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Text Message Marketing Tips for Your Local Business

Text messaging is one of the most effective ways for local businesses to market to local shoppers. Gallup has reported that texting is the most common method of communication (other than face-to-face) for Americans under age 50. Even among those over 50, more than one-third (34 percent) say they text “a lot.”

Since most smartphone users keep their phones nearby at all times, text messaging can help you reach customers not only on the go, but wherever they are — from the car to the couch. SMS messages have an amazing 98 percent open rate, according to a report from Dynmark, and 90 percent are read within 3 seconds. Text messages get immediate attention, since for most people, the messages pop up right on their home screens. (You know, the screens of those phones that we’re all constantly staring at?)

Here are some tips to help you get started with text message marketing.

  • Find a service. There are dozens of text message marketing services that target small businesses. Slicktext, EZTexting and Mozeo are just a few to investigate.
  • Follow the rules. Just as with email marketing, the law requires you to get permission from your customers before you can send them a text. This can involve having them check a box on your website or on a paper form giving you permission to send the marketing messages by text or just having them sign up to receive your texts. (The Mobile Marketing Association's Code of Conduct is a good guideline.) You also need to give subscribers a way to opt out.
  • Make sure your business website is mobile-friendly. If you include any links to your website in your text marketing messages, users are going to click them from their phones — so it's essential that the landing page they go to is easy to navigate on a smartphone.
  • Build your list. Promote your text messaging list the same way you would your email list — on your website, on your social media accounts and in your marketing emails. You can add a sign-up box to your website where people can enter their phone number to subscribe, or have them text their phone numbers to a five-digit short code your text message marketing service will provide.

You can get more subscribers by promoting the benefits of receiving text messages. For example, you can call your text message subscribers “VIPs” and remind people that they get early notice of sales and special events, as well as discounts or other perks just for VIPs.

One cool promotional tool that many companies use to get subscribers: Hold a contest. Put a popup on your e-commerce website or signage at your retail store’s point of sale the asking people to text a keyword to you to be entered in the contents. (“Text WIN to 56789 for a chance to win a $150 gift card.”)

Once you've built a list of subscribers, here are seven ways to use text message marketing:

  1. Use it to get more social media followers. For example, a hair salon could text, "Need a new do? Check our Instagram for the 10 hottest fall haircuts” with "Instagram" linking to your account.
  2. Use it to sell slow-moving products. Do you own a sporting goods store and need to get rid of your summer inventory of boogie boards and swimsuits to make room for fall inventory?  Drive customers into your store with text message marketing.
  3. Use it to spark business on a slow day. Want to get more lunchtime customers into your restaurant? Try sending out texts offering a two for one special between the hours of 11 AM and 1 PM.
  4. Use it to alert customers about a "flash sale." Hold a limited-time sale (as in, a few hours!) at your store, restaurant or other local business and send texts to customers to let them know about it.
  5. Use it to alert customers when you add new products, services or menu items. You're not limited to sending texts to a list — once you've got someone's permission, you can text them individually to let them know about things they've expressed interest in.
  6. Use it to send a discount code. Texts have a higher perceived urgency than email, which can make customers more likely to actually use the code.  
  7. Use it to get customers to open an email. Are you about to send out a big announcement in an email, like opening a second location or holding your "50 percent off everything" end of season sale? Send a text ahead of time telling customers to watch for the email. (Reserve this method for really important communications — don’t text customers every time you send them an email!)