Thursday, June 12, 2014

The open-and-read rate of SMS messages is a matter of small debate among marketing analysts, but it’s not exactly a dangerously polarizing issue for the industry. Some say 98%, others 99%. Everyone agrees the conservative figure would be nothing less than nine out of ten texts. Techipedia’s estimate of 83% of all SMS messages opened within three minutes isn’t exactly controversial either.

Whatever the precise figures, there is no denying that texting is a tried, tested and proven method of communicating with large numbers of people. Many businesses are already using the medium to great effect as a promotional tool, primarily for engaging with existing customers. What’s less commonly talked about is SMS as a platform for nurturing fresh leads.

According to one recent study, 70% of the buying process is done and dusted by the time a potential customer engages with a sales representative. This is a compelling statistic for anyone interested in lead nurturing, and it’s spurred countless email marketing campaigns to focus on offering indisputable value from the get-go.

The resistance to SMS as a lead nurturing tool is understandable. Unlike email, commercial text messages are hidebound by strict regulation regarding opt-in communication. There are also considerable limitations imposed by the 160 character allowance provided by SMS. Nevertheless, the benefits of nurturing leads with text messages outweigh the disadvantages. The speed and convenience of SMS suits the customer – you just have to adapt your lead nurturing strategy accordingly. A few tips on doing it right:


  • Make opting out as easy as opting in. As we’ve seen, building a relationship via text message requires your lead to subscribe to your contact list. Though it takes a greater initial effort, this transparent, honest path to communication will pay off in the long run, and make spammy email campaigns and unsolicited paper mail outs a thing of the past. As consumers begin to associate SMS with a new type of consent-based marketing, their trust in the channel only increases – so don’t blow it by making it difficult to unsubscribe.
  • Keep it simple. Yes, SMS is a short-form of contact, but instead of feeling frustrated, use the character limits to refine your brand message. Get to the point, offer something of value, and provide a link to the denser material contained on your website.
  • Don’t overdo it. If you’re trying to nurture a lead, think of them as a politician would a swing voter. Gentle persuasion with timely, valuable messages is much more effective than a constant bombardment, which is likely to turn them off. If you use a sledgehammer to crack a nut, you’ll smash it to smithereens. Keep the frequency of your messages down to once a month at first, and let your company sell itself rather than boasting about your past successes with every missive.


Successful marketing campaigns attack on multiple fronts, so align your SMS strategy with other lead nurturing tactics like email and social media. The International Academy of Design & Technology used SMS to generate leads via a Hulu advertising campaign. There’s no shortage of other examples out there. Do some research, find out what works best for your industry, and start integrating text messaging with your existing lead nurturing tactics.