FREE: Your Complete Guide to Successful Business Texting / SMS Online
Mobile devices and usage have been a growing trend for the last few decades. That's no secret. You're probably already familiar with society's obsession with smartphones. These mobile devices have become a staple for how we interact with each other, with brands, and with the world around us. Texting is native to mobile, and it's the #1 way people choose to communicate. Yet businesses have had difficulty understanding how to implement texting into their operations. It's really easy. Below we outline everything you need or might want to know about business texting. Enjoy our overview, and feel free to reach out with specific questions!
What is SMS/Texting?
Let's start with the bare basics. SMS is an acronym for Short Messaging Service, and has been referenced colloquially as "texting" for about as long as anyone can remember. A "text message" is simply a piece of electronic data with a size limit of 160 characters (for English). It's made specifically for language, rather than imagery or design, and can effectively include any character you'll find on a standard keyboard.
Why Are Texts 160 Characters?
We haven't always had today's great internet speeds and data processing power. Back when Friedhelm Hillebrand was concocting SMS in 1985 (seemingly forever ago), 160 characters is what he subjectively deemed to be the optimum combination of: a data file small enough to send electronically, yet large enough to say what needed to be said. The actual breakdown goes like this.
A "bit" (short for "binary digit") is the smallest unit of measure for computer data. Electronic Characters, such as those used in the English language, are known as "7-bit characters." In other words, every individual letter, space, punctuation mark, etc. is a piece of data 7 bits in size. 7 bits multiplied by 160 characters equals 1,120 bits. This also converts into 140 bytes. 140 bytes (1,120 bits) is what was deemed the optimum balance of data sharing in 1985, and that figure has stuck with us ever since! Talk about trend-setting.
What is MMS?
MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging Service, or more commonly as "picture messaging." Unlike SMS (standard text messaging), MMS has no file/data size limits. This makes it awesome for sharing images, gifs, videos, texts, audio, etc., but it means that you need a larger network (like 3G - third generation - or newer) to support these larger messages. For anyone with a smartphone, the technological differences between MMS and SMS are seemingly nonexistent.
Why Use SMS & MMS for Business?
There's a sizable handful of different ways SMS and MMS directly help your business, which we'll detail below. The overarching theme is that people prefer texting. This is big. This is not a preference like Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi, where you ask for a Coke, but sure Pepsi's okay, you guess. It's more than that. This is a preference that's created a stark difference in daily behaviors. It's not just that people prefer texting, it's that consumers prefer texting andhave a distinct dislike for phone calls (and emails in many cases). Let's look at the stats.
More time is spent every day on text messaging than is spent on phone calls, emails, instant messaging, and even face-to-face communication. Gallup has stated that "sending and receiving text messages is the most prevalent form of communication for American adults under 50." An individual's daily text-to-call ratio is 5-1! This means consumers are actively choosing to text in place of calling. And they're doing so for countless reasons every day.
When asked how they'd prefer to communicate with a brand, 90% of sales leads said they'd prefer to be texted, compared to 10% who preferred to be called. What's more, only 20% or so of phone calls even get answered, whereas 99%+ of texts are read, and have an average response time of 90 seconds. This is big. Even compared to emails, texting is far faster and better received.
You should use SMS (texting) and MMS (picture messaging) for your business, because texting gives you the ability to finally reach people you need to reach, fast, virtually guaranteed, and in the manner your targets prefer to communicate. Reach people, get answers, stand out from spam messages and sales calls, and get results that significantly boost your brand, and your ROI.
What's the Difference Between Short Code & Long Code SMS?
In practice, the regulations around short code SMS and long code SMS are very similar. The difference comes down to functionality. Which one is best for your situation depends on what you’re trying to accomplish.
What are they?
Short code SMS refers to a 5- or 6-digit number, like 555-55, which can be used for automated SMS campaigns and verifications. Long code SMS refers to a 10-digit number (plus country code), like +1-423-218-0111, which can be used for conversations or alerts.
However you choose to text, you have to get permission from each person to text them. This is not an option! There are two forms of permission: expressed consent and implied consent.
Expressed consent is simple. It’s whenever you have a record of someone stating that you can send them texts. Example: There’s a sign on a restaurant table that says, “Text ‘PIZZA’ to 555-55 to receive updates and special offers.” When a person texts in “PIZZA” to 555-55, you now have expressed consent to text them. There’s a clear record of the message and its intent.
Another example of expressed consent is when filling out a form. You could ask the prospect for their mobile number, and then have a checkbox that says “I’m okay with receiving communication via text message.” When a prospect checks that box, you have expressed consent. You have a record of that person giving you permission.
Implied consent is a little different. The basic rule of thumb is that if someone willing gives you their contact information (such as through a business card, email signature, or verbally), you have implied consent to contact them via whatever information they gave you.
Generally speaking, someone who texts you first is giving you consent to text them, though it’s a bit of a toss up as to whether it’s expressed or implied. It's left up to context. Why did they text you? How did they get your number?
Whenever you text with multiple people simultaneously, whether through short code or long code, the recipients have to be told they can opt out of future messages. It’s similar to emails. You can send individual messages without an opt-out link, but any message involving a list must include the option to opt out.
Probably the biggest difference between short code and long code SMS is how each is used. Short code is made for automation and mass messaging, whereas long code is designed for conversations.
Several companies will usually share a short code number (because owning one outright would be very expensive), and they’ll pay a monthly fee for using keywords. So if you text “PIZZA” to 555-55, you’ll be entered into one list for campaigns, and another company could use the same number with a different keyword, like “MUSIC,” to enter you into a different list for campaigns.
Because companies share short code numbers, a person could not have a conversation with a company through that number. Which company would it go to? That’s where long code comes into play.
Long code SMS numbers are individually owned, so consumers and businesses can have conversations with each other as needed. Long code messaging effectively functions the same way as any two people (or more) texting each other from their cell phones.
Accordingly, short code and long code SMS differ in how many messages can be sent out at a time. Because short code is designed for mass alerts, anywhere from 10-40+ messages can be sent out every second. Because long code is designed for conversations (and to inhibit spam), one message can go out every second. (Note: some long code providers limit, or throttle, the number of messages to fewer than one per second, which can be annoying. Text Request does not do this.)
With short code SMS numbers, you’ll be looking to pay anywhere from $500/mo to $2,500/mo per number, depending on how you want things to be set up. You’ll also pay anywhere from 0.5 cents to 5 cents per message (depending on country, etc.). With long code SMS numbers, you really only pay for the texts you use, which could cost anywhere from 2-7 cents per message. For more on long code SMS pricing, click here.
Texting as a Lead Generation Tool
Let's start at the top. Before you can use text to close sales and for ongoing customer support, you have to get customers. Obviously, you've already got customers, but how can you use text to get even more? A typical sales cycle looks like this. A brand - that's you - puts themselves out there via content, advertisements, etc. Interested consumers bite, and provide you with their contact information. They become your leads. Then, the brand - still you - works tirelessly to push those leads through a funnel and (hopefully) turn them into paying customers. For many, it's an exhausting process.
Without leads you have no potential customers. Without potential customers, you won't have any paying customers. As you're well aware, this places an immense amount of pressure on sales and marketing leaders to continually find more, better qualified leads. Generating leads is a necessity, and texting makes this process easier for brands. Our personal favorite way to gain leads through text - not that we're biased or anything - is with a Click-to-Text option on your website (which we gladly help you set up, should you choose to work with us).
The majority of web traffic comes from mobile devices. That phrase was first presented in a comScore report in June of 2014 - over 2 years ago. Mobile usage has been increasing steadily since. When people have a question, what do they do? They grab their smartphone, Google it, and find your website. What's the easiest way to communicate from a smartphone at any time of day or night? Text. Click-to-Text enables you (the brand) to place a button on your mobile website, so that mobile viewers can simply click the button, and open a text message pre-addressed to your business. Does it get any easier?
Click-to-Text works well at any time, and that's a large part of where the value is. It's easier and meets consumers' preferences, but it also opens up availability. Most businesses have a sales or customer service team available roughly between 8:00am and 6:00pm. The problem is, that's also when consumers are working. They're availability is limited. When they areavailable, when they're searching, is typically outside of their work hours, which is when you're probably unavailable.
Text replaces the phone call and simplifies lead generation. You don't have to have a representative standing by to manage a text. And now you have the person's intent and best way to reach them. Consumer has a question. They find your website. They click a button, and then the conversation continues when your representative is available again. Boom. Leads.
Texting as a Sales Tool
Getting more leads is great. Improving your customer service is awesome. Boosting all-around efficiency and customer satisfaction is priceless. But none of it matters at all if you can't get customers. Thankfully, text can be a great way to close sales and bring in those much needed new accounts. For any reason you might need to communicate with someone, you could theoretically send a text. By the same token, you can text leads and prospects at any stage of the sales funnel.
Text could be the only way you communicate with leads and customers - you'd still do well! More often than not, texting will be another tool in your sales arsenal, like email marketing campaigns or that special discount you reserve for big time potential customers. Except with text you'll actually reach leads when you need to.
When you get a lead, that person has given you their phone number. Even at businesses, we know that more than 80% of the time, leads will default to giving you their cell number. You can text those numbers to reach your leads the first time. In fact, about 90% of people say they'd rather be texted than called. You're actually doing a disservice when you call instead of text. What's more, texting works for closing sales. Here are the stats to prove it.
According to Software Advice, less than 10% of people answer calls from toll-free numbers. Only 15% are willing to answer calls from out-of-state. And less than 30% of people will answer calls from local area code numbers. Calls clearly aren't a very efficient means of reaching people. Many consumers take the approach, "If it's important, they'll leave a message." Even if leaving messages makes sense for your sales operation, less than 30% of people check their voice mail. The only people who leave voice mail anyway are salesmen and your mother. Phone calls can be effective, but they're not efficient. There are better ways to reach people.
Texts have a 99% open rate. 95% of those texts are opened and read within 5 minutes. The average response time for those messages is 90 seconds. Texts also have a 205% higher response rate than phone calls, and responses through text are 295% more likely to be "yes" responses than phone calls. How much time does it take you to call 100 people? How effective is that? How much time does it take you to text 100 people? A few minutes, tops. How effective is that? Very. Let's see what phone calls and texts look like side by side.
Everyone's funnel looks a little different, but let's go with this average. You have 100 qualified leads. When you call, an average of about 20% will answer. Of those you speak with, let's say 50% will be interested in furthering the conversation. Of those who expressed further interest, 20% will go on to purchase from you. That is what your sales funnel looks like if you're only calling leads to close sales. You start with 100 leads, 20 of them answer when you call. 10 of those leads are interested in furthering the conversation. 2 of those leads will go on to purchase from you. Now let's look at texting using the same ratios.
You start with 100 qualified leads. 95 of them read your text within 5 minutes. 47 of those leads are interested in furthering the conversation with you. 9 of them will go on to purchase from you. In as little as a five minute span, you've just boosted your sales ratios by 450%. Can anyone afford to miss out on that?
Closing sales through text isn't difficult either. You can still use your scripts (though it might work better to come off more naturally). One of the biggest reasons people aren't answering your calls is that they're busy working. Often, you just need a "yes," "no," or "let's talk on [DATE]." For salesmen, the simple "Update?" text has proven to be very valuable. Your sales cycle likely has several touch points. Add texting to boost each of those points, and to greatly improve your sales game.
Texting as a Customer Service Tool
Whether you want it to be or not, customer service (or account management, or whatever you want to call it) is an important part of your organization. Duh. If you don't treat customers well, they won't be your customers for long. That's exactly the problem. 89% of consumers say they're unhappy with current customer service options. In other words, only 10% of consumers are content with customer service options given to them. That's not good. That's not good at all! Even worse, most of these consumers - about 80% - are actively frustrated with current options. Who can blame them? Customer service is usually a dreadful experience. If you're an average business, this means you're ticking off about 80% of your customers. Who's that good for?
For every one good customer service experience, there are between ten and 400,000 bad experiences. Think about it! There's a reason we share customer service stories and why we despise the thought of calling an 800 number. Customer calls. They wade through minutes of automated call forwarding. They talk to someone. They're put on hold. Repeat three times. The issue might get resolved. How many customers could possibly be happy with this? How many customer service representatives hate their jobs because of this? All of it, however, could disappear if you cut the fluff.
Offer text as an option for customer service. This way consumers can get on with their lives without getting frustrated by your brand and having to repeat themselves over and over again. Text is the customer service option consumers are looking for. The company who offers the best customer experience is who will win. Be the winning company who lets your customers text you.
Texting for Collections, Billing & Accounts Receivable
Just about every company has a person or department that keeps up with who's paid and who hasn't. Why? Because when you provide a service for someone, it makes sense that you get paid. A big problem, though, is that a lot of people forget to pay. It's a simple, human mistake. People are busy and things fall through the cracks. Texting fills in those cracks.
Whether it's paying for insurance, leasing property, or anything else with regular payments, there's plenty of room for mishap. People get a hundred emails a day. They might miss your reminder. People get mail out of their box, set it aside, and forget about it. Nobody answers calls or checks their voicemail anymore. But everybody reads virtually every text, almost instantaneously.
Let's say it's a week, or maybe a couple of days, before a bill is due or before someone's coverage lapses. Shoot a quick text to everyone who hasn't paid yet. "Hi! This is So-and-So with Business-You-Use. Just wanted to give you a quick reminder that your bill is due on MM/DD. Thanks! Have a great day. :)" Even better, you can include a short link to their account login page to make the payment process even easier (and more effective). Doing this is polite, it's personal, and it gets results. Ask Sarah, the VP of a national healthcare brand.
After three weeks of using Text Request, Sarah said, "We've had an increase in collections by thousands a week, and a 66% increase in customer retention." I don't care who you are, that makes a tremendous impact! Oh, and they also increased sales by 17%. Collections is an important part of your business' growth and sustainability. Make it stronger by adding text.
Texting for Internal Communication & Compliance
Everyone texts for myriad reasons, but organizations often aren't sure how to handle texting. Managers text other employees for information, updates, and check-ins. Office workers check in with crews out in the field. Over time, a significant amount of confidential and customer information is sent and received through text. This is great with regards to convenience, but it can also leave your business in a junkyard of trouble if not handled appropriately. There are two necessities for business texting.
Organizational oversight is key. Ideally you want all staff communicating only through platforms and accounts that your business has access to. Particularly in industries like insurance, government services, medical, accounting, and law, it's always necessary for compliance officers to be able to see who said what to whom and when. If everyone's texting about everything from their personal cell phones, as is usually the case, organizations are left with chaos and liability. But by keeping everything in a centralized, manageable location like Text Request, businesses can bring back the oversight and accountability they need to protect their own skin, and that of their customers.
Security is the second key for any business platform. When you're storing confidential customer information, you have to know that information will be safe, and that those in charge of the platform itself are working to make it more secure every day. Text Request has the highest security measures available surrounding your confidential information, and we're constantly improving upon that. This is way better than dozens of individual cell phones loose in the world for anyone to steal or hack into.
Businesses are made and grown by people communicating with each other often, about things which aren't exactly meant for public ears. In today's world, text is a massive part of that communication. As a business, you've got to make sure all of that shared information is safe, compliant, and secure. We can help with that.
How Picture Messaging (MMS) Fits into Business
We share pictures with each other all the time. We use them to capture memories and to share our personal experiences with others. Pictures also hold a very practical place in business communication. The cliche says "a picture is worth a thousand words." The truth is picture messaging gives you more time and money.
You could take a picture of anything for any reason. Retail store customers could snap an item of clothing and ask the store if they have it in a different size, or for recommendations of other items to go with it. Customers could take a picture of an item label on a shelf and ask if there are any more in stock. Stores themselves could send out pictures of new items and coupons to subscribers.
The thing about retail is that over 80% of smartphone owners are already using their phones to help them out with buying decisions while they're in your store. Being able to send texts and pictures back-and-forth is a clear advantage for your store over whoever else customers might find online.
Home Service and Repair
In any of these areas, you need to be able to see the space. Cleaning service? You need to see what the damage is, how big the space is, etc. Moving company? How much furniture do they really have? Handyman? Know what you're working with and which tools to bring. There's no reason why a representative from your company should have to commute to a potential job site so you can give a price estimate. That's just wasteful.
Instead, have (potential) customers send your office pictures to assess the situation. There's also no reason why any of your crew should be unprepared for the job ahead, but how many times do technicians and others out in the field have to leave a site only to pick up a tool or part back at the shop. There's a better way.
Customer Service and Tech Support
How many times have you or other customer service representatives and tech support workers had to ask the person on the other end of the phone to explain what they're seeing? Before you can help, you need to know what's going on. Whether it's computer wiring, an invoice, a software error, or anything else, sharing a picture of the situation is going to be more helpful than trying to explain it over the phone or through email.
Sales and Information
Consumers often ask for more information, whether for their decision-making process or otherwise. What typically happens is the sales rep (or whoever's asked for the information) types up a rather lengthy email. Maybe the email contains links to pages holding more information, maybe not. This isn't bad, it works sometimes. But there's a better way.
Create an image, one page PDF, or infographic to text to these consumers instead. This way you have that person's cell number (the best way to reach them). You have expressed permission to text them (the best way to follow up). Your message stands out because it's a picture message, rather than an email like everyone else's information. And since the brain processes imagery 60,000 times faster than text, consumers can process your information faster, too. Picture messaging information creates a better experience.
Ways to Use Group Texting in Business
We've all experienced pains from unwanted group texts, where we're stuck getting notification after notification for something we might not even care about. As a business, this wouldn't make for a very good customer experience. Yet, it's often valuable to be able to send one message to several or several hundred people at once. That's why we created BCC group texting for our users.
You want to keep that personalization, but you also want to say the same thing to several people without everyone getting stuck in one giant message thread. Here are several ways you can use this BCC group texting option for your business, and why it's beneficial.
Reviews, Surveys, and Feedback
Studies perennially show that personal recommendations and reviews are one of the most important factors for other buyers looking to make a purchase. Whatever the applicable platform is for you - Google+, TripAdvisor, Apple App Store, Salesforce App Exchange, etc. - other people's opinions of your business make a difference. One way to use group texting in business is to send all your happy customers for that day/week/month a link to leave a review on the site most appropriate to your business. It's simple for the customer to do, and it can drastically improve your growth.
If you privately want to receive feedback from customers (which is often a good call), you could create a survey or simple ask for a comment. Google Forms and SurveyMonkey make it very easy to create and manage surveys for free. You can then text the survey link to all of your customers. For a more open-ended, casual response, you can simply text something like "How was your experience working with us?" or "Is there anything we could do to improve your experience?" With how convenient texting is for consumers, you'll more easily gain the information you need to continually improve your business.
Sometimes you need to tell a bunch of people the same thing, or ask them the same question. Why waste time going through everyone individually when you could hit them all at once and be done with it? Let's say you're in sales.
There's a group of people you need to get updates from. There's a group of people you need to schedule appointments with. And there's a group of people you've yet been unable to reach, among others. For all of these groups, you're going to say the same thing. Why not just get it over with through a BCC group text? Texts also get a 200+% higher response rate than phone calls or emails. Why wouldn't you just text them, and free up all that time for the leads most likely to purchase?
Appointment Reminders and Confirmations
People forget. It's part of the human condition. Why should that have to hurt your business? Every missed appointment is missed revenue. Yet confirmation calls and voicemails are time consuming, yielding low response rates, and emails often go ignored. A simple text to that day's or the next's appointments can do wonders for your kept ratio, and thus for your bottom line.
Even better, those who would have been unable to make the appointment are now prompted to reschedule. We've this turn into a win-win situation time and time again. Many also use it to fill last minute openings, such as medical and health offices.
Nobody wants to be stuck in a chain with their coworkers, but it's often the case that you need to ask or notify a group of them at once. BCC group texting makes this simple, and gets you the information you need quickly. BCC group texting makes it easy for any of your communications to be personal, private, simple, and incredibly efficient.
SMS Hosting Your Current Business Number
If you just want the simple answer to "What is this," here you go. SMS hosting your current business number is where we add our Text Request online dashboard to the 10-digit phone number you're already using to make calls. For a bit more technical of an answer, keep reading.
Every 10-digit telephone number comes with two parts: voice and text. Most telecommunications providers only ever deal with or own the voice profile of a phone number, leaving the text portion of the number up for grabs. What we do is acquire the rights to the SMS profile of available numbers, and host the text portion of that phone number within our online dashboard. Nothing changes to your current phone/voice services, because we only deal with the text portion of the number.
To connect your current business number to mobile networks - and thus, to be able to send and receive texts from your phone number - we use what's called an SMS gateway. This is a set of code that connects text messages from your computer to mobile networks, and on to cell phones.
Basically, all of this means you can add our online dashboard to current business number(s), so long as your telecommunications provider isn't already using the SMS portion of your number. To see if your current business number is available, click here.
Bringing It All Together
Online live texting is the largest void in business communication, which means there’s a lot to cover. Business texting is simple. Business texting is effective. Texting is the most prevalent, and the preferred form of communication for those under 50. With how flexible a tool it is, you’re severely hurting yourself and your business by not using it. And if you are using it in some area, think of all the other possibilities!