With open rates for email marketing at all-time lows, social media platforms like Facebook increasing advertising costs, influencer marketing failing to deliver on its initial hype, and more, it's become clear that entrepreneurs everywhere should be on the lookout for new marketing opportunities.
With nearly all adult Americans (95 percent) now owning a mobile phone, it makes sense why one of these fresh opportunities is SMS, or text message, marketing--which has been gaining momentum and marketers' attention in recent years.
To discuss why SMS is on such an upward trajectory, where most companies go wrong with the medium, and what to do instead, I sat down with Aaron Christopher "A.C." Evans, CEO and co-founder of Drips.com. Based in Akron, Ohio, Drips is one of the nation's fastest-growing SMS marketing platforms.
As a young, bootstrapped startup, Drips has gone from reaching profitability in its very first year to a few million dollars in revenue in 2017 to breaking eight figures in 2018. It expects to more than double again in 2019-- highlighting how rapidly brands are catching on to the power of SMS marketing.
Why SMS marketing?
1. Higher open rates.
While the average open rates of emails currently hover around 25 percent, open rates for text messages sit at a whopping 93 percent. We're all glued to our phones all hours of the day, so it's only fitting we check the messages coming through, giving entrepreneurs the rare opportunity to have nearly guaranteed customer attention.
2. The effects of unlimited content, on-demand.
So, what caused this shift in consumer behavior? What caused us all to start leaving emails unread and unknown calls unanswered?
Evans believes there are two main reasons for the change:
The first is the prevalence of spam calling and robo-dialing. Today, we as consumers are much less likely to answer calls from unknown contacts. The second reason is we now -- thanks to smartphones -- have unlimited content, services, and activities, on-demand. We have the ability to avoid every dull moment we experience during the day.
Consumer access to an endless supply of content gives us more choices than ever before in terms of how we spend our time . This has email marketers and call centers pay the price with plummeting success rates as a result. We are busy doing what we want to do, not what marketers want us to do.
What Most Brands Get Wrong With SMS
By its very nature, texting is conversational. Yet, this isn't how most brands are using SMS. Instead, they're approaching text messages the same way they do email -- sending out monologues to customers as opposed to encouraging them to engage in dialogue. They're thinking of SMS as a push mechanism rather than a conversational tool.
While this may do the trick in certain circumstances, such as getting alerts when your favorite coffee shop has discounts on green tea and bagels, in most cases this approach doesn't fully capitalize on the customer attention SMS gives to its users.
What to Do Instead
1. Humanize your messaging.
The high open rates of text messages set the stage to let your creativity shine. Yet, as anyone who's ever signed up for SMS alerts knows, the majority tend to be robotic and formulaic. To stand out, add some personality to your text messages.
Doing so won't just be a "nice to have," either. According to Evans, as he and his co-founder were putting together the first iteration of what would later become Drips, by simply changing the tone of the copy from serious and mechanical to conversational and accommodating, conversions increased from 10 percent to over 15 percent almost overnight. After a few more iterations toward what Evans calls humanized "conversational texting," they were well over 40 percent conversion. A 400 percent increase.
2. Try out third-party tools.
An obvious next step would be to try out third-party tools to help automate your SMS marketing campaigns. For enterprise companies and volume players, Drips is certainly a terrific option. If you're a small shop with lower volume or in the early stages of development as a company, you can look into tools like Textedly to get started.
3. Give your call agents free rein.
If you already have agents on staff for a call center, encourage them to begin meeting customers where they're at by integrating humanized, conversational text messaging into their dialing and answering services. Then, measure whether or not this has a direct impact on your conversion rates .
With proven, well-worn tactics now becoming largely ineffective, the ebbs and flows of the marketing world are on full display. This presents a big opportunity for newer tactics, like SMS marketing, getting a chance to shine.
In the coming year, give text message marketing an honest try using the tips laid out in this article. It just might be the best choice you make in your marketing efforts this year.