When it comes to marketing and customer communication, most business owners know about email and social media. But if you aren’t using SMS, you’re missing out on an opportunity to increase your reach.
Text messaging – or SMS as it’s formally known – is ubiquitous in today’s society, but are you leveraging it in your own business? If you’re slow to adopt, just consider the following:
- 98 percent of American adults between the ages of 18-29 own a mobile device that’s capable of receiving a text message. In other words, virtually your entire audience – regardless of the demographic – is using SMS.
- More than half of all consumers would prefer to receive a text for customer support (rather than a phone call), while 90 percent of business leads say the same. SMS is seen as less intrusive than voice and is, therefore, more likely to produce the results you’re seeking.
- Though 64 percent of consumers are likely to view a company in a positive light after receiving a text message, just 30 percent say they actually receive texts from companies they buy from. This means the demand for SMS is there. Customers are simply waiting for brands to catch up and use this powerful medium.
- SMS is immediate. There’s virtually no time between when a message is sent and when it’s received. This makes it ideal for sending time-sensitive messages that won’t work with direct mail and other mediums.
- Communicating with customers can get expensive. With a piece of direct mail, for example, you have to pay for the design, paper, and postage. SMS, on the other hand, is very affordable – costing just pennies per message. When you’re sending a message out to thousands of customers, this can save you a considerable amount of money.
There are few better ways to increase customer engagement than to use SMS to stay on top of your customers’ minds.
4 Ways You Can Use SMS in Business
Not sure where to begin with SMS? Here are some ways you can seamlessly integrate it into your business moving forward:
1. Testing Customer Engagement
Businesses are always looking for ways to determine which customers are fully engaged and which ones are absent. There are a variety of ways to answer this question, but SMS is one of the more effective solutions.
You can easily use SMS to test engagement by sending out a short, simple message like this: “Receive 40 percent off your next order by showing us this message at purchase.”
With a generous offer like this, you’ll see who is interested and who has moved on. It’s not a foolproof method, but it’s a pretty good indicator. If nothing else, it shows you which customers are persuaded by deals and how effective coupons and promotions can be in future situations.
2. Providing News and Updates
Most businesses send out news and updates via email, but did you know that less than one out of every four emails are actually read? By contrast, SMS has a 98 percent open rate. This makes it the perfect medium for disseminating important, timely content. You just need to make sure you use a link shortener. Otherwise, your message could intimidate the recipient.
“A link shortener is simply turning a long, extensive URL into a shorter one,” TextMarks explains. “Using a shorter link can make your message appear more user-friendly and increase its readability. It can also save valuable character space and maintain the concise message you want. Also, link shorteners have no negative impact on SEO, so long as the link works and the conversion is a 301 redirect.”
3. Generating Leads
Did you know that 77 percent of U.S. internet consumption comes from mobile devices? If you want to take full advantage of this, you need to adopt SMS as a tool for generating additional leads. Something like a “Click-to-Text” button on your website may be enough to create a little traction.
4. Providing Customer Service
Most people are within arm’s reach of their phone at any given moment. Whether it’s in a pocket, purse, or desk drawer, it’s never too far away. This makes SMS the ideal medium for delivering timely customer service.
SMS can be used to send out a tracking number for a package that will be delivered. It’s also ideal for notifying customers of store closures, delays, backorders, and other similar issues. From the consumer side of things, it can allow customers to check their order status or make a change to an order after placement.
5. Offering Coupons
When it comes to SMS, millennials are the sweet spot. And if there’s one thing we know about millennial consumers, it’s that they love finding discounts and deals on the products and services they purchase.
SMS is the ideal medium for sending coupons and deals to customers. With the right platform, you can even send out personalized coupons that target customers based on past purchase behaviors, current location, and demographic information.
6. Launching Text-to-Win Contests
In order to be highly successful with text messaging, you need a big list of engaged SMS subscribers. There are lots of ways to build your list, but one of the quickest and most effective is to launch a text-to-win contest.
A text-to-win contest is extremely simple. You launch a contest in which people must send a text message to a specific number and opt-in to your subscriber list. A handful of people are then chosen at random to be winners. Prizes may include cash, free products, coupons, or brand swag.
When launching a text-to-win campaign, the key is to advertise and promote it in as many places as possible. You can do this on your website, via social media, or even through physical channels like print advertisements or in-store displays.
7. Real-Time Reminders
It’s becoming increasingly common for restaurants to use SMS as a channel for handling reservations and letting guests know that their table is ready. It’s much simpler and more cost-effective than using the traditional hardware and software that restaurants have relied on in the past.
From the restaurant’s perspective, this also serves as a convenient method for building an SMS subscriber list. Once a customer opts in, the restaurant can use the subscriber’s information to send out offers, coupons, and news updates in the future.
8. Customer Surveys and Polls
Many businesses rely on customer feedback in the form of surveys and polls in order to stay abreast of what’s happening in the marketplace. Unfortunately, traditional methods of polling – whether face-to-face or online – are costly and time-consuming. You either have to hire a team of people to go out and ask questions, or you have to pay for expensive placement and promotion online. With SMS, you can avoid both of these options.
SMS is quick and responsive. The average mobile user picks up their phone hundreds of times per day and is quick to respond. SMS is also renowned for its accurate responses. Because of the anonymity and privacy, SMS survey respondents are less likely to have their responses be influenced by the individual asking the questions.
Another advantage of using SMS is that it’s digestible. You can send one question at a time, which eliminates the risk of a recipient becoming overwhelmed. And if an individual chooses not to complete the survey, you can still use the feedback that was provided.
9. Additional Security
You can never be too safe in today’s marketplace. Cybersecurity threats are all around us, and you don’t want your business – or your customers – to become compromised. One of the best ways to keep your customer accounts safe is to require (or at least offer the option) of two-factor authentication.
With two-factor authentication, a user needs to know something and have something in order to successfully log in. The know refers to a standard password. But once the user puts the password in, they’ll then have a one-time pin code sent to a pre-approved mobile device via SMS. The user takes this pin code and then uses it to complete the log-in process. By requiring the user to have a specific device, it’s much less likely that a hacker will gain illegal access to the account.
Most SMS solutions have some sort of verification system built in – or at least have the ability to integrate an API for this purpose. If you’re running an online business or other account-based enterprise, this is certainly something to consider.
Start Using SMS Today
If you’re looking for a powerful way to engage your customers, don’t overlook SMS. It’s a versatile touchpoint that businesses of all sizes and industries can utilize with overwhelmingly positive results. Spend some time crafting a strategy and give it a try. You’ll learn what works through trial and error.
Frank is a freelance journalist who has worked in various editorial capacities for over 10 years. He covers trends in technology as they relate to business.