How much time do you spend on interacting with your smartphone on a given day? Most phones give you an option to track this time, but do you really want to know the answer?
We’re afraid to find out, too …
Although ignorance may be bliss on a personal level, marketers should be aware of the overall smartphone usage trends. A Provision Living survey pegged average daily usage for Americans at a whopping 5.4 hours a day. Considering a person is awake only 16 hours (yes, we realize that assuming eight hours of sleep is generous), that means a third of someone’s typical day is spent engaged with a smartphone.
Our devotion to our phones means that businesses must market toward this channel that people are spending so much time on. Consumers are becoming better at resisting cold callers and telemarketing (and their phones are helping them block such numbers), but opt-in SMS marketing continues to show great potential. Here’s a look at how direct SMS marketing engages leads and customers, and which industries are poised to take full advantage of this strategy.
A quick FYI on SMS
The first text message was sent in 1992, and though about a decade passed before it ingrained itself in the culture (think about how integral text messaging was to the plot of the Academy Award-winning movie The Departed), smartphones really changed the medium forever. Suddenly, people were always on their phones, yet they were communicating without making actual telephone calls.
Marketing via text messaging inevitably followed — and for the most part, consumers don’t mind receiving texts from a business, as long as they opt in. Consider:
- Open rates for SMS marketing have been consistently reported to be as high as 98% over the past several years.
- SMS engagement is 6-8 times greater than email engagement, according to Cellit.
- SMS marketing grew 197% between 2015 and 2017, according to Salesforce.
Moreover, attribution reporting for SMS marketing is more advanced than ever. Integrated with the right tools, messages can be sent and received via the same phone numbers set up for call tracking. The data produced from SMS is strong, thus helping you measure what’s working and not working, as well as informing marketing strategy.
Great industries for SMS marketing
Just about any consumer-focused industry can use SMS marketing to expand its reach, turn leads into customers, and keep those customers coming back for repeat business. The industries we highlight here are particularly suitable for SMS marketing — or are already using text messages to connect with prospects, customers, and clients.
Real estate agents were among the earliest professionals to take advantage of SMS marketing. A property listing offers so much more information than can be seen on the outside by a passerby; a text message can deliver that information to people who want it. And once leads opt in, real estate agents can send them messages about a wide range of news.
Some examples of real estate SMS marketing include:
- Just listed: three-bedroom ranch with new garage at 1234 Main St.
- This open house must be seen to be believed! 1234 Main St., Sunday, 1-3 p.m.
- Park Heights has been named by Local Magazine as the hottest neighborhood in the city! If you’re thinking of selling, now is the perfect time!
- Join us for a free seminar: Home Buying 101. Monday, at the Park Heights Library, 7 p.m.
The last example is especially strategic because information is delivered that would otherwise be on the agent’s website … which a lead may not otherwise be visiting. The prospect has agreed to a relationship by opting in; you make the relationship worthwhile by directly communicating right back.
Real estate investors also can benefit from SMS marketing. When you’re finally ready to put a property on the market, you need a way to advertise it quickly and directly — and text messages can deliver the agility for REIs to maximize ROI.
Real estate SMS reaches another level in combination with call tracking. Leads may see phone or SMS numbers on a lawn sign, a business card, a flyer, or direct mail; call tracking tells you if they are texting those numbers and reveals which channels are working best with one another and on their own.
Text messaging brings obvious benefits for law firms: Information, updates, appointment reminders, and calls to action (say, for the client to sign a document) can be delivered through people’s smartphones, thus saving time — particularly when time is of the essence — and resources while keeping costs down for lawyers and clients.
SMS also carries some marketing potential, giving firms a means to immediately follow up with prospects, share important legal news, or offer helpful tips.
Examples of messages law firms may send include:
- We have news about your case; call us to find out more.
- Estate planning is more than just having a will; call us to learn why this is so important.
- Just confirming your appointment Nov. 6 at 10 a.m.; reply to confirm, or call to reschedule.
Auto dealers, repair shops, car washes, and other vehicle-related businesses are perfect for SMS marketing. Text messages can remind customers of scheduled maintenance (and let them schedule appointments), deliver coupons, and let car owners know that their vehicle is ready.
Dealers can also take advantage of SMS by alerting leads to sales and special promotions — which, in today’s marketing environment, can more effectively reach people than “traditional” channels such as radio, TV, and print advertising, and even the dealer’s own website.
Examples of automotive SMS marketing include:
- All through March: 2.9% financing on all 2020 pickup trucks!
- Get your winter tires put on in time for the next snowstorm.
- Oil change special: $29.95 for the royal treatment.
- You’re looking to buy a used minivan — we just got a 2018 Odyssey with low miles that might be perfect for your family!
Medical practices, hospitals, pharmacies, dentists, insurance companies, and other health care organizations are increasingly connecting with patients and customers via SMS. Obviously, texts are great at notifying people of health and prescription updates as well as sending appointment reminders, but the marketing potential shouldn’t be overlooked.
- Six months have passed, and your friendly neighborhood dentist wants to see your smile again!
- Flu season has arrived, and our office is planning a flu shot clinic Saturday, Nov. 10, 1-5 p.m.
- Do you have questions about open enrollment? Visit our website, or call us to talk with our customer service specialists.
- Fall special: two pairs of glasses for the price of one.
Perhaps the greatest benefit of SMS for health care organizations might be its immediacy. When customers are experiencing a medical concern, waiting for answers can be stressful. Text messaging delivers the information people seek, thus building trust that their concerns are being taken seriously.
Because consumers are so careful with their money, SMS marketing from financial services must be approached thoughtfully. Messages shouting, “Invest with us!” may be viewed suspiciously. SMS in this industry works best when it keeps customers informed about their money or reservedly markets services that can improve their financial situation.
Typical examples of SMS marketing for banks, credit unions, lenders, and other financial services include:
- Your checking account is reaching the low balance alert you’ve set. Reply to learn more about overdraft protection.
- Tax season is here! Don’t wait until it’s too late — call us today and find out how we can get you the most on your return.
- Your mortgage payment is due March 1.
- Interest rates have fallen again! Refinancing your home can save you hundreds of dollars a month.
The possibilities for industries that can benefit from SMS marketing are practically endless:
- Travel: Five days in Cancun, plus airfare, now just $495 per person!
- Restaurants: Exclusive for Burrito Club members: free chips and salsa with any purchase.
- Software and technology: Today’s tech special: 64 GB SD card for just $7.
- Retail: Hurry: Your 20% off coupon on any pair of shoes expires soon!
- Home services: It’s spring — time to get your lawn aerated.
- Pets: Fido is resting comfortably after his teeth cleaning; you can pick him up anytime after 4 p.m.
- Grocery: Sweet deal of the day: a dozen donuts for $1.99.
Agencies can work with clients for even more creative applications of SMS. The key is making text messages worthwhile for the recipient, ensuring they’ll not only be read, but also appreciated and engaged with.
SMS isn’t intended to be the only marketing strategy in your arsenal, but rather, it’s another tool that can be used to deliver the widest reach and best ROI for your clients. Whether you’re announcing new promotions, touting an event, offering useful tips and advice, or simply helping the text recipient confirm an appointment, SMS puts your messages at people’s fingertips, just a swipe or two away from their engagement.
Just as impressively, SMS marketing is measurable. You know who’s seeing which texts, whether they are replying or calling in, and what other touchpoints they are engaging with along the way to becoming customers. That intelligence drives strategy and allows you to create an even more refined SMS game plan tailored to the individual lead. And when you’re connecting at that granular a level, success and increased ROI are destined to follow.