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COVID-19 Texting: How to Stay Profitable & Thrive in a Pandemic

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Crises have a way of highlighting both good and bad things. They’re great for leaders, who rise to the occasion, and terrible for operations and infrastructure, which crumble under the strain.

A lot of organizations are finding out they don’t have the right infrastructure—the right processes and technology—to handle life in a remote-work, no school, “essential businesses only” world. It’s costing you tons of crucial revenue, and you’re wondering how you’ll survive. We’ve talked to thousands of companies during the COVID-19 pandemic, and one point is clear:

Texting is a surefire way to keep profits up and stay connected with your people.

We’ve created this guide to show you how to use text messaging to survive and thrive in a crisis. We’ll lay out how specific industries can use texting to solve problems unique to their situations during this pandemic and throw in some research that applies to everyone.

Click a link below to jump to your industry:

[Research] Why is texting so effective right now?

Business is all about connecting with your customers. Even nonprofit work is about engaging your communities. Text messaging is the #1 way to connect with customers and increase engagement. It’s how you can best grab their attention and inspire action.

Here are a few stats to support that:

  • 99% of texts are read
  • The average response time is 90 seconds
  • The average response rate is 40-50%
  • 89% of people want to text a business for sales & service
  • 91% would rather get a text update than a phone call
  • Texting during the sales cycle can increase sales as much as 600%
  • URL click through rates are 40-45%

If you’re looking for an easy-to-use, low cost tool to keep your business running (and growing), there’s no better place to start than texting. Here’s how that applies to your industry.

1. [Food & Beverage] Transition to delivery with Text to Order.

Food service has been thrust into a delivery and pick-up only model, and many like you are scrambling to transition away from dine-in while also having to let go of most of your staff. Texting will help you manage orders on the go, and chum up new orders from customers.

This works whether you’re a traditional restaurant, a produce supplier, or even a hotel or caterer. Here’s how to make the transition.

Text-enable your existing phone number.

You’ve been promoting the same phone number for years. Instead of using a new number, like a cell phone, just add texting to your existing landline, VOIP, or toll-free number. This way customers will recognize your number when you text them (I’ll cover how to text them in a second), and they can text or call you at the same number to place orders.

Promote your menu to encourage orders.

It doesn’t matter what you do if no one knows you’re doing it. So text your customers about your menu, specials, or even to let them know you’re still open! The average text is seen within five seconds of being sent, so you know they’ll get your message. The trick is you need a list of customers to text.

If you don’t already have a list, here’s our guide to building a powerful SMS subscriber list. If you do already have a list of customers (and you may be able to get one from your POS or email marketing tool), download that list of customers and upload it into Text Request.

Note: You can directly upload contacts to a Group to easily manage your lists. E.g. You might label a group “Customers as of [Date]” or “Alcohol delivery.”

Related: How to Import Contacts

Once contacts are in Text Request, send them a Group Message promoting your daily deals or other services. A Text Request Group Message sends like a BCC email. You click send once, everyone in the group gets the message, and any replies come back to you instead of to the group.

Toss in a picture of your menu or daily deal to increase engagement and orders, or add a link to order on your website if that’s an option for you.

Related: How to Send a Group Message

Text to Order from your website.

This is a good option, particularly if you don’t have online ordering in place yet, because it gives customers the power to text you directly from your website. All you need is our SMS Chat widget. Copy and paste a piece of code onto your website, and then customers can text you to request orders (and share their addresses for delivery).

Related: SMS Chat User Guide

Customers send a text from your website, it comes into your Text Request account, you reply from any device, and that reply shows up in the customer’s text messages on their cell phone. The widget just starts the conversation, and then it’s like any other text exchange.

SMS Chat is proven to increase engagement and sales and can be very helpful to you during the coronavirus crisis.

Handle orders on the go.

It’s a chaotic time, and relying on phone calls to take orders is asking to miss opportunitiesparticularly when you’re walking an order to the curb or out on delivery. That’s costly during a time you can’t afford to miss out.

But you don’t miss a text, you just see it when you have a moment to check. You can keep up with orders and conversations from your phone, table, or computer, and others on your team can pick up the conversation for you if you’re busy.

Quick Steps for Food & Beverage Text to Order

1. Text-enable your current phone number

2. Promote to all customers through text, email, and social media that they can text you for orders

3. As your SMS list grows, regularly text customers with your menu and other offers to drive engagement

4. Handle inbound text orders as a team

5. Text customers updates on delivery and arrival times

6. Thrive on Text to order!

2. [Healthcare] Triage and check-in patients while social distancing.

Healthcare organizations clearly have the most work to do during this pandemic, but texting with patients is helping a lot of facilities streamline their processes and actually reduce their workload. It’s especially helpful since HIPAA regulations have been lifted for the crisis.

Here’s what you should do.

Text-enable your office phone numbers.

Whether all your communications are being routed through one front office phone number, or patients need to reach multiple departments or locations, add text messaging to your landline, VOIP, and toll-free numbers.

This way your whole team (assistants, doctors, nurses, etc.) can text from a central dashboard and minimize your current daily chaos.

Direct patients to text you (especially from your website).

You want patients experiencing COVID-19 symptoms to reach out early so you can identify cases sooner and minimize the spread. Even if they don’t have coronavirus, you still need to help patients regain health while social distancing or overstraining your system.

Here’s how to use texting to help.

Funnel inbound communications through text message so you can systematically triage patients. If 100 people call you at once, you can’t handle every call. But if 100 people texted you, your team could get to each person in an orderly fashion.

Related: Managing Multiple Users

Patients typically find your website first when they need help, so direct patients to text you from your website. SMS Chat is a widget for your website that prompts people to text you, like in the video below, and is a simple step towards making communications much easier to handle.

As patients text in, your staff can ask the appropriate questions through text to determine what care each patient needs, and take action from there.

You also want to direct patients to text you from other outlets (the goal is to funnel communications into one place). So take these steps to tell patients to text you ASAP for help:

  • Email your patient list
  • Text your patient list
  • Post on social media
  • Add a ‘Text us for telehealth’ prompt to your website
  • Create a post on your local Google My Business profile to prompt organic searchers

You can say something as simple as:

“[First Name], due to the high volume of healthcare needs, we’re asking everyone to please text us about your symptoms to [Phone Number]. We’ll get you the help you need from there. Thank you! - [Dr. Name @ Clinic]”

Related: Send a Text Merge Message

Check patients in and create a virtual waiting room.

The last thing you want right now is a room packed with contagious people. So have patients check in by text message, wait in their cars until they’re “called,” and text them when you’re ready for them to come in.

You can text patients ahead of time to instruct them, but we also recommend posting about it on social media, telling people in emails, and posting physical signs on your office doors. E.g.:

“All [Dr.’s Office] Patients: Please text [Phone Number] to check in, then wait in your car. We will text you when to come in. This helps us all social distance and minimize contagious spreading. Thank you!”

If you need more information from patients while they’re waiting, like pictures of insurance cards or approval for XYZ, ask for those details. Every message is permanently recorded in Text Request and easy to print for your physical records, too.

3. [Political] Engage supporters by text to replace in-person events.

In-person events are off the table, so there’s no shaking hands and kissing babies, but COVID-19 doesn’t have to ruin your campaign. You can still poll, find new supporters, stay connected with current supporters, and even increase donations all through text messaging.

One thing that’s unique about political campaigns (and non-commercial groups) is that you can send individual texts to people who have not explicitly opted in to communications. It’s called peer to peer texting, and it’s a game changer for most campaigns. I’ll show you how to use a mix of P2P and other texting solutions below.

Set up your text numbers.

Text Request will set up your peer to peer texting account for you. We will look at how many messages you need to send, and enable local area code phone numbers so you can send the volume you need as quickly as you need. Just reach out to us to start the process.

For more details, visit our peer to peer texting page.

Find new supporters.

What’s one good way to see if someone likes you and your views? Ask.

Take your data from voter registrations or your data partner, and individually text contacts to gauge who they’re voting for and what they’re interested in. There’s plenty of strategy you can implement here, too, like focusing on specific districts or voters with a specific voting history.

Simply upload your list of contacts, type your message, and send one message to each person. Even better, have your volunteers send the messages for you. You might say:

“Hi, this is [Volunteer Name] with [Candidate Name]. What issues do you care most about during this election?”

Or

“Hi, this is [Volunteer Name] with the [Candidate Name] campaign. Are you planning on voting for [Candidate] come November?”

Note: Our peer to peer texting comes with AI sentiment analysis to automatically remove contacts with negative responses.

When you get positive responses or find people who will support your cause, add them to specific lists inside Text Request. This way you can easily follow up with specific supporters later. You might label a list “Potential Volunteers” or “Will Vote Yes.”

You can also have as many volunteers texting on Text Request at once as you want.

Related: 5 Ways Politicians Engage More Voters with Peer to Peer Texting

Poll the audience.

The process is slightly different depending on whether your contacts are opt-in or cold, but the goal is the same: Find out who people are voting for (or which issues they care about). Let’s start with opt-in contacts—you’ll want to send a BCC group message.

  • Add your list of contacts to Text Request
  • Type your message
  • Confirm you have permission to text them
  • Click send

This will send your message to all contacts at once. Any replies will come back to you, not to the group.

Related: How to Send a Group Message

If your contacts are not opt-in, you’ll just have to send messages one at a time. You can still send them very quickly this way.

Here’s a text you might send:

“Who would you rather vote for?
A. Trump
B. Biden
C. Need more info on candidates

Reply Trump or Biden for your answer. Thank you!”

Then you can set up Keywords. Keywords are words people text you that automatically subscribes them to a group, and that trigger an autoresponse. In this case you would create two keywords—for ‘Trump’ and for ‘Biden’.

Anyone who replies ‘Trump’ would automatically be added to a group called ‘Keyword: Trump’ and anyone who replies ‘Biden’ would automatically be added to a group called ‘Keyword: Biden’. From there, it’s easy to see how many people are planning to vote for each.

Related: How to Create and Use Keywords

Political Keyword Text Example

Another option is to include a link to a survey in your text, such as:

“Hi, this is [First Name] with [Research Group]. Please answer this short survey about issues that matter to you in the upcoming election. Thank you! surveylink.com/unique”

Keep in mind that every text sent with Text Request is conversational. If contacts don’t respond with your specific keyword, or have any questions, your team can respond to carry the conversation. Often it’s these personal conversations that actually create loyalty and support.

Keep supporters in the loop.

People’s opinions change all the time, often depending on what story the media they pay attention to is pushing. You can keep support and engagement with your cause high by texting supporters about updates and media appearances.

SMS subscriber lists earn 3-5X more engagement than email lists, so text your loyal supporters to keep them in the loop with the latest polls, key issues, victories, appearances, and important dates.

Related: How to Build a Powerful SMS Subscriber List

Increase critical donations.

You have a list of past donors, and you think you know which other supporters would be willing to donate to your cause, but you have to grab their attention to ask for dollars.

95% of texts are read within three minutes of being sent, and the click-through rates are 35%-50% (depending on the message and audience). So text supporters to ask for funds.

All it takes is a simple message and a link to your donations page, like:

“We need your help! The [Election] race is neck and neck, and we need your financial support to pull ahead. Please donate to help us create a better future for [Region]! donate.com/donations”

4. [Home Service] Make the most of people spending time at home.

Home service businesses have been doing well during this crisi, according to our conversations. People are suddenly spending all their time at home, and they’re finally paying attention to those house projects. Cleaning services in particular are in high demand.

But how can you take advantage of this opportunity to drum up new businesses while being respectful of the COVID-19 pandemic? And how can you turn that into sustainable growth that lasts long after this crisi?

Texting can play a big role, and here’s how.

Text-enable your business phone number.

Step one is to centralize your communications. You don’t want every field rep and office employee texting from their personal cell phone numbers. That’s difficult to track, creates a disjointed experience for customers, and is tough to market.

But you’ve been promoting the same office number for customers to call for ages. We can add text messaging to that number, so your team can text through that number on your computers and cell phones.

We’ll cover how that can increase revenue next, but first, check your phone number to see if it’s eligible for text messaging.

Text past customers that you’re open and available.

Only “essential” businesses are open across most of the nation, but there’s a lot of confusion over what counts as essential. Besides, people are looking for good news! So text all your past customers that you are open and taking on new customers and projects.

  • Download your customer list from your CRM
  • Upload that list into Text Request (we recommend uploading straight into a Group and labeling it “All Customers as of [Date]”)
  • Compose a new group message (example below)
  • Click send
  • Handle responses as a team

Related: How to Send a Group Message

Group messages send like a BCC email--you click send once, and any replies come directly back to you instead of to the group. Your message can be simple, too, like:

“Hi [First Name], just wanted to share some good news that we are still open during this time! We’re ready to help you or a friend with [a home project], let us know what you’d like done. Stay safe! - [Rep Name, Company Name]”

You’ll start getting questions and requests for estimates pretty quickly, and multiple members of your team can respond from a shared dashboard as needed.

"Our Company signed up with Text request in February, sent out just one blast a month so far since April and the return rate was better than hiring an outbound customer service rep. We also found great use of the program with our customers that just can't find the time to call to schedule an appointment. We do everything through text. Our existing customers absolutely love having us at their fingertips now. We highly recommend this service for any type of business." - Kara, Joseph Giannone Heating and Air Conditioning

Generate and convert more leads from your website.

Customers are looking for help around the home, so they turn to Google and ask the first three businesses that show up in search results for a price. Who do you think they end up working with?

The companies with the most online reviews and who respond quickest win the most business (up to half of deals go to the first vendor to respond). We’ll cover reviews in a moment, here’s how you can be first to respond.

Use our SMS Chat. It lets people text you directly from your website, which 9 in 10 people would rather do to ask questions and get answers. This helps you capture more leads, but the real power is in the follow-up.

Related: SMS Chat User Guide

Home Reno Example

When someone texts you, have an autoresponse sent instantly back to them saying, “Thanks for your message! A rep will follow-up ASAP to help.” You can set this up quickly inside Text Request.

The prospect will get that text on their cell phone, and now you have an open line of communication to the highest converting channel available. Then you just need a rep to actually follow up ASAP (within 15 minutes is great) to continue the conversation and close the deal.

"With Text Request, we now have a way to wow our customers. They see it on our website and think, “Cool, I can text them!” It’s a convenient way for them to ask questions and get answers in real-time, and it’s a great way for us to see if they’re a good fit for our company. We also use Text Request to schedule appointments, generate leads, and thank our customers for working with us." - Jeff, Houston Window Experts

Start a referral program.

Now’s the perfect time to start a referral program. People are looking for all the help they can get, and any reward or kickback you might offer will be lower than your standard cost to acquire a new customer.

Depending on your average customer value, you might offer $25 to anyone who refers a new estimate and $100 to anyone who refers a paying customer, for example. If you told me I could make $100 for sharing your message (possibly more if I send you multiple new customers), I would share your message with everyone I know!

The easiest way to track a referral program quickly is to ask all new customers “Who referred you?” Then either make a note in your CRM and set a task to follow-up on it, or just use a spreadsheet. Go through your list once a week or so to dish out rewards.

Start spreading the word of your referral program by texting all your customers about it (follow the steps in the “Text past customers you’re open” section above). After you text them, you’ll also want to post about it on social media, and include in your email newsletter.

Text customers who’s coming and what safety precautions you’re taking.

People are always leery of strangers coming to their house, and that feeling is heightened by fear of spreading the virus. But you can put customers at ease! This will create better customer experiences, and set you up for great reviews (see the next section).

Give customers a heads up, either the day before or the day of, about who’s coming by their house, and what steps you’re taking to stay safe. Make sure to include a photo of the employee(s), too. E.g.:

“Kim, this is Carlos. He’ll be servicing your home tomorrow around 10:30am. Like all of us, he’s following state and CDC requirements for staying safe, including wearing masks, gloves, and washing hands relentlessly! Looking forward to serving you tomorrow. [head shot]”

If anything happens last minute on either end, there’s also now an open channel for quick updates.

Get reviews to beat competitors.

Now is the time to pull ahead of your competitors, and one of the quickest ways to do that is with online reviews. 85% of people trust online reviews like personal recommendations, and search engines use both your number and frequency of reviews to determine where you rank in search.

Texting is going to give you more reviews. That will lead to better rankings in search results, more prospects, and ultimately more revenue. Here’s how to ask.

There’s debate about whether you should ask every customer for a review, or just the ones you know had a good experience. The right answer is everyone. Profile engagement is a key ranking factor for any search or review platform. The more people leaving you reviews, good and bad, the more engagement you’re getting and the better your profile will perform.

Plus, people actually like to see a few bad reviews sprinkled in. It makes you seem more human.

This also gives you an opportunity to automate asking for reviews, which is something future you will be thankful for. So, after you service a customer, send a text saying:

“[First Name], we’re thrilled to have helped you out today. Will you please leave us a review of your experience on [Platform]? That helps us a lot. Thank you! [reviewsite.com/yourlink]”

Related: How to Get Your Review Link

"We’ve increased our amount of reviews by 58% using Text Request, and we’ve noticed more people are looking us up through Google Maps and Direction Request. The average local business has 39 Google reviews, but with Text Request’s help STOR-N-LOCK’s average number of reviews has reached 170 per store!" - Matt, STOR-N-LOCK Self Storage

5. [Financial Services] Connect with clients quickly to update plans.

Clients have all sorts of questions about their mortgages, portfolios, taxes, and other financial plans. You need to connect with them to help, whether they’ve reached out first or not, and texting is the most effective way to do it.

Here’s how you can use texting to solve clients’ problems and even increase revenue during the COVID-19 crisis.

Text-enable your office phone numbers.

People do it, but texting from a personal cell phone is not compliant. Messages need to be permanently recorded, secure, and searchable.

Text Request does that for you, plus gives your team useful solutions for driving business (we’ll cover a few below). You’ll also be able to text from your computer or smartphone using your office phone numbers.

That way, clients have just one number to text or call to reach your team. But Step #1 is to check if you can text with your office number.

Capture inbound questions and leads.

Current clients have questions they need answers to, and potential clients are searching for someone local to help them out. Both are going to your website before reaching out (or choosing a competitor).

You can capture all of that intent and funnel it into one inbox for your team with SMS Chat.

 

SMS Chat looks like a typical live chat widget. The difference is all messages come to you as texts. Your replies go to their cell phone’s text messages.

This way no one has to wait—prospects don’t have to sit on your site waiting for a live agent, and you don’t have to keep someone instantly available around the clock. It’s a win-win, plus it brings in more leads.

 "Since using Text Request’s SMS Chat feature, our number of inbound conversations has doubled (compared to the online chat option we were using before). That’s been great for sales!" - Steven, Signature Bail Bounds

Keep in mind, too, that up to half of all deals go to the first company to respond. If someone’s shopping around, as you know they do, you need a way to consistently respond before everyone else.

Autoresponses are great for this. Someone texts you from SMS Chat, and they automatically get a custom response from you, like:

“Thanks for your message! Our office hours are M-F 8-5. We’ll personally respond ASAP. - [Company Name]”

That opens the direct line to clients’ SMS app on their phones, and gives you some flexibility on your personal response.

To use SMS Chat, you just place a small piece of code in the footer of your website, and customize the look inside your Text Request account. More details here: SMS Chat User Guide.

Start conversations that lead to revenue.

People have questions but they don’t always reach out. So go to them. You reaching out first also makes you seem proactive, which is another notch in your belt. By reaching out, you will start conversations that lead to (depending on what you do) more billable hours or more products sold.

So send a text to all your clients. You might even toss in leads that never converted. Just:

  • Download your contacts from your CRM or other software
  • Upload that list into Text Request (we recommend uploading straight to a group)
  • Send a text prompting conversations, like:

“Hope you’re safe during covid-19! It’s creating a lot of questions for people, so we wanted to reach out to see what we can help you with. Let us know! - [Rep, Company Name]”

Related: How to Send a Group Message

Our Group Messaging sends like a BCC email—send to as many people as you want, each person gets the message like it only went to them, and all responses come directly back to you instead of to the group.

[Post-COVID-19] Come back out swinging!

Times are tough, but most of us can see the light at the end of the COVID-19 tunnel (at least for this season). Cases are going down, stimulus checks are coming in, businesses have gotten their Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans. So how do you recoup?

How do you come back out of COVID-19 lockdown and see success?

You need to come back strong, right out of the gate, so you can make up for lost revenue and stand out from all the other businesses who will be trying to grab consumers’ attention, too. We have a few recommendations to help you do it.

Start building your list.

You want to tell everyone relevant that you’re ready for new business as soon as the time comes. To do it, you need to put together a list of past customers and prospects, and start adding new leads to it. Here are a few steps to take.

Related: How to Build a Powerful SMS Subscriber List

1. Go to your CRM (if you have one). Create a list of all contacts who haven’t unsubscribed. To make your lists really powerful, segment contacts by what they were previously interested in.

2. Go to your payments software, POS, or spreadsheet. Pull the list of contacts who’ve paid you in the past year.

3. Add SMS Chat to your website. You need to capture contact info from as many relevant website visitors as possible. This will help you do it.

4. Create an offer on your website, like “Get discounts as soon as we’re back! Enter your phone number / email for updates.” You might offer 10-25% for giving you their contact info to drum up engagement.

5. Compile your list of contacts from different sources into one list. You’ll want to text and email all of them when the time is right, but we’ll talk about that more below.

Advertise slowly, for brand awareness.

Advertising when you’re closed or can’t see anyone may seem pointless, but right now you need to build rapport.

As soon as America opens up, everyone will be clamoring for consumers’ attention. You want to stand out. You want people to think of you first. So:

  • Start showing Facebook and Instagram ads for your products and services.
  • Use Facebook and Google retargeting ads to keep up with people who’ve viewed your website.
  • Find an excuse for a press release or news story (if you don’t know how to get coverage, do something free for people on the front lines and tell people about it).
  • You might even start emailing and texting newsletters to subscribers.

The goal here is to build up touch points—and relationships—with people who are or may become your customers. They’ll need what you provide soon, and you want to make sure they come to you, instead of to the first person who shows them an ad a month from now.

Prepare new software, tactics, promotions.

It’s common to think, “I don’t need to do anything until we’re running again.” That’s a trap. You need to be 100% ready to go the day before you reopen.

  • Do you want to offer promotions to stir up new business? Have those ready to go.
  • Are you going to try anything new in sales and marketing? Have that locked and loaded.
  • Do any of your ideas require software, or utilizing new features on tools you already have? Have your team trained on that now.

There will be a large, apparent difference between the companies who come out of coronavirus 100% prepared to fight back and those that aren’t. We want to see you in the former. If you want to see how Text Request can help you, just pick a convenient time for a quick demo here.

Ask past customers and clients for reviews.

You’ve worked with lots of people who haven’t left you online reviews yet. But what’s going to happen as soon as things are back to “normal?"

People are going to jump back on Google searching for the products, services, and local businesses they need. Who’s going to show up first in those search results? The companies with the most online reviews.

Now’s the perfect time to ask for help from past customers and clients.

“Hi [Jonathan], I hope you’re well, all things considered. We could really use your help right now. We aren’t able to conduct much business right now, but we’re preparing for when we can again. Online reviews would help us a ton, so we can be found online and stand out. Would you please take 30 seconds to leave us a review on [Google / Platform]? [reviewsite.com/link] Thank you!”

You can share that message through text, email, carrier pigeon, whatever it takes.

Related: How to Get Your Business Review Link on Major Platforms

Fun fact: 70% of people are willing to leave you a review if you just ask, and people are 600% more likely to give online reviews when you ask through text instead of through email. So text customers and clients to ask for reviews! The benefits will last well after this pandemic.

Get those promotions ready!

As soon as you’re ready to accept business as usual again, you need to grab customers’ attention and inspire action. This is where those lists we worked on earlier come into play.

There are likely three ways you’re going to want to use them.

  • Text ‘em
  • Email ‘em
  • Retarget ‘em

There are several steps to go through for this, but they're all easy. And if you’re not quite sure how to do them, we’ll link to guides below.

To text promotions to your opt in contacts, copy and paste your list of contacts into a Text Request group message. It’s like a BCC email—all contacts will receive an individual message, and any replies will come back to you instead of to the group.

Related: Sending Promotions with Text Request

To email promotions to your opt in contacts, upload your list into the email marketing service of your choice. Robly and Mailchimp are good go-to’s if you don’t already have a favorite.

To show those contacts retargeting ads, you’ll upload the list of contacts as a Custom Audience into Facebook Ads, Google Ads, and LinkedIn Ads (or whichever platforms you want to use for retargeting). From there, create your ads and set your budgets. Each of the links in this paragraph are to guides for doing this on the respective platforms.

Don’t stop there!

The companies who succeed coming out of COVID-19 restrictions will be the ones who take an active role in creating customer engagement starting on Day 1 and for months after. There will be a lot of competition, but you can cut through the noise!

Just use this guide as your template, and contact us if you want any help reaching more customers faster or more frequently.