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WhatsApp Marketing: Definition, Tips, and Examples

What makes WhatsApp marketing so powerful? It’s arguably the most direct form of customer communication, has an audience of over 2 billion active users, and boasts open rates of up to 98%. 🤩

With stats like that, your business should without a doubt consider using WhatsApp for marketing purposes. Using the messaging app can help you reach a larger audience, improve customer experiences, and ultimately drive sales.

But how does it work? 🤔

Using WhatsApp as a marketing tool may be unfamiliar to many. After all, it’s fairly new to the digital marketing scene and is primarily known as a messenger service for individuals.

Lucky for you, this article breaks down all the moving parts of WhatsApp marketing for businesses, gives you some handy tips and tricks, and even showcases some example WhatsApp campaigns.

What is WhatsApp?

For starters, WhatsApp is a free mobile messaging service connecting people around the world. The application is available on both Android and iOS and allows users to message and call with friends and family, no matter the type of device they have. 📱

WhatsApp has become extremely popular, with over 2 billion active users worldwide. Part of what makes it so attractive for individuals is that it sidesteps hefty SMS fees when communicating internationally, making it ideal for those with contacts overseas. As well, it keeps all your messages, group chats, voice calls, and video calls in one place.

To set up a personal account on WhatsApp, all you need to do is download the app in the App Store or from Google Play.

In app prompts will ask you to enter a phone number (not already associated with an existing WhatsApp account) and choose a name.

From there, you’re pretty much good to go! WhatsApp Messenger is extremely intuitive and can be set up in a matter of seconds.

To use WhatsApp on your computer, simply download the desktop application then use your mobile phone to scan the QR code it displays to link your account.

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Now that we’ve covered the original WhatsApp, let’s see how it can be used in a marketing context! ⬇️

What is WhatsApp Marketing?

Broadly, the term “WhatsApp marketing” refers to any marketing or promotional activities that take place on WhatsApp. Typically, marketers use WhatsApp Business and WhatsApp Business API — two interfaces separate from Whatsapp that allow you to manage conversations with your audience.

While you could technically send marketing campaigns using the traditional WhatsApp, it’s not recommended. You’ll likely run into issues with sending to large numbers of contacts. 📵

Let’s take a look at what makes WhatsApp Business and WhatsApp Business API better suited to marketing professionals:

WhatsApp Business

WhatsApp Business app logo

WhatsApp Business is a separate mobile app from the traditional WhatsApp. It’s designed for small businesses to be able to connect with their customers in real-time. Even better, it’s free!

Screenshot from WhatsApp Business app showing a business profile.

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Small business owners can create an in-app store, complete with products, pricing, and practical information like opening hours, physical location, and links to your website and social media.

In addition to your business profile and product catalog, you can set up quick replies and broadcast messages (up to 256 at a time). These features make communicating with potential customers a breeze, as your most useful responses are just one click away.

Screenshot from WhatsApp Business app showing quick reply feature.

For your audience, there’s very little difference between WhatsApp and WhatsApp Business. They’ll receive your business messages in their regular WhatsApp just like any other message.

WhatsApp Business API

The second WhatsApp marketing tool we’ll be discussing offers many more features and is targeted toward larger businesses.

The WhatsApp Business API gives businesses access to the product’s full-suite of marketing tools. It connects your WhatsApp Business account to your CRM or email service provider so you can manage large numbers of conversations at the same time from the same place.

Something to be aware of is that WhatsApp Business API doesn’t have a front-end interface of its own. (An API connects two software programs so they can talk to each other and share data). In this way, WhatsApp Business API brings your WhatsApp Business account from your mobile device to a marketing software.

The WhatsApp Business API has more advanced features than the mobile app alone. It gives you an unlimited number of users, allows you to send mass marketing campaigns, and supports strategic customer service.

In terms of messenger capabilities, the API allows you to send as many automated and session messages as you like. This means you can send WhatsApp marketing campaigns, accept orders, answer customer questions, and more!

One thing to be aware of is that unlike the WhatsApp Business App, the API is not free and charges per message after the first 1,000 you send in a month.

Another important difference between WhatsApp Business and the API is that you can’t just download or sign up to use the API. Instead, you need to go through an official WhatsApp partner to verify your business.

Stay tuned for exciting news about Sendinblue and WhatsApp Business API in the near future ✨

In summary, the best way to explain the difference the WhatsApp Business app and the WhatsApp Business API is this:

  • The mobile app WhatsApp Business is like messaging your target audience on WhatsApp.
  • The WhatsApp Business API is very similar to email marketing, but your target audience will get your content in their WhatsApp inboxes instead of by email.

Why Your Business Should Use WhatsApp

Now that we know what WhatsApp marketing is, let’s take a look at why your business should use it!

As we said, there are over 2 billion active WhatsApp users worldwide. This alone means the channel gives you access to an enormous audience. Compared to other messaging apps, WhatsApp wins the popularity contest, surpassing Facebook Messenger, Wechat, Snapchat, and Telegram.

Bar chart showing WhatsApp is the largest messaging service with 2 billion active users.

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In particular, if you have large portions or your target audience in Brazil or India, WhatsApp can really pay off, as these two countries have the highest number of active users in the world.

Aside from the sheer number of people using WhatsApp, the platform has other benefits as a marketing channel too.

More and more, consumers are looking for one-to-one interactions and personalized marketing content. WhatsApp marketing does just this. Talking on a platform like WhatsApp makes the customer experience feel like chatting with a friend.

While other marketing channels/tools like email and website chat also provide a one-on-one experience, they lack the intimacy and convenience of a WhatsApp interaction.

How does the intimacy and convenience of a marketing channel translate into hard numbers?

The open rate: It’s not uncommon for WhatsApp marketing campaigns to have open rates surpassing 97%. 

More than any other digital marketing channel, WhatsApp campaigns bring as close as you can get to a guarantee that your target audience will at least see your content.

From there, click-through rates aren’t bad either, with an average of 60% of WhatsApp campaigns being clicked through.

Starting to see how WhatsApp marketing could be huge for your business? Let’s take a look at how to create your profile.

How to Create a WhatsApp Business Profile

Creating a WhatsApp Business Profile is easy and can be done in three steps:

Step 1:

Download the WhatsApp Business App from Google Play or the App Store.

Step 2: 

Enter your professional phone number to set up your account. Note: this cannot be the same as your personal number. For this reason, many small business owners like to use a phone that can support two SIM cards at once.

At the same time, you’ll be prompted to enter your business name.

Step 3: 

Now you can start setting up your WhatsApp business account!  Tap on the “More options” button (the three vertical dots), then “Settings.” Then enter your business name.

Next, you’ll find six elements of your business profile to complete:

  • Profile: This is the information your audience will see about your business. Include things like a brief description, address, working hours, website, social media, etc.
  • Short link: This feature generates a QR code to include on your website, social media, or emails, allowing people to immediately launch a conversion with you on Whatsapp.
Three screenshots of WhatsApp Business app showing how to create a short link.
  • Greeting message: This is a welcome message automatically sent to people who contact your business.
  • Away message: This is a message automatically sent to people who contact you outside of business hours.
  • Quick replies: This feature allows you to create and save responses to send in just one click, helping to improve your response time and making conversations more efficient.
  • Statistics: This section houses data on sent, delivered, read, and received messages.

As a reminder, with the WhatsApp Business App, your broadcast list is limited to 256 contacts. To send campaigns to a larger number of people, you’ll need to sign up to a WhatsApp API provider. (Sendinblue users, watch this space). 😉

WhatsApp Marketing Campaign Best Practices

To set you up for success, we’ve put together some WhatsApp marketing campaign best practices. 🚀 Let’s take a look:

1. Respect the user experience

You know what they say: “With great power comes great responsibility.” 🕷️

The same goes for WhatsApp marketing. While it may be tempting to go full-speed ahead with promotional content given the enormous potential of WhatsApp, we’d advise you to tread with caution.

As we said before, WhatsApp offers a hyper personalized and direct marketing channel, but at its core, it’s a personal messaging app.

This means your marketing content shouldn’t be overly promotional or too frequent. This won’t do any favors for building quality customer relations. 🧑‍🤝‍🧑

2. Obey the WhatsApp template guidelines

To guarantee that your WhatsApp campaigns are properly sent and delivered, you need to obey the template guidelines set out by Meta. They include specific parameters on formatting, how to link to websites, displaying featured products, and language.

Again, these guidelines are intended to preserve the user experience. WhatsApp is primarily a messaging service for individuals. The opportunity to use it as a marketing channel means marketers need to respect this.

3. Offer value and convenience

Instead of sending your contact list campaign after campaign, your goal should be to offer them value and convenience in your WhatsApp marketing. ⏳

As great as it may be, WhatsApp marketing isn’t meant to replace other marketing channels. It should be a compliment to your existing email marketing strategy and any other channels you use.

The advantages of marketing on WhatsApp include its accessibility and its convenience for users. This means it’s particularly well–suited for things like delivery updates, sending order confirmations, tickets, event reminders, and billing notifications.

Have you ever been at a front desk, ticket counter, or the entrance to an event frantically digging through your inbox looking for a confirmation number or e-ticket? 🤦

Wouldn’t it be nice to find what you’re looking for in a WhatsApp message sent to you just ahead of time? Instead of rummaging through a cluttered email inbox, find what you’re looking for in a timely WhatsApp message!

4. Create content specifically for WhatsApp marketing

WhatsApp marketing is by no means overly challenging or difficult to learn. In fact, many email marketing best practices can be applied to WhatsApp marketing.

That said, you should treat WhatsApp as an independent marketing channel, working in conjunction with but not duplicating content from your other channels.

In practice, this means taking the time to format images, write copy, and adjust CTAs specifically for WhatsApp campaigns. Copy and pasting content directly from an email newsletter won’t lead to good results. It might even get rejected by WhatsApp!

In the end, creating content specifically for WhatsApp helps ensure you bring together the first three best practices we discussed above. That’s why repurposed content is likely to fall short. 🙅‍♀️

WhatsApp Marketing Examples

Now we’ll share some top-notch WhatsApp marketing examples to get your creative juices flowing:

KLM

KLM – Royal Dutch Airlines is the Netherlands national airline. They use WhatsApp marketing in a few different ways:

Screenshot of a WhatsApp marketing message from KLM providing a customer's booking reference.

In this example, the airline sends travelers a shortened version of their booking confirmation. Keeping in mind that most travelers no longer print their confirmation information, KLM makes it easy for them to access their booking details at the airport thanks to this WhatsApp message.

Screenshot of a WhatsApp marketing message from KLM notifying a customer of their departure gate.

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In this example, KLM again hits the mark with convenient and helpful content. Sending travelers their gate number around the time they arrive at the airport saves them the hassle of waiting for it to be displayed on the monitors. Though it may seem like just a small gesture, this type of content can go a long way in the minds of stressed travelers. 🤗

Screenshot of a WhatsApp marketing message informing a customer that they're flight has been delayed.

Here, KLM is letting a traveler know their flight has been delayed — something no airline likes to do. But unlike your conventional public announcement at the airport, this notification gives customers the chance to speak with a customer support representative.

Instead of waiting in line at the airport, travelers can manage changes to their itinerary with the help of customer support all from their fingertips. 🤳

Overall, these examples show how WhatsApp marketing can be convenient and practical for your audience. Nicely done, KLM!

Adidas

Our next example comes from Adidas and does a good job demonstrating the endless creative possibilities of WhatsApp marketing! The brand posted this to Twitter to kick off the campaign:

Basically, Adidas offered to send out substitute players for local soccer teams in London whose teammates canceled last-minute. ⚽ All you had to do was ask them on WhatsApp.

Screenshot of a WhatsApp marketing campaign by Adidas organizing for a substitute player to join the customer's soccer game.

This was part of their “Predator” campaign, which claimed Adidas soccer cleats were so well-designed they were “100% unfair” to the other team. That’s why the substitutes they sent were “100% unfair” too, including pros like retired pro Ricardo Kaká. Talk about brand persona!

Now, your average small business or ecommerce shop may not be able to hire professional soccer players to embody your brand. That’s not our point. Instead, take this as an example of how thinking outside the box can lead to high-impact WhatsApp marketing.

Obviously, Adidas has a high level of brand awareness. But for businesses that don’t, running interactive local campaigns like this one can do wonders for your own brand awareness and customer retention in the long-run. 📈

This type of campaign can also help when launching a new product or service, partnering with influencers or industry to send personalized messages featuring the new item.

Nivea

Our final WhatsApp marketing example comes from personal care brand Nivea’s Mother’s Day campaign.

Screenshot of a WhatsApp marketing campaign by Nivea offering downloadable Mother's Day content for customers.

Nivea Switzerland created a WhatsApp chatbot to dish out Mother’s Day content to their audience. The brand created a heartfelt video, a loving quote, and a Mother’s Day saying for customers to send to their mothers.

All users had to do was to write to Nivea on WhatsApp, then follow the prompts. This type of campaign is an interesting take on gated content.

Rather than requesting an email address to get access to professional content like ebooks, whitepages, or seminars, they’re offering a very personal form of gated content. 🎁

This type of WhatsApp content is particularly well suited for holiday marketing campaigns or event-based marketing. Your business could do the same for things like New Years, Valentine’s Day, or even March Madness and the Super Bowl.

Time to Build Your Own WhatsApp Marketing Strategy

Now that you’ve got an idea of the possibilities of WhatsApp marketing, it’s time to get creative with your own strategy!

Businesses of all sizes can benefit from using WhatsApp for marketing purposes. The channel can help build lasting customer relationships, improve retention, and ultimately drive sales.

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