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From annoying to appreciated: How to send messages your customers actually want.

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Tips, tricks & hacks 8 min read | Sinch Messagemedia wrote in blog on March 4, 2024

In seconds, your sale, coupon code or product update can be sent directly to a customer’s phone — the device we carry nearly 24/7 and check dozens of times a day. And 50% of the consumers we surveyed told us SMS gets their attention the most.*

Pretty sweet for your business, right?

But this ease of communication has a downside. When something is so easy to access and instantly rewarding, we can tend to overdo it (ever eat just one potato chip?). We might forget to think about the person on the other end of the phone. We might even start becoming a little bit… we hate to say it… annoying.

Are they into all these messages, or are you coming on too strong?

Whether you call it business SMS etiquette or simply “how to not be a pain in the you-know-what,” we’ll teach you exactly how to plan your SMS strategy so customers will actually look forward to your texts.

The problem with SMS for business: Too much noise.

If you’re worried about being annoying, we’ve got good(ish) news. It’s not all in your head.

A report from data company Validity found that a whopping 96% of survey respondents have felt annoyed by marketing text messages at least once. And according to a recent VOX article, 70% of spam messages reported via the spam blocker Robokiller were marketing messages sent by brands.

Think about your personal email account:

  • When you first started using it, it was fun to get updates about your friends’ last blind date, your mom’s pumpkin pie recipe, a funny list of wacky state laws, and a couple of emails from brands you knew and loved.
  • But as time went on, the other categories of emails dried up and you were left with nearly only marketing emails, many of which were from companies you’ve never even heard of. It made you want to stop checking your inbox.

Business SMS has been veering down the same road: As more and more messages are perceived as spam, customers are getting annoyed.

But that doesn’t mean they’re ready to swear off SMS entirely. Far from it.

For every annoying text, there’s one telling them their package has shipped early, or that gives them a coupon code at just the right time, or that gives them the personalized answers they need to feel comfortable going ahead with the sale.

And when used wisely, customers love texting with brands. When we talked to consumers, 82% of survey respondents said the ability to message a brand increases their confidence in them. What’s more, 35% said they’d prefer companies to use SMS to communicate with them, more than any other channel.

Want to become an expert at texting your customers?

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What do customers want from your texts?

Customers don’t want to get bombarded with irrelevant texts from businesses. Who would? But how do you figure out what messages are relevant to them? The best way to do that is to put yourself in their shoes. What do they want to see when their phone buzzes and it’s a message from your brand?

Looking at our research, here are the four Rs that make it much more likely your customers will welcome your marketing SMS messages:

  1. A relationship
  2. Responsiveness
  3. Real value
  4. A little restraint

1. A relationship.

When we get messages on our phones from people we don’t know, it’s like a stranger at our door. We’re instantly suspicious: Is this a scam? Is this a product I have any need for? How did they even get this number?

In fact, messages from unknown companies ranks as the second most annoying type of text people receive. But more than mere annoyance, it’s against compliance regulations to message someone who hasn’t first opted in to receive SMS communications from your business. This annoying, punishable kind of engagement is never a recipe for loyalty. We don’t tend to regularly do business with people who get on our nerves.

Use SMS to grow a relationship, not start one. Send messages only to those who have expressly opted in. (Many countries have distinct regulations around SMS marketing, so make sure you’re not annoying the powers-that-be, either.) But remember to maintain the relationship, too! If someone opts-in to your texts but doesn’t hear from you in a year, they may not recognize you again. Make regular touchpoints part of your strategy.

Want to build up your database for SMS marketing? Here are 17 tips and tricks for collecting mobile phone numbers for marketing purposes.

2. Responsiveness.

Ever reached out to a business only to hear back … nothing? Or you got an answer, but much too late for it to have been useful? It probably didn’t give you the warm and fuzzies.

Sometimes people need answers right away, or they’ll walk away.

The beauty of texting is that it’s instant. And that means customers expect responses instantly too: 32% of the consumers we spoke to said they expect a response immediately when they text a company, while 58% expect it within 24 hours, or by the next business day.

If you don’t respond quickly to a customers’ text, they feel ghosted and their trust level plummets. When building your SMS strategy, have a strong plan in place for how you’ll respond to customer texts quickly and helpfully: It’s an incredibly powerful way to keep customers delighted.

3. Real value.

The average cell phone owner sends and receives about 40 text messages every day. So, to stand out, yours should offer something they value.

Let’s go back to the example of the stranger at your door. What if he leaves you a brochure and discount code for house and window washing … right before pollen season?

Your opinion of him might shift instantly. Now, he’s not intruding on your Real Housewives marathon. He’s giving you something you really care about. You might even get in touch with him right away to get on their calendar. And you’d be happy to hear from them again.

Take a hint from that stranger and give your audience something they care about. Here are some ways you can add value to your SMS messages.

  • Save them money. Offer coupons or inform them about sales. If a customer saves money every time they open a text from you, they’ll stay opted-in, even if they don’t use every code.
  • Save them time. When someone purchases an item from you that requires assembly, text them setup directions or a how-to video. If there’s a highway closure next to an event you’re planning, text attendees an alternate route. When your texts save time and reduce frustration, your audience’s trust in you will skyrocket.
  • Give them helpful information. Has their order shipped? Send them the tracking information to help build excitement for its arrival. See a customer with two different sizes of a sweatshirt in their abandoned cart? Text them an article on choosing the right size for them. When you’re genuinely helpful, customers aren’t annoyed when they hear from you.

Customers crave authentic, meaningful relationships with brands. Here’s how you can connect better with your customers using SMS.

4. A little restraint.

Even the most delightful texts can cross over into annoyance territory if they’re too frequent. The top reason customers opt out of text messages is because they get too many from a company.  

Take that coupon-toting stranger at your door again. If he came every single day, you’d probably say “Okay, enough with the coupons already. I haven’t even had a chance to use the last three you gave me.” Even though he was bringing you something you specifically said you wanted, you’d be annoyed to get it so often.

Win more with SMS marketing.

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So how often should you text customers?

First, keep that responsiveness in mind. Customers want you to text them back right away. 

Also, you may have some time-sensitive texts, like if you’re doing a flash sale or event. 

But for general marketing, customers prefer to be texted no more than weekly.* So, apply the saying “absence makes the heart grow fonder” to your SMS strategy. Give your audience a chance to miss you, and they’ll be happy to hear from you when you reach out. 

Remember, the line between engagement and annoyance is razor-thin. Walking it means giving your audience what they want: valuable information from a brand they know, quick responses when they have a question, and plenty of breathing room from you when they don’t. Provide those things, and you’ll avoid their “blocked” list.

Want to send texts your audience will love?

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*Sinch MessageMedia Consumer Research December 2022

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