Texting customers is becoming more common, and understandably: Virtually everyone carries a smartphone and people tend to pay close attention to their text messages. Studies indicate that about 98% of texts are opened, compared to an average email open rate of about 20%.


“Whether it is trying to convert prospects into customers or creating a more long-term relationship with existing customers, text messaging needs to be a tool within a business’ multi-channel strategy,” says David Adams, a digital marketing expert and owner of Sirus Digital. “It is simply not enough anymore to base interactions solely through phone contacts or email.”


That said, businesses thinking about using texts to engage customers need to proceed with caution. While text messaging can be a great opportunity when used strategically, it can also backfire if texts are seen as intrusive or annoying.


Here are some pointers for using text messaging to communicate and engage with customers:


Know the rules—and let customers opt-in (and out)

Under the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act, businesses cannot send automated text messages to consumers without their express written consent. In other words, recipients must have opted-in to receive text marketing messages and have an easy way to opt-out.


Some common ways to obtain written consent include having them fill out a paper or electronic form that clearly states they are authorizing text messages from your business and for what purpose, or by having them text a specific keyword to a specific phone number they are authorizing to text them.


Use texting for the right purposes

As with any type of business communication, there are right ways to text customers—and not-so-right ways. Because texts often pop up and interrupt people when they’re out and about, be mindful about how you use them.


Some restaurants, for example, notify customers when their orders are ready for pickup, while a service provider might send an appointment reminder via text. Some businesses also text customers to keep customers in the loop on order status.


“If someone goes through checkout but doesn’t purchase, not only do they receive an email, but also a text message with a coupon code to complete their order,” says Jeff Moriarty, marketing manager for his family-owned business, Moriarty’s Gem Art in Crown Point, Indiana. “If a product is out of stock on our website, they can choose to be notified via text or email when we have it back in stock.”


Because texts often pop up and interrupt people when they’re out and about, be mindful about how you use them.


Customers also receive texts when purchases are shipped for delivery, he adds.


Moreover, some businesses use text to send customers coupon codes and other promotions, so they have those codes handy and on their phones.


However, you probably don’t want to use text for messaging that’s not particularly timely. Reserve that for email.


Make it personal

While automated text messages are easy, your customers may not like feeling “spammed.” Take steps to personalize your text communications, such as putting their first name in texts and, when possible, segmenting your text messaging so they are only receiving texts about things they want you to text them about.


Choose the right SMS texting tool

There are several SMS text messaging platforms now designed to help businesses better automate and track their SMS texting—allowing you to build contact lists now make it easier for businesses to automate and track their texts.


TextMagic, Avochato and EZ Texting are three such platforms. Each one has different features, so it’s worth doing a comparison to select the one that fits your companies’ needs.


While text messaging is a powerful way to engage with customers in a timely fashion, you don’t want to risk turning them off. Make sure to think about your text messaging strategy before you start doing it.

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