Texting Trends: Modern SMS Marketing Techniques for Indoor Playgrounds

 

In this article, we are talking about the good, the bad, and the ugly of implementing a TEXTING strategy into your overall marketing plan.

And that line in itself might seem a bit dramatic, but trust me– a texting strategy done well can skyrocket bookings, traffic, and sales for businesses like ours.

NOT implemented well, however, a texting strategy can annoy customers at best, and at worst, cause them to disengage with our business completely– on all channels.

(And psst... if you prefer to listen instead of read, tune into episode 279 of the Profitable Play Podcast here!)

So today we are going to talk about some pros and cons of implementing texting into your marketing efforts, some creative use cases for when and where you might want to consider adding SMS marketing into your business, what the tech set up and execution looks like, then wrap the conversation up with some tips and best practices.

And by the way– SMS, which is an acronym I’ll be using today to keep things simple, just stands for short messaging service. And in this context, these are short messages sent from businesses– US– to our customers– the message recipients. 

One thing I want you to keep in mind throughout this article is that–  texting can be used in the obvious ways, yes, like letting customers know you have an upcoming event or sale– but it can also be used for customer service, gathering feedback, customer rewards and loyalty programs, emergency alerts and updates, and more.

So if you had a knee-jerk reaction that sending texts to your customers just seems over-the-top, icky, or TOO much for you– I’d encourage you to open your mind while listening. Because there are absolutely ways you can use this marketing strategy to ELEVATE your customer’s experience, not detract from it. 

And a recent study published by Attentive Mobile Consumer reported that the average smartphone user touches their phone on average 2,617 times per day and 85% prefer SMS as a customer service specific option– over ANY other form of communication. And 91% of survey participants said they WOULD subscribe to SMS alerts from a business, if it was one they already were familiar with. 

And from that same survey, 91% of respondents said they have derived SOME value from an SMS campaign from a  business- whether that was in the form of getting support, receiving a discount code, or something else.

So again, we are not looking to use any icky, slimy, overly aggressive sales tactics here. There are ways to do this the RIGHT way.

And this is one of those strategies you can go ALL IN on, or– pick and choose where you utilize it. This is completely customizable for your business needs and what feels best for YOU.

Alright let’s dive into the PROS of using SMS Texting.

  • Instant Communication: SMS offers a direct and immediate channel to reach customers, with text messages typically being read within minutes of receipt. This real-time communication allows us indoor playground owners to quickly convey time-sensitive information, such as special promotions, events, or sudden closures.
  • High Open and Response Rates: SMS boasts high open and response rates in the 90% range, compared to other communication methods like email, which tend to be more in the 40-50% range IF you have a really solid strategy. This ensures that your messages are not only seen but also acted upon by your customers, making it a highly effective tool for promoting your indoor playground's offerings and providing excellent service.
  • Cost-Effective: SMS marketing can be more cost-effective than traditional advertising methods like print, television ads, or radio marketing. With affordable pricing plans and the ability to reach a large audience with minimal effort, SMS offers a budget-friendly option for indoor playground owners, especially those with limited marketing resources. Here is a link to my favorite tool to use for this complete with a free 14 day trial link!
  • Personalized Communication: SMS allows for personalized messaging based on customer preferences and behavior. By segmenting your audience and tailoring messages to their interests and what they’ve purchased or engaged with in your business, you can foster stronger relationships and enhance brand loyalty, leading to increased customer retention and revenue. So for example, if someone hosted a birthday party, you can send them a personalized text a few days later asking for feedback. Or if they attended an easter event, you can send a text with a survey, and maybe even sharing your event calendar with a discount code if they would like to book something else. That’s what I mean by personalized communication.
  • Multimedia Approach: Something I talk about quite a bit on this podcast is the importance of reaching your customers through various channels and mediums. Have you ever heard of the rule of 7? If not, the marketing rule of 7 is a marketing principle that states a potential customer must see a message or hear about a brand at least 7 times before they'll be provoked to take an action or make a purchase. While this “rule” has been around since the 1930s, it still very much holds true today- although recent science shows the numbers to actually be between 5 and 12 times. However, studies are also showing that if people can hear from a brand or see a marketing message in different mediums– so, text, video, graphics, etc– and through different channels– so, social media, in person, email, and YES- via texting– they are more likely to absorb the message and therefore take action or in our case, make a booking or visit. Which brings me to my next point...
  • Diversifying Your Marketing: We already know how fickle social media channels can be and how often they go down and how difficult their algorithms can be to crack– we don’t have to talk about it again. But knowing that texting has the highest open and response rate as we touched on earlier AND can be a backup if one of our other methods to reach our customers goes down should be a HUGE comfort to anyone who doesn’t like putting their marketing “eggs” all in one basket, or relying TOO heavily on one platform or technology to make sales and get their messages out to their audience. So even if you don’t plan to utilize texting often in your marketing, having it in your back pocket can save you from the devastating effects of an outage or account deletion.
  • It’s Easy: Unlike the time it takes to curate a perfect instagram post and caption or write a really heartfelt email- it can take just seconds to get a short text message put together and blast it out to your entire audience. Again, while I think a strong marketing strategy utilizes all of these forms of media, knowing you can put together a quick, to-the-point call to action and be confident it will actually be read by upwards of 90% of your customer base is amazing especially for those of us who can sometimes feel overwhelmed when it comes to marketing our businesses and communicating with our customers. And again, this isn’t JUST a marketing discussion, we are talking about customer service as well. So knowing you can quickly get feedback and let your current clients know you care about them in such a quick and easy way should feel like a secret weapon to any business owner.

Alright, let’s get into some CONS of using this marketing strategy.

  • Character Limitations: SMS has a strict character limit of 160 characters per message, which can restrict the amount of information that can be conveyed. This limitation may hinder the effectiveness of your marketing messages and require careful crafting to ensure clarity and impact. So while it can be quick in theory, you may actually have to work a little harder to get all the info you want across in such a tiny space.
  • Opt-Out Rates: Let’s talk about the elephant in the room- Unsolicited text messages can be perceived as intrusive by some customers, leading to higher opt-out rates IF not managed carefully. Balancing frequency and relevance is crucial to minimizing opt-outs and maintaining a positive brand image, which we are going to touch on in a moment. But personally, I am MUCH more likely to take the time to opt out of a brands annoying text than I am to unsubscribe from an email– because when used to often, marketing texts can ABSOLUTELY get annoying and out of hand. 
  • Regulatory Compliance: Indoor playground owners must adhere to regulations such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) when sending marketing texts. Failure to comply can result in legal consequences and damage to your brand's reputation, making it essential to stay informed and compliant with current laws and regulations.
  • Can Be Expensive: The good news is that many texting platforms, including the one I recommend here, charge only for the amount of texts you send per month. So you have some control over your bill in that way as you can increase or decrease the number of text you plan to send per month. However, as your customer base grows and grows, it CAN get expensive, especially if you are using texting to blast messages to your entire customer base. While I do think texting, done well, can have a massive ROI, it is a risk because you will be paying for the texts you send whether or not they resulted in any sales.

Alright, let’s talk about some best practices and use cases  so we can do our best as brands to utilize the best parts of a texting strategy while avoiding many of the pitfalls.

First, some tips:

  •  Obtain Explicit Consent: This one should be obvious, but I felt it was still worth mentioning. Always obtain explicit consent from customers before sending them marketing texts to ensure compliance with regulations and respect for their privacy. Provide clear opt-in and opt-out options to give customers control over their preferences, and make it clear what people can expect when they provide their phone number. So a use-case for this one: I have seen brands give customers a special incentive like a one-time discount, bring a friend pass, or a free coffee for opting into their texting service– which is a great idea. Again, just make sure people know how to opt out if they desire once they’re on your list.  And by the way, you can get people to opt in when they sign up for your email list, make a purchase, scan a QR code, or something similar. Your methods for getting people ON your texting list will vary a lot depending on which platform you go with- so make sure you read about your specific tools best practices and suggestions when it comes to getting people to Opt IN to texting.
  • Segment Your Audience: As I recommend all the time on this podcast, make sure you segment your customer base based on demographics, interests, or past behavior to tailor messages for maximum relevance and effectiveness. Personalize your content to resonate with each segment, increasing engagement and response rates. So for example– if you have people tagged as summer camp customers in your system, they would be the perfect segment to text about a summer camp open house for the following year, an early bird special, any last-minute openings you want to fill, or early registration codes or discounts. Because they have already signed up for a past camp, you can be fairly certain they will be interested in hearing about camps again the following season or year, or if you have any same-season updates.  Another use case would be texting a birthday customer a link to a survey after their party has finished, to ask how their experience was. After the survey, if their feedback was positive, you can ask for a review, which we all know are highly important right now on google. Because this is clearly a timely and relevant message for that specific customer, they are very unlikely to be annoyed by this method of communication, and in fact, it can further solidify how much you care about your clients, even after they have paid their bill and left their facility. It can be a great way to end their series of interactions with your business on a really positive note. And if they did have an issue or concern, it gives them a place to address it with you directly so they feel valued and heard. This can prevent customers from instead airing their frustrations online or in reviews, where they feel like they can get the most attention. So following up with people to ask about their experience can really catch any issues before they get out of hand AND elevate your overall customer service and experience. And you can employ the same strategy after your classes, special events, and more. Again, because these texts are highly targeted, you don’t need to feel worried about overusing the strategy. As long as you’re clear about why customers are getting the text and what your intention is, your texts won’t feel annoying or intrusive to them.

Which brings me to my next point….

  • Include a Clear Call-to-Action (CTA): When utilizing this strategy, you want to encourage customer engagement by including a clear and compelling CTA in each message, whether it's to redeem an offer, RSVP for an event, take a survey, or visit your indoor playground's website for more information. Make it easy for customers to take action and track conversions to measure the success of your campaigns. And reduce any chance of your customers feeling confused by your text. So for example, if you’re texting about summer camp early registration- make it short and sweet. Like “Hey 2023 camp family! 2024 camps are now open for past clients ONLY! Use code REPEAT for $50 off one or more weeks! Click here:__" Or “Hey- we hope you had an amazing time at our easter egg hunt! Take 3 minutes to share your experience and get $5 off your next event by clicking here”. Kind of like when twitter first came out, and YES, I know I’m showing my age– you kind of just get used to writing clear and concise messages in this format. 
  • Timing Matters: Respect customers' schedules by sending texts during appropriate hours, avoiding early mornings or late evenings to prevent annoyance. Not everyone starts silencing their notifications at 8pm like my mother does. So you have to be much more careful here than you would when posting on social media or sending an email. My favorite time to send texts is later in the afternoon, before dinner. You also want to monitor customer engagement and adjust your timing based on response rates to optimize effectiveness. It’s not about any algorithm here– this is something you want to test for YOUR specific audience. And while most platforms adjust for time zone differences, because we are local businesses, we luckily don’t have to worry much about that. 

 

To wrap this discussion up, I wanted to do a quick use-case roundup and share a few more examples if you are still looking for some inspiration.

Here are some creative ways you can utilize texting in your business to drive sales and better serve your customers. And if I missed any, feel free to send me a message on IG and I can do a follow up.

  1. Promotions and Special Offers: Notify customers of limited-time promotions, discounts, or seasonal deals to incentivize visits and boost revenue. Use SMS to create a sense of urgency and encourage immediate action to capitalize on time-sensitive opportunities.
  2. Event Invitations and Reminders: Send event invitations and reminders for birthday parties, holiday celebrations, or themed activities hosted at your indoor playground. Use SMS to provide event details, directions, and exclusive offers to enhance the customer experience and increase attendance.
  3. New Product or Service Launches: Introduce new attractions, services, or membership packages to generate excitement and encourage customer participation. Use SMS to highlight unique features, benefits, and promotional pricing to attract interest and drive sales.
  4. Customer Feedback and Surveys: Solicit feedback through SMS surveys or polls to gather insights and improve the overall customer experience. Use SMS to encourage participation, provide incentives for completing surveys, and show customers that their opinions are valued and appreciated.
  5. Exclusive Flash Sales and Secret Deals: Send exclusive flash sales and secret deals to your SMS subscribers, offering limited-time discounts or special offers on admission tickets, birthday party packages, or membership subscriptions. 
  6. Personalized Birthday and Anniversary Messages: Send personalized birthday and anniversary messages to your customers, offering special discounts or complimentary services to celebrate their special day. This not only enhances the customer experience but also fosters loyalty and encourages repeat visits.
  7. Emergency Alerts and Updates: Use SMS to send emergency alerts, safety updates, and important announcements to your customers in case of unexpected closures, maintenance, or changes in operating hours. Keep customers informed and build trust by prioritizing their safety and well-being.
  8. Mobile Loyalty Program: Implement a mobile loyalty program where customers earn points for each visit, purchase, or referral. Send SMS notifications to update customers on their point balance, rewards earned, and exclusive offers available for redemption.
     

Now that you have had a chance to weigh the pros and cons of utilizing texting in your marketing, got some tips on best practices, and have access to a free 2 week trial of my favorite SMS marketing tool– I’d love to know. Is this something you will be implementing in your business to stay ahead of your competition? Message me on IG and let me know!

 

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