whispersWhen was the last time someone whispered in your ear?

A whisper is intimate, an act of trust, and of sharing secret information and personal space.  The last time someone whispered in my ear was…well, I don’t remember. People rarely whisper anymore.  Why do you think that is?

I think texts are the new whispers.

Think about it.

Mobile devices are private property, and our personal texts are private as well. Trusting people with our private numbers welcomes them into our personal space, just like a whisper. Texts are more discreet though; they can be sent silently amidst a crowd.  We can unobtrusively text a friend about the obnoxious person next to us, or notify them of broccoli in their teeth. Texts are a beautiful thing when we understand the message sent.

Remember the whispering game “telephone?” The first person in a circle whispers a secret to the next person, and so on, and at the end the original and last messages are hilariously different! Texting also has potential for meaning to get lost in translation, especially when shared between more than two people. Reading the words in a text may be clearer than hearing them, but variables such as auto-correct, wrong numbers, emoticons, and the inability to express tone can distort message meanings just like a whisper.

Have you ever used whispering as a channel in a direct marketing campaign?

No? Me neither. But, according to SAP, a leading software company, texting is a viable channel to reach certain audiences, with 70% of people feeling SMS/text is a good way for an organization to get their attention. However, according to a 2014 Direct Marketing News consumer study, 46% of respondents said brand messages weren’t relevant to their interests; 52% said the alerts felt overtly intrusive or downright “spammy” and 33% said the brands’ texts didn’t offer any value.

These statistics illustrate why we should treat text communications for marketing purposes as delicately as a whisper. Check out three ways to ensure texts will be successfully welcomed by your audience.

Develop trust.

No one wants a stranger whispering to them without their consent. CAN –SPAM Regulations state that in all industries, people must provide consent in writing for us to send them marketing text messages. An “opt-out” option must be included on every message we send. Strategies to obtain text messaging consent are imperative. Perhaps it’s a direct mail piece, an email that redirects recipients to an opt-in form online where they voluntarily provide their mobile number to receive texts, or even a sign-up sheet at an event. It might take multiple direct marketing touch points to educate our audience about us and what we have to offer them in our texts. We must always put ourselves in their shoes and ask, “What’s in it for me?” Then deliver it.

Respect personal space.  

We have trust, consent, and a list of accurate mobile numbers. Now we must strategize. We should research the best time to send nonintrusive texts and be sparing about the number of messages we send. Inundating the audience’s box with messages would be like someone leaning over and whispering in your ear incessantly. Instead, we want to whisper only relevant juicy secrets or exciting news to them.

Avoid miscommunication.   

As marketers, we are tasked with cramming pertinent, informative, and entertaining content into 160 characters. I don’t know about you, but I love a challenge! Not only must we wow the audience with our content and wit, we must also proofread for accuracy.  It’s easy to oversimplify texts versus other channels like email and direct mail that allow for more content. But beware; our margin for typo errors and their impact on our reputation stay the same, regardless of the word count.  The accuracy of the information we send and who we send it to is imperative to the effectiveness of personalized text messages. Always check your data to ensure sure you are presenting the right information, error-free, to the right people.

Text messaging in direct marketing is a whispering game. Our challenge is to whisper accurate messages around the circle so that in the end, our audience gets what they asked for – powerful information that only we can provide.  Honoring the audience’s trust is the name of the game.