Like most business owners, you’re probably interested in ways to get your marketing messages heard. Some businesses are finding that text marketing offers a way to stand out amongst the chatter.
According to the 2019 State of Texting Report by Zipwhip, a business texting software company, an increasing number of businesses are using text marketing. The report surveyed 1,000 consumers and 1,000 businesses throughout the U.S. in December 2018 and found that “76 percent of consumers said they’ve received some kind of text message from a business.”
Of the companies polled, the survey found that “39 percent of businesses use some form of texting to communicate with their customers today. Of the 61 percent that said they don’t currently text…64 percent of respondents in that group said they see the value in business texting, even though they haven’t adopted it yet.”
Texting: An Effective Marketing Tool
Since a majority of businesses have yet to use text (SMS) marketing to their advantage, it’s a good tool to have in your marketing tool kit.
“With the huge increase over the past few years in the amount of targeted advertising and spammy emails, prospects are becoming overwhelmed, and email open rates are falling,” says Neil Andrew, founder of PPC Protect, a click fraud prevention platform that protects Google Ads advertisers against click fraud.
“However, at PPC Protect, we’ve found one channel that our customers aren't currently overwhelmed by—SMS messages,” continues Andrew. “Unlike emails, for which our company has traditionally achieved open rates of around 40 to 50 percent, our SMS open rates are in excess of 95 percent. It makes sense. It's easy to ignore an email, but we're all glued to our phones these days and check every interaction with them.”
PPC Protect uses text marketing to follow up with warm inbound prospects to book meetings and demos, and to convert them into trial, and later paying, users.
“Since utilizing SMS alongside email, we have seen a 30 percent increase in the conversion rate of lead-to-trial user, and a 25 percent increase from trial user to paying customer,” says Andrew.
Robin Brown, CEO of ViviPins, a supplier of customized pins and coins, believes texting is becoming a go-to form of communication between businesses and their customers.
“Text marketing is a successor to email, because it offers a direct method to reach customers, but with the added benefit of immediacy,” says Brown. “We've found engaging with customers via text messaging helps to personalize the process in a way that encourages repeat business. Text marketing is also much less intrusive as a marketing channel since people today are used to multitasking. They read and respond to text messages on the go.”
The Evolution of Texting for Business
“Over the past few years, text messaging has become a preferred way for businesses to reach their most valuable customers,” says Greg Trimble, CEO of Lemonade Stand, a digital marketing agency that assists clients with setting up text marketing campaigns.
“Text marketing began as a one-way medium but has started to evolve into a hybrid of a marketing and customer service channel that businesses can use to have an ongoing dialogue with existing and prospective customers,” says Trimble. “Although email isn't going away anytime soon, it's becoming clear that today's digital natives prefer text messaging to communicate with businesses.”
“The great thing about texting as a marketing strategy is the method has a low cost of entry and similarly low ongoing costs when running campaigns,” says Stephen Hicks, president of Hicks Nurseries. His plant nursery company uses an opt-in SMS program to alert customers when they’re running specials or offering deals that the customers wouldn’t otherwise have access to.
“SMS is an excellent channel for alerting customers to specials, because it offers the kind of immediacy that you can't get through any other type of marketing,” says Hicks. “It's a one-to-many approach that also offers ample opportunities for personalization. In that way, it's a fairly unique approach to building customer relationships that has no equal among other digital marketing options.”
Best Practices for Text Marketing
“Just like every other marketing channel, text messaging is already reaching a saturation point for users,” says Trimble. “The average smartphone user sends and receives dozens of texts per day. They’re already apt to skip over text messages from businesses that don't offer some useful, immediate benefit.”
The messages should make them feel as though the business is addressing their specific needs. When this step is skipped, the text messaging becomes mere noise...
—Stephen Hicks, president, Hicks Nurseries
To have success with text marketing, keep the following best practices in mind.
1. Obtain express consent.
“Don’t send SMS to people you don't have explicit consent to contact,” says Andrew. “SMS is a very invasive form of messaging. If users aren't expecting the message, it will seriously harm your brand. In our case, we provide users the opportunity to specifically opt in to SMS updates during the signup process. It’s also important that users can unsubscribe with one click.”
2. Avoid flooding customer cell phones with messages.
“Be respectful of the customer's privacy and make every attempt to use the permission they've granted to you wisely,” says Hicks. “It's almost always a bad idea to send a flood of text messages to someone on your SMS list, because they'll tune out the messaging, or worse, get angry at the constant intrusions."
“Use SMS to only communicate with warm contacts already engaged with your brand," Andrew adds. "Avoid using text marketing on cold contacts."
3. Allow a two-way dialogue.
“The most effective way to use text messaging is to encourage a two-way dialogue with customers, rather than to use it as a bullhorn to blast marketing materials out to the world,” believes Hicks. “Allow for customers to reply to your marketing texts.”
Brown agrees. “One of the big keys to succeeding with text marketing is to make sure that it's used as an interactive channel. If you approach it like a one-way messaging platform, customers will tune you out.”
The State of Texting Report backs this up. The study found that “one-way texting tools leave customers frustrated. Three out of four consumers said they feel frustrated when they can’t reply back to a company’s text message.”
4. Provide real value.
“As with most other types of marketing, the best way to use text messaging is to construct a unique value proposition for the customer,” says Brown. “Give them a real reason to engage with the business via text messaging. That can come in the form of shorter response times for product queries, or text-only discount opportunities. Anything that makes the time spent worthwhile.”
Only send personalized text marketing messages that customers are likely to be receptive to, agrees Hicks.
“The messages should make them feel as though the business is addressing their specific needs. When this step is skipped, the text messaging becomes mere noise, and customers won't take long to opt-out of your program," he says. "Once you lose a customer's permission to send messages, it's rare to ever get it back.”
5. Offer promotional discounts.
A discount is often highly effective in a text marketing campaign, suggests Trimble.
“We’ve found text campaigns that involve product coupons tend to outperform almost all other delivery methods with similar discounts,” he says. “There's a definite cause-and-effect involved. The message arrives, the customer recognizes the value proposition and they act on it. That's especially true for campaigns that use location-based services like geofencing to deliver timely text promotions right when the customer's in a position to take advantage of them.”
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