LuxSci

Secure Text Message Marketing: Step By Step

Published: March 31st, 2017

Many marketers are engaged in a mad scramble to make the most of social media platforms. Unfortunately, these channels have some major drawbacks. Unlike email and text messaging, social media communications generally lack the security and oversight controls required in regulated industries like health care. Secure text message marketing is an excellent addition to boost your marketing results even if you have to operate under heavy regulations.

Text Messaging

Text Messaging: The Key Facts

Text messaging, also known as SMS (Short Message Service), was invented prior to the creation of modern wireless networks. Before we dive into the tactics and techniques of making text messaging work, let’s review a few key facts about the channel and how people interact with it.

  • Text Messaging More Popular Than Phone Calls. The first known text messages were sent in 1992. By 2007, Americans were sending and receiving more text messages than phone calls (Mashable).
  • Traditional text messaging was limited to 160 characters. This limitation was created prior to the development of widespread mobile data networks.
  • The Number One Smart Phone App. According to the Pew Research Center, text messaging is the number one app for American smartphone
  • Text Messaging’s Competitors. The rise of Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and Apple’s iMessage represent alternatives to text messaging.
  • Text Messaging Is Vulnerable. It’s no secret that traditional SMS has security problems. To protect patient privacy and keep yourself safe, paying attention to security has never been more important.
  • High Open Rates. Marketing research has found open rates over 90% for text messages. In comparison, email open rates rarely exceed 30%. If we recall the high open rates for email in the late 1990s, it is likely that responsiveness to text messaging will decline as as text marketing takes off. That means you should make the most of the text messaging opportunity while you can.

Which Organizations Use Text Messaging?

Unlike email and postal mail, text messaging is far from a universal marketing channel. This presents an interesting opportunity for the thoughtful marketer. On the one hand, your prospects are highly likely to receive and read your message. On the other hand, it is easy to do “too much” and frustrate your prospects. To inspire your approach, examine these four mini-case studies:

  • Health Care. Public health researchers in Washington State have successfully used text messaging to improve health without using PHI. The study points out the value of developing a variety of text messages for testing. For additional guidance, read our article: Texting under HIPAA.
  • Macy’s has used text messaging marketing to promote short-term sales and similar promotions. Their approach uses a “same day” approach to encourage customers to make a purchase during a limited time offer.
  • Food Service. An IHOP franchise has used SMS marketing to promote midweek sales. Innovative marketing is an excellent way to book more business during slow periods. Note that IHOP was able to track the success of the campaign by issuing special coupons.
  • Political Case Study. A significant number of people who register for events, especially free or low-cost events, do not show up. Political strategists have responded to this challenge by using text messages. In the 2016 election campaign, text messaging was used by several candidates to encourage people to show up at events and take other actions.
  • Financial Services. Would text messaging improve your financial behavior? That’s the question that Larry Chiang sought to answer. Using a variety of methods including free pizza, his effort generated results. This case study shows that traditional marketing techniques like offering free prizes continue to work with new channels.

What lessons can we take from these examples to apply to healthcare and other highly regulated industries? Fundamentally, these examples show that text messaging is proven to work in two ways. First, you can use direct marketing in text messaging as Macy’s and IHOP have found. Second, you can use text messaging as a way to “nudge” patients and customers to follow through on their commitments. Third, you can use text messaging to provide tips as the public health researchers demonstrated. Let’s look at each of those methods in detail.

Eliminating No Show Appointments: Text Messaging Reminders

Frenzied lives, long commutes and high-stress levels mean it is easy to forget appointments. That’s why more and more organizations and companies are using text messaging reminder services. For reminders to be effective, it’s worth emphasizing the best use of this strategy. Reminders are designed to increase action from individuals who have already made a specific appointment with you. With that caveat in mind, let’s turn ways to reduce, if eliminate, “no show” appointments.

Appointment reminders are best considered as one part of a broader appointment setting process. In many health care practices, patients are directed to make a follow-up appointment at reception as they walk out. On the surface, this may appear to be a simple activity – a brief interaction takes place and an appointment is made. Not so fast. If the patient is preoccupied with other concerns, they may not engage with the process and appreciate the value of the appointment. As psychologist Robert Cialdini explains in his book, “Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade,” you can obtain better persuasion results when you set the stage for your message prior to making the request. Asking a question before asking for the appointment sets the stage. Here is an example of how to position your suggestion to set up an appointment:

Health Professional (Pre-Suasion Question): You mentioned you’re planning an international trip. What kinds of activities are you planning on?

Patient: I’m planning on exploring historical sites and extensive walking tours to see the sites.

Health Professional (Appointment Question): With that level of activity, let’s make sure your immunizations are fully up to date. Otherwise, you might get sick on the trip! Please make an appointment for six weeks before your trip.

Once you have agreement on the value of the appointment, you can design your reminder campaign. Use the following steps to maximize the effectiveness of your campaign:

  1. Review the security and compliance protections in place on the secure messaging system.
  2. Write a template for appointment reminders (e.g. “Jane, your next appt. is Jul 8 at 4:30 pm for 60 min at XYZ Clinic.”)
  3. Upload the text message into your secure messaging system such as LuxSci
  4. Ask the patient to add your sending phone number to their contact list in advance. This step will prevent patients from being confused about your message.
  5. Upload patient contact information into your secure messaging system
  6. Request patient approval to send appointment reminders (start small if this is a new activity for your practice)
  7. Send appointment reminders for a month and keep records on patient activity (e.g. percentage who show up, cancel, reschedule or do not respond).
  8. Set a calendar reminder for 30-45 days from the start of your reminder campaign to review the results including comments from staff and patients.
  9. Adjust your reminder system based on the feedback you receive.

How To Design A Direct Marketing Campaign With Text Messaging

Applying direct marketing techniques has been proven to work effectively. However, this is a relatively new area compared to direct mail and email marketing. Since patients may be unfamiliar with receiving marketing messages by text, start gradually and measure the results. To encourage recipients to continue opening your messages, alternate between direct offers and informational material. Use the following steps to get started with your direct marketing campaign.

  1. Review the security and compliance protections in place on the secure messaging system. In particular, you need to check that you have a reliable process to gather and document patient consent to receive marketing messages.
  2. Invite current and past patients to join your text messaging tip service which will combine helpful tips and offers.
  3. Create 10 ideas for health tips related to your practice (e.g. in August, send a series of tips for back to school season)
  4. Create 2-4 direct marketing offers suitable to text messaging (see examples below)
  5. Arrange a sequence of messages that alternate between tips and offers.
  6. Upload the text messages into your secure messaging system such as LuxSci
  7. Ask the patient to add your sending phone number to their contact list in advance. This step will prevent patients from being confused about your message.
  8. Upload patient contact information into your secure messaging system
  9. Send appointment reminders for a month and keep records on patient activity (e.g. percentage who show up, cancel, reschedule or do not respond).
  10. Set a calendar reminder for 30-45 days from the start of your reminder campaign to review the results including comments from staff and patients.
  11. Adjust your reminder system based on the feedback you receive.

Direct Marketing Offers For Text Messages

The follow examples give you an idea of some of the offers you can provide to your patients.

  1. Book your massage session by 12/22 to get our year-end special rate. Reply MASSAGE to sign up.
  2. Want to run faster? Come to our health feet clinic on Thurs at 6 pm. Text RUNNER to go faster.
  3. Show off your bright white teeth for the holidays. Get 10% off tooth whitening. Text CLEAN to join.
  4. Squinting when you drive? Get our seven point exam & a free eye care kit when you respond by 09/27.

Developing a text messaging capability for your practice can do wonders for your patients and your bottom line.

To find out how LuxSci puts secure text messaging marketing onto the fast track, contact us today for a text messaging marketing demo.

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