It’s obviously come a long way since the 1980s, but the humble text message is still a highly effective weapon in a company’s business development arsenal.
According to Deloitte’s 2016 Global Mobile Consumer Survey, 56% of UK consumers prefer to use some form of instant messaging on their handsets – up from 46% in 2015.
A full 31% don’t use their smartphones for calls at all in any given week.
It’s easy to see why. The text message slots easily into the mobile-first world of WhatsApp and push notifications: it’s sent and received quickly, it requires very little of the end-user’s time, and it encourages direct, uncomplicated, communication.
What’s more, according to Citron, SMS messages have a 95-97% open rate. In an environment where brand authenticity is increasingly prized, the value of this is difficult to overstate – in theory, anyway.
Here are 4 ways to turn theory into practice, and text messages into sales.
Time it perfectly
This may seem counterintuitive, given that almost everyone these days seems to be checking their phones compulsively, but you do need to take timing into account when sending your customers text messages.
This goes beyond simply not texting them at antisocial hours: you need to actively work out when they’ll be most receptive to your communications. Consider, for instance, that 29% of consumers check their messages immediately after waking up.
But every consumer is different, so it’s worth getting more specific.
A CRM system will enable you to form a picture of customer behaviours and preferences over time, giving you a better and more accurate idea of how to time individual SMS communications and even entire campaigns – across days, weeks, months, and years.
To use a specific example: if you’re running an automotive supply business and you’re noticing that a certain customer buys more hubcaps in June, you can pre-empt their purchase with a convenient, well-timed text message.
Cut it down
If the customer must scroll to read your text message, you’ve done it wrong. If they must read more than a paragraph of text, you’ve done it wrong.
Text messages are supposed to be concise.
The aim is to convey a sense of urgency; to compel the prospect to act – so if you can say it in fewer characters, do so.
This doesn’t mean you can’t get creative with it, but the overall form should be of a “call to action” – whether it’s to take up an offer, check out a new product, or entice a lapsed customer to come back into the fold.
It also needs to be personal. Customer analytics can help with this: it lets you draw on names and records of past purchases, allowing you to target only those with a verifiable, historically-expressed interest in certain products and services.
Make it easy for them
Customers don’t like it when you make engaging with your company feel like work.
If you’re sending a special offer, it needs to include all the necessary information.
Given the choice between loading up Google, finding your company site, finding the specific product, entering their offer code, and paying online, or just ignoring you, most prospects will simply do the latter.
At all times, it must be as easy as possible for them to take the next step in the buying process.
That means including links, promotional codes, and phone numbers, and it also means clearly delineating certain terms and conditions – for example, the beginning and end of a sale. If you don’t, interacting with your brand is liable to feel like a prolonged treasure hunt – minus the fun.
Your message can’t be too long, but it can’t be so brief that it leaves out vital information. If it takes more than two clicks to get to the good stuff, rethink your approach.
Incorporate it holistically
SMS alone cannot sustain a winning sales strategy. Neither can the classic sales call, the email, the IM, or the face-to-face meeting.
Winning sales strategies are comprised of several moving parts: their component channels develop a kind of harmony and rhythm.
Whether it starts conversations, continues them, or finishes them, SMS needs to be part of something bigger than itself. And if it’s not working as well as other tactics, you need to find out why.
Analyse its performance relative to your other strategies, and establish where it’s meeting, exceeding, or falling short of expectations – and more importantly, do so regularly.
Customer preferences and behaviours change all the time: if they’re not responding to your texts today, they may feel differently in a week, a month, or even a year.
In the meantime, you’ll need to adjust to their current feelings and preferences. Successful sales strategies never sit still.
Sourced by Paul Black, CEO, sales-i