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Message Board style texts – do they work?

Do message board style texts actually work? Dispensaries in the cannabis industry are better off without them.

Most retail dispensaries have had an increasingly difficulty time sending cannabis text messaging campaigns in the hopes of reaching their target audience.  In the early days, cannabis dispensaries were barred from sending A2P campaigns through short codes, but that was about it in the United States.  Then, most cannabis dispensaries could prevent having their messages filtered or blocked by avoiding “banned” words. Just like they sound, these are words that carriers and the compliance assistance companies they work with have flagged.

If your cannabis dispensary sends out a mass A2P text message containing a carrier defined “banned” word, your entire text marketing campaign will fail.  When this happens, there are no refunds from your messaging provider. If anything, your entire account with them could be compromised due to the content of your messages. The very thought of this is nerve wracking to those in the small business marketing industry.

As a result, a cottage industry of cannabis specific dispensary marketing providers have emerged. Focused on deliverability at all costs, these providers have created a way for alerts to go out to customers to notify them that they have an SMS text from your dispensary.

Named “walled gardens’, or “age gating”, these providers give retail dispensaries the ability to place their intended promotional message content online. When a cannabis dispensary attempts to send out a text message, the service provider instead sends out a link. To view their dispensary’s promotional content, the consumer needs to click on that link.

The purpose of creating these walled gardens is to prevent the digital overseers hired by wireless carriers, or even the wireless carriers themselves, from seeing your dispensary’s content and thereby failing your mass texting campaign. It also prevents them from blocking your outbound text message marketing phone number, or even your entire account.

With that goal in mind, these providers have added steps to further allude prying digital eyes. Sometimes clicking on the link your clients receive will send them to an age-gating page. The age gated landing page then asks your consumers if they’re 21 or older.  

In other cases, they’ll ask each consumer to create a specialized pin. But viewing the message (or any future message) from your dispensary is difficult. Your customers will need to enter in the pin they originally set up on their walled garden landing page. They’re only brought to your retail dispensary’s content after their pin has been validated by the provider’s server. 

All of this is done with the focus on getting your promotional text messages out the door and into customers hands. 

Why do some companies try so hard to get their entire contact list with SMS messages?

With a 91% open rate, mass text message campaigns have one of the best returns on marketing dollars spent. So this cottage industry of cannabis dispensary text messaging providers operate with the singular focus of getting you’re your text campaigns into the hands of your retail audience. 

Unfortunately, the one thing they all overlook is that the 91% open rate only applies to your message being opened.  If your audience has to jump through numerous hoops to actually view your message, that audience reach rate drops precipitously. Creating blocks that prevent carriers and their compliance companies from viewing your audiences’ messages also prevents your own audience from viewing your messages. These ideal customers are the very people you’re spending time and money trying to reach.

A 2012 study done by Signal found that only 6.16% of a target SMS audience even clicks on a link.  That doesn’t even begin to address how many people are willing to confirm they’re 21, or worse, how many people are willing to set up and maintain a personal pin to view your future messages.  How many of your ideal customers would opt-out from your digital marketing campaigns on a weekly basis if you were to ask them to jump through those hoops?

Entrepreneur says the ideal opt-out rate per campaign should be less than 0.1%. But when you send SMS messages and you audience can never view them, believe that your opt-out rates will be significantly higher. The value of receiving your dispensary marketing campaigns simply isn’t there for your contact list.

If you send an SMS campaign out to 1000 customers, don't expect more than 25 people to actually view it

At Stemless, we do it better

At Stemless, we want to make sure your audience has access to your content immediately upon receiving it.  That means that while we have the ability to put your content behind a “walled garden” if you want, but you certainly aren’t beholden to it. 

Instead, we encrypt all of our outbound content to ensure that while the compliance bots and digital scanners set up by wireless carriers can’t view it, your audience always can. A key marketing principle is to make things as easy as possible for your customer. The more work your contact list needs to put in to see your promotional content, the less likely they actually will.  That’s why billboards on high traffic streets cost multiples more to rent than billboards in sleepy rural highways

But if nothing else, isn’t age gating helpful in making sure your target audience is 21 and older? Yes. Absolutely. But at Stemless, there’s still a more practical and less obtrusive way to ensure that and keep small business owners safe.

At Stemless we don’t age gate at the time the message is received by your audience, we age gate when they first enroll. By collecting a customer’s birthday information at the time of enrollment, Stemless not only age gates, but gives your cannabis dispensary the opportunity to collect your customer’s birthday information.  Many of our retail dispensary owners use this knowledge to create a valued touch point by wishing them happy birthday, or reminding them to renew their medical marijuana license.

Since Stemless also integrates with every major cannabis point of sale system, we can also pull ages straight from your POS.  That serves to automatically age gate your customers without any additional information required since only legal adults are ever allowed to enter a retail or medical dispensary to begin with.

To sum it all up

So to answer our original question of whether message board style text messages work, the short answer is, they can. However, given the increased marketing costs wasted on target audience members who will never see your message, we certainly can’t recommend them when there are more effective and cheaper ways to reach your entire audience list. 

If you’re interested in learning more about how to reach your entire SMS customer list, schedule a demo with Stemless today.

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