Ready to dive into the world of text? Welcome. The water’s warm. And the open rate is floating at 98%. That makes SMS more eye-catching than an unoccupied giant flamingo pool float on holiday*.
And just like a week-long tropical break — there are plenty of benefits to joining the texting bandwagon. SMS is low cost, opened in minutes and trackable. Plus, you can easily personalise and automate your messages for relevant, right on time communications.
But before you somersault SMS into your small business. We’re here to make sure it’s not a (belly) flop.
We’ll take you from set-up to success with the small business guide to text messaging. In this guide, we’ll cover:
*Not a real fact.
Types of small business text messaging services
First up, yes, there is more than one kind of text messaging service for small businesses.
And yes, you could try them all at once. But, just like a buffet on a cruise ship, things can go wrong when you put too much on your plate.
It’s best to start with one text messaging service and master it. You can always expand from there.
We’ll unpack some of the common types of messaging that small businesses use.
SMS messaging for businesses is done through an online tool like ClickSend. The tool or software allows users to send and receive text messages from their computer or app — rather than using a personal phone. Bye, bye texting thumb.
An SMS messaging tool lets you do a bunch of other handy things too. You can use automation, auto-responses, and personalise thousands of messages at once.
If you want to send images, videos and audio files via text message — you’ll need to use MMS. It’s great for sharing sales, event tickets, coupons and even customer service.
Luckily, most high-quality SMS software should have MMS functionality built in. Which is great for small business owners. It means that you can send MMS and SMS from the same dashboard. Perfect for those who don’t have time to learn two pieces of software.
RCS messaging is like the Gen Z of texting. It rolls all the features from Facebook Messenger, iMessage, and WhatsApp into one service.
With RCS, group chats, video, audio, and high-resolution images, plus read receipts are all available. But you can only send RCS messages to people who have Android smartphones.
Email and chat marketing
Beyond the extensions of SMS, email and chat marketing are available too. But often via a separate tool.
You can delve into the differences between the channels: SMS vs email vs chat marketing — how do you decide what channel is right for you?
How text messaging can benefit small businesses
It’s hard out there for small business owners — there’s just so much to do, so little time. So, can SMS be a life ring for small business owners? We think it can buoy marketing and more. Here’s why.
It’s quick to learn and fast to send
We can’t speak for any other tools, but most customers who use our platform send their first message in minutes. Most SMS software is simple to learn. Which means it’s easy to scale as your business grows. Plus, you don’t have to hire a designer or advertising specialist to create messages. Just type 160 characters and send. This means you can get your messages into the hands of your customers really fast. Reducing the time to launch is a huge benefit for time-poor owners.
Customers love texting
70% of consumers subscribed to receive text messages from companies. And 75% of consumers are happy to receive promotional SMS. That’s around the same amount of people who said they’re most relaxed when enjoying a drink at the beach. So, it’s pretty much everyone. Thinking about offering to text for customer service? You’d get 5 stars from 60% of customers who want the ability to text a company back. Which is about the same amount of people who would ‘do anything’ for more me time (just in case you’re wondering).
SMS is much more than marketing
Think of how much time appointment reminders must save medical receptionists. Not to mention the reduction of no-shows. Just like remembering your appointments, lots of other communication problems can be solved with text messaging. Delivery updates, alerts, customer support, lead management, reminders and more — you can use text messaging for all. And most of these messages can be easily automated.
It’s very cost effective
The saying ‘you get what you pay for’ doesn’t hold any water here. Compared to radio spots, print ads or digital advertising — text messaging is a relatively cheap way to talk to customers. And it has a killer conversion rate, especially when compared to email. Text click-through rates are at 20%, while email has a measly 3%.
Small business types that benefit from text messaging
In 2019, 39% of businesses used texting to talk to customers. They’re different sizes, scales and industries.
What we’re about to say next is as bold as a Hawaiian shirt in winter. But we think every type of small business can benefit from using text messaging. As long as they use it in the right way for their audience. Mahalo.
For example, eCommerce stores might use texts for sales or promotions, delivery updates or to let customers know when new products arrive.
While real estate agents are more likely to send listing pictures, set up auto-responses to common enquiries or send updates on trends.
Salons and spas on the other hand are all about appointments. So, they’d send appointment reminders and confirmations. Or, let customers know when there’s last-minute availability.
If you’re thinking about SMS for your small business, start by considering your objectives and audience.
Think about your audience’s journey. Identify what phone calls and emails could be replaced by text messages. Look for problems you can solve by sharing updates, alerts and reminders.
Or, deep dive into your industry to discover how your competitors are using SMS.
Best practices for small business text messaging
Learning the norms of a new communication channel takes time. To get you started, here are our top best text messaging practices for small businesses.
Compliance with regulations and laws
If you’re planning to message your customers, make sure you do the right thing. There are laws and regulations that you need to follow.
The rules change from country to country, so it’s best to check in your region and see what’s what. Some of the laws you might come across are the Telephone Consumer Protection Act or the CAN-SPAM Act.
Your SMS software provider should be able to help you understand these laws and give you the right information.
Respect for customers privacy and consent
This is a biggie. If you plan on sending marketing text messages, you must get consent (which is called an ‘opt-in’ in the SMS world). And you must make sure they can always opt out.
An opt-in is when your customer subscribes to your SMS contact list. You’ll need to store these records of consent somewhere safe. And, if your customers have subscribed to email marketing, this doesn’t mean they have opted-in for SMS. You need express written consent for an opt-in.
An opt-out is an unsubscribe. A common way to handle opt-outs is to add ‘reply STOP to opt-out’ to your marketing messages. Once someone asks to opt out, take them off your contact list, or you can risk penalties.
Please be careful. There’s no loophole or workaround to opt-ins. They’re a must-have for SMS marketing.
Maintaining a professional tone
You use text messaging to talk to your friends and family. But when you’re talking to customers — treat text like the professional channel it is. That means:
- Make sure your message looks like it came from a trusted source, you. Check that your grammar and spelling are on point. And don’t use lots of capital — it looks like spam.
- Try to keep your messages brief and to the point. Remember, SMS is quite a personal channel. So respect people’s time and make your communication as easy to follow as possible.
- Speaking of following along. Add a call to action. And make sure it’s clear what you’re asking people to do next.
- We know that emojis 🤝 text messaging. But, before you go all in on emojis, read the ultimate guide to emojis in text messaging.
- If you’re using personalisation, get people’s names right. Make sure your contact list and customer data are as clean as possible.
Timing and frequency of messages
In an ideal world, you message your customers at the perfect time. Right when they’re thinking of you. But that’s not very realistic. So settle for the next best thing — knowing your audience and knowing when it’s most likely they’ll be receptive to your messages.
For example, if you’re a gym owner, you know that most people are more motivated on Monday morning. So, you might want to invite them to book a class after they’re fresh from the weekend.
You can test different times and days to see what works for you. Take note of the best time to send it. Then rinse and repeat.
Make sure you always use your common sense. Messages late and night and very early in the morning are a no-no. As is text bombing someone with constant promotions, updates and check-ins.
What number should you use to send from?
Choosing the type of number you use is important. But don’t worry, it’s easy to change it as you go. Just note that your number type will impact how you send SMS and how you receive replies. There are five types.
- Your number. Send messages via an online dashboard from your current number. Replies can be hard to manage as you grow.
It’s recommended for small businesses with a small contact list only. Only if you can handle manual replies.
- A shared number. You can use a free shared number. The number will be used by other customers, but any messages and replies will be private.
Perfect if you only send a few big SMS blasts a year. Basically, if customers don’t need to recognise your number.
- A dedicated number (Includes Toll-Free Numbers, short codes or long codes). This is a number that’s all yours. But you will be charged a small fee.
It’s worth it if you’re seriously considering using SMS regularly. Customers come to recognise your number, and it helps to build trust.
- Alpha tag. You can use your business name or a keyword as a number, we call this an alpha tag. But it needs to be shorter than 11 characters.
Note if you use this option, you can’t get replies. On the flip side, a brand name dials up customer recognition.
No matter what number you choose, just don’t send marketing SMS from your personal phone. We beg of you.
Your handset can’t send campaigns to your entire contact list in one click, text customers automatically or integrate with your software.
An online SMS tool allows you to send SMS to your audience from a web or mobile app. Your texts are scalable, measurable and easily automated — boom.
Factors to consider when selecting a texting provider
Get yourself set up for success by using the right SMS software from day one. Here’s some things to consider when deciding which tool to use.
- Fully loaded with features
Make sure the tool you choose has everything you need. Look for the ability to personalise, automate and segment messages. Delivery reports are important too.
- The price is right
There can be a big difference in the pricing structure from tool to tool. Like most things, cheap doesn’t always equal good.
Remember there might be some extra costs involved depending on the number you choose. And some platforms charge a monthly fee for replies.
- Make sure your messages get delivered
Some tools don’t use direct routes to send messages. This means your messages are likely to get delayed, which is no fun. Look for tools that use direct routes only and have the ability to send texts worldwide.
- Good support
If you’re a small business, you might not have the budget to hire a developer. Make sure your text messaging provider has 24/7 customer support so there’s always help available when you need it.
- Plays nicely with your existing tools
It makes life easier when SMS integrates with the tools and platforms you already use. Such as CRM systems, email marketing software, and social media platforms.
How much does a small business text messaging service cost?
The cost of texting can depend on the quality of the platform you use. Hint: sometimes it’s worth paying more to make sure your messages actually get delivered.
Here’s a pricing example:
Let’s say a small hairdresser wants to send out 500 text messages per month. The platform charges 5 cents per message so the cost would be $25 per month. However, the hairdresser decides they want to use some custom features like MMS or a dedicated number. These features might come with an additional cost, depending on the platform.
Some platforms, like ClickSend, offer volume pricing. This means you can get discounts for large-volume sending.
Best mass texting app for small business
Let’s get you texting with the best mass texting app for small businesses. ClickSend has all of the important features — from 24/7 customer support to hundreds of integrations and an easy-to-use Dashboard. Plus, most small business owners send their first message in minutes (that’s fast).
Find out if we’re a good fit for your needs and sign up for a trial.