Should You Use Business SMS Text Messaging?

January 16, 2017
By Zack Poelwijk
Close-up of handsome young African man typing a message on the phone and smiling while sitting at the desk in creative office

SMS stands for Short Message Service. Originally, it was an offshoot of radio communication that allowed users to send and receive messages of up to 160 letters or numbers to and from mobile handsets. Nowadays, they are mostly mobile-to-mobile messages that we commonly call “texts.” Should you use business SMS text messaging to communicate with your customers? There are pros and cons.

In business, SMS text messaging is a form of direct marketing. The market is worth millions to billions around the world, depending on where you go to get your figures. Either way, the SMS pie is big enough for small businesses like yours to get a slice of it. However, companies who wish to begin sending text messages to their customers should do so with caution. Many people view text messages as an ad-free channel that they use to communicate directly with family and friends. Your customers should definitely 100% opt-in of their own accord to receive text messages from you.

Advantages of Business SMS Text Messaging

  1. We’re already always on our phones. People typically view and reply to text messages much faster than other forms of communication, typically within minutes. Nearly all smartphone customers send and receive text messages, so it is a built-in communication channel on almost any device.
  2. Text messaging can be automated. For instance, customers would get a text when their order ships, or a day before their appointment time.
  3. When customers voluntarily sign up for text messaging, they will generally be very open to your promotions. Texts are not as easy to ignore as emails.
  4. Because it’s a to-the-point communication method, you can get right to the promotional nitty gritty. No need for formalities.
  5. It’s very cost-effective and you can reach thousands of people at the same time.
  6. You can send text reminders of events and meetings, which are more likely to reach people in the moment than emails or phone calls.

Disadvantages of Business SMS Text Messaging

  1. Many people view texting as a means of communication they reserve only for their family and friends. If they’re getting too many marketing texts, it can feel invasive.
  2. It might get pushed down by other texts and forgotten about.
  3. If you’re not taking differences in time zone into consideration, you could inadvertently end up texting someone at 4 in the morning, and no one wants that.

How to Get Started With Business SMS Text Messaging

  1. You could add an option to your contact page to text you with questions. Moving the conversation from a webpage chat, phone call or email to a text makes it more immediate and personal. And, you’re providing your customers with a choice of what channel they like to use to communicate with you. Some people who are at work and can’t make phone calls or send emails, or have sleeping babies at home, would very much like to participate this way.
  2. You could ask at the time an appointment is made how they would like to receive a reminder: via email, text or phone call.
  3. Customers are more likely to opt-in to text messaging when they perceive some benefit to them. Make your offers and discounts by text highly attractive. It could be part of a game. For instance, (I took this idea from Website magazine and I think it’s a fun one) you could hide some number in your social media posts or videos. If participants collect all of the numbers they will get a phone number to send a text to, which could then link them to the next clue, ultimately leading participants to the final prize.
  4. Make sure it is clear to your customers that they are opting in to receive texts from you and that you won’t use their number in any other way. You might also say that you will never send more than 1 text a week, or whatever, and stick to that schedule.
  5. Make it easy for customers to opt out.

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