Four Effective Ways to Use SMS in Your Small Business Communication Mix

Kevin Hertz
by Kevin Hertz 03 Nov, 2016

SMS technology has evolved from a basic way to send a short message between two users on the same carrier network in the early 90s to today's widely used communication form for users of all ages, networks and devices types.


The beauty of SMS might be its wide reach. While by some estimates only 65 percent of us have a smartphone, nearly 100 percent of mobile phones are SMS-enabled, meaning that you can reach most if not all of your mobile customers using SMS technology. (Source: Convince and Convert)


But the broad appeal of this technology isn't the only compelling reason to make sure you have a solid SMS marketing strategy. Perhaps the most attractive factor is the immediate response it returns. Over 90 percent of text messages are read within three minutes of receipt. (Source: Fox News) While other forms of communication such as email, phone and fax all have their place and purpose, so too does the text message. Using SMS can be a great way to reach someone quickly and have your short, targeted message rise above other channels. So, what are some of the most useful ways that a small business can leverage texting?


Here are some ideas for leveraging SMS in your communication mix:


1. Two-way SMS to create a real conversation-- Now more than ever your customers are inundated with emails just like you are, and often you may want to take some customer service issues to a more private communication channel such as SMS versus having those issues aired in public venues like social media. SMS technology is a great way to meet the immediate needs of your customers in a quick and efficient manner. But be sure to employ technology solutions that allow for a two-way conversation. Some tools will allow you to only send messages to customers, but you also want to create a secure communication channel in which customers can easily respond and interact with your business. The ability to reply to you will be make you stand out, as not all companies offer the possibility to send text messages to the company. Your customers may find the option to text your business a real benefit to have their needs answered quickly. 


2. Wow them with great offers and fun games-- Customers are the most likely to opt-in to receive text messages when they perceive a benefit to them, such as highly attractive discounts or offers. (Source: Website Magazine) This represents a great opportunity for businesses to not only establish a two-way communication but to also pin point preferences and take rates on offers. One creative way to do this is to give customers a way to interact with your brand by texting a phone number to participate in a contest or game. For example, tell your customers during an event or via your social media pages to look for hidden numbers throughout shared media such as a video. If participants piece the clues together the result will be a phone number to text, which then links them to the next clue, ultimately leading participants to the final prize. This simple means of leveraging SMS technology can be highly engaging and low budget. And it might be a refreshing new spin on the more ubiquitous text clubs, which, while serving a purpose for subscriber growth, might not be as compelling now that so many brands offer them.


3. Treat your employees like customers -- Employees are people too, just like your customers, and it may be that texts are a convenient and effective way to handle some employee communications, such as responding to event invitations and reminding them of those meetings or events. Why not ensure that you have better turn out for meetings and company events by sending text reminders to employees. And just like with your customers, give employees the ability to respond to SMS messages to update their availability or provide feedback. Organizing this effort will help you to provide a professional spin on this sometimes more personal communication method by having the carefully planned and crafted text messages come from your company's phone number.   


4. Improve the sales experience with delivery notification -- By using SMS delivery notifications, you can keep customers apprised of the day and time window of the expected delivery so that they can manage their day. You can also alert customers when the driver is on their way, so they can be ready to receive the delivery. OpenMarket reports that 75 percent of millennials prefer text messages for real-time notifications of deliveries but also payments, promotions and surveys. 


The benefits of SMS for small businesses are clear, but just make sure you put the time and effort into your communication strategy to ensure you are sending highly relevant and attractive offers. This all starts with knowing your audience really well and what will motivate them. Brevity is your friend here, there is a reason why there is a character limit. Get to the point quickly to honor your audience's time and to retain their interest in receiving texts from your company. Pay attention also to when and how often you are sending the messages.


Make sure you also give the relationship the respect it deserves by following accepted guidelines for gaining their permission to receive text messages from you. Have a clear opt-in process that also lets them know in the fine print that they are providing their consent to receive text messages from you. Follow the regulations in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act to make sure you're on the right track. 


SMS can be an effective tool in your communication tool kit, and it doesn't have to mean increased budget. While some services will charge you for the ability to send text messages there are providers, including select virtual PBX vendors, that will now add SMS to your calling plans for free. One reason to consider the virtual PBX route, especially as a small business, is to avoid using your personal cell number to send the messages, but still receiving them on your cellphone. Look for ways to take advantage of these new tech advantages.