Best SMS Practices: Does Your Customer Really Want To Hear From You In a Personal Way?

I have been doing a lot of thinking about best practices in Mobile Marketing and some of the most important lessons I have learned are actually from my clients: how they are successfully using mobile marketing, and how they are integrating SMS with their overall marketing campaigns.  Two clients, in particular, Cavender’s Boot City and Cavender’s Western Outfitters  and The South Florida Group of Improv Comedy Club and Restaurants, have begun to demonstrate a clear pattern of success of how they use Mobile Marketing to increase customer engagement.   

Texas-based Cavender’s Boot City and Cavender’s Western Outfitters  was aware of just how personal it is to send someone a text message, so they rolled out their mobile marketing program slowly and strategically.  A lot of thought was put into making their text messages as relevant and as timely as possible.  Text messages are only sent when it is particularly important to that customer, and usually only one or two messages are sent in a month.  Great care is taken to show respect to the customer who has entrusted them with their mobile number.  The message might be about a special celebrity event at a nearby store or free tickets being given away for a summer concert series.  Whatever the text message is about, Cavender’s wants customers to feel an increased sense of trust and loyalty.  

Mobile Marketing success for Cavender’s meant having a high rate of customer engagement coupled with an extremely low opt-out rate.  Cavender’s spokesperson, Brent Allison, told me, “We’re interested in building relationships and not just ‘selling’. We would rather have 5000 fully engaged subscribers than 50,000 coupon seekers.”

The South Florida Group of Improv Comedy Club and Restaurants, a group of improvs and stand-up comics, currently operates five top comedy clubs.  Each week, over thirty five shows are produced and sixteen thousand need to be filled.  An average of one hundred thousand text messages are sent to their customers on a typical weekend.

With the comedy clubs, there was a 986%return on investment, which had a direct impact on the bottom line. For example, during one weekend campaign this past January, the clubs realized a net revenue increase of $58, 469.   Comedy club rep Scott Keeler said, “We have found that this success with mobile marketing could not be matched by any other marketing programs, including email marketing and outbound phone marketing.”

The comedy clubs and the western wear apparel company Cavender’s had different outcomes, and yet both were successful in their use of mobile marketing because they used the same set of best practices. 

The Permission Factor.  With most marketing, it is okay to be aggressive and abide by the old adage that it is best to seek forgiveness rather than to ask for permission. And while this principle works with most marketing, it doesn’t with mobile marketing.  Mobile phone numbers are personal and no one wants to be spammed! Effective mobile marketing is strictly permission-based.  Both the comedy clubs and Cavender’s had their customers’ express consent to use their mobile numbers.

The Marketing Mix.  Think about how mobile marketing will fit in with your overall marketing program and how it will enhance your existing relationship with your customers. For example, Cavender’s uses both non-traditional media and traditional media,  such as print, radio and billboards, TV Ads, radio ads, print display ads; outbound marketing via telephone, email blasts; and social media: Google+, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest. Cavender’s wants to be where their customers are located and using SMS is another way to reach them. The south Florida Group uses multiple marketing strategies to maximize attendance: traditional media such as print, radio and billboards, outbound marketing via telephone, email blasts, social media and mobile marketing.

Crafting High-Quality Marketing Messages.  Is your marketing message meaningful enough to text?Take great care to create messages that are compelling and relevant for the customer. Big Screen, Little Screen—your message needs to be tailored to fit the medium. This isn’t TV, it’s texting. One text says it all.  Feel free to be clever and creative.  Pique a little bit of curiosity. Write a headline that sells. Use photos, images, links and coupons that generously expand the message of your text. Create a message that is original and credible enough to fit with your brand. Every time you use SMS you need to provide value to the customer.   Give a gift that deepens your customer’s emotional connection to your brand.  Make your gift memorable.

Frequency of Messages.  Be careful to assess how frequently your customers would like to receive messages.  In the case of Cavender’s, only sending one or two messages a month proved to be an effective tool of customer engagement, and yet for the Comedy Clubs messages might be sent several times in one day prior to a show.  With Cavender’s they were even careful about what time of day they texted customers.  The comedy club customers, however, wanted frequent messages because they wanted to know exactly what time their favorite comedians were going to be onstage.  

By implementing best practices in mobile marketing, these companies achieve success. They focused on the most important best practice of all: Know your audience. They spent a lot of thoughtful time thinking about what matters to their audience. Measuring ROI can be as simple as a click (tap). Mobile users can respond to your text.  No matter who the audience is, there is no truer engagement than clicking to a number to speak to a live person and engaging in real time conversation.  Mobile marketing is really about expanding and deepening your existing customer relationships. Think about what is your business objective, what do you want to achieve, and how mobile marketing will help you get there.


Kalin Kassabov is CEO of, the New York City based mobile marketing company.     

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