11 SMS Messaging Strategies: A Sales and Customer Support Guide
By Andy Seth
Many business owners are aware of the benefits of sending out a text: It’s quick, personal, and has a higher engagement and open rate than email. It’s a powerful way to reach customers, and it’s in a lot of marketers’ toolboxes.
SMS marketing (“short message service,” also known as text message marketing) can be an effective part of an omnichannel approach to contacting customers, providing follow-up after an email, or reminding them about an appointment.
It’s also a powerful way for customers to reach you.
When you recognize that SMS messaging is meant to go both ways, the game changes. Text messaging isn’t just a new avenue for marketing; It’s a way to build honest relationships with customers. With SMS, you’re able to provide support (and encourage sales) one-on-one.
If you want to use SMS messaging to step up your customer support game and increase sales, read on for 11 key strategies you need to keep in mind for any text campaign.
The Golden Rule of Texting
It’s important to realize that your customers receive an average of 65 notifications a day. They’re getting bombarded with notifications, and the novelty of receiving a text from a company is wearing off rather quickly.
Your texts need to offer value and be used for outbound and inbound communication.
Customers still see their text message inbox as a guarded space. Turning their text message inbox into an email inbox isn’t going to work. If you’re not offering value, they’re going to unsubscribe very quickly.
Many times, texts are outbound only. Once your customers realize that they can’t text you back, that there’s no human on the other line, they’ll see your texts as a one-way email. It’s basically spam.
1. Make Sure Your Texts Offer Value
In order to stand out — and keep customers from unsubscribing — you need to provide value. What’s in it for them? Make sure you’re using text for a purpose, whether it be an exceptional promotion or a helpful reminder. Your text should keep them interested, not make them want to turn off their phone.
Just like no one wants unsolicited emails, no one wants a company sliding in their texts unannounced. Doing this not only harms the one-on-one relationship with your customer but most likely leads to an immediate unsubscribe. The solution?
2. Get Permission to Text Your Customers
This is one of the main rules under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), and it’s a simple best practice. You can easily gain customer’s permission for text by adding a phone number option in your email subscription field. Just be sure you also include an option for them to opt-out with an unsubscribe link or number where they can text STOP.
When you text your customer, you’re building a bond. The customer needs the ability to step away from your texts if they want to, but you can keep them from doing so by letting them know that it’s you who’s texting them.
3. Remember: Texting is Personal
No one likes a random number popping up in their notifications alongside ones from friends and family, but they’re more likely to be receptive if it’s a person they know. When you text, identify yourself.
Let your customer know who’s texting them. You can even take this a step further by including their name in the text, showing them that you know this is a one-on-one conversation between you and them.
At the end of the day, SMS Messaging was created for having conversations. If you’re only sending outbound text messages, it’s a matter of time before your customers will realize that they can’t text back (even if they wanted to)… and file you away as yet another business that’s trying to sell to them.
4. Text Back and Forth
Even if you don’t think customers will text you back, the option needs to be there. When customers can’t text you back, they’ll come to the (accurate) conclusion that you’re using text as one-way communication. It’s email inbox spam — in their private world of texts.
On the other hand, if they can text you back, it allows you to engage with customers and develop your relationship with them even further. At Flow, we see greater conversions and higher cart values when customers can engage in a two-way conversation with businesses.
We’ve seen a huge amount of customers choosing text over live chat for healthcare providers (about a 3:1 ratio), showing that customers and patients enjoy being able to text their care providers. Flow also sees a great number of people communicating back and forth on text for eCommerce.
It doesn’t matter what industry you’re in: eCommerce, healthcare, real estate. We’ve seen success with a two-way texting strategy across multiple industries. Humans love the ability to have a quick, easy chat with other humans.
Or in this case, a chat with your business.
This realization should change any company’s approach to SMS Messaging. Text is no longer just a marketing tool. It’s customer support.
How to Use SMS Messaging for Customer Support
If you don’t combine marketing with customer support, you’ll miss out on the full power of getting into people’s text boxes. Using SMS Messaging purely as a marketing tool will lead people to unsubscribe. Using it as a two-way communication channel can lead to leads and sales.
Related: Four Reasons Your Company Should Ditch Phone-Based Customer Service
5. Tell Your Customers You Can Text
For starters, you’ll want to put your phone number up on your website so that people know they can text you. You can also add your number to your Google Business page and your social media bios. Anywhere that your customers may land, you want to make sure they have easy access to your phone number.
By making your business easily accessible, you’ll further establish a relationship with your customers. It shows them that you’re there for them whenever they need to ask questions or have concerns. You’re only a text away!
Pro tip: If you’re providing support, you want to make sure that the phone number you have is a long code, not a shortcode. A shortcode may make your customer feel like they’re being marketed to. A long code, however, tells them that they’re talking to a real human at the company.
6. Have Someone Ready to Answer Text Messages
Customers expect a prompt response with texting. SMS messaging isn’t as synchronous as live chat, but it’s also not as asynchronous as email. It falls somewhere in the middle, with customers expecting to hear back within a minute or two (tops).
This means that you need to have someone at the ready for when texts come in. Trust me, when you post your number on your website and social media pages, the texts will come in.
You’ll see more texts because the people who would have called you instead will begin reaching out via text.
We’re all prone to phone-call nerves. Texting is simpler, faster, and more appealing to many people. Post your number online, and get ready for the influx.
At a minimum, you should have someone who’s dedicated to answering texts during your regular business hours. You can also look at your website traffic to see what additional hours people might reach out (AKA, what times you need someone ready to respond), but at the very least you’ll want to have your business hours covered.
The person who’s managing texts has to be ready to respond at any point in time. It’s hard to balance texts with other work because whoever’s responsible for texts needs to be able to respond promptly. If they’re caught up in other work, they might miss a message from a customer and not respond within the expected 1–2 minute time frame.
You have a few options, depending on how many texts you’re receiving. If you can’t justify having one person sit around for eight hours waiting on texts, this should be outsourced. On the other hand, if you have so many texts coming in that it overwhelms one person, you should develop an SMS messaging team (either in-house or outsourced). Have a handful of texts coming in each hour? Make it one person’s duty to monitor and manage these messages.
7. Report Performance Metrics
Not only do you want to be able to engage and nurture your customers with a quick response, but you also want to be able to manage your performance. You want to understand, categorically, what kinds of texts you’re receiving.
Are they about rescheduling appointments? Asking for more information about a certain product? Complaining about a defect?
Having this information can help you determine what issues you need to resolve. You can use this information to make process improvements or create new, informative content on your website. When you use a two-way text for customer support, listen to what your customers have to say and use this information to grow as a company.
The hard truth is that it’s not good enough to say, “we can text!” You should have a system in place that can measure performance metrics. How quickly was your response time? What issues and questions are coming in? How are they being resolved? This is valuable information that you can learn from your customer support texts.
How to Make the Most Out of a Short Text
When you’re texting customers, you only have 160 characters to work with. You want to pack a friendly punch with every word, making sure that the message you have to share resonates when it pops up in your customers’ notifications.
8. Be Clear About What You Have to Say
You may want to squeeze as much as possible in your short message, but it’s more important to make sure what you’re saying makes sense and fits your professional brand.
“Kthnx, ur gr8!” conversations won’t cut it.
Don’t use texting slang — be straightforward and make it easy for your customers to understand what you’re offering. If you have lengthy information to share, create a landing page on your website and include a link in the text that customers can click to learn more.
9. Use Call to Actions to Increase Engagement
In the same way that you want to be clear about your message, you want to be clear about the next step your customer needs to take after reading your text. Do you want them to show it at a restaurant for a discount? Click through and take a survey?
Be clear about how you want them to move forward. If you have room in your text message, share a call-to-action, instructions, or time frame. For example, you can say “Visit [this link] before Monday for a special sale” or “Show this text on Tuesday for 25% off your order”.
Tell your customer exactly what they need to do next after receiving your text to increase its value.
Related: How to Increase Your Chat Engagement by 67–85% With a Proactive Chat Strategy
10. Provide Value With Your Texts
Wait, wasn’t this tip #1?
Yes, it was, but it’s so important that I’m repeating it.
Text message inboxes are still a private space. If businesses intrude them without a specific value, customers will turn away faster than you can say “text me back”.
There are several different ways to include value in your text messages:
- Send them a welcome message after signing up with a special savings code.
- Celebrate a birthday or an anniversary with a discount offer.
- Remind a customer about their appointment with a text a few hours or a day before.
- Let them know when their shipment is coming by sending a message with details.
- Educate them about the product they just purchased with a “learn more” link.
All of the above strategies provide value to the customer. Pair that with a long code number and a simple introduction that lets them know it’s you, and they’re more likely to take action or engage in a text conversation.
11. Transform Your Customer Service Into Sales
Whenever you’re texting a customer or they’re texting you, there’s an opportunity to help them along their purchase journey — especially when you’re using a two-way text strategy.
Texting not only lets you help customers with their issues and questions, but it also creates a more personalized channel to let them know about other services or products that could benefit them.
For example, if you’re an orthodontist who receives a lot of texts from customers rescheduling their appointments, you can use the encounter as a chance to remind them of other services you offer. Once you help the customer reschedule their appointment, ask if they’ve purchased their retainer insurance or teeth whitening services.
Flow has used this strategy in the past. The reminder of a service has led to customers moving forward with purchasing the service. This action makes them aware of the service and offers a chance to convert them into a sale.
Related: Balancing Sales and Customer Service in Your Live Chats
The key to a successful SMS messaging strategy is remembering that text messages are personal and are meant to go both ways. It’s one thing to text your customers with sales and reminders. It’s another to open the doors and let them text you.
Two-way text isn’t scary. It’s a great opportunity to build a relationship with your customers and transform customer support into sales. If you’re going to use text message marketing, don’t miss your chance to combine it with customer support.
Related: Customer Service Voice: 5 Ways to Create a Cohesive Experience
Flow’s team of chat agents are highly trained for converting customer support texts into sales. Want to discuss how we can work together to build your SMS Messaging strategy? Drop us a line. We’d love to chat.