Did you know that 78% of consumers in the U.S. say SMS text messaging makes it easier for them to support small businesses?
That’s right. The humble text message is now the most preferred method for consumers to interact with your small business. (Psst— using text messaging can actually help you get paid faster.)
But with more small businesses adopting SMS text messaging as their primary form of communication, the space could become overcrowded.
Your customers want the convenience and simplicity that comes from text messaging when communicating with small businesses. What they don’t want is spam or useless information.
So how do you make sure your customers find your texts valuable? That they don’t outright ignore them or, worse, add you to the dreaded “spam” list?
Here are 9 best practices when using text messages for your small business.
Familiarize Yourself With Your Country’s Laws
Before you send your first text message, get familiar with your country’s text messaging laws.
Many countries have legislation on what is acceptable commercial messaging over SMS, and these differ from region to region.
In the U.S., you can familiarize yourself with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) heavily regulate text message communications and marketing.
In Canada, you can take a look at the Canada Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) FAQs.
In Australia, you should read up on the Spam Act 2003 on the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) website.
These laws protect consumers from unwanted messages and explicitly define what you can send and who you can send it to.
Avoid Texting Without Permission
To add some additional protection, include an opt-in (or out) option in your initial texts. Doing so covers your business legally and gives your contacts a sense of control.
Simply ask for a “YES” or “NO” response in your initial texts, or offer a link to subscribe or unsubscribe.
This one may seem obvious, but Americans aged 18-24 receive the most text messages per day in the world. We’re talking 128 on average — daily.
A good rule of thumb is to ensure you’re not texting more than once per week.
This doesn’t include text messaging about appointment reminders, but even then, try not to spam your customer with texts. Three is usually a good number for reminders to keep them informed and keep you from looking desperate.
You can also message a customer more if they have explicitly requested it — such as product in-stock notifications, promotions or price drops.
Respect Phone Space
Be respectful of your contacts’ space — digitally speaking. Don’t send large files, high-resolution images, or cumbersome links.
Not sure what to do about unsightly or long URLs (www.thislinkiswaytoolongtouseinbusinesstexting)? If you need to include a link, shorten it.
There are services that allow your business to create branded short links for free. Pro tip: Branded short links get up to 39% more clicks than generic short links, so they’re worth the extra effort.
Be Quick, Be Simple, Be Easy
Small business SMS text messaging success relies on the fact that it’s easy, quick and simple to interact with.
When you’re messaging customers via SMS text, make sure your text is direct and to the point. A potential customer wants a quick and viable reason they’re being texted. Ensure your message gets to the point early.
Also, check for errors before hitting the send button. The spike of scam messaging in recent times means your customers will be judging your grammar and spelling. It pays to have your message proofread by someone before you send it.
When asking your customer to take an action of some sort, include a link in the text. That way it’s easy for your customers to follow through.
Giving URLs that they have to copy into their browser, or having excessively long links will quickly get you blocked.
Allow Customers to Reply Back
Communication, as we know, is a two-way street. If you’re texting your customers, then it’s only fair they are allowed to text you back, which is why you need two-way texting.
Texting from “no-reply” numbers is a good way to alienate your customers. Giving them an easy and reliable way to respond can make all the difference.
If a customer can no longer make it to an appointment, they may want to text you back to let you know.
This way, a customer feels like they’re being listened to and not spammed. They need to know that text messaging is a real, viable way to interact with your business.
Avoid Jargon on Promotions
Another great way to avoid being put on the spam list is to avoid promotional messages that include jargon.
Adding words like “FREE” or “LIMITED TIME” may seem like a good idea traditionally, but it makes your text messaging seem less personal and more spammy.
No one likes being sold to, so if all you do is send sales pitches and bills, you’ll make enemies pretty quickly.
In fact, try to avoid using promotions in text messaging if you can — unless your customers have specifically signed up to a “waitlist” for your services.
After all, only 29% of consumers said promotions and discounts were valuable text messages, as opposed to 64% saying reminder texts were the most valuable.
Don’t Get Too Informal
While text messages to business clients should feel friendly and personal, they should still reflect your business’s high level of professionalism.
Unless it’s part of some cute or clever campaign you’re running, try to avoid using emojis and slang. It sacrifices clarity and could easily confuse your audience. And, if misinterpreted, you could accidentally end up offending someone enough to miss out on a sale.
Timing, Timing, Timing
Want to ensure your text is read and acted on? Then you probably don’t want to send your message at midnight.
Knowing when your target customers are reachable via text requires a bit of data analysis and “A/B” testing.
Try out different times when text messaging. Send one in the morning and the next one after 5 p.m. This might give you some insight as to when customers are most responsive to your message. From there, you can adjust future send times accordingly.
Every industry and business is different, so this data will be incredibly valuable if you persist in gathering it.
There’s plenty to lose by not tapping into SMS text messaging your customers. Send them the texts they never knew they needed while avoiding these common mistakes, and you’ll be a texting expert in no time.