Converting prospects into customers and then keeping those customers interested starts with the customer experience you offer. And a big part of that is how you communicate.
Fortunately, with text messaging, it’s never been easier to start conversations, build relationships, and stay in touch throughout the entire customer journey.
But if you’ve never communicated with your prospects and customers in this way, how do you even know where to start? Taking on and building an entirely new process is hard, especially when you aren’t sure what to say and do to actually get results.
At Skipio we teach every business and team what to say, how to say it, when to say it, and how to do it all quickly and conveniently.
Use this guide as you adopt business texting as part of your sales and customer retention strategies. By focusing on this personable method of outreach and follow-up, you communicate with your customers with confidence.
Know why business texting is becoming the preferred way to communicate with customers
What’s your current outreach and follow-up process? Like you just got a lead. How and when are you reaching out? Probably a combination of emails and phone calls. Maybe some automated texts get sent from your CRM’s text add-on to remind someone of an appointment.
How long does it actually take for you to get a response from someone and get into that conversation?
Texting is the fastest, most convenient, and most authentic way to interact and build relationships that result in sales. Full stop.
People want to text your business! And here’s exactly why you should let them.
You stay connected anytime, anywhere
According to Salesforce, 71 percent of consumers expect real-time interaction with a business. Aside from web chat, which does have a time and place, conversational texting is the only way you achieve this naturally. The other methods are just you pushing out information without caring whether people respond.
You get genuine responses
People want to talk with you, not be talked at. The right text messages will get you responses and make it super easy for people to respond. The “right” messages are personalized and sent at convenient times. Of course people want to reply to that.
It gets you sales
When you communicate with the method people prefer in a convenient, authentic, fast way, you get rewarded. The engagement achieved through texting translates directly to sales. Using Skipio, companies have seen a 54 percent increase to close rates.
Not to tell you what to do and think, but if you have any desire to provide a human-centered experience for your customers, that’s why you need a business texting platform. Because people buy from people.
Prioritize the process and team(s) that need texting
All of that is awesome, right? But you won’t be able to implement outreach and follow-up strategies for texting all your prospects AND all your customers in a day or two. That’s not realistic to expect of anyone.
Choose an area to focus on and then continue adding texting to the rest of your processes. To start, you may want to use text messaging to:
- improve your follow-up time with new inbound leads
- do more consistent outreach to current customers to help retention
- speed up the sales cycle when sales reps forget to follow up
- stop no-show rates from skyrocketing
- help new customers through your onboarding so they stick around longer
So identify a problem you want to use text messaging to solve and then build your implementation strategy.
Learn best practices and the unique etiquette
No matter the reason you plan to use conversational texting in your business, you need to know best practices and etiquette.
Texting is not email.
If you treat it like email, people won’t reply, you won’t have conversations, and you won’t be facilitating the kind of customer experiences you want people to have.
Always pay attention to these four factors as you send text messages to leads and customers. This is the basis for building genuine relationships with the people who matter to your business.
Consent to communicate
You must receive permission before texting a prospect or customer. This is commonly referred to as the opt-in process. (You should already collect opt-ins from leads and customers in order to email or call them.)
Familiarize yourself with national telemarketing laws and industry standards such as 10DLC. (Keep reading for more info on the importance of compliance.) Don’t give people any reason to think what you’re sending is spam. Not only are you at risk of losing customer trust, the fines aren’t cheap.
So, if you thought about using texting for cold contacting, you might want to rethink that. But sending texts can and should be a huge part of communication with inbound leads and current/past customers — meaning the people you already should have permission to contact.
Timing refers both to how long it takes you to make first contact or reply AND the exact times you send messages in the day.
Outreach and response times
If possible, start texting new inbound leads immediately! The sooner you reach out, the more likely people are to reply and ultimately choose to do business with you. Automating this initial follow-up is your best bet for starting simple conversations.
When someone replies to you, don’t keep them waiting. After all, that’s one of the huge benefits of text message conversations: real-time interactions.
Carefully plan the timing of all subsequent follow-up as well. Whether you’re selling to someone new or working on your retention of current customers, consistent, personalized outreach will help you build better relationships and increase revenue.
When to send text messages
Just like you don’t want to be bothered at certain times of day, you don’t want to text your customers at inconvenient times either. Generally, stick to normal business hours (9 a.m. to 5 p.m.). Adjust message times depending on your services and what your customers want.
For example, if you own a gym and want your trainers to remind clients about an early morning class they signed up for, texting them before 9 a.m. is likely welcomed.
When it comes to receiving messages, the greater availability you offer, the better. Clearly communicate to your customers when you’ll be available via text. If you’re willing to answer messages at any hour of the day, make sure they know it! And then stick to your promise.
Tone and voice — for you and the company
The words you use totally affect your customer relationships. Do leads and customers expect a formal, professional interaction with you? Or do they need you to be a friendly support, someone who offers encouragement?
Someone’s perception of your text messages directly affects how they perceive your company’s brand. Think carefully about how you want your customers to perceive your messages. Use an off-putting tone and give the wrong impression, you may lose yourself a sale before you even know it.
If you have a team of people who text prospects and customers, each of them needs to understand the brand voice. Unifying the tone of your messages ensures a more consistent, enjoyable customer experience.
Sending too many text messages doesn’t just look spammy. It is spammy. No matter how sincere your messages sound or how careful you are to text people at the right times, customers won’t engage or stick around if you contact them too often.
The number of texts you send in any given amount of time depends on your business, the demographics of your target audience, the types of services/products you sell, and the result you desire ultimately drive when and how you send text messages.
A personal trainer who sees a client five days a week can feasibly text the client every few days, if not every day depending on the client’s goals.
An account executive selling software will obviously want to send reminders before every meeting but doesn’t need to be texting every single prospect daily.
A marketing team running a promotion is great, and they should let their customers know about it! But they don’t need texts about it every day, every couple of hours, for a week straight.
When in doubt how often you should contact your leads and customers, ask them their preferences and use their responses to create your texting schedule.
When you master this etiquette, engagement increases and so do sales and retention.
Build out automated text messaging workflows
You’ll never be able to immediately contact every new lead or remember to contact customers on important dates. So automate each process and never forget to follow up again.
For the best results, integrate your CRM with your text messaging platform so you can trigger texts to send at certain times. That way new leads from your CRM get assigned automatically to different reps and personalized messages drip out to keep conversations flowing.
Sounds pretty dreamy, huh?
Keep “human-in-the-loop” automation in mind when your team is choosing a platform for conversational texting. If it doesn’t prioritize individualized, automated follow-up, it’s not the one you need.
Automation features to look out for
CRM and calendar integrations are a huge plus. But make sure you also pay attention to and learn the native automations your chosen business text messaging platform provides.
With Skipio that includes drip messaging campaigns for continual follow-up, campaign rules to trigger future messages, appointment/event confirmations and reminders, ringless voicemail, and even call forwarding.
A lackluster set of built-in automations is potentially a sign to look at other platforms. Because without those, any automation you set up with an integration won’t work as smoothly.
Use templates as a foundation for your messaging
When just starting out, it’s normal not to know what to say and when to say it. A well written messaging template gives you everything you need to get going.
Templates abound on Google and LinkedIn from marketers and sales professionals alike. Ask these questions as you evaluate text messaging templates before you use one:
- Who is providing the template? This will help you understand the template’s original tone and purpose. Does it have a sales focus or is it for more traditional marketing?
- What is the intended use case for the template? Pay attention to the CTAs in templates and the associated outcome to pick one that is easiest to customize.
- Which aspects of the template need to be customized? Rarely, if ever, will you use a template as-is. At the very least, always change templates to work for your tone of voice and brand.
- How many characters is the template? Shorter text messages are more effective. (Texting is not email!) Be wary of long templates that you’ll have to spend time editing.
- Does the templated message sound natural? You don’t want to spend a lot of time rewriting a message to make sure it sounds like a human and not a bot. You’re better off finding an actually useful template.
Best case scenario: Save yourself the effort and use tried-and-tested templates from people who live and breathe sales texting. Skipio offers all users prebuilt and templated drip messaging campaigns in the Resource Center.
These can be imported into any account and customized to fit your specific needs and use cases. These campaigns help automate common processes and increase customer efficiency, and they’ve been tested and proven to drive results.
Follow the lead of sales and marketing experts
How do you learn the best ways to engage customers and build relationships? The same way you learn anything: By looking at what other people are doing or have done and trying it for yourself.
The businesses and teams who are most successful at texting and building customer relationships understand their audiences and understand how to have conversations. They know what motivates their customers and what those customers value from businesses.
These business owners, sales reps, and marketing professionals want to create a better customer experience. So they listen and learn and try new things.
Learn by example from people who dedicate their lives to improving the sales experience and customer relationships. Some of our favorite resources in sales and marketing include:
- Nick Cegelski and Armand Farrokh from 30 Minutes to Presiden’ts Club
- Rob Jeppsen and The Sales Leadership Podcast
- Donald Kelly and The Sales Evangelist
- Sales Gravy
Build an understanding of who your customers are and then build your communication strategy around that. You can then take advantage of texting and adapt it for your business. From incentives to holiday promotions, business texting offers so many ways to engage your leads and customers.
Stay updated on business text messaging rules and regulations
Now, before you do any business texting, you need to educate yourself on the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the new 10DLC business text messaging standards.
Enacted in 1991, the original purpose of the TCPA was to crack down on telemarketing calls and automated calling systems. It has since evolved to include restrictions on texting.
Simply put, you can’t text people without their consent. Your customers must opt in to receive messages from you. A customer may opt in by checking a box or typing a reply, but the option to opt in must be given to them through a means other than texting.
Do not send messages to anyone who hasn’t given express written consent to the communication. Otherwise you face the risk of legal action.
And as a courtesy, clearly outline how someone can opt out in the future if they’re no longer interested in receiving messages. Opting out may be as simple as replying “Stop” to a message. The more difficult you make it to opt out, the greater possibility you’ll alienate your customer base.
10DLC represents the new industry standard that US mobile carriers created to help businesses safely and effectively communicate with customers through text messaging.
As more and more businesses see the value of texting to communicate with their customers, carriers want to minimize and prevent spam communication. Business text messaging has gone through major modifications just over the past few years as a result.
10DLC is the latest effort to improve business communication and protect consumers.
Any business that uses 10-digit numbers to send text messages must register their number(s) with mobile carriers. As a benefit to businesses:
- more messages will get delivered
- messages will send faster
- your messages won’t be filtered as spam
- you avoid large fees invoked by the carriers
- recipients of your messages can trust that you’re sending them legitimate messages
- you save money because you don’t have to rely on short code
Each individual company is responsible for compliance. You may face significant fees and fines from mobile carriers by failing to comply or attempting to circumvent the 10DLC regulations.
If you have specific questions about the legalities surrounding business text messaging, always seek professional legal help.
Keep iterating and talking with customers
Just like with all communication strategies you use in sales and marketing, it takes time to do conversational business texting right.
Take inspiration from growth marketing tactics and test everything. Try different timing, CTAs, phrasing, first messages, including images… Try all sorts of things to find what gets your prospects and customers taking action. If people aren’t replying to a text message, don’t be afraid to switch it up.
In addition, as part of your efforts to improve business-customer relationships and your communication, implement processes that allow you to receive customer feedback regularly. (Automating this follow-up through texting keeps it happening without significant stress on your end.)
Talking with customers on a consistent basis helps you provide better products/service because you have a better understanding of what matters. Everything you learn from them can positively influence your future interactions and even the future of the business.
How Skipio simplifies conversational business texting
Text messaging makes engaging, personalized communication with prospects and customers the expectation and the norm. At least with Skipio it is. Your business and team can’t afford to ignore conversational texting as the best outreach and follow-up tool, not if you want to talk effectively and build genuine relationships.
Remember that people buy from people. So why wouldn’t you want to communicate the way people prefer and with a platform that prioritizes speed, authenticity, and convenience?
Create your Skipio account and learn for yourself the difference that conversational texting makes to business relationships.
This post was originally published on October 9, 2018 and was most recently updated on October 12, 2021. Updates include the addition of 10DLC information, recommendations for thought leaders and podcasts to follow, guidance for using messaging templates, and clearer directions about consent, timing, tone, and volume. Additional sections include those focused on building automated workflow for text messaging and prioritizing the adoption of texting.