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SMS Polling for Business

Jordan Beier
Jordan Beier

Polls are an effective form of SMS outreach that can serve as another tool in your marketing strategy.

Short message service (SMS) polls are a form of text message marketing that capitalizes on the immediacy of a text message to quickly gather customer-driven feedback. Digital marketing always aims to get closer to the consumer, and SMS polls offer businesses their most intimate access yet. Read on to learn how SMS polls can help you improve your marketing strategy.

What is an SMS poll?

An SMS poll is a simple question sent through an  to a business's customers. These polls often require a response of just a short keyword or letter. They are used to gauge customers' reactions to questions that may drive future promotions and product decisions. Customers' brief answers to these questions help to serve as an interactive advertisement that boosts engagement with the brand.

Polls are sent directly to recipients' phones and are received like any other text message, and respondents can answer the questions as they would any other text. The texts instruct recipients on how to reply through short keywords, or even letters, that correspond to the multiple choices offered by the poll.

What types of SMS polls do companies send?

There are several types of SMS polls companies can use. Here are some examples:

Voting

When people think of polls, politics often comes to mind. Businesses can use that same model, for example, to ask which pizza topping a customer prefers or which new color they are most excited about for an upcoming line of jackets.

The answers to these polls, in turn, can guide future company decisions. If you are choosing among several promotions or can purchase only enough inventory for one product, remove the guesswork (and potential losses). Learn from the most important source by allowing your customers to decide for you. Ask which of several options they prefer, and base your decision on their responses.

Contests

Offer contests via text as an incentive for customers to engage with your brand. Prizes could include discounts, vouchers or free products. You can allow respondents to enroll by simply entering their name or to qualify by voting on a topic. This strategy encourages customers to be ready to check their phones when your number appears, so they will be more likely to prioritize your messages when contests are mixed in.

You can allow multiple winners for each contest, such as by rewarding the first 10 replies. If the winners agree to an in-store photo, you can integrate this initiative with your social media strategy by posting the content on your page. If those customers tell their friends or share the results on their own social media accounts, they are doing the marketing for you.

Customer data research

Not every poll must lead to an immediate or actionable decision; collecting customer data can be just as important in guiding future decisions regarding product offerings and promotions. These questions can be the same as those you would ask under typical voting measures. But rather than focusing on your product or service, ask customers about themselves. Learn their demographics, and measure them against their purchase history to better understand which areas of your business connect best with different audience segments.

Customer experience

Customer service surveys have always been an essential measurement tool for businesses, but gone are the days of asking customers to fill out paper questionnaires after their purchase. Nowadays, mobile polls can fill this need because they allow customers to respond at their convenience.

One of the most useful metrics gleaned from SMS polling is your Net Promoter Score, a customer service evaluation that asks a respondent to rate their experience on a scale of 1 to 10.

What are the benefits of using SMS for polling?

SMS polls offer several unique benefits over other communication methods:

Customization

Polls can provide feedback on a consumer's favorite items, their customer experience, their preferred shopping patterns and more. This data, in turn, gives businesses a better understanding of which items to promote. In addition, when deciding among multiple new items, businesses can learn from the most engaged customers in real time.

High engagement rates

Because SMS polls require less time to complete than surveys do, they are more likely to be opened and read. In fact, according to SnapDesk, SMS polls have a 98% open rate, compared with 20% to 30% for email marketing. Email software can filter and bury marketing messages, but a phone immediately alerts its owner the same way with every text message.

What are the differences between polls and surveys?

Text messaging became popular for its immediacy and speed, but traditional surveys are better for in-person conversations and thorough analysis. SMS polls are more appropriate for facilitating condensed queries that can fit on small screens, and they allow users to answer with the ease and quickness for which text messaging was designed.

Whereas surveys often ask detailed and open-ended questions that require a significant time commitment, polls seek to leverage the urgency of text messaging. They ask multiple-choice questions that can be answered with the tap of one letter. Polls are also easier for businesses to manage and record. Surveys require long-form answers that must be read and documented, but poll responses can be tallied by the same automated software that sends them out.

How to send an SMS poll

Follow these steps to get started with your SMS poll:

1. Choose your text message marketing service.

Nearly all text messaging services offer SMS polling. Select the one that best matches your goals and audience.

2. Finalize your outreach list.

Make a list of customers and their phone numbers. Before you contact them, ensure that you have obtained written consent to comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Web forms and email sign-ups at purchase are some of the most common ways to gain that permission.

3. Write the primary poll question.

Use two short, casual sentences when crafting your poll. Frame the poll as an opportunity you're providing rather than a favor you're requesting.

Norman Happ, CEO of EZ Texting, said to make sure the recipient thinks you have contacted them to provide value, not to make another sale.

"[Are you] genuinely asking for my input or trying to sell me something?" Happ said.

Start with the question itself; phrase it as a simple sentence. Follow that with clear instructions on how to reply, and inform the recipient of which words or letters they can use to answer.

4. Automate the responses.

Program the message to accept whichever triggering keyword the customer chooses; then prepare an automatic follow-up message tailored to their response. This is typically a brief and friendly "thank you," regardless of their choice, that will ensure the customer continues to feel valued the next time you reach out.

Keep in mind that SMS messaging often carries a more informal tone than email or other traditional marketing efforts.

That's the "charm of text," Happ said. "It breaks through the clutter."

Image Credit: cyther5 / Getty Images
Jordan Beier
Jordan Beier
business.com Staff
Jordan covers marketing, social, and technology for business.com and Business News Daily as a junior writer based in New York City. He graduated from Tulane University with a bachelor's in marketing, and he still misses that New Orleans cooking.