by Matt Hostacky, Regional Sales Manager, Flex IP Solutions/Cannabiz Text
Text messaging is the next wave of communication to customers. 98% of all texts get received. 92% are read within 5 minutes. And 45% receive a response, and if you think that your customers want to engage their favorite businesses this way, you’d be correct. 85% of people polled want text message marketing from their favorite companies.
But how do you get started? How does it work? Are there technology requirements? Etc. Here are some of the common questions we get to help you navigate this great communication tool for your business.
- What are the technology requirements? An internet connection and a computer with a web browser are all that is required for most systems.
- We’re not tech-savvy, is the SMS system difficult to use or learn? No, most systems are very user friendly and intuitive. Most systems work through your web browser and can be set up and used in minutes with little more than a user guide.
- Can I use my existing business phone number? Yes, most platforms support text enabling your 10 digit business number. This helps people recognize who the text is coming from and build brand awareness.
- What are some of the common features of an SMS system? Series (drip campaigns), Surveys (polls), Time-Texts (schedule now, send later), Contact Segments (Tags or Identifiers), Compliance tools, Reports, and Keywords (Text “Vegas” for a chance to win a trip to Vegas). Above and beyond these key features you may want to consider having 2-way chat and/or automations capabilities for your business to help answer any questions your patrons may have.
- Who can I market to? Existing customers or those that have “opted-in” in some way to receive your promotions and communications. You may have new prospects or customers text a keyword to get opted in for example. However, if you acquire a list of telephone numbers for outbound communications they are considered SPAM under the TCPA and CAN-SPAM acts and you should not message these numbers.
- Do I need to stay compliant? And how? Yes. Most systems (or at least the good ones) have some form of compliance automation and tracking to help keep you covered. At a bare minimum you need to have a “please reply stop to opt-out” message in each outbound marketing message.
- What are the costs associated with an SMS marketing system? This is probably the hardest thing to compare apples to apples. Typically, an SMS system is a monthly charge either per text or as a package of texts. Some systems lockdown certain features and charge extra for them a’ la carte. Other systems are part of a CRM or POS system and either charge per text or a fee to unlock that feature.
- What should my business have in advance of getting started with an SMS system?
1) Make sure you’re collecting phone numbers from your customers today.
2) Have a marketing disclosure statement that customers sign either electronically or physically so you are legally allowed to market to them.
3) Have said customers and phone numbers in or able to be exported to an excel or .csv file so you can upload them as contacts.
4) Have a plan. Don’t just set up a system and start sending texts. Understand why you want to text, how you will text your customers, and what you will be texting your customers.
So why is compliance so important? We’ve all received annoying texts we didn’t ask for letting us know we’ve won a cruise or there is a sale on cheap erectile function pills. The FCC and Mobile carriers are already working to put more measures in place to mitigate the number of robo-texts and SPAM that is being sent. This is called 10DLC Campaign Registry. 10DLC Campaign Registry is too much to cover in this blog but you can find out more here 10DLC Campaign Registry.
If you’re soliciting anything to your existing customer base you must have consent, see the TCPA and CAN-SPAM acts. The best practice for this is what is called a “double opt-in”. A double opt-in is having the customers’ consent twice. The first form of consent is typically in some marketing waiver that is signed or checked during the buying process, it’s no different than getting consent to call or email promotions. The second opt-in is during the texting process. Typically, the first text received will have a message that asks the customer to reply “YES” to continue to receive texts. You usually see this with keywords that ask the person to text a word to a specific number, when that happens an automated message will then ask the person to reply with “YES” to continue to receive messages.
Another form of compliance is opting out. You must always have a “please reply “STOP” to stop receiving texts…” message in your messages. The first question you should ask about any SMS/texting solution is if this is built into it, meaning if someone replies back with STOP at any time, does it remove them from your marketing list even if you don’t have the wording in the text? If the answer is no, it’s not a system you want to use. Once again the TCPA and CAN-SPAM acts mandate that you give the consumer a way to opt-out of receiving messages from your business. And you’ll want a system that captures and can report on this as well.
Something to understand is that certain things are still illegal to promote via text, i.e cannabis. Mobile carriers (the companies that transport the SMS messages) like ATT, TMobile, and Verizon have filters that are looking for hot button or trigger words. So words like cannabis, marijuana, weed, edibles, and ganja are going to get flagged. This doesn’t mean that you can’t still use text message platforms. It just means that instead being obvious about what you text out you become a little more vague. Your customers will still know there is a sale on edibles if you say something like “2 for $20 on ABC brand yummy treats this week”.
Compliance doesn’t have to be all doom and gloom. Make it fun. The most successful businesses do an initial promotion or giveaway to get folks to opt-in to their text marketing. Another great tip is to put your business’ name at the front of the text with a colon so everyone knows who the text is coming from. i.e. ACME: Acme widgets on sale this week 20% off! Remember your customers want to hear from you, they want to stay informed of any new products or promotions… that’s why they’re your customers. They just don’t want to be bombarded with SPAM on their personal devices at all hours. So be courteous and make sure the number of text promotions is not too much and are being delivered at appropriate times.
Additional Use Cases
By now most folks are aware of the two most prominent use cases for business texting, 1) marketing and 2) appointment reminders. But there is a wide world of other use cases for texting that you may not have even thought about. And these use cases can help separate your business from others by delivering a “wow” customer experience.
Instead of phone calls, why not answer questions about your product or service using texts? The advantages of using text for customer service are:
- Customers don’t have to wait on hold for the next agent
- There is always a record for that customer to refer to
- Your employees can handle multiple chats at one time unlike voice calls
- You can automate answers to the most frequently asked questions.
Yes, this is different from marketing because marketing is one-way. With two-way texting you can interact with your customers the same as you would in-person or via a phone. Your sales force can provide the presales support that your customers expect but with the convenience of a text or picture message.
If you’re in the business of deliveries or in-home service these are a must for a great customer experience. Send pictures of your delivery driver in advance. Let your customers know when their package will be or has been delivered.
During the COVID-19 lockdown, almost every business’ processes changed. Masks needed to be worn, social distancing observed, and a lot of businesses went to calling or texting when a customer or patient could be seen. The businesses that had an SMS platform ready to go didn’t miss a beat. There were signs like “Text our main number to let us know you’ve arrived” for things like veterinarian offices, healthcare, retail stores, and restaurants.
Business SMS is still relatively new, but the use cases continue to grow. Communication has moved to a person’s mobile device now and we don’t check or pay attention to email like we used to. People expect real-time alerts and notifications on their phones. Leveraging business SMS in multiple ways can provide a memorable customer experience to your patrons which will, in turn, create repeat customers.
Matt Hostacky, Regional Sales Manager, Flex IP Solutions/Cannabiz Text
Matt Hostacky, an IT and telecommunications industry veteran, takes a consultative approach to solve real-world business challenges with technology solutions. He serves as Regional Sales Manager for FlexIP Solutions Inc., a provider of managed communications services customized for businesses of all sizes and optimized for best value and performance. Hostacky advises customers on communications and collaboration strategies that leverage solutions, such as Cloud PBX, Unified Communications as a Service, Contact Center as a Service, Collaboration as a Service, SIP Trunking, Secure SD-WAN, Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery, and Business Text Messaging.