SMS has been used to support B2C marketing for decades. High read rates and strong ROI make it an obvious choice for ensuring the right people are targeted by a brand’s message at the right time. But, while text messaging has become commonplace as a marketing channel for consumer campaigns, few industry professionals are taking advantage of it from a business-to-business perspective.
Contrary to popular belief, the very same benefits that make SMS marketing so appealing for a B2C audience can work wonders for a B2B campaign too. This is especially true in 2015, where, thanks to recent developments and improvements made by mobile messaging specialists, SMS has become even easier to implement and more engaging than ever before.
This change is, in part, due to how text messaging has evolved. Traditionally, SMS has been used as a one-way marketing channel where the user receiving the message has no way to engage with the brand or business that sent it. Growing need for a low-cost and interactive text marketing channel, however, has led two-way SMS – a new approach to text message marketing – to the forefront of brand/user communications.
As a fresh take on SMS marketing, businesses looking to deploy two-way SMS often have questions about how it works, what it can do, and whether it’s right for them. Here are five considerations to take into account for any business looking to deploy a two-way SMS strategy with the aim of targeting a B2B audience:
1. Identify whether two-way SMS is right for your business
Two-way SMS can take marketing campaigns one step further than traditional text messaging by giving businesses the tools they need to better reach their target audience and create an interactive conversation. This approach encourages businesses to start a two-way dialogue with their customers and key decision makers, creating previously unseen levels of engagement.
Two-way SMS works by threading inbound messages with outbound replies, creating a conversation that’s far more personalised and engaging than traditional methods. Rather than adopting the ‘send it and forget it’ approach, marketers can make use of SMS to demonstrate a human side to their business. When it comes to generating dialogue with customers and decision makers, therefore, two-way messaging represents the next generation of customer reach. But it’s worth considering whether you need this level of interactivity before embarking on a two-way campaign.
2. Find the right mobile messaging partner
Your marketing team do not need to become IT experts. Two-way SMS is achievable for any company, from cash strapped start-ups to large multi-nationals. All that’s required is a simple API which gives marketers a toolkit to send and receive messages, manage responses, track KPIs and optimise campaigns to meet the given budget. More advanced two-way SMS providers, like Infobip, even offer an out-of-the-box managed SMS marketing platform accessible through a web interface. This approach does not need any prior developer knowledge, taking away any complexities around implementation and making two-way SMS an incredibly flexible mobile marketing tactic.
3. Use SMS to unlock the value of user data
There’s more to two-way SMS than better customer engagement. B2B marketers can also take advantage of this technology to collect valuable customer data. Implemented correctly, two-way SMS can unlock a wealth of information for businesses that they would not have access to otherwise. The key here is getting the right approach for your audience.
Whereas questionnaires might be more successful from a B2C perspective, when it comes to two-way SMS for a B2B audience, short code text responses are more appropriate. Two-way SMS also comes into its own when arranging meetings and can be a real asset in a new business push to grow sales around a product launch.
With two-way SMS, customers can reply to a brand if they have a question, or indeed if they want to place an order, which has significant growth potential for SMS marketing among a business audience.
4. Factor in the practical considerations
It’s important to consider the implications of SMS marketing. B2B is significantly different from B2C marketing, but when it comes to two-way SMS many of the same principles apply. Top of the list is requiring an ‘opt in’ from the recipient, acknowledging they actively want to receive text messages from you.
It doesn’t matter if you’re providing a customer helpline, CRM integration, notification and alerts system, or a sweepstake. Giving users the option to both opt-in and opt-out are absolutely necessary. Not only are regulators cracking down on unsolicited messages, sending unwanted texts will also have a detrimental effect on your overall business image.
Choosing the right messaging provider is also important. For a two-way SMS campaign to work effectively, it’s vital that your chosen partner can deliver your message without fail, in the way you want them to. Ask the tough questions up front; if you need to send a large quantity of text messages, can your provider’s system cope? Can they support a global campaign? Can their platform support special characters, or does it meet the various SMS regulations implemented by different countries around the world?
The answers to these questions can only be guaranteed if your chosen provider has solid direct connections to mobile operators, backed by the right security processes and support teams to make sure the operation runs smoothly.
5. How SMS can support existing marketing efforts
Two-way SMS can be part of a multi-channel marketing effort. Given the sharp rise in smartphone usage, including a link to a new product landing page or e-commerce site in a text message can often result in an inbound lead. Of course, as is always the case with SMS marketing to any audience, to get the best results and avoid being labelled as spam it’s necessary to ensure all messages are relevant and targeted. Timing is essential for businesses adopting this marketing method; a B2B SMS could be seen as an annoyance outside of working hours, whereas it’s more likely to be accepted and acted upon between 9am and 5pm.
Ultimately, two-way SMS is a technology that any business in any sector, regardless of size, can take advantage of. As a better approach to mobile marketing, two-way SMS represents a valuable string in any marketers bow.