One of the big advantages of SMS is that you are limited to 160 characters (in reality less, once you’ve added the opt-out ‘footer’). This means you must focus on the content of the message, not get distracted by images or links. Sure, you can write more than 160 characters, which sends multiple messages, and most networks/phones will put the messages back together, but when you hit high volumes, your costs will soar, and your members’ attention will wane. Let’s stick to one SMS per message.
So, by its nature, SMS is simpler than email or post, which is good. Personalising the content is important, but given the limits already mentioned, first name or salutation is usually enough. You might use segmentation; have a different message for male or female, or different age groups, but the only other form fields you might use are for an appointment reminder, e.g. your induction/review/appointment tomorrow at 10:30.
The key point in any member comms is the ‘Call to Action’. Sending a message to your members telling them you miss them is nice, but you need to get them to take action. Good examples of a call to action are booking a programme review, a fitness test, or a group exercise class.
Almost as important as the call to action is ensuring staff, particularly instructors, know about the content (or about this month’s call to action). If a member approaches an instructor clutching their phone saying, “I’ve got this message from you”, the correct response from the instructor is “Great, let’s do this!” By contrast, if the instructor says, “what message?”, the interaction fails.
With the calls to action and appointment reminders, shortcode replies can work well – e.g. reply YES to confirm, NO to reschedule. It is better to find out a member isn’t coming 24 hours before an appointment than to have a no-show at the appointment time. [Read more about links and surveys in the next post 3]
Finally, don’t expect just one message to work with all members, particularly absentees. Some were coming back anyway, and the SMS helps. A small percentage may cancel their membership (they were going to anyway). Others will take two, three, or more contacts before they return. Using different channels (SMS, email, phone calls, postcards) show good intent, and will help to improve your member retention. But we always start with SMS.
This guest post was written by Guy Griffiths the Director of GGFit. For more information about GGFit visit here.