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SMS keywords

Using SMS Keywords for Deeper Personalization

Customers today expect marketing personalization. Blah blah blah—we know that. Old news. But, thinking about how to personalize is where innovation and novelty can still flourish. To personalize marketing communications for your customers, brands need to understand what content each customer wants and how they want it delivered.

One marketing channel that has gained traction recently is SMS. Sending text messages to customers is an effective way to connect, especially when they’re on-the-go. After all, as Findstack points out, “People check their phones up to 160 times a day, or once every 9 minutes.” But, to really use this channel how it was meant to be used, brands have to go a step further and think about what customers expect from SMS, outside of the marketing landscape.

For example, usually, people who are texting are having a conversation—there’s a back and forth. So why not apply that model to your marketing messages? “SMS has eight times the response rate of email,” so let customers respond and then send marketing messages to them based on their responses. But, how? Since you can’t have your customer service team or marketing team responding to every text message from your customers, you’ll have to use SMS keywords instead.

What are SMS Keywords?

SMS keywords are words or phrases that your customers can text you that result in an automated content stream related to that keyword. It’s similar for opt-in or opt-out language. If a customer no longer wants to receive your texts they’ll send “STOP” and your marketing technology will recognize that keyword and refrain from sending SMS messages to that customer in the future.

But, keywords aren’t only for opting in or out of communications, they can be used to help tailor the marketing messages you send to your customers. For example, maybe you send a message to your customers asking them to respond with a list of their favorite products. Your SMS platform can recognize the product keywords and then trigger a journey that only sends them SMS messages related to those products. Not only are you reducing manual efforts for your marketing team, but you’re also creating a more joyful customer experience.

The Positives of Personalized SMS Keywords

SMS keywords give your brand deeper access to customer preferences. Because customers have to opt-in to receive SMS marketing messages, you already know they’re interested in your brand. But, with personalized keywords, opening the conversation, you can find out exactly what about your brand resonates with them. In her session at Activate Virtual, MeUndies’ Senior Retention Marketing Manager, Alyssa Aquino, mentioned, “45% of US respondents said that message frequency and irrelevance were the top turn-offs for the channel.” Staying relevant is key to maintaining engagement and a strong customer relationship.

Below is a favorite example of ours from the TV network, Bravo. They’re using their SMS marketing program to give customers the “inside scoop.”

Bravo SMS Keywords

Bravo asks users to respond with their favorite shows to make sure future messages are relevant.

SMS feels super personal, so Bravo is smart in using familiar, conversational language (which aligns with their brand). Not only that, they’ve asked the user which Bravo shows they prefer—SMS keywords—to ensure the content sent going forward will spark user engagement and retention. Using shows—a.k.a. products—as keywords is also a good strategy because it’s not something the user will forget easily.

This brings up a good point. What keywords should brands choose to make sure their customers don’t forget and can always re-enter the conversation?

How to Choose an SMS Keyword

When choosing an SMS keyword your brand needs to do some perspective taking. Think about all of the times you, as a customer, have received a discount code and it’s a string of random numbers and letters that you’re expected to remember and type in the next time you make a purchase. It’s frustrating, annoying, and certainly doesn’t create a joyful customer experience. On the flipside, a discount code like “SUMMER20” tells you when the discount code was issued and how much the discount is for. Plus, it’s easy to remember.

The same basic principles should be applied to SMS keywords. According to our friends at Telnyx, “Ideally, your keyword should be a single word that’s easy to remember and related to your business. Avoid using special characters. And avoid using a keyword that’s related to your business in a way that your customers won’t understand, like an internal joke or mantra.” At Iterable, for example, Growth Mindset is one of our values, and every Iterator knows and understands it. But, if we used GROWTHMINDSET as a keyword in an SMS program, it may not be as memorable to customers as something like MARTECH or CROSSCHANNEL. (Hi Google crawlers!)

SMS Keywords to Fuel Cross-Channel Harmonization

Speaking of cross-channel, (see what we did there?) having an understanding of customer preferences will only help to improve the overall cross-channel experience. For example, if you’re receiving an onslaught of SMS keywords from a customer and they’re highly engaged with your SMS content, make that the primary channel for the customer. Email, while important, can be ancillary and support the experience the user is having via SMS. So, if the customer says they like women’s denim through SMS, make sure your emails take that information into account.

Your other marketing channels—email, push notifications, in-app messaging, direct mail, etc.—are important for creating a holistic, harmonized experience, but SMS is a platform built for conversation. Start a conversation in SMS and carry the learnings to your other channels.

To learn more about SMS keywords and how Iterable can help, schedule a demo today.

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