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SMS drip campaigns: Your ultimate explainer

Alia Paavola
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Savvy marketers know that capturing customers' attention and dollars requires delivering personalized content at optimal times. That’s where a marketing strategy like drip campaigns comes into play. This tactic has been used in email marketing for decades, but due to the rise in business texting, brands are now sending drip campaigns via SMS too.

In this explainer, we’ll describe everything a business needs to know about SMS drip campaigns, including their definition, benefits, examples, and how to set them up. This guide even provides real-world insights from the head of marketing at Inunity, which owns four SMS marketing platforms, including Textline.

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<h2 id="What">What is an SMS drip campaign?</h2>

An SMS drip campaign is a set of pre-written texts that send or “drip” to contacts at pre-determined intervals. Drip campaigns, also called flows or sequences, are a popular marketing and engagement strategy designed to reach contacts with targeted messages at the right time.

Drip campaigns deliver personalized messages at a strategic cadence to steer customers through the buyer journey or encourage them to take a desired action. Drip campaigns are customizable and automatically triggered by rules such as time or user actions.

The difference between an SMS and email drip campaign is simply the channel in which the messages are sent. For SMS sequences, businesses send texts to customer’s mobile phones. Email sequences are delivered to a customer’s email inbox.

<h2 id="Benefits">7 key benefits of SMS drip campaigns</h2>

There’s a reason drip campaigns are a well-known marketing strategy: they work. Let’s look at some of the advantages of drip campaigns and specifically using SMS to deliver them.

  • Increase engagement. Drip campaigns balance timing, frequency, and message personalization to increase customer engagement. An effective SMS drip campaign reaches individual customers or leads at the right time in their journey, increasing the likelihood that a customer will interact with your message.

  • Improve lead nurturing. Most leads are not ready to purchase something immediately. SMS drip campaigns are a significant lead nurturing strategy because they help brands share their value proposition over several messages. Studies even show that businesses can generate 50 percent more sales-ready leads with the constant communication of a drip campaign.

  • Boost sales. One of the top reasons companies use SMS drip campaigns is to drive conversions. Research suggests that businesses saw a 20 percent boost in sales after adding lead nurturing strategies like drip sequences.

  • Save time. While the initial setup of an SMS drip campaign takes longer than a one-off text blast, you’ll eventually save time and effort with these automated sequences. Once a drip campaign is assembled, it runs on autopilot. You can regularly enroll new customers or leads into them.

  • Reduce churn. Drip campaigns also enable businesses to reengage customers who haven’t interacted with your brand recently. This campaign is a gentle nudge that helps you stay top-of-mind for existing customers to reduce churn.

  • Boost awareness. Drip campaigns help brands maintain and build awareness for product offerings. For example, marketers can use SMS drip campaigns to inform customers and leads about new item launches or services. 
  • Ensure messages are read and received. Text messages have a 98 percent open rate, making them one of the most effective communication channels for ensuring your drip messages are read.

    Luc Purdy, head of marketing at Inunity, explains that SMS often outperforms email on key metrics like deliverability and open rate because it has tighter regulations to prevent spam and requires explicit contact opt-ins.

    “These regulations and opt-in practices are a major reason SMS communications have substantially better performance for deliverability, open, and read rates,” Mr. Purdy said. “This results in a much higher likelihood of your messages reaching and being read by your intended audience.”

<h2 id="Types">10 types of SMS drip campaigns</h2>

Drip campaigns are versatile marketing and engagement strategies, meaning many different types exist. In this section, we’ll describe some of the most popular ones.

Lead nurturing drip campaign

Many customers aren’t ready to buy or book your service immediately. In these instances, you can use an SMS flow to nurture leads. These text message drip campaigns should share helpful information to move customers through the marketing funnel and help them become sales-ready leads.

A lead nurturing drip campaign example.‍

Welcome series drip

One popular drip campaign strategy is a welcome series. With welcome SMS drips, you can warmly welcome new subscribers and inform them about your business, offerings, or sales. Many customers are highly engaged right after opting into a text program.

The goal of this particular drip may be to boost sales or simply welcome customers into the fold. This will depend on your use case and industry. The following example shows a welcome series from a software company. The goal is to engage customers and boost premium subscriptions.

A welcome series SMS drip campaign example

Win-back or re-subscribe series

Many technology or online services offer subscription plans. Although companies want to avoid losing subscribers, it does happen. Use a drip campaign to try to win these customers back. This campaign typically aims to reduce churn and bring back past customers.

In the following drip campaign example, a digital print publication uses an SMS drip campaign to win back a recently unsubscribed customer.

A client win-back drip campaign example

Re-engagement drip campaign

Another great SMS drip campaign is re-engaging past customers and getting them back into your sales or marketing funnel. This is a great campaign to run if you notice customers haven’t interacted with your brand in a while.

Below, a premium pilates studio uses a re-engagement drip to encourage a past client to book a class. 

A re-engagement drip campaign example

Abandoned cart reminder series

For ecommerce brands, abandoned carts happen frequently. The average cart abandonment rate sits at 70 percent. As a result, many brands have turned to abandoned cart reminders in an effort to reduce this rate.

Sometimes, customers need a few nudges to encourage them to complete the purchase. The following example shows an abandoned cart drip campaign with multiple reminders.

An abandoned cart SMS drip campaign example

Promotional drip campaign

Many brands use SMS drip campaigns to promote limited-time sales or new products. These drip campaigns boost conversions and often encourage customers to buy with enticing offers.

Let’s look at a promotional drip campaign example from a furniture store looking to boost sales. In this example, the first message is sent when the limited-time sale starts.

A promotional drip campaign example

Review solicitation drip campaign

Online reviews can make or break a company. Research shows that 64 percent of customers read online reviews before buying or visiting a business. With this in mind, collecting direct feedback is in your brand’s best interest. You can use a personalized drip campaign to get more insight into your customers’ experience. 

In the following example, a hotel attempts to collect a review from a customer who rated their stay highly.

A review solicitation SMS drip campaign example

Post-purchase drip campaign

Another popular way businesses use SMS sequences is to stay in touch with customers after they purchase. This is a great way to thank customers for their purchases, request feedback, or cross-sell.

Let’s look at a post-purchase drip from a car dealership.

A post-purchase SMS drip campaign example

Renewal drip campaign

Some companies offer contracts or subscriptions. Use a drip campaign to get customers to renew before the deadline. This can help you improve cash flow and retain more customers.

In the flow below, a business encourages customers to renew their subscription before it ends.

A renewal SMS drip campaign example

Reminder SMS flow

Another popular automated campaign is for reminders. This drip campaign can span many industries and use cases. For example, you could use it to remind attendees about an event, patients about an upcoming appointment, or guests about a hotel stay.

Reminder drip flows can help boost attendance, revenue, and bookings. In the following example, a healthcare company encourages a patient to schedule a check-up. 

An appointment reminder SMS flow example

<h2 id="How">How to set up a successful SMS drip campaign</h2>

Following these steps and best practices, you can set up winning text drip campaigns.

Understand your audience

Mr. Purdy explains that understanding your audience is one of the most critical components of an effective drip marketing campaign. 

“Understanding the audience allows you to make relevant campaign content focused on achieving the goal of your drip campaign,” he said.

Knowing your audience means understanding their demographics, traits, needs, preferences, and behavior so you can tailor messages accordingly. You should also be able to describe how your product or service fulfills their needs and what content would provide them with value. 

Build and segment your subscriber list

A critical component of effective SMS drip campaigns is building your contact list and properly segmenting it for tailored campaigns. Here are some tips to do this effectively.

  • Collect phone numbers legally. You can’t just buy a list of phone numbers to text or use phone numbers on file. You must collect explicit consent to text your contacts to comply with SMS laws. This consent is called an SMS opt-in and is required by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

    Do you want to see examples of compliant SMS opt-ins? Check out examples in this article.

  • Segment your SMS list. Once you build your texting list, you should categorize and group contacts based on relevant criteria. For example, you could organize contacts by demographics, purchase behavior, where they are in the sales funnel, and more. Segmentation significantly helps businesses personalize and tailor text messages.

Define your goals

The next step to a successful drip campaign is to define your goals. This step establishes your drip campaign North Star.

Ask yourself what you want to achieve with your SMS drip campaign. This could include increasing sales, raising awareness about a new product, or improving customer engagement.

Your SMS drip campaign goals should align with your overarching business goals.

Plan your campaign

The next stage is to plan out your drip campaign, which includes these steps:

  • Pick a drip campaign type. Your drip campaign should support your overarching goal. For example, if you want to increase renewals, you could start a promotional drip campaign offering a specialty rate for customers close to their renewal date.

  • Refine your messaging. In this step, you will plan what content you must include in your sequences to move contacts toward your goal. Mr. Purdy shares that the best place to start is with your end goal.

    “Starting with the end goal you want from the recipients of the campaign, work backward to understand the specific content that will inform and compel your target audience to complete the desired outcome," Mr. Purdy said.

  • Map out your touch points. Another critical planning step is to map out each drip or flow of your messages. This means determining how many messages you want to send in each sequence. The frequency will depend on your goals, campaign type, and target audience.

    Mr. Purdy says, "Knowing which content is vital for each key messaging point will define the number of touch points or messages in your campaign.”
  • Determine timing. Businesses must also map out when each message will trigger. The optimal timing will differ based on each business and use case. However, businesses should consider whether event or time triggers are more appropriate. Additionally, companies should consider the optimal length of time between messages.

    “Some messages will require your audience to think about the information and seek additional information related to their needs, whereas others may require immediate follow-up,” Mr. Purdy shares. “There is no one-size-fits-all approach to drip campaigns.”
  • Write your messages. All the planning comes to fruition when you write out your content. Be sure to keep your text messages clear and concise.

    “If the content isn't easily skimmable, it is likely easily skippable,” Mr. Purdy explains. 

Set up and launch your campaign

After the lengthier planning process, it’s time to set up and launch your drip campaign. Let’s walk through the different components of an effective setup.

  • Set up your drip campaign. Now that you’ve mapped out your campaign, it’s time to set it up on a business texting platform. You should add your messages, triggers, and timing according to your campaign plan.
  • Personalize. The best SMS platforms can personalize texts at scale. Use these features to ensure each text feels personal and targeted. For example, Textline lets businesses use variable fields to automatically pull in a customer's first name and other details to make messaging more personalized.

  • Launch. Once your drip sequence is set up, double-check your messages, timing, and audience enrollment. After a thorough proofreading and review, you can activate your drip campaign. This will either trigger the first message to send to your contacts or ensure they receive messages once they perform a specified action.  

Monitor and optimize your sequences

Tracking drip campaign performance will help you measure results and uncover areas for improvement. Let’s discuss how best to measure and optimize.

  • Track KPIs. Ensure you’re collecting metrics that help you understand campaign performance. For example, you’ll want to look at SMS analytics like open rate, response rate, deliverability rate, click-through rate, conversion rate, and unsubscribe rate.

  • A/B test. Mr. Purdy shares that one of the best ways to better hone in on timing and frequency is to “test different cadences to measure the results.”

  • Analyze feedback and data. It’s not enough to track data; you must also analyze it to uncover trends. Keep tabs on how a campaign performs over time and pay attention to any direct responses from subscribers.

  • Optimize. Based on performance data and feedback, it’s best practice to adjust message content, timing, and frequency. Optimizing can help you better reach goals and return on investment.

Drive results and engagement with Textline

SMS drip campaigns allow your business to send personalized messages to contacts that get read. Text message drip campaigns help your business boost sales, raise brand awareness, cut churn, and stay top of mind. With the right SMS platform, you can drive the results you crave.

In the coming months, Textline will release a new feature called Flows. This feature will allow businesses to create and automate SMS drip campaigns seamlessly. 

Be among the first to use our seamless SMS drip campaigns. Create a Textline account today for free.

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