How You Should Use Text Message Marketing to Connect with Customers

Text your way to more business with these tips from experts.
Find ways to use text messaging to promote your small business. (Photo: leungchopan/Shutterstock)

The vast majority of adults — 92 percent — own a cell phone according to a 2015 Pew study. That means there’s a lot of potential power in these slim devices to market your small business. If you’re not already using text or SMS (Short Messaging Service) messages to reach out to customers, it may be high time to start.


“Text marketing is one of the most important strategies in your mobile marketing toolbox.” -Dovya Friedman (Photo: Dovya Friedman

“Text marketing is one of the most important strategies in your mobile marketing toolbox,” said Dovya Friedman, CEO of marketing firm Utility Agency. “It can be a very cost-effective strategy for small business owners because the barriers to entry are so low.”

Tech lovers and Luddites alike are prone to use their phones for texting above all other functions, a 2013 Pew Internet Research Project on cellphone use found. With careful planning, creativity and etiquette, small businesses can make text messages a compelling part of their marketing campaign. Get started with these four steps.

1. Curate a subscription list

Before hitting “send,” make sure each customer on the receiving end has signed up to receive text messages from you. To develop your SMS list you’ll need to rely on other methods of communication, such as email, Facebook, Web ads and in-person conversation. Once you get the green light from customers, you can text away.

2. Choose a goal

There are a number of ways small business owners can use text messaging. Before you begin, consider how texting could best boost your business. Here are some options to consider:

  • Couponing. “Text couponing is the most effective form of couponing, with redemption rates ten times those of printed coupons,” said Friedman.
  • Two-way marketing. “Most companies can text a promo code to their fans, but big chains like Pizza Hut now allow known users to text a pizza order,” said Friedman. Most small businesses haven’t set up text-to-order functionality, but they could. Other approaches include asking customers to text certain keywords or answers back in order to receive special discounts.
  • Appointment reminders. Luis Alvidrez, owner of personal training and boot camp studio Upward Motion, uses texts to remind clients of upcoming appointments. “Voicemail is no longer the personal way we can get in touch with people,” he said. “Texting has become more personal, and useful.”
  • Alerts. “If you need to alert your customers, for example that you will be closed due to something unexpected, text alerts help create goodwill among your customers,” Friedman noted. “Customers who were planning a visit will be saved a useless trip, and those who weren’t will be reminded that your business exists, so it is a great way to keep at the top of their mind.”
  • Receipts and feedback. Some point of sale services provide the option of receiving receipts via text. “The text has all the standard receipt information plus a reply link to give feedback on the quality of service your team has given that customer,” said Friedman. “Most feedback links aren’t used, but we’ve found that if you add an incentive, like a discount off your next order, you can increase the quantity and quality of your feedback.”
  • Develop relationships. Texts are easily personalized, a fact small business can use to their advantage. “We text to keep our clients accountable, to keep track of their progress,” said Alvidrez. “I think it’s just nice to get a text with a personalized message, that the trainer is thinking of them.”

3. Pick a service

Whether you decide to use texts to share news, offer deals, advertise new items or send personalized messages, there are a number of affordable services that can aide in text marketing. Here are three.

  • EzTexting lets you create and manage lists of customers on an online database. You can target messages to different groups using their custom coding system. EzTexting is free to try, with paid plans starting at $49 per month.
  • TellMyCell allows customers to text back a keyword you choose in order to receive the discount/special offer/news you’re offering. You can opt to pay-per-message at 5 cents a message or choose a paid plan with unlimited contacts starting at $29 per month.
  • Mozeo offers unlimited contacts and flat message pricing at 3 cents per message. If you buy more messages than you use in a given billing period the surplus rolls over. Keywords are a one-time charge, and you receive ten free texts to preview the product.

4. Have fun, in good time

With text messages come many possibilities for both positive and negative customer communication. Before sending out your texts, check the time. Never send late at night. Do send the text at the most appropriate time — if you’re a café and advertising caffeinated beverages, for instance, the morning makes most sense.

Consider creating themed texts to coincide with holidays or events. What Father’s Day, back to school days, July 4th-themed texts could you send?

Also, consider switching up your text style. A poll could be a nice changeup from texts that don’t need any response. Extra incentives in the form of text messages might really boost someone’s day.

In the end, said Friedman, “Because consumers have such a personal relationship with their phone, text marketing is a way for businesses to create a personal relationship with their customers.”

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