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SMS and Email Marketing: Combine Them for Maximum Reach

With so many channels available to reach consumers, it can be hard for marketers to decide where their budget dollars should be deployed for maximum effect. For instance, more traditional marketers, who are comfortable with email campaigns, might view SMS and email marketing as the new kid on the block that holds no value for them. At the same time, cutting edge mobile marketers who regularly deploy SMS campaigns may consider email to be too old-fashioned to meet their needs.

But they would both be misguided in holding those views in my opinion. In the omni-channel, multi device landscape the modern consumer dictates, SMS and email marketing aren’t mutually exclusive. Indeed, they can complement each other in powerful ways and have unique opportunities to reach out to and engage with the target audience. How so? Before I answer that question, let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of both strategies in more detail.

SMS Marketing

SMS, more often referred to as text messaging, is a bit like email’s shorter, snappier cousin. Text messages are generally briefer, more immediate than emails, and aimed specifically at mobile users. This means they may be more appropriate for reaching defined demographic groups, or for distributing time (or location) sensitive alerts or promotions. But there are things marketers need to be aware of before launching an SMS campaign.

Regulation. As is the case with email, marketers can’t send out SMS messages without giving regard to guidelines and regulations.Nor can they just assume the regulations applying in their home country will apply everywhere in the world. It is the responsibility of the originator to ensure compliance with the relevant local legislation of the receiver.

In the U.S. that means knowing about the CTIA guidelines (not binding in law) and the impact of The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which is backed by legislation. While I’m not going to go into the nuts and bolts here, there are two main requirements you need to know about. Namely permission must be obtained before messages are sent and it must also be clear to consumers how they can opt out.

This is often the minimum requirement across the world however according to the World Text Knowledge Base, texting across international borders can present particular challenges. For example:

  • Messages to China can be heavily filtered with certain types of content, including marketing not being allowed.
  • India has a blackout period between 21:00 and 08:00 Indian local time when delivery of messages is not allowed.
  • The marketing of moneylenders via SMS has been fully banned by the Singapore authorities.

The best way to stay compliant, in what is potentially a practical and regulatory minefield for the uninformed marketer, is to hire the expertise of a reputable bulk SMS service provider.

Data management. One potential drawback to SMS—and another area where expert guidance is recommended—is in the management of the phone number database.

Both email and text service providers are continually refining their offering to reduce spam and increasingly use recipient reactions to evaluate the status of the message originator. Sending messages to people who have unsubscribed, having messages marked as spam, or texting to invalid numbers will all affect deliverability metrics, in the process damaging sender reputation.

Active management of the phone number database is essential to weed out potential problems and avoid damage to a brand’s reputation.

Millennials like texts. Although not limited to the Millennial cohort by any means, their use of text messaging makes them a prime target for SMS marketers. Research carried out last year by OpenMarket for instance suggested:

  • Seventy two percent of Millennials text 10 or more times a day while eighty three percent open messages within 90 seconds of receiving them.
  • They prefer to receive appointment reminders, delivery notifications, and payment reminders by text.
  • Six out of ten Millennials prefer the convenience of two-way texting engagement with companies.

The ubiquitous smartphone. You don’t need to dig into the stats though to understand the potential reach of SMS marketing; just look around you. Nearly everyone has a mobile device, they are never far away from us, and text messages are seldom ignored for very long.

That makes SMS a powerful tool to disseminate time sensitive offers, critical alerts, or real-time customer confirmations to any target group. Concise messages, quickly crafted, and delivered speedily to well targeted audiences can have a great impact for marketers and customer service teams. But beware of overkill. Nothing is more likely to encourage consumers to opt-out than too many messages and irrelevant content.

Email Marketing

Email is a marketing method that has endured over the years, despite the perceived threat to its status from many new kids on the block, including SMS.

Email is still an effective and successful way to reach customers. Indeed, with mobile engagement on mobile increasing, and dynamic targeting methods coming to the fore, the future for email marketing looks bright. This is something I wrote about recently if you would like to learn more: How Dynamic Email Marketing Will Change Everything.

Further to that even, the enduring and evolving nature of email has been demonstrated by innovations such as kinetic content. You can find out more about this topic in another one of my recent articles over at the IMA Blog.

As with SMS marketing, email regulations need to be understood, and data managed effectively to be successful. But email still deserves a place as a cornerstone of any lead generation program, especially when combined with SMS as I’ll go on to explain.

SMS and Email Marketing Working Together

The previously mentioned research from OpenMarket also suggested texting is the number one channel for notifications among Millennials, followed closely by email. Interestingly the social media channels lagged, coming in lower even than postal mail. In my opinion, this close correlation between SMS and email marketing is being increasingly reflected across most age demographics, making them ideal for exploitation by integration.

Here’s a few ways integration can work to the benefit of the overall marketing strategy:

Cross-pollination. Existing email databases are an ideal source of contacts to start out with an SMS campaign. As a text message campaign begins to mature it will be able to feed additional clients in to the email mailing list.

Personalized SMS. Using existing data and segmentation from the email database allows for more effective personalization and targeting of SMS, powering text campaigns from the outset.

Reviving lost contacts. People often change email addresses and can easily be lost as an email contact. Text messaging is a simple way to maintain contact, obtain new email details, and in the process, keep the email database up to date.

Timely reminders. SMS can be used as a follow up to promotional emails, adding last minute discounts and deals to prompt a return to the original email content.

Include all media. SMS opt-in opportunities can be included across all brand media including websites, emails, and in-store to encourage text sign ups and grow the SMS client list.

Improved email content. The discipline of writing concise content for SMS campaigns can be used to inform email content, making for more focused and specific email campaigns.

Improved metrics. Insights gained from SMS campaigns can be used to inform email-marketing strategies (and vice versa).

SMS and email marketing have differing strengths and weaknesses, but when combined can complement each other effectively to strengthen communications and have a positive impact on marketing strategies. If you are still concentrating on one and neglecting the other, it’s time you started to integrate SMS and email to the ultimate benefit of your bottom line.

What has your experience been? Do you think SMS and email marketing can work together effectively? I would love to hear your thoughts.

Other resources on this topic:

Email Marketing is Alive and Well as Volumes Increase and Kinetic Excites