell you how long people stayed on site, the pages they viewed, and whether or not they ordered a product or downloaded a white paper. UTMs are instrumental in A/B testing, allowing marketers to see not only which message brought the most traffic, but whether there was a difference in the quality of traffic that came through.

Talk to our smart message  SMS experts to ensure your SMS campaigns deliver the customers and conversions your business is targeting.

Avoiding Carrier Filters in SMS Marketing

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Avoiding Carrier Filters in SMS Marketing

We recently received the following message through our ‘Contact our Experts’ form.

“We have been using a different service for SMS marketing, and a lot of our messages are getting blocked by filters. Can you guys get us passed the carrier filters?”

Fortunately, this is something we see every day, and have a team in place to guide our customers through the tricky landscape of carrier filters.

What are carrier filters?

Mobile subscribers who receive an overload of spam SMS messages often feel that their only option is to find a new carrier. Rather than allow subscribers to churn, carriers like AT&T, Vodafone, and Orange choose to block out spam SMS messages. To do so, they set up filters blocking certain messages from getting through.

These filters range from keywords that prevent messages from getting through, to complex, machine-learning filters that shield customers in real-time from being overwhelmed by unwanted messages. Often times filters are activated by customer complaints, causing future messages emanating from that number to filtered out. Filters can also block high-volume senders, even if the message is innocuous.

Carriers protect their filters as a closely guarded secret, to prevent spammers from learning how to sidestep these consumer protections. There is no way to know with certainty if a message will get through. Unfortunately, unlike email where a recipient can “whitelist” a specific sender, carrier filters don’t take user preferences into account while blocking a message from getting through.

Best Practices to Avoid Filters

There are two primary reasons why messages get blocked: spammy content and high volume sending. Here are some of the tools and tricks we recommend you use to help your messages arrive at their destination.

Require Opt-In

When SMS recipients opt in, it is much less likely that they will complain when they receive your texts.

Offer Opt-Out

When recipients have a way to stop receiving your messages, they tend to opt out rather than file complaints against you.

The Message Itself

Sending a message to customers should provide a good customer experience. The message should not be too long and should contain information that is immediately useful. Messages that encourage recipients to respond are very effective, as they demonstrate value that you are delivering to the customer.

Do Not Include…

Overly capitalized SMS messages look like spam, while aggressive language often leads to complaints. Avoid overly long messages, and cut down on hyperbole like 100% guaranteed, completely FREE, or no charge. These tend to be filtered.

Use Short Codes

Short codes are 5-6 digit telephone numbers that are used to send out SMS messages. These numbers are pre-approved by carriers for high-volume SMSing, and can be used for marketing and promotions, alerts and notifications. These are ideal for businesses that need to send out high-number of messages over a short time period.

One Last Thought

There are no guaranteed ways to completely avoid filters. However, to help protect our customer’s SMS marketing budget, MessageWhiz offers a risk-free revenue share pricing model, where you only pay  when you’ve achieved your desired campaign results. That way, you won’t pay to send out messages that carriers filtered out.

Talk to our experts to find out how the MessageWhiz text messaging service for business can help you get your messages into your customers’ hands.