Text messaging for business is here to stay, at least for quite a while. People are cranking out some 389 billion texts a month worldwide. And according to research by SAP, only 17% of users find messages from businesses to be intrusive. So, despite the development of numerous messenger apps, SMS is still in the game. What is Text Message Marketing? Text message marketing allows brands to use Short Message Service (SMS) to deliver messages such as advertising, current deals, and other announcements directly to customers’ mobile devices. The messages appear just like regular texts between two people. Companies often use text message marketing to update customers on the status of their order and confirm authentication when someone tries to log into their account as well. Since most people are texting and checking their messages throughout the day, this customer marketing technique is very effective for businesses looking to interact and engage with customers more closely. How Small Businesses Can Use Text Message Marketing How exactly can texting be leveraged by small business owners? There are several reasons why text message marketing works for small businesses, but let’s hone in on three distinct benefits that you might see right away. 1. Marketing and Promotion Ninety percent of all text messages are opened within the first three minutes of receiving them. Therefore, you can use SMS for time-sensitive promotions, and if you already have an email campaign in progress, support it with texts. Launching a loyalty program? Let your customers know by shooting a quick text. About to open a new store? Notifying customers via SMS might be the fastest way to get the information to them. Planning a discount campaign? Turns out, SMS coupons and vouchers can be extremely effective. Their redemption rate is 10 times higher than that of a paper coupon—it’s way easier to lose a printed voucher than your phone with the text. Texting is also an indirect way to increase sales, by reducing the number of no-shows. If you own a real estate agency, run a beauty salon, a physician practice or any other appointment-based business for that matter, you probably have experienced—or at least are familiar with—this issue. Texts sent 24 hours prior to the appointment can dramatically reduce no-shows. Remember not to overuse texting though. It has been proven that sending more than four messages a month can result in the growth of the unsubscribe rate. The best practice is one or two texts per week. 2. Improving Customer Service Keeping existing customers happy is another thing you can achieve with texting. A simple order confirmation shows a client you appreciate their business. A delivery alert or a booking status notification makes them feel in control of the services they have paid for. Most users find the conversation history with a company stored over texts a helpful tracking tool, which they can turn to for important links or other information. When writing a text, be concise, provide value and give clear instructions. Engage the reader from the start, and ensure that all the important details are included and accurate. 3. Getting to Know Your Customers Better SMS can be a powerful tool to gain customer insights. For example, if you’re planning to launch a new ice cream line, and are on the fence about which flavor to choose, ask your customers. Shoot them a text that goes like this: “Help us choose a new flavor. Text mango, wasabi, or pear to 222-333-3333.” Hesitant where to locate your new store? See what your customers think about it. SMS surveys obviously have their limitations. You only have 160 characters to ask your audience a question, and it’s best to offer them specific options to respond. Nevertheless, this kind of survey is cost-effective and great to use when you need the information fast. Thirty-one percent of customers respond to SMS surveys within six minutes. How to Get Started With SMS Marketing You can get started with SMS marketing in just a few steps. Build a List of Subscribers Start by building a list of subscribers so you can have a group of people to start texting. You’ll need permission so each person will need to opt-in to receive your text messages. If you have a brick-and-mortar store, you can prompt customers to sign up for text messages while they’re checking out. Or if you have an online business, you can get customers to sign up by opting in to receive updates about their order. Another option is to offer an incentive to people who sign up. This could be something as simple as providing notifications about deals and discounts to help customers save on future purchases. Introduce Your Brand Be sure to introduce your company and provide some basic information especially during your first few texts. Realize that several other businesses are using text message marketing too and your customers may already be receiving a few messages during the week. Craft messages that resemble your brand’s voice and you may even want to set expectations by letting customers know how often you’ll be reaching out to them. Remember to always provide an option for someone to opt out of receiving messages at any time. Many text message services offer what’s called a ‘Textword’ which is a special word or phrase someone can text to your business to subscribe. Some text message companies offer several textwords, so you can set up multiple campaigns and send out a series of marketing messages at different times just like an email marketing campaign. Test Out the Timing Be mindful of each subscriber’s timezone and also consider what time of day would provide the best engagement. Unless you’re offering a special sale that expires on a Sunday evening, you may not want to text people at this time, as they may not be interested in your offer if they’re relaxing or enjoying time with family. Consider sending texts at a reasonable hour on weekday mornings or during the early afternoon when most people experience a mid-day slump and could be browsing on their phone. Use your text messaging services to track and analyze how subscribers receive and respond to messages at different times. Keep Messaging Short The text messages you send should be short and concise. You will usually be limited to around 160 characters, so you want to reduce the likelihood of needing to send more than one text message at a time. Use text messaging for a short announcement, sale, or include a link that directs subscribers to the full piece of content you want to promote. Just focus on keeping it to the point. Also, proofread your texts to avoid grammatical errors that could weaken your business’ credibility. Test out different short messages to see what resonates with subscribers most. Choosing a Text Message Marketing Service There are quite a few different text message marketing services around including options like SlickText, Textedly, and EZ Texting. These services will help you get set up to send automated texts to customers and prospects when they survive. When choosing the best service for you, shop around and compare some of these features. Pricing - Consider your budget and how much you’re willing to spend on a text message marketing service. Some services offer free trials so you can test out features before you commit to anything. Bandwidth - How many text messages do you estimate you’ll want to send per week or per month? Most services offer different packages that limit the number of texts you can send per month. It may be wisest to start with a lower package, then upgrade if you need to send more texts. Automation - A text message marketing service is only as good as its level of automation. Compare different services to see how each one helps you automate messages and set up a series of messages. Does the service allow you to send images or GIFs in a text? Can you set up triggers so that when a subscriber opts in or clicks on a link, they are then added to an automated workflow? It’s important to narrow down your strategy for text message marketing so you’ll know which features to look for in a service. Customer service - Customer service is another area to look at as you compare services. Confirm that customer service is available once you sign up, along with how to reach them. Can you call a number during the day or receive help via chat or email? If you’re brand-new to text message marketing, you may favor a service that provides one-on-one training opportunities or live tutorials. Text message marketing does not come without its challenges like getting customers to opt-in and dealing with message length restrictions. Nevertheless, it’s still a great way to expand communication with customers and improve your direct marketing strategies.