This question keeps popping up in discussions with marketers because they want to use every channel they can to make sure their messages reach their intended targets.
Many marketers believe that if they have their customers’ mobile numbers, they should use them to send messages all the time whether or not they have something relevant to say.
Before you send that promotional text message – or email, mobile app notification email, or direct mail circular – ask yourself two qualifying questions:
- Would your customer think it was relevant?
- See no. 1.
Of course, relevance is in the eye of the beholder. What’s important here is the relevance of the message to the recipient, not how important or relevant you think it is.
Develop a propensity model
I did a strategy consultation for a large international company with a communications platform and a huge database of email addresses. The company’s initial position was, “We have all these email addresses. Why don’t we send an email?”
Using data discovery, propensity modeling and data appending, we focused on channel propensity, which predicts which channels various subsets of your customers are more likely to respond in. The company had collected email addresses on almost every customer because it was required to register for an account. What we found through a complex analysis was that some people responded well to email, while others were more likely to respond to a text, a social media post, or even to a direct mailing.
We presented this to the company saying, “Yes we have the email and you can certainly send an email, but we are going to focus on channel propensity, not just the channel where we have contact information.”
Choose the right channel
Having data that identifies your customer in a channel – a customer’s mobile number, email address or access to your mobile app – doesn’t mean that channel is the one where the customer will react to your message the way you want.
In our own lives, we all know the best way to reach family and friends. I can always get my sister on the phone. My fiancée? Never.
The focus on all the contact points available for direct marketers is relevancy through knowing the channels where customers are more disposed to react in a positive way.
SMS has been carefully regulated and even self-regulated by marketers who are scared of it. We all have SMS and we know how annoying it is to get text messages that go too far.
Sending SMS messages is opt-in by law in just about every country around the world. So, 99 percent of the messages we get are the ones we have authorized, such as texts from contacts and alerts we have set up.
Choice and relevance rule for channel propensity
Are we sending a relevant-enough message, and do we push the boundaries so far we become annoying? I have another answer to the question about the best time to send a follow-up text message:
“Does this person want to see that message?”
For example, maybe you want to send a message to anyone who didn’t respond to your email. The only time this really works is with transactional messages. A text after an email works if the person has told you, “Send me an email AND a text.”
Some companies use SMS to expand on an email message. Flight alerts, low product inventory and shipping updates are examples. But these are still alerts spawned by a transaction rather than prods to open or act on an email.
SMS is its own channel
With all the thousands of email campaigns and messaging strategies I’ve reviewed, I’ve never seen a good way to reinforce an email message with a text, and certainly not with promotional messages.
We don’t need to make SMS an email channel and vice versa. Each channel has unique qualities and characteristics. Your customers likely expect SMS to be alert-based by default and promotional when they have opted-in by giving you their mobile numbers.
With permission, you don’t have to worry about whether you should send promotional SMS messages as long as your messaging strategy respects their choice. But, we see customer attrition when marketers don’t use care in sending messages.
SMS is the clean slate of digital marketing. If you dirty it up with irrelevant and annoying texts, it will become unusable quickly. Your mobile users can tap the “block this caller” function as easily as they can click “report spam” on an email. When they do, you have no recourse.
Marketers who send messages via SMS have a responsibility not to ruin it for themselves and everybody else.