Young man using his cell phone; texting for small businesses conceptFrom sales and marketing to internal memos, text messaging is one of the best ways for modern small businesses to communicate.

Most smartphone users have their devices in-hand 93 percent of their waking life. 90 percent of the time, people read texts within three minutes of receiving them. No other communication method competes.

But before thinking about the best ways to use text messages for communicating with customers or employees, make sure you understand the legal requirements.

As part of the process of starting your SMS (short message service is another way to say “text message”) campaign, you have to get your customers and prospects to opt-in. There are a few ways to do this, like putting signup widgets on your website and in your email newsletter, or putting a call to action on a billboard or anywhere else where your customers will see it.

Once they have agreed to receive your texts, here are seven ways you can use texting to reach out to leads, customers, and staff.

1. Send sales and marketing information

One of the most popular uses for text messaging is SMS marketing. Complementary to the statistics above, customers who receive texts have a higher conversion rate than those who don’t, meaning that people who engage with you via text are more likely to spend money on your products or services. Sending promotions to your contacts via SMS can turn them into leads and customers more effectively than other communication methods.

Fortunately, integrating SMS into your current marketing plan isn’t all that difficult. Text messaging needs to complement your current efforts to be effective—so it shouldn’t be your only method of outreach. Don’t rely solely on texting to promote your events, deals, and campaigns—use a multi-channel approach to get the best results.

Keep in mind that a great marketing campaign is only as effective as the strategy behind it. So, if you choose to leverage the benefits of texting for sales and marketing, be sure that you have clearly defined goals in place—this way, you can measure the success and ROI of your campaigns. To learn how to create a sales and marketing plan, check out this article next.

2. Deliver discount coupons and vouchers

Current customers can benefit from your texts just as much as prospective ones. Vouchers delivered via SMS are used up to ten times more often than other delivery methods. Give your VIPs and your new contacts a reason to shop with discounts, vouchers, and other bonuses delivered to their phones.

According to the GfK MRI’s The Survey of the American Consumer, 60 percent of mobile coupon users are likely to switch brands just so they can use a coupon. By keeping your discounts in the forefront of recipient’s minds, you increase the likelihood that they will purchase from you, even if they are satisfied with their current brand.

3. Process orders and confirmations

When you allow order processing and confirmations via text, you open up an entirely new method for customers to purchase your products and services. Text messaging commands are fully-customizable, so you can use everything from words to symbols to emojis as triggers for an automated, easy-to-use ordering system. More options for orders can create more sales for your company.

You may be wondering how this works; what are the logistics of order processing via SMS? Well, Domino’s Pizza allows their customers to order via SMS using the pizza emoji (yes, the pizza emoji). So, there aren’t really any rules to how creative you can get with your text message order.

Tip: Integrate an online payment solution that allows users to order without sharing their credit card information via SMS—this creates a secure processing environment for your customers.

4. Forward automated appointment reminders

Like ordering systems, appointment reminders can be fully-customized in your text message platform’s dashboard. I believe this is one of the best ways for service providers like massage therapists, doctors, hairdressers, and even restaurants wanting to streamline their reservation process, to follow-up with people about appointments.

Set up your system to automatically send text messages to your customers to remind them that you’re expecting them, and allow them to confirm or let you know if they won’t be able to make it. You never have to pick up the phone. Plus, text messaging takes less time to reach clients and is more reliable than phone or email reminders.

5. Alert recipients of updated info and promotions

When something changes within your organization, or you’re launching a new promotion, you will want to let your contacts know about it. Why not tell them via text so that you are certain they will get the message? Communication is the only way to keep your patrons in the loop.

When you have a lengthy message to send, it may be best to avoid trying to send an email-length letter to peoples’ phones. Messages that are too long can be a major turn-off. Instead, include a link to a web page in your email that outlines the update or promotion.

Alerts are probably the tactic that you think of first when you consider text message use for small business. There are really no rules on what information you can share with your recipients. Keep in mind that it’s crucial to use a trusted platform that allows you the functionality required to deliver what you need, like:

  • Shortcodes: five- or six-digit numbers that can send and receive SMS and picture messages to and from mobile phones.
  • Short URLs: an online technique in which your URL (web address) can be made substantially shorter and still direct to the same page.
  • List segmentation: the ability to send the most pertinent info to the right people at the right time. (“segment” your contact lists by data collected on form submissions and/or based on their behavior)

Modern text messaging platforms should integrate easily with your customer relationship management (CRM) software. This way, you can easily and automatically keep track of when prospects or customers opt-in or out (which, again, is a mandatory requirement for promotional text messages). Though it may seem like you should be able to text anyone whose contact info you have, do not do this. If you do, you could end up with angry patrons and huge fines from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

6. Leverage SMS for internal communication

You may already allow text messaging for internal communication at your small business. But, have you thought about bulk messaging for memos and organization or department-wide updates? If not, consider how effective texting is compared to email.

The open rate for internal emails is only 66 percent on desktop, and it’s 21 percent for mobile. If you’re still using email as your main method of staff communication, it’s likely that those messages aren’t as efficient as they should be. Texting provides a powerful solution: send a text message that asks people to check their email or include a link to the memo. Keep privacy in mind and never send sensitive internal or customer information via text.

7. Conduct brief customer surveys

Quick surveys are a natural, easy way for you to build relationships with your customers. Shoot out a text asking a question followed by a list of possible answers. A quick text to all contacts and leads with a message like, “What kind of automobile are you thinking of purchasing? Reply with truck, SUV, sedan, or van,” would be a great way for a small car lot to find out what type of inventory to keep in stock.

That said, make sure not to turn text surveys into your primary source of clients insights. Utilize those insights together with data from other channels like social media, website analytics, in-store real-time behavior, industry and geographic trends, and so on.

You can also use surveys to find out more about customer demographics, interests, satisfaction levels, and more. When you meet someone you’re interested in face-to-face, you want to know more about them. Surveys are the “getting to know you” of small business SMS communications—they’re mutually beneficial—you collect valuable data while customers feel like you’re taking the time to get to know them.

Takeaways (plus an infographic with more insights)

SMS messaging provides diverse solutions for small businesses in all industries. Sales and marketing, coupons, orders, appointments, company updates, staff communication, and surveys can be sent in a meaningful, engaging way via text messaging.

If you’re ready to dive into a text campaign, use the ideas here for inspiration—this is just a drop in the ocean of text messaging knowledge available.

Check out the infographic below for more insights on how to use texting for your small business:

How to Use Texting for Your Small Business Infographic

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