Ask an Expert: How to grow sales and business with SMS marketing

While emails remain the mainstay for most sales and marketing teams, the open rate of SMS is nearly five times that of email, and its response rate is seven and a half times higher. What does that mean for businesses? We asked Mark Pratt, Head of Marketing at ClickSend, to share his advice. Take a look.

1. Let's start with the number one priority for sales and marketing teams: sales-ready leads and lead generation. Tell us how SMS marketing can help achieve these goals.

What really makes SMS a remarkable marketing channel is just how effective and efficient it is. SMS constantly has open rates as high as 98%, and 90% of messages are read within the first 3 minutes. So it’s direct, it’s immediate, your messages are getting consumed, and it’s very cost-efficient. The kind of things any sales and marketing team worth their salt loves to hear!

The two main ways companies use SMS to grow sales and business are transactional SMSs (alerts and reminders) and marketing SMSs (promotions and offers). The hotel industry, in particular, leverages both types very well. You’ll see them send transactional SMSs such as booking confirmations and reservation reminders once a room is booked. This is followed by a marketing SMS once the person has checked in to promote, say, an offer at the in-house restaurant. Then, after check-out a follow up Thank You SMS and then special seasonal offers promoted throughout the year, to generate repeat purchases. It’s full lifecycle marketing using SMS.

2. Share some brilliant SMS marketing ideas you’ve seen businesses use. 

Generally, the best SMS marketing ideas are part of an integrated campaign, and there have been some good ones where SMS has been the hero. Years ago, an American fast-food chain ran a great campaign where customers were encouraged to text a word to a shortcode number to get a free frozen drink product with any food purchase. Awareness of the campaign was driven by traditional media. They gained 13,000 SMS subscribers in five weeks and sent more than whopping 29,500 SMS coupons!

There have also been some good geofencing SMS marketing campaigns done by retailers. When physically entering a defined geographical area where there is a store nearby, the customer or prospect receives an SMS with an offer exclusive to that store to drive in-store traffic.

Once we had an energy retailer client that had the ongoing challenge of managing and reducing late payment and overdue balances owed. They had historically chased people with a combination of email and letters and decided to try SMS. They implemented a thoughtful, well-planned program of three SMS messages, and within less than a year they were able to reduce the total balance of past due accounts by 45%. Many reputable financial institutions are using SMS in this way, using so-called nudge strategies, to spark a desirable action.

3. What do you believe is needed to achieve results with SMS campaigns?

Knowing your database is necessary, especially if sending marketing SMSs, as the customers have to have opted in to receive your communications. The best way to achieve this is to have SMS integrated into your CRM or marketing automation software. Do all your campaigns through your CRM software to bring your communication and client data together under one roof. This saves a ton of time compared to using software platforms individually, let alone the messiness of data silos.

It’s also a no-brainer to have SMS integrated into your CRM for transactional reminders and notifications. These can be completely automated so an event in the CRM instantly triggers an SMS, which is a super-efficient way of keeping customers informed and up to date.

A good SMS marketing tool—besides having a good interface that allows you to get creative with the use of images, emojis, short URLs, and dynamic fields—should provide high deliverability by using Tier 1 direct routes and have a very high uptime SLA guarantee. You need to have confidence your messages are being delivered on time, every time. Oh, and an Open API of course!

4. Tell us about the ClickSend integration for Zoho CRM. 

Integration is a huge part of what we do at ClickSend. It's of strategic importance to the business. We integrate with thousands of other software solutions, often via third-party platforms, but we’re at our happiest when it’s a direct integration like what we have with Zoho CRM.

ClickSend’s direct integration with Zoho CRM creates a super-efficient communication channel between Zoho CRM and your customers. We provide a bi-directional text messaging service that allows users to send and receive SMSs from Zoho CRM leads and contacts without logging in to our platform. Meaning you can easily engage your customers via a world-class SMS gateway from within your Zoho CRM account. Users can send custom SMS messages to individual customers or bulk SMS to up to 20 customers at a time.

5. What differentiates the ClickSend extension for Zoho CRM from other SMS marketing tools? 

Our passion for message delivery. We’re sticklers for using direct routes through Tier 1 carriers that have large coverage areas and large footprints, with a lot of infrastructure. You’re never going to achieve desired results from your SMS campaigns if your messages aren’t being delivered.

Functionally, ClickSend integration with Zoho CRM allows you to do lots of cool things like seamless two-way SMS conversations with customers. This is very handy when carrying out feedback surveys, as it allows you to respond in real-time to any poor feedback. You can also set up automated responses that trigger based on the keywords you set. ClickSend also allows you to get extra creative with your SMS marketing campaigns. You can add richer media via MMS and add emojis to any message.

6. What are some SMS marketing pitfalls to avoid and best practices to follow?

Here are four good tips to follow while planning any SMS campaign:

1. Set an objective. This might be to capture data, or to increase bookings or reservations, or anything that makes sense for your business. Set the objective. Track it. Learn from it.

2. Know your database. Not only does it help you send relevant messages, but it also helps you avoid spamming people—and the best way to do it is to have SMS integrated into your CRM.

3. Keep messages clear and concise; get to the point. You have 160 characters to promote your offer and drive your desired action, and people have very short attention spans.

4. Timing is everything. Not only do people not want to get messages in the middle of the night, but they can’t take action if they are asleep.

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