Your customers want to know that you understand their challenges and needs. Many brands assume personalization means adding a person’s name to an email or segmenting broadly using demographics or location. But today’s customers expect personalized communications that feel like unique conversations with a brand, and they will quickly become loyal to the companies that provide this level of individualization.
For many years, brands used email as their go-to marketing tool. And with good reason — it’s affordable, accessible and effective. According to Constant Contact, average for all industries is 16.9% open rate and 10.2% click thru rate. However, email has several drawbacks. Emails quickly become out of date; people change jobs and change personal emails regularly, so your list must be constantly updated. Even more, while email technically allows for a two-way conversation, very few customers use it this way, so you end up talking “at” your customers rather than gathering data or building relationships with them.
SMS helps brands build a personal relationship with customers
Brands are increasingly turning their focus to SMS marketing, which offers the ability to gain customers’ trust and loyalty. Because consumers change phone numbers much less often than email addresses, your list remains a valuable tool for many years and you don’t have to constantly spend effort to get new contact information. Most importantly, SMS gives brands the opportunity to create the individualized experience customers want.
While on the surface, email seems to be an affordable use of marketing dollars, the math shows that SMS yields 3-4X more conversions than email. By visualizing SMS as the intersection of marketing and personal shopping, brands can create a true relationship with customers. However, without an effective SMS strategy, brands will quickly turn SMS into junk mail and spam. Here are 5 ways to use SMS most effectively.
1. Capture data in advance, to understand customers.
Capture data to better understand your customers. The more you understand your customers, the better you can meet their needs in terms of messaging, product development and customer service. When you use email, you miss the opportunity to collect the data you need to gain the level of understanding that’s needed for effective individualization. While it’s tempting to purchase third-party data, you don’t control the type of data you get. Instead, collect data yourself, from people who have already engaged with your brand.
By collecting data during lead capture, you can personalize your messages using this data. This strategy also helps you use lead capture as a way to get to know your customers, instead of offering discounts, which actually devalues your brand. Today’s machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) give us the ability to automate the data/communication feedback loop. Start by knowing what data your brand needs to build a stronger relationship with customers, and integrate this into the lead capture. You should also continue to collect data during all conversations and continually use the information gathered to individualize messages.
2. Create a two-way conversation between your customers and your brand.
Many brands create only a transactional relationship with customers — meaning customers buy a product and the brand supplies the products. However, a meaningful relationship involves two-way communication where your customer trusts your brand and feels that your brand understands their needs.
Start by thinking about the interactions between an associate and customer in a brick-and-mortar store. What type of questions would an associate ask a customer who walked into a physical store selling your product? Then visualize how the associate uses that customer’s answers to guide the customer towards products. Even more importantly, think about opportunities the associate has to offer suggestions to help solve the customer’s problems related to products and the topic in general.
You should then design your SMS individualized conversations based on these natural conversations. However, a stellar sales representative also knows when to give a customer space and when to approach them, such as when their hands are full of clothes to try on. You should create a similar balance in your virtual interactions to build a relationship without interfering or being overbearing.
3. Avoid using SMS to offer regular sales and discounts.
Discounts damage brand equity and get lost in the noise. Customers come to expect those discounts and wait to purchase until they have a discount instead of using it as a motivation to buy. Instead, focus on creating conversations with the customer to build trust and gather data to create a more personalized experience.
Using SMS for exclusive launches can be very effective. You can use SMS to personalize your strategy, such as offering early access to VIP customers who subscribe to SMS. By offering the access based on personalized needs and products for the customer, you add value and strengthen your relationship with the customer.
4. Focus on the relationship instead of sales.
When brands focus on recommending products and constantly talk about their products, they reinforce a transactional relationship with the customer. By focusing on solving the customer’s problems related to your brand’s area of expertise through the conversation, you can shift the relationship towards a relationship built on trust instead of transactions. While you should occasionally mention products, make these mentions the exception. When they are carefully targeted to the customer based on data you gather throughout the relationship, the customer views the product suggestion more like a friend recommending a product instead of a company trying to sell them something.
5. Use SMS to re-engage customers.
Many brands are successful using SMS to connect with customers that they haven’t heard from in a while. Done correctly, the messages come across more like a friend checking to see how they are doing, rather than a brand trying to sell them something. Additionally, because of the ability to carefully target customers, brands find SMS highly effective for both cross selling and upselling. You can use the data gathered throughout the conversations to suggest products that would be of high interest to the customer.
While SMS can be highly effective for brands, the channel requires a thoughtful and careful approach. By taking the time to develop a strategy based on relationships instead of transactions, you can turn a one-time customer into a loyal fan of your brand.