By Dan Steiner
Most millennials prefer texting to talking on the phone, and it’s more and more accepted in all generations. For instance, when you fill a prescription, the pharmacy texts to let you know when it’s ready. Text messages can now be used as evidence in deciding legal cases. What I’m saying is that text messaging now has great potential as a marketing channel.
In the world of marketing, we talk a lot about content marketing. “Content is king!” But what does that mean for text messaging? Millennials demand it, companies are rolling out automated texting platforms to keep customers informed, and text message threads serve as a permanent archive of a past interaction.
So, is text messaging the next frontier in content marketing? Let’s dig a little further.
Delivering a Unified Brand Voice Across Text, Website, and Video Content
Brand voice is the art of empowering your entire team to communicate with customers in a uniform way. When a customer reads content on your website, watches one of your videos on your YouTube channel, and emails or chats with one of your customer reps, they need to feel like they’re interacting with the same company.
Jeep does this by emphasizing adventure at every turn. PayPal does this by focusing on safely empowering businesses and customers to do business online. And Coca-Cola wins by communicating a brand voice that evokes happiness and good times.
Text messaging is probably the last thing you think about when trying to audit and control the consistency of your brand voice. But it shouldn’t be. Consumers have their smartphones within arm’s reach at all times, and according to Pew Research, text messaging is the most widely used smartphone feature. How can you disregard a channel with so much potential for reaching and satisfying your customers?
How Does SMS Fit into the Marketing Funnel?
There are two ways that I use SMS text messaging to delight customers. First, I actually offer it as an option. This immediately separates my online presence from most of my competitors. I’m not forcing customers to use it, but I’ve opened up this new channel of communication. And when it comes to solving client issues, busy customers love the convenience of sending a quick text in-between everything else going on in their hectic schedule.
Sidenote: Best practices (and in some cases regulatory compliance) require you to get formal consent before sending text messages to consumers.
Second, I use my SMS text plan on my smartphone to supplement the on-site chat. If I’m away from my computer, I’ve configured my website’s chat app to forward messages to my smartphone. First, I receive an alert, in case I’m near my screen and keyboard. If I’m away from the office, I can request all messages be forwarded to my phone. This gives my online marketing efforts the added benefit of real-time communication anytime I’m awake.
The Pitfalls of SMS
There are a number of texting mistakes that you’ll want to avoid when interacting with customers over text. The most obvious one is to practice professionalism – you aren’t texting your college roommate. But the one that took me a while to master was the art of quickly replying without getting sucked in.
For example, I’m usually tackling five or six different projects in a given day. A random message ding on my phone is tempting to ignore. But you’ve gotta get your head in the game here. Pause. Read what’s been sent. Then find a way to craft a message that shows you care, while respecting all the other irons you’ve got in the fire.
Here’s an example:
“Hi Eric! Thanks for your message. We can help supply the custom tablecloths for your event planning business. Can you please email a detailed description of what you’re looking for to Bob@FirstRateTablecoths.com? We’ll get back to you with an estimate ASAP.”
This message is a winner because it names the customer, identifies the issue, and tells them what the next step is. It also provides them with what action you’ll take to help them further. Because it hammers all of these points, you avoid getting sucked into a back-and-forth text-a-thon.
This message is also a loser. It’s more than 160-characters. So, for some wireless customers, its content will be split between two separate messages. And worse yet, the email address you are asking them to send content to is going to be broken in half – killing the hyperlink. And if there’s one thing we know from working in marketing, it’s that adding steps to a process is a conversion killer.
If you want to use text message marketing as a highly-personalized aspect of your marketing mix, here’s what you need to do:
There are a variety of ways to streamline this entire process, but we’ll cover those aspects in a future article. Until then, best of luck using text messages to maintain your brand voice and build more personalized relationships with clients.