The smartphone has revolutionised how businesses sell goods and services to their customers. Deloitte’s 2016 Global Mobile Consumer Survey states that 81% of UK adults have a smartphone, and it’s reasonable to assume that most of them keep their phones by their side 24/7. As a result, the traditional sales call is now far more targeted and promotional emails can be accessed from anywhere at any time.
SMS, or text message, is another valuable sales tool – albeit one that is somewhat overlooked. Deloitte’s findings also state that 31% of smartphone owners in the UK make zero phone calls in any given week. Instead, people are choosing to communicate using SMS, email, or instant message (IM); in fact, most consumers now prefer to use some form of instant messaging on their mobile device (56% in 2016 compared to 46% in 2015).
With these preferences in mind, SMS may be a more appealing sales channel for your target audience. Since texts can be accessed and managed in a matter of seconds, they don’t invade the customer’s day in the same way that a sales call or email might. For that same reason, texts also allow the customer to take advantage of great buying opportunities promptly and conveniently.
To target customers effectively, any modern sales strategy should include a clear plan for communicating with customers via SMS. Here are five tips on how to use it for the best results.
1. Experiment with different techniques
SMS messages are both flexible and concise. They get the message delivered clearly in 160 characters or less, and they can cover a range of topics. In situations where a phone call or detailed email is not the most efficient or appropriate means of communication (such as during a flash sale) an SMS is an effective alternative that can alert customers without being intrusive or overbearing.
Don’t forget that SMS is not only great for advertising products and services, but also for raising brand awareness. It’s one of the most straightforward ways of notifying customers about, for example, a partnership, competition, or an event – even just important company news.
In whatever way you choose to use it, SMS is a cost-effective way to experiment with a variety of messages, so always remember to measure the success of each approach.
2. Be timely
People check their phones regularly and, in some cases, almost addictively. There are however, certain times in the day when people are more likely to check their messages. For example, a sizeable 29% of consumers will check their text messages almost immediately after they wake up in the morning.
The better timed your message is, the greater the chance that the recipient will actually open and read it. You can use analytical customer relationship management (CRM) software to track when your customers are at their most responsive to certain offers and promotions. This allows you to be far more accurate and effective when scheduling SMS campaigns.
In some cases, this might mean increasing your use of SMS during certain seasons and periods of peak demand. If you’re a food and drink wholesaler, for example, you’ll want to alert your retail customers to pumpkin sales with increased frequency in the lead up to Halloween.
3. Get the message right
An SMS has to be short, personal, and to the point. Your message therefore has to be condensed down to its most important points while still being compelling. It’s crucial that you focus on the purpose of the message and get it right in as few words as possible. It’s also a good idea to add an element of personalisation: if, for example, you’re a clothes retailer with a shoe sale coming up, you can target your message to those customers whose buying history indicates a particular interest in shoes. Ultimately, your message must drive the recipient to act so, where appropriate, add an element of urgency to the call to action.
Promoting an exclusive offer is a good technique to use. Customers are more likely to respond quickly and with interest to receiving something that is not available to everyone. Make your offer special and your customers will want to take you up on it.
4. Make it convenient
To maximise customer engagement with an SMS, include website links, phone numbers and product codes in the message. You should make it as convenient as possible for your audience to take immediate action from one message. Once they have opened your SMS, you need to hold their attention and ideally direct them towards the next step in the buying process – whether this means visiting an online sale, sending an email, or calling a sales representative to place an order.
The important thing here is that it’s simple and easy to do – customers should be able to act with just one click of a button or link. If the process becomes too convoluted, the potential sale may be lost.
5. Integrate SMS with your wider sales strategy
For all its benefits, an SMS is not a stand-alone sales tactic. In fact, no single sales technique can carry a business. The best sales strategies incorporate a number of different communication channels which all work in tandem. An SMS campaign won’t necessarily be the beginning or end of your customer interaction. It will help further a conversation and support other types of communication that are also in play, including direct phone calls, social media conversations, and marketing emails.
As with any other sales channel, you need to track how well your SMS campaigns work. Keeping a detailed record of performance will allow you to benchmark one tool against another and develop a clear picture of how and when to use SMS as part of your overall strategy. Only by thoroughly collecting and analysing data will you be able to see any shifts in customer responsiveness, and identify important patterns and trends that will help you refine your approach. A successful sales strategy is one that incorporates all tools in one cohesive plan – and SMS is becoming a vital element.