Texting prospects is a point of controversy for many business owners. Some entrepreneurs argue that you “should not text your customers unless you’ve met their family,” while others go to the opposite extreme and only allow customers to make purchases via SMS.
Luckily for you, there is a middle ground. In this article, we’ll discuss some ways that you can get started texting existing customers. We’ll also encourage you to consider two-way texting as a modern and personalized customer service strategy.
Clients Want You to Text Them
Texting is not a new technology – the first text message was sent in 1992. But for some reason, businesses are slow to add texting to their marketing arsenal.
Companies that have implemented business texting boast of great success. One retail company, Tee Public, found a 25% conversion rate from their SMS marketing, versus only 9% conversion for email marketing. A Global 500 company started sending feedback surveys via text and had 96% of recipients respond within 24 hours.
Take a cue from these businesses and don’t be unwilling to change. Meet customers on the platforms they are already using and you are likely to get better response.
Texting is Easy and Instantaneous
Everyone knows how to text, even your grandma (though, she does still sign her name at the end). Because of this, there is no learning curve for your customers. While using a chat box may still intimidate some clients, texting is very non-threatening.
Clients can receive and send texts with little frustration and the messaging is instantaneous. In fact, 95% of people who have opted-in for texts from a business will read those messages within three minutes of receiving it. If you can make your texts valuable and relevant to your customers, they will be considered a benefit not a nuisance. Tee Public found that even after a year of sending texts to clients, 80% still opted-in to receive them because they added real value to their brand.
Texting also gives you the benefit of urgency. About 60% of users turn off push notifications for social apps, while 82% of customers keep notifications on for Native SMS. If you have a limited-time promotion, SMS is a great way to reach your customers and convey the sense of urgency that closes sales.
If you are looking to start texting your clients, here are some ideas of types of messages to send:
- Order confirmations
- Appointment reminders
- Product announcements
- One-day sales
- Welcome texts
- Delivery notifications
- Exclusive events
- Feedback surveys
- Incentive contests
- Coupon redemption
A Two-way Conversation
Many businesses are already texting clients with appointment reminders, security codes and special offers. If you want to take it to the next level and really engage with customers where they are, you should start offering two-way texting.
A recent report by Twilio on consumer messaging, found that 9 out of 10 people would like to use messaging to communicate with business. However, less than half of today’s businesses – only 48% – are equipped to message with customers.
As a business, you are working hard to create a great product and show your prospect that it has value. When you ignore customer preference, you are letting your product down.
Messaging apps already include the two-way function and many younger audiences use messengers more than texting. However, while messaging apps are popular for personal communication, texting is still the preferred method for business. 47% of people say that they prefer using the Native SMS app for contacting businesses (the next highest app preference is Facebook Messenger at only 21%).
In our business (accounting software), we’ve used texting and other more modern forms of communication to get out of the Quickbooks vs. Xero debate and create a new category of user-friendly accounting software. If you communicate via text rather than just email and phone, you’re more likely to be seen as different, more modern, and more customer-focused than more traditional competitors.
Inviting the two-way discussion via text will help you serve your clients better. In fact, people are likely already trying to contact you via text for customer service concerns, so implementing two-way texting will help you find inquiries you’re currently missing.
Better Serve your Customer
As explained, messaging was not built to be a one-way communication channel. 85% of consumers not only want to be able to receive information but also reply to businesses or engage in a conversation. This can be a great customer service tool if you take the time to implement it.
Recently, Hawaiian Airlines tested a program inviting their customers to ask questions and give feedback via two-way text. While they were concerned some communications would need to be transferred to a more secure channel (payment data, loyalty, etc.), they found that about 70% of the 200 daily texts received were simple question-and-answer. Most clients were curious about traveling with infants, seat changes, luggage, etc. Hawaiian Airlines has since adopted their texting trial as a permanent program.
Two-way texting increases the efficiency and scope of your customer service. While you can only be on the phone with one customer at a time, you can easily – and quickly – respond to multiple texts simultaneously.
Shifting customer service encounters away from the telephone call also keeps your customers happier. When they have a two-second question, they can get a two-second answer, rather than waiting on hold for twenty minutes only to get redirected to another department. This reduces the client frustration of rehashing concerns to each new support person and saves your company money and time wasted on phone calls.
What Not to Do
Texting customers is a great way to promote your business and service customers, however, there are some things you’ll want to avoid.
- Don’t Text Without Permission: If you don’t have written permission, you can’t send automated texts (think TCPA). Subscribers must opt-in (texting a keyword to your shortcode counts) and you must include disclaimers (i.e. “msg & data rates may apply”).
- Don’t Cold Call: “A text is more personal than an email, so if you’re contacting the user and they’ve never heard of you… you’ll likely be considered spam.”
- Don’t Text at Inappropriate Times: Stick to business hours.
- Don’t Text Too Long: Get to the point, keep it around 160 characters.
- Don’t Text Too Often: The common consensus is around 2-4 texts per month.
- Don’t Use Shorthand: It can confuse and isolate digital non-natives. Use as a last-resort.
- Don’t Be Pushy: Don’t try to close a deal via text. Phone calls are still a better option for sales.
- Don’t Be Stuffy: Less formal is okay when texting – be conversational, not buttoned-up.
- Don’t Cross the Line: Offer necessary information and be wary of becoming too personal.
- Don’t Trap Your Customers: Make it easy for customers to opt-out. Knowing that they can opt-out at any time, makes them more comfortable opting-in from the start.
Since almost every adult in the US has a cell phone (and even basic cell phones are equipped with SMS), texting customers is a no-brainer.
Start with automated texts that offer value to your customers and then graduate to customer service texting. At least 50% of consumers say that companies do not make it easy to contact them. Don’t be one of these companies – get used to texting your customers.
Jaren Nichols is Chief Operating Officer at ZipBooks, free accounting software for small businesses. Jaren was previously a Product Manager at Google and holds an MBA from Harvard Business School.
This is a sponsored feature
UK delays review of business rates tax until autumn
LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s finance ministry said it would delay publication of its review of business rates – a tax paid by companies based on the value of the property they occupy – until the autumn when the economic outlook should be clearer.
Many companies are demanding reductions in their business rates to help them compete with online retailers.
“Due to the ongoing and wide-ranging impacts of the pandemic and economic uncertainty, the government said the review’s final report would be released later in the year when there is more clarity on the long-term state of the economy and the public finances,” the ministry said.
Finance minister Rishi Sunak has granted a temporary business rates exemption to companies in the retail, hospitality, and leisure sectors, costing over 10 billion pounds ($14 billion). Sunak is due to announce his next round of support measures for the economy on March 3.
($1 = 0.7152 pounds)
(Writing by William Schomberg, editing by David Milliken)
Discounter Pepco has all of Europe in its sights
By James Davey
LONDON (Reuters) – Pepco Group, which owns British discount retailer Poundland, has targeted 400 store openings across Europe in its 2020-21 financial year as it expands its PEPCO brand beyond central and eastern Europe, its boss said on Friday.
The group opened a net 327 new stores in its 2019-20 year, taking the total to 3,021 in 15 countries. The PEPCO brand entered western Europe for the first time with openings in Italy and it plans its first foray into Spain in April or May.
Chief Executive Andy Bond said its five stores in Italy have traded “super well” so far.
“That’s given us a lot of confidence that we can now start building PEPCO into western Europe and that expands our market opportunity from roughly 100 million people (in central and eastern Europe) to roughly 500 million people,” he told Reuters.
To further illustrate the brand’s potential he noted that the group has more than 1,000 PEPCO shops in Poland, which has a significantly smaller population and gross domestic product than Italy or Spain.
The company, which also owns the Dealz brand in Europe but does not trade online, has already opened more than 100 of the targeted 400 new stores this financial year.
Pepco Group is part of South African conglomerate Steinhoff, which is still battling the fallout of a 2017 accounting scandal.
Since 2019 Steinhoff and its creditors have been evaluating a range of strategic options for Pepco Group, including a potential public listing, private equity sale or trade sale.
That process was delayed by the pandemic, but Steinhoff said last month that it had resumed.
“The business will be up for sale at the right time. It’s a case of when, rather than if,” said Bond, a former boss of British supermarket chain Asda.
Pepco Group on Friday reported a 31% drop in full-year core earnings, citing temporary coronavirus-related store closures.
Underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) were 229 million euros ($277 million) for the year to Sept. 30, against 331 million euros the previous year.
Sales rose 3% to 3.5 billion euros, reflecting new store openings.
($1 = 0.8279 euros)
(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by David Goodman)
Fashion-focused livery launch reveals new colours for Gasly, Tsunoda in 2021
Scuderia AlphaTauri debuted their colours for the 2021 Formula 1 season as drivers Pierre Gasly and Yuki Tsunoda unveiled the team’s new look with the livery for their AT02 racecars. The setting was a fashion-forward launch in the all-new showroom of AlphaTauri, Red Bull’s premium fashion brand.
Salzburg (AUSTRIA) – Formula 1 team Scuderia AlphaTauri served up a stylish preview of the new F1 season with a presentation of its 2021 livery alongside key looks from the upcoming Autumn/Winter 2021 collection of Red Bull’s premium fashion brand, AlphaTauri. The launch – held at AlphaTauri’s new showroom in Salzburg, Austria and presented digitally – marked the first time that drivers Pierre Gasly of France and Yuki Tsunoda of Japan have appeared together as teammates.
After a successful first season racing in AlphaTauri colours, the Italian outfit is looking to challenge the top of the ultra-competitive midfield in 2021, and the two young drivers have been assigned clear-cut roles. Gasly is Team Leader. The 25-year-old, who made his Formula One debut with the team in 2017 under its former name, Scuderia Toro Rosso, has earned two F1 podiums. During the 2020 campaign, Gasly’s maiden win at Monza was a defining moment for him and the team under its new name.
Tsunoda, 20, is the first Japanese driver to race in F1 since 2014, his promotion coming off the back of a fast, four-season trajectory from winning the 2018 F4 Japanese Championship and finishing third in the 2020 FIA F2 Championship to entering the top-level ranks this year. Expectations are high for his rapid style of learning to complement the experience of Gasly.
“The decision to go for Pierre and Yuki in 2021 was taken because Scuderia AlphaTauri’s philosophy is still to give talented young drivers from the Red Bull Junior Program the opportunity to step up to F1 and to educate them – this is why Yuki now gets his chance,” explained Team Principal Franz Tost. “With Pierre on Yuki’s side we have an experienced driver, who can help our Japanese rookie to develop faster, but at the same time we can aim for good results. I think this pair is the best possible scenario to achieve both our targets, and I’m also confident this will be a successful one.”
In 2020, Scuderia AlphaTauri won best livery by a landslide, and the team’s all-new, matte blue and white racecar livery took center stage with the drivers at the fashion event, anticipating the 2021 model that will debut at pre-season testing in Bahrain on 12 March. The test is the precursor to an unprecedented 23-race schedule, and in preparation for the demanding calendar both drivers have spent time at Red Bull’s Athlete Performance Center for intense fitness testing.
“I’m ready to take on the role of team leader. Yuki is a very quick driver, and he will help us move the team forward – we will work together to achieve that,” said Gasly, the team’s all-time top points scorer. “I really believe last year was the team’s best in terms of the way it worked, the development, the performance and the way it managed the race weekends. I’m always hungry for more, and I’m sure we can achieve great things in 2021.”
Tsunoda, who was honored with the Anthoine Hubert Award for best Formula 2 rookie in 2020, added, “I’ve been lucky enough to spend some time with Scuderia AlphaTauri ahead of the season, so I’m already developing strong relationships and learning a lot from them – including Pierre, who is an incredible talent. My main goal is to learn quickly and deliver results as soon as possible, and I’m really excited to get started.”
The launch at the AlphaTauri Showroom not only gave Gasly and Tsunoda a preview of the AlphaTauri Autumn/Winter 2021 fashion collection, but the drivers had the chance to select their new off-grid looks ahead of the season start.
Ahmet Mercan, CEO AlphaTauri, summarized: “This is a triple reveal at a unique point of time: a new AlphaTauri Showroom where fashion meets F1, a first look at the AW21 AlphaTauri collection and the unveiling of the new Scuderia AlphaTauri F1 livery and driver pairing.”
Scuderia AlphaTauri fans don’t have long to wait for racing action: The FIA Formula 1 season kicks off at the Bahrain Test on 12-14 March, in preparation for the Bahrain Grand Prix on 28 March.
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