Not Texting Your Customers? They Might Not BRB

By Hunter Young

A couple months ago, I had the pleasure of speaking at the 2018 ABA Bank Marketing Conference in Baltimore. It was great to see the best bank marketers in the country tackling some of today’s toughest challenges—everything from producing great content to managing an endless cache of data. There’s a lot on a financial marketer’s plate today and so I did what I know best:

I added another big, challenging opportunity to the mix.

The opportunity? Text marketing. That’s right. A messaging format that originated over 25 years ago may be one of your biggest opportunities to get in front of customers, young and old. The average American sends between 20 and 100 text messages daily. If you are 18, you may send over 100 texts in one day. If you’re over 55, you are still managing to thumb out nearly 20 texts per day. It is without question the top way people communicate in today’s mobile world.

Online retailers, restaurants and the entertainment industry have used the channel to effectively engage and retarget customers for the last decade. But the financial industry has been slow to see its application outside of the transactional alerts our customers receive via online and mobile banking.

It’s time to move beyond the account alert.

Similar to banks’ adoption of social media over the last 10 years, text marketing best practices will take time. This marketing channel feels complicated at first glance, but we can break it into six focus areas. Follow these steps and you’ll ensure your bank installs an engaging, relevant, and compliant text marketing program:

  1. Secure the data compliantly.

Before you begin to build the targeting parameters and creative messages that you will use to engage your customer base, you need to familiarize your team with two important governing guidelines and laws for business-to-consumer text messaging: the CTIA and the TCPA. The CTIA, an organization created years ago by the wireless carriers, has the power to audit text promotions and provides text message marketers with a comprehensive set of guidelines to follow. The TCPA is a federal law that establishes what “written consent” means and how to properly obtain permission to send text messages to a prospect or customer.

Once you understand how to properly opt in and opt out customers, you’ll create your disclosure language at the various places you collect their information, including:

  • In-branch
  • At digital account opening
  • Via specialty landing pages intended to opt them into educational and promotional text messaging
  1. Build initial logic.

With your compliant collection process developed, you can start building the logic behind your text marketing. There are a variety of text marketing tools you can use, many of which have programmable APIs that can help facilitate transfer of data back into your CRM or core. This step primarily involves the development of auto-responders and the foundational text messages that allow someone to start or stop receiving texts from you.

  1. Set up message tracks.

Finally, a little creativity. At this stage, you’ll develop your various messaging tracks. Think of this as an analog to email marketing automation and A/B testing. You might have a track for “digital account onboarding” or “college savers educational tips.” Each of these tracks will have a series of time-based or action-based triggers that help determine when a recipient gets a new message. For example, you might send one saving tip and linked article per month—or your texts could be triggered by a user clicking a link in a previous text. With 160-character limits on single texts, testing is important. Depending on the recipient’s device, your texts may naturally break into a multiple parts—and links will format differently. So determine beforehand how the texts will render visually on multiple devices.

  1. Send your program.

With a fully tested series of texts, it’s now time to send your program. Much like you do when sending a marketing email, be practical about your send times. Do not schedule these messages during driving rush hours (7-8 a.m. and 4-6 p.m.). It is also a federal violation to send during “quiet time,” between 9 p.m. and 6 a.m. Choose your times wisely, test and learn from the engagement. Be mindful of the volume of texts you send as well. Sending a couple texts each month is reasonable, and properly setting customer expectations about a series of forthcoming texts is a best practice.

  1. Opt out/in customers.

Allowing opt-outs via text is one of the most important concessions to make in a text marketing program. After your initial auto-responder outlines how your new text marketing recipient will opt out, you should offer this same opt-out in a message once a month. (E.g., “Text STOP to no longer receive texts from us.”)

  1. Analyze your results.

You’re going to like the engagement results you see. Ninety-nine percent of marketing texts are opened. Ninety percent of those are read within three minutes. What other marketing channel gives you that type of top line engagement? But don’t limit your analysis to just open rates. Use URL shorteners and UTM tags to track how recipients behave on your website post-click from a text message.

Not so bad right? Your customers were already on social media when you decided to join the conversation. Guess what? They’re texting too, and many wouldn’t mind if you texted them.

MHOTY if you’ve already started, but if not, NP, you’ll be GR8!

Hunter Young is Division President at Mabus Agency, an award-winning creative marketing firm that helps banks across the country create winning marketing strategies and execute those strategies with our full-service, in-house staff.