Should you be using text messages in your marketing strategy?
I sat down with Jonathan Pogact, VP of Marketing at Drips to discuss the benefits and pitfalls of SMS marketing.
Here are some of the highlights from our conversation.
Listen to the Full Podcast:
Jonathan started his career in direct marketing and has been running email marketing campaigns since before CAN-SPAM. Today, he’s leading marketing for Drips’ conversational AI platform, which is designed to humanize promotional texting–at scale, while also ensuring compliance and brand consistency.
Part of the reason I wanted to talk to Jonathan is text messaging is a tricky type of marketing, and my big question was, “when should companies be using this strategy?”
While the open rates are super high, there are a ton of rules and regulations at both the state and federal level regarding opt-ins and consent. There’s also the fact that it’s way too easy to overstep boundaries and irritate customers by failing to understand the nuances of customer responses.
In this interview, Jonathan draws on his past experience and shares some best practices around using text message marketing in big business.
Explicit Consent Comes First
As I’ve mentioned before, text message marketing depends on getting explicit consent.
Jonathan says that this is the single most important thing for companies to get right. He says, “don’t just text your customers or prospects, or else you’ll get in big trouble—fast.”
He goes on to explain that there are literally litigators waiting to go after brands that fail to take consent seriously.
They’re on websites filling subscribing for newsletters and downloading lead magnets, waiting for unsolicited text messages that prove non-compliance.
Education Needs to Happen at the Individual Level
In the interview, I asked Jonathan about the unsolicited texts that people get from various companies.
For example, I keep getting texts from a real estate agent about selling my house for cash despite never opting into those communications.
Jonathan says that part of the problem is, you’ll often see companies (particularly in real estate) where you have multiple agents that have these tools at their disposal, but there’s no company-provided education around regulatory compliance.
In many cases, these agents might have no idea that they’re violating any laws. Companies need to be aware of federal and state laws and develop a system for educating their sales reps/agents/marketers at scale.
On top of the compliance challenges of text marketing, you’ll need to make sure you’re personalizing content on a 1:1 level.
How do you hold a conversation that feels human when you’re talking about a series of pre-planned texts?
What this means is, personalization needs to go beyond adding a customer’s name to interactions, and instead, using what you know about where the customer is in their journey to inform every message you send.
This means, that you’ll need to map conversations to specific touchpoints, while at the same time, digging into historical data.
Contextual Opt-Outs are Essential
Just about any company can send texts. But getting empathy and AI to line up just right is another major challenge in text message marketing.
Consider the many different ways someone might opt-out of receiving updates from your SMS marketing.
While the standard is texting “STOP” to the sender, Jonathan says there are countless ways someone might express that they don’t want to receive a particular message—be it a “double middle-finger emoji” or a frustrated rant.
Jonathan states that most platforms don’t understand that. In most cases, you’ll find that promotional texts use short-code text messages, which are designed to respond to pre-programmed commands. They’re not designed to hold a conversation.
Drips, by contrast, is designed to hold “asynchronous conversations.”
Brands need to make sure that all messages are sent and received in context, which means you’ll need some AI component in place to ensure that your text campaigns feel like a real conversation, not a canned series of responses.
While text messages provide higher open rates and more responses, there are far more opportunities to slip up.
In sum, Jonathan recommends:
- Becoming aware of compliance requirements
- Implementing a policy and education around obtaining consent
- Building a 1:1 personalization strategy
- Focusing on context
Ultimately, brands need to be aware of what they can do to ensure their text messages are well-received.
To hear my full conversation with Jonathan here’s a link to the episode. You can also subscribe to the Ignite Visibility University podcast via Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, and more.