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5 easy ways to use text messaging to connect with your customers

· small business,sms marketing,customer loyalty,customer service,growth

By Emily LaDrig

Admit it. You don’t leave home without it, right? Your phone is with you at all times. Pretty much every American now owns a smartphone. (Really! 95% according to Pew Research!) And smartphone users are sending and receiving five times as many texts compared with the number of phone calls each day.* This provides your business with an amazing opportunity to connect with your customers through this magical, handy, always-available device.

Let me give you some stats on text messages. First, a text message has the estimated open rate of 98%, compared to email's 22%. 90% of the time a text is read within the first 3 minutes of receiving the message. Customers who receive texts have a 40% higher conversion rate than those who don't. Those are pretty staggering facts from TextMagic, but also very convincing that you need to be using SMS marketing for your small business. If people prefer to communicate through text message, then you need to communicate to them through text message.

Below I'm going to detail 5 easy ways that your business can start using text messaging to connect with your customers.

Marketing/promo

Once you have an established list of contacts you can send them push messages just as you would send emails to your email distribution list. Obviously, the message here is much more direct and to the point. In most cases you only have 160 characters to get your message across. Use text messaging to promote an upcoming sale that you’re running, an event, an open house, open appointment space at your salon, etc. With exclusive offerings and convenient text alerts, you’ll see customers showing up in no time. Check out a few sample marketing/promo texts below:

Regis Salon:FREE manicure with any style service over $40 this weekend only! Exp. 5/12/18. Forward this to friends so they save too! bit.ly/RegisSalon
 

Jack's Grill: Dinner plans tonight? Show this message to your server and receive a free appetizer with the purchase of 2 entrees.

Hi John, Spicer's Boat World’s annual mid-winter sale is here. Our entire stock of pontoons are 30% off. Stop in this week only! bit.ly/SpicersSale

Coupons

A good way to generate some repeat business and drive customers back to you is to offer coupons or incentives to your customers via text message. The big retailers are doing this already, and I’m sure you’re getting some of them to your phone. The key to coupons is to be consistent and timely. If you send a coupon to your customers every Friday at 11:00 am, they’ll come to expect it and count on it and use it. This is creating customer loyalty, which is a huge win and advantage over your competition. Here are a few examples of how to send coupons via text message:

Rick’s Sporting Goods: 20% off your next purchase of $100 or more. Offer expires 2/28/18. Use coupon code 123456789 at checkout.

Modern Natural Baby: Happy 4th of July. Celebrate by taking an extra 15% off this weekend only. Expires 7/6. Shop online with code STARS: bit.ly/modernbaby

Buddy’s Pizza: Buy 1 large pizza, get 1 large pizza free. Tonight only. Use coupon code 258147 order online or by phone.

Appointment reminders/confirmation

For small businesses that are more service based, you can use text messaging as well. Connect to your customers through appointment reminders and confirmations. Automated text reminders reduce no-shows by 40% according to TextMagic. Plus, SMS messages are cost-effective and less time consuming than email or phone calls. Many dentists, doctors, service companies and realtors are already using this handy trick. Below are ideas to get you started with sending appointment reminder/confirmation messages:

Bright Side Dental: Susan Smith has an appointment at 1:00pm on 3/5/18. Reply Y to confirm. Call 313-555-1212 to reschedule.

Massage Envy: Don’t forget your 60 minute massage with Bruce is today at 3pm. See you soon.

City Realty: Dave Chapman is having an open house for our newest listing on 4440 South Blvd this Sunday from 1-4. Share with your friends & neighbors. bit.ly/CityRealty

Surveys/Feedback

Most people don’t have time to fill out long, involved surveys or customer satisfaction forms. Plus, email survey response rates are typically low. Asking one or two questions to your mobile audience is known as a micro-survey, which is much more likely to be completed. Now, you’re probably not going to use micro-surveys to collect very important feedback. Think of it in a way that can be a little more fun and probably drive some traffic to your location. See some quick feedback texts below:

Love & Buttercream: Vote for your favorite cookie. The winning flavor will be our featured cookie all weekend:
A. Choc Chip
B. Peanut Butter
C. Snickerdoodle
D. Oatmeal Raisin

Massage Envy: Thank you for visiting us today. How likely are you to recommend us to a friend from 1-10?

Buddy's Pizza: We hope you enjoyed your pizza. Please help us improve by rating your experience: Text 1 for Awesome, 2 for Good and 3 for Poor.

Customer service

While using text messaging for customer service may not drive people to your business immediately, it will help with repeat business and overall happy customers. To do this, you need to communicate with them effectively and provide quality customer service. Use text messages to update customers on deliveries, order status, service updates or even a dedicated customer service number for back and forth Q & A with your customers. Take a look at customer service text messages in action:

City Realty: Dave Chapman would like to show your listing at 4440 South Blvd. today at 4:00 pm. Please respond Y to accept or N to decline.

Love & Buttercream: Meghan, your order of 3 dozen cookies is ready. You can pick up your order anytime before 7:00 pm today. Enjoy!

Modern Natural Baby: Your order #1564890 has shipped. Track the package here: bit.ly/20489408

How to get started

The most important element of implementing text messaging in your marketing strategy is to ensure that you are following the laws, rules and guidelines of SMS marketing. You must get consent before sending text messages. If you utilize a platform similar to SimpleTexting, EZ Texting, or Text Magic, they will make it easier by taking care of most of the legal stuff. If you are going to contact customers directly, make sure they opt-in by texting a keyword, which provides their consent. For example, you may create an ad like the one below asking customers to text PIZZA to 90583 to join your text and save program. Once a customer texts PIZZA to 90583, they are now legally on The Pizza Shoppe's text message distribution list.

Your business will also need to be clear on how often you will text your customers. You should state how many messages you will send per month in your confirmation text, and stick to it. 83% of people want to receive a maximum of 2 text messages per month from a brand and only 2% would tolerate more than 5 per month (Moto Message, 2015). Also, make sure you are only sending text messages during business hours. No one wants to receive a text from their hair salon at 6:00 am.

Finally, mix it up and have some fun. Customers are allowing you to send a message to their personal phone. Don’t send the same boring coupon every week. This is just like email and social ads, you need to test out content and offers and see what works and what drives your business.

TTYL. (Just kidding, don’t do this. Text people like you would speak to them. Do not use slang or shorthand).

*Acccording to the International Smartphone Mobility Report by mobile data tracking firm Infomate.

Emily LaDrig is the Chief Execution Officer at Excelerate America, a 2nd stage business accelerator that helps small businesses excel and grow in the digital economy. Have questions about keywords or search engine optimization? Hit her up at emily.ladrig@excelerateamerica.com.

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