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Small business: Reaching out to customers via text

"Texting is the highest-priority form of communication and  ... garners a quick, almost guaranteed response," a marketing exec says.

More than two-thirds of consumers said they would

More than two-thirds of consumers said they would rather deal with texts on reminders, appointments and scheduling than with emails or phone calls, said Scott Heimes, chief marketing officer at Zipwhip, a business text messaging platform. Photo Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto/Mihailo Milovanovic

An email can linger in customers'  inboxes for days, but it’s harder for them to ignore a text, which is why more businesses are reaching out this way for a connection in real time.

In fact, more than a third of businesses use texting with customers, and 76 percent of consumers say they’ve received some kind of text message from a business, according to a report by Zipwhip.

“Texting is the highest-priority form of communication and one which garners a quick, almost guaranteed response,” said Scott Heimes, chief marketing officer at Seattle-based Zipwhip, a business text messaging platform. 

The advantage shows in the numbers, according to survey data. Seventy-four percent of consumers Zipwhip surveyed said they respond to a text message from a business within an hour, compared with 41 percent that do the same with an email.

Texting is also a preferred medium for reminders, appointments and scheduling: More than two-thirds of consumers said they’d rather  deal with texts on those issues than  with emails or phone calls, said Heimes.

Hector Gavilla, a real estate broker with Signature Premier Properties in Commack,  said he has observed that, and so most of his communication with clients is through text.

“It’s quicker, and it helps us keep records of information,” he says, adding it’s a useful tool that he and clients can refer back to.

It also has more capabilities than even a few years back, and he’s able to send pictures and attachments via text.

Clients in general “expect and appreciate it,” says Gavilla.

Similarly, Jessica Flandina, owner of D’Oro Beauty Studio in Hauppauge, said she primarily uses texts for scheduling, confirming or adjusting appointments with clients.

She gives clients her business card with her cell number on it, and when they ask if they should call or text, she tells them texting is generally easier.

In addition to providing “instant contact,” it also helps clients keep track of the last time they came, and helps establish a “more personal relationship with clients,” says Flandina.

That personal link can be an additional benefit to texting considering “small businesses rely so heavily on personal interactions with their customers that it’s critical to find a way to get through to them,” said Heimes.

When getting started, the first step is to ensure your consumers have agreed to receive texts. Texting a consumer without opt-in can be not only illegal, but also ineffective in creating an engaged relationship with customers, he said.

Assure them that if they provide their number, it won’t be used for any other purposes or resold, said Scott Darrohn, a managing partner at fishbat, a digital marketing firm in Patchogue.

Incentives such as coupons for products can be a great way to get customers to opt in to texts. In addition, if you have an intelligent database, you can associate their cellphone number to products being purchased for more relevant and targeted messaging, Darrohn said.

Just don’t become invasive with your texts, he said.

“If a company gets your cellphone and starts hounding you with offers, people get very upset,” said Christopher Ulrich, president of Direct Response Group, a Melville digital marketing and online lead-generation firm.

He’s seeing more clients use texting now to communicate with customers. Besides Zipwhip, there are different platforms you can use for texting. Ulrich uses a platform called Twilio.

Try to find a platform that allows customers to respond, because the Zipwhip survey found that three out of four consumers get frustrated when they can’t reply to a company’s text.

For best response, Ulrich recommends sending customers texts that are “short, interesting and actionable.” If you want them to take an action, perhaps include a hyperlink in the text, he says.

Try different messages spaced at  varying times.

“You kind of want to test the market,” said Darrohn.

Fast Fact:

The average person has zero unread text messages at a given time, yet report they typically have more than four unread emails.

Source: Zipwhip 2019 State of Texting Report

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