A PEW study conducted back in 2011 found that over 80 percent of Americans used mobile phones, and that approximately three quarters of them engaged in mobile texting. Since then, texting has become so popular that today; the majority of Americans would rather text than speak on the phone. As a result, text message marketing, more formally known as short message service (SMS) marketing, is proving a highly effective way to engage and convert consumers across industries.

Though this relatively new marketing approach has not been widely adopted in healthcare, it offers healthcare marketers, clinical trial recruiters, disease awareness advocates, and other healthcare stakeholders a promising way to gain target audiences’ attention and correspond with them in real time, strengthening relationships and increasing the likelihood of converting these audiences. When combined with toll-free numbers that are easy to remember, they can amplify engagement by encouraging consumers to text the easily remembered number when they have relevant questions.

Consistent with consumers’ preference for texting over other forms of communication, they are more likely to pay attention to texts, which likely accounts for the high success rate seen with SMS marketing. For instance, push notifications are opened only about three percent of the time, whereas a full 90 percent of people read a text message within three minutes of receiving it. While only 20 to 30 percent of emails are opened, the open rate for SMS reaches nearly 98 percent.
Now that you’re convinced that you don’t want to miss out on the opportunities afforded by SMS marketing, how can you best execute your SMS campaigns?

  1. Get Permission to Engage. CTIA recommendations suggest that marketers get permission before sending texts to their target audience. While this recommendation is in place to protect consumers from unsolicited communications, following this recommendation will help you as well because you can focus your resources on the consumers who are most likely to be receptive to your messages. To get people to opt-in, you can use enticing offers and information.
  2. Keep it Short. When sending an SMS, you have 160 characters for each message. While this length may seem limiting, it can be beneficial to be pushed to keep things short and sweet. This character limit should force you to consider the most effective and concise way to get your message across and to motivate the action you seek.
  3. Be Strategic. SMS provides a better opportunity to present certain types of information than do other modes of communication. For instance, providing information that a consumer would normally have to jot down while on the phone is automatically recorded in their phone when texted. An SMS that includes a clickable URL, for instance, can drive large amounts of traffic to your website. The ease of clicking rather makes it much more likely for consumers to be willing to take the time to go to a website than when going to the website requires them to type a website into a search domain. This trend accounts for the social media marketing tools that have been created to help marketers embed links that their consumers are likely to view.
  4. Respect People’s Time. Though consumers prefer SMS communication to other types of communication, they do not necessarily want to be bombarded with text messages, particularly if those texts aren’t immediately valuable to them. It is generally recommended that you initiate an SMS exchange no more than two to four times each month so that you reduce the risk of annoying those to who you are reaching out.
  5. Respond in Real Time. Part of the appeal of text messages is their immediacy. Consumers have grown to expect people to respond to them quickly, and quick responses help to build trust and rapport. When consumers initiate and text thread or respond to an SMS that you send, it is therefore important that you respond in a timely way. Developing an SMS marketing plan that will enable you to respond with quick, quality information will enhance the value of your campaign.
  6. Measure Success and Adapt. Another benefit of opt-in policies is that marketers know who they are contacting through their campaigns and can therefore capture rich data on these consumers, including their demographics, behaviors, and interests. While these pieces of data can help to optimize SMS campaigns, data on the campaigns themselves should also be continuously collected, analyzed, and acted upon. By testing what works in helping you achieve your specific goals, you can craft better and better SMS campaigns over time.

SMS marketing campaigns are seeing great success because they are consumer-centric, reaching consumers where they want to be reached. According to McKinsey, consumers in the healthcare industry crave this same type of consumer-centric approach they enjoy in other industries, with convenience becoming increasingly important to them. Leveraging toll-free SMS opportunities can therefore both help you get your message to your healthcare audience more efficiently while also improving their perception of you and your brand.

If you currently use a toll-free number, you’ll be shocked to learn how many times your customers have tried to text you there. Let us show you how many by reaching out to us.

It’s so easy to activate toll-free texting and creates a whole new communications channel.

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