The Beginner’s Guide to Email & SMS Marketing

The beginner’s guide to email & SMS marketing


What is right for your business?

Email marketing, or SMS marketing? Or both?

At first glance, these different types of marketing actually have quite a lot in common. Both formats have the capability to reach thousands of subscribers more or less instantly, to deliver tailored content to segmented lists of contacts. With both, you can add data tags to personalize content still further, such as by using the recipient’s first name. And, for emails and SMS messages, there are always optimum times to hit the send button. For instance, if you’re a taxi firm, then you would probably want to consider sending texts to your list of subscribers shortly before pub closing time, or the day before any scheduled public transport strikes.

Let’s begin with a look at SMS marketing.

Benefits of SMS

This is an easy, usually very affordable and effective way for businesses to communicate with their customers. More often than not it’s used for promotional purposes, such as to boost sales through discounts and other exclusive special offers, and to strengthen relationships and brand loyalty. The reason certain types of business choose SMS marketing is because the open and read ratios are usually very high. It’s been estimated that around 90% of SMS messages are opened within three minutes of being received.

Choosing a provider

While with email marketing it’s possible for businesses to send their own from their in-house marketing departments, for SMS marketing it’s customary to use an external provider, such as a mass texting app. What to look for when selecting one? You would want to check that they will provide you with a short code(s) – of which more later; that they are up to speed with current legislation regarding this type of marketing (which is more tightly regulated than email marketing); that they have the ability to send messages to all UK mobile carriers; that they can send timed messages at set intervals, and that they can assist with crafting content and also collecting and analysing customer data. SMS messages need to be put together creatively. As with Twitter they are restricted to a set character length.

Building a subscriber list

The client company will need a short code, perhaps six digits in length, which customers will be replying to when they opt-in to receiving messages. It will need to choose an appropriate text word that is sent back to the short code signifying acceptance. So again taking the example of a taxi firm, people who wish to receive SMS marketing from them might be sending the text word HOMEJAMES or TAXI to a short code such as 338643. They will then be added to the subscriber list.

That list needs to be monitored constantly to check that it is continually growing. If it starts to tail off, because more people are opting-out, often by sending an agreed message such as STOP to the same short code, then there is a problem. For instance, it could be too high a frequency of marketing, or irrelevant messages. That’s why it should be clear to customers when they opt-in to a list how often they will be receiving messages, and what kind of content they’ll be getting.

How to grow that subscriber list?

There are all manner of ways to make people aware of it, from printing details on the bottom of receipts, promoting it on social media and blogs, or advertising it on local radio. Incentives to get people to opt-in might include offers such as 10% off their next order or the opportunity to win a prize.

Mobile carriers should be able to provide a lot of data related to delivery metrics very quickly, so that companies can check the health of their subscriber list. A trackable URL in the message can establish how many recipients were interested enough to click through to the company’s website.

As mentioned, SMS marketing is closely monitored to prevent abuses. All messages should make clear which brand is contacting them, and be sent with clear instructions on how subscribers can opt-out of future marketing if they wish, as well as information on terms and conditions. It’s also worth mentioning that all subscribers should have opted-in digitally.

A brief look at email marketing

Like SMS marketing, email marketing should come with a sense of urgency, and a clear call to action (CTA) – “Click to book your cab now!”

Obviously it has a lot more flexibility than an SMS message – it can use a lot more text as well as images, although including too many, or too large, images, is going to result in slow loading times, which is unwise especially when one considers that emails don’t have as high open or click-through rates as SMS.

How to improve on that? A company can try to get itself ‘whitelisted’ by showing recipients how to add them to their email address book, meaning that emails won’t go to spam folders. Catchy subject lines can be conceived that will help with open rates, and punchy CTAs boost click-throughs.

Email marketers should make the most of the greater freedoms they have by including catchy imagery, headings and subheadings, or different font sizes – anything to grab the reader’s attention.

Since sending bulk email marketing to hundreds or thousands of subscribers at a time is very inexpensive, the tendency can often be to send a lot. That can have a negative effect however. Email when you have something worth sending, and keep to a reasonable frequency or suffer the consequences (a high opt-out rate).

Charlotte Giver

Charlotte is the founder and editor-in-chief at Your Coffee Break magazine. She studied English Literature at Fairfield University in Connecticut whilst taking evening classes in journalism at MediaBistro in NYC. She then pursued a BA degree in Public Relations at Bournemouth University in the UK. With a background working in the PR industry in Los Angeles, Barcelona and London, Charlotte then moved on to launching Your Coffee Break from the YCB HQ in London’s Covent Garden and has been running the online magazine for the past 10 years. She is a mother, an avid reader, runner and puts a bit too much effort into perfecting her morning brew.