How brands should be texting with consumers

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In the digital age, there are numerous effective options for businesses to communicate with customers and clients, and one increasingly popular method adopted by many companies is SMS text. For businesses, texting is a highly direct form of communication that easily gets your message in front of the right audience. Of course, there is bound to be a learning curve whenever businesses tread into new territory with customer communications.

Below, 15 Forbes Communication Council members shared their best advice for companies using SMS texting to market to or communicate with their customers.

Featured members share tips to help companies communicate with customers via SMS text.
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1. Use An AI-Based Platform

Use an artificial intelligence-based platform that provides accurate, reliable and timely information to improve response speed and provide relevant and accurate messages. To get the right message to the right people, draft and test templates in advance. Drive efforts to increase opt-in rates. Finally, plan for times when stakeholders don’t have access to devices to receive alerts and prepare alternate methods of communication. – Sue Holub, OnSolve.

2. Allow The Use Of Emojis

Emojis are okay! Be real and authentic. Make sure customers know there is a real person at the other end when there is. Keep guardrails in place, but let employees use their unique voice and tone to connect on an authentic level with customers. – Nick Cerise, TTEC

3. Nurture Personal Connections

SMS is a personal channel. The fact that it provides easy access to a market is of little value if its use is impersonal, intrusive and just one more source of noise. Innovative SMS strategies incorporate personal touchstones, seed conversations and nurture deeper connections. The test? Evaluate if the SMS communication strengthens the fabric of the relationship and delivers legitimate value to the recipient. – Eric Fletcher, Eric Fletcher Consulting Group.

4. Be Thoughtful And Exercise Restraint

In some ways, we’ve become brazen about the places and ways we use our phones, but there is still an intimacy in SMS communication. When a customer invites you into that space, be thoughtful and exercise restraint. Your message pops up next to ongoing conversations with family and friends. Show up in a similar way by sending only highly personalized content that’s both valuable and timely. – Robyn Hannah, WorkBoard


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5. Communicate Value

The key is communicating value to customers: clear, operational messages and a call to action, access to relevant and organized content (such as a link to an app), and respect for users’ consent and time (managing a reasonable number of interactions per week). A good SMS strategy, whether operational or marketing, should focus on segmentation — the “right message to the right people” cliché — to avoid having users unsubscribe or digitally disconnect. – João Mendes-Roter, Itamar-Medical

6. Be Mindful Of Content And Frequency

I think being mindful of the content and frequency of your SMS messaging is key. It is an intrusive way of communicating with customers. I receive many texts promoting this product or that, and I never act on most. I think the SMS content needs to be really useful to the customer, such as a delivery update or a fantastic, limited-time offer. It must be mapped to the customer journey and the other tactics being used. – Shuchi Sarkar, Creo, Inc

7. Know What’s In It For Them

Always start by asking, “What’s in it for them?” If you use SMS for promotion unrelated to the customer’s needs or best interests, you’ll fail. But if each message received could benefit the recipient in some way, such as through a discount offer or a “low availability” alert, your customer will frequently open and engage. – Esther Bonardi, Yardi Systems

8. Build Trust Early On

Text is an engaging and effective means of communication, but only if used correctly. It’s the most personal channel, reserved for high-impact contact. If you are afforded the opportunity to text with consumers, use it wisely for timely and action-oriented purposes: alerts, rare offers and appointment confirmations. Abuse of SMS text results in faster unsubscribes than seen with email. – Erica Morgenstern, Virgin Pulse

9. Set Clear Standards

Recognize that text is also used as a very convincing communication channel by fraudsters. These fraudsters can fully impersonate your brand, from the SMS to the website links and the website itself. Make sure that your customers know what you will communicate via SMS and that you will never provide links or ask for personal information. Our research shows customers blame the brand, not the fraudster. – Sarah Whipp, Callsign

10. Don’t Ever Abuse Text

Never send a text message unless you have explicit permission from the recipient or it is absolutely necessary for the provision of your products. Unsolicited text messages, especially marketing offers, generate more ill will than sales. Yes, text can provide engagement you can no longer get from email, but with this power comes the responsibility not to abuse it. – Dave Platter, PropTech Group and Juwai IQI

11. Use Text To Be More Responsive Or Accessible

Text is a two-way medium. It’s intentionally intimate and accessible. When you send a message that people can’t respond to, your audience considers it spam. But if you use it as a way to make your organization more responsive or accessible, you can add tremendous value for your stakeholders. Remember, attention is a currency. Make sure you are always providing as much value as you are taking. – Jennifer Eddy, Eddy Alexander

12. Reserve SMS For Sharing Key News In Real Time

Be incredibly strategic about the frequency and length of the messages before launching a communication strategy through SMS. Reserve this channel for really important news and news that you know your audience will want to know in real-time only. Have a quick announcement that isn’t urgent? Try sharing it via email or social media. Have a flash discount or major event coming up? SMS could be ideal. – Victoria Zelefsky, The Menkiti Group.

13. Provide A Strong Call To Action

Companies using SMS text to communicate with their customers should have a strong call to action that offers an immediate benefit to their customers. This increases the open rate and the return on investment because customers tend to perceive SMS marketing as intrusive, especially when it is an outright “advert” offering no value to customers. – Tolulope Adedeji, Anheuser Busch/ AB INBEV

14. Keep It Simple And Straightforward

The great thing about SMS is that customers are “opting in” to receive your messages. Optimize the channel with that in mind. Leverage the tried-and-true K.I.S.S. method (keep it simple and straightforward) and your analytics to appropriately target the customer at their preferred contact time. When you have their full attention, the sky is the limit! – Kris Pugsley, Skyworks Solutions, Inc.

15. Define How The Channels Will Complement Each Other

One of the most important nuances of the digital revolution is the difference between multichannel and omnichannel. SMS is a powerful tool to reach customers (multichannel), but it must be part of a larger channel strategy (omnichannel). Marketers need to define how each channel is going to complement the others as part of the larger journey. Otherwise, SMS will feel cold and intrusive. – Kelly Grover, Acoustic.

This article first appeared in www.forbes.com

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