If you're reading this, there's a fair chance you're interested in using texting to improve your communication with customers and clients. And that's great! It can be a potent tool for businesses of all sizes.
In an ever-evolving digital age, it's not enough to just market on one channel. You can't throw up a Facebook business page and call it a day. (Heck, you can't just join Facebook groups, Instagram, Pinterest, or Linkedin either.) They all have their place, but single-channel marketing is about as dead as a doornail.
Whether you're a solopreneur, a small business owner with a close-knit team, or even someone who's grown a business into a medium-sized enterprise, you now have access to multiple contact points across various channels. And, more to the point, customers expect companies to use all of them to capture their attention and offer a cohesive experience.
That's why in addition to other marketing channels, adding SMS text messaging is a smart move in 2022. After all, it's one of the most effective channels with a crazy-high ROI (considering it has a 98 percent open rate).
Plus, business texting can effectively complement social media campaigns and provide high engagement rates with targeted and relevant messaging delivered at lightning speed.
But if you're new to business texting, it can be a little confusing to know where to start. That's why we created this beginner's guide—to help you understand everything you need to know about texting for business so you can get started right away.
What is SMS Marketing?
Before we jump into the nitty-gritty, it's probably a good idea to get the basics out of the way.
SMS marketing is all about using text messages to promote a product or service. It's one of the most influential and personal ways to reach out to customers, as it allows you to communicate directly with them on a one-to-one basis.
Just take a look around. Do you really know anybody who doesn't have a smartphone these days? Furthermore, do you know anybody who isn't on their phone texting virtually every two seconds?
In fact, only 30 percent of those who receive texts don't read them within five minutes of getting them! (Come on, even you know how hard it is to keep from whipping your phone out to see who texted you the moment you hear a notification.)
One of the reasons business texting is so powerful is because it requires you to build a list of contacts. It's considered a form of opt-in marketing because each individual (legally) has to subscribe to that list.
A few examples of the kinds of marketing promotions that you can send using texts are the following:
- Discounts or offers
- Personalized promotions
- Remarketing; and
So what does this mean for businesses? It means that if you're not already reaching out to customers through mobile messaging, you're missing out on a huge opportunity.
Who Regulates Business Texting?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the main regulatory body for commercial text messaging. However, individual states also have regulations that businesses must adhere to when sending marketing texts.
You should also be aware of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, an important law protecting consumers from spammy and intrusive text messages. The main thing to remember about staying compliant is always gaining consent before sending business texts.
Using SMS Texting for Customer Service
Many businesses use SMS text messages to provide customer service. You can accomplish this in several ways, like:
- Sending shipping notifications
- Providing delivery updates
- Gathering feedback
- Sending order confirmations
- Providing tracking information
Of course, by using business texts for these customer service tasks, you can free up your time for other tasks.
According to Gartner, "Customer service is the biggest influencer of the customer experience." Additionally, "By 2025, 80% of customer service organizations will have abandoned native mobile apps in favor of messaging for a better customer experience."
There are two key takeaways here.
First, you should pay more attention to customer service activities than sales offers or offering discounts. Gartner’s report noted that customers believe customer service activities have a much higher value than marketing promotions.
The second is that the use of SMS texts for business is a trend that will only increase over time. That's especially true when used for customer service purposes.
This is one area of marketing where you don't want to miss the boat!
Best Practices for SMS Marketing
Before you hop on the bandwagon and start typing out texts as fast as your fingers can move, you should be aware that there are best practices you should follow. Doing so will help ensure that your customers have a better experience, and it'll also save you time.
Always Get Consent
Consent is crucial in all aspects of business, especially when it comes to texting. You should never send a text message to someone without their permission—it's rude and can be seen as invasive.
Plus, it's illegal.
Obtaining consent is vital before engaging in SMS marketing activities. You can do that by getting your customers to opt-in to your messaging list.
For example, you could:
- Ask them for their phone number or email address on your website's contact form and then follow up with an SMS confirmation link before sending any other texts
- Ask them if they would like updates via text at checkout when purchasing something online - this way, it's clear that they have opted in specifically for this type of communication; or
- Confirm opt-in by adding another field during sign-up where users can indicate whether they want future communications delivered as texts
When following up to confirm choices customers have made with any of the options listed above, you can send them a single text with a consent phrase along the lines of:
"Thanks so much for subscribing! Will you please confirm your choices by texting either a "YES" or "NO?"
No response should be considered the same as a "No."
Provide a Way to Opt-Out
At the same time that you obtain consent, you must also provide customers with a way to withdraw that consent. In other words, they have to be able to remove themselves from your list of subscribers.
One of the best practices for doing that is to include a clear and succinct statement that customers can use to unsubscribe from your list by clicking an unsubscribe link, which you incorporate into every marketing message. You should also provide additional opt-out methods, such as allowing customers to reply STOP or QUIT or UNSUBSCRIBE.
As international privacy laws become commonplace, this is a legal requirement you shouldn’t risk neglecting.
Grow Your SMS Subscriber List
How do you go about building your SMS subscriber list? One way is to offer an incentive for people to sign up. You could give away a freebie or discount for people who agree to receive text messages from you.
Another option is to make it easy for people to subscribe by including an opt-in form on your website or in your store. And finally, always ask customers if they want to receive text messages from you when checking out.
By following these tips, you ought to see a nice increase in SMS subscribers on your list.
Just a few other ways to grow your list are the following:
- Use your website to promote your SMS list
- Ask your subscribers for referrals
- Use your email list to invite subscribers there to become SMS subscribers too
- Invite your Facebook VIP group members to get SMS updates (you can use the same strategy on Instagram, Pinterest, etc.)
- Use a pop-up on your website's homepage on a landing page to promote SMS opt-ins
Make Sure Your Customers Know It's You
Never assume that you're already on your customers' contact list. Make sure your sender ID is recognizable. If it's not, people may not bother reading past the first couple of words.
If you aren't, your text could arrive from a number they're not familiar with. If you don't identify yourself immediately, your customers could delete your text without even being read.
An easy way to identify yourself right from the start is to put your company's name at the beginning of the text, like this: "Hi! It's ABC Company. We're following up on our meeting from yesterday."
Choose The Best Time To Send Your Texts
In the world of marketing, timing is everything. You have 24 hours in a day in which to send your texts. Unfortunately, they're not all equal when it comes to getting your messages opened and read.
The very last thing you want to do is wake your customer up in the middle of the night with a marketing offer or follow-up. Your customers probably don't want to receive messages that would interrupt their dinner, either.
With area codes making it easy to identify time zones, as well as message scheduling tools within Shout, there's no excuse for sending out a blast message at an inappropriate hour.
Finally, if you have an in-person business, another great option is to send SMS messages right after an appointment. You're already on the customer's mind, and you know they're up and about.
Know How Many Characters You Can Use
Remember that a single SMS message segment can only contain 160 characters. That's pretty short. You don't have much room to include a lot of detail, especially when you consider you have to say who you are and provide a way to opt out.
Thankfully, if you need to send a longer message, you can break it into multiple messages. Just be certain to keep track of how many characters each text contains so your customer doesn't get charged for receiving them all at once. (Quick hint: If you and your customers both have Shout, you can message them for free within the app!)
The days when you had to wait on hold or send an email for support are gone. The chatbot is customer service's future, and thankfully, they integrate well with SMS marketing.
With a quick, easy conversation with your conversation bot, you can answer questions and solve problems quickly. And since they never sleep, take breaks, or clock out (and don't need wages!), these bots will be able to provide customers with 24/7 service.
Use A Third Party Service
Creating your own database of subscribers and keeping track of whom you've sent messages to, and those you haven't can be incredibly time intensive. In fact, it can be daunting.
However, third-party platforms like Shout allow users to send messages in bulk through group chats, drip campaigns, interact on social media platforms like Facebook through an integrated inbox, and keep track of everything in one place.
Strategies To Use In Your Campaigns
You can always employ more than one strategy when engaging in marketing activities. The same holds true for SMS business texting.
For example, you can utilize all of the following in separate campaigns or even combine some of them when applicable.
- Back-in-stock notifications
- Discounts and sales
- Event promotions
- New product releases
- Post-purchase follow-ups
- VIP/loyalty programs
Let's look at these a bit more in-depth:
First of all, you should always let subscribers know when you have new items when they become available. But what about when something is sold out?
If you're finding that your popular items are running out of stock, or you're experiencing supply chain issues, don't worry! You can still let your subscribers know when the product they want is back in stock.
Just send a text message as soon as it happens. Easy Peasy.
Discounts And Sales
Everyone loves spending less! So, when you have a promotion coming up, a good strategy is to let potential customers know about them in advance — in exchange for their phone number.
This is a great way to start building your SMS subscriber list, not to mention it's a quick, easy way to drive sales. Notifying your customers about discounts and promotions is excellent for customer retention too!
Say you have a big event coming up. A great SMS strategy to promote that event is to send out a text blast reminder about the event a few days before it happens. You can also include a short promo code or discount for those who show up! That's sure to get people excited and encourage them to attend.
You could also use texts as an RSVP system — that way, you know exactly how many people will be showing up. Remember, a well-planned turnout is the key to a successful event!
New Product Releases
A great way to use business texting for product releases is to set up a keyword that permits people to register their interest in an upcoming release. Then you can send them updates and promotions leading up to that release.
You could also include a separate opt-in, so they can receive regular updates on all new products or services.
A lot of entrepreneurs use business texting for post-purchase follow-ups. A text message is a great way to thank someone for their purchase and ask if they have any questions.
You could also include a survey in your follow-up messages to get feedback on the customer's experience with your product or service. This can help you improve your offerings!
Finally, you could also set up a keyword that lets customers send in their questions and concerns after they've purchased the product or service. That way, you can address any issues right away and make sure your customers have no post-purchase regrets.
VIP Loyalty Programs
As with any other loyalty program, it's essential to make your VIP customers feel special and appreciated, so they continue coming back for more!
Now, your VIPs (if you have them) are already familiar with your business and the benefits of texting makes it easier than ever for them to stay in touch with what's going on at all times.
You can also use this channel as an opportunity to provide exclusive promotions or incentives that will only be available via SMS.
Obviously, texting is a great way to communicate with customers and clients. It's informal, quick, and efficient. It's transformed both marketing and media. As more people adjust to this new way of communicating, businesses need sophisticated tools for their text message marketing campaigns if they want to keep up with changing times.
Shout has an industry-leading reputation for delivering powerful and effective SMS tools to help you engage in successful business texting campaigns. Learn more and launch your SMS marketing journey today.