When it comes to my business, I rely on my phone for just about everything: email, calendar invites, tracking tools. Text messaging is clearly efficient for entrepreneurs. But does using it to connect with your customers cross lines?
To find out, I asked several entrepreneurs from the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) whether or not they thought taking to their phone was a smart way to engage customers. Their best answers are below:
1. No Text messages are from my friends, and that's my expectation. Every text message I have received that is unsolicited marketing has immediately led to a fierce hatred of the brand. For opt-in, texting is relatively big in nightlife, but I haven't seen traction outside of that. - Trevor Sumner, LocalVox
If a brand has the right relationship with its customers, text messaging can add a dimension of urgency. A great example of this is with our client Cricket, a wireless carrier. The company text messages customers that they are nearing the end of their prepaid month, and they need to refill. That is important information and needs to get to that customer via the right medium for that kind of urgency. Shutting off their phone would adversely affect them. Other examples are traffic updates at the right time that remind people of appointments they've scheduled (my dentist does that to confirm) and to let someone know their table is ready at a restaurant, which is becoming more commonplace. - Reid Carr, Red Door Interactive
We recently took our phone number off our site. The Modify team has gotten great at emailing customers, and our average response time is under eight hours, including weekends. We found that it took more than a day to reply by phone. When you receive a text, you might not have the context for how to help the customer with an exact issue because you may not always be at your computer. Don't use a text-message service if the actual output will be sub-par. A fast response is great, but the right response is ten times better. - Aaron Schwartz, Modify Watches
Text alerts from my favorite local coffee shop are great (most of the time), but when the messages come too frequently, I get easily annoyed. It helps to limit what you're sending and test the response and opt-out rates. For the cafe, it's easy to track how many users show their phones to get a deal and measure its effectiveness. Consider a service that enables more features such as testing messages in an A/B test or allowing members to reply "less" to get fewer messages. It'll demonstrate you're actually listening, enable a sense of control over the process and put your customers in the driver's seat. - Kelly Azevedo, She's Got Systems
You should not text your customers unless you've met their family. It is too personal, and it invades an individual's privacy. Unless you have a relationship with the individual where you have met his or her family in a social setting, don't text. - Yuriy Boykiv, Gravity Media
It works, and if you use it in a classy manner, people won't hate you. You also need to consider your sales funnel. If you're generating leads from a webpage that is viewed on a desktop or laptop, then following up with a text may be too much of a disconnect and become invasive. But, if you're generating leads from a mobile device or app, there's a little more context around why you might follow up with a text. It also helps if your offering has a mobile focus. That said, keep it to a single text. Never send more than one follow-up text -- it isn't email. If they reply, engage with them. It works for us, and I believe it can work for others as long as the context is strongly considered. - Chad Halvorson, When I Work
Text reminders work really well for boosting attendance for online webinars. Simply add an optional field for mobile phone numbers on your webinar sign-up form, and then send a reminder about 10 minutes before you're scheduled to start. If you use any other event marketing tactics, then I recommend testing a text reminder to increase attendance. - Phil Frost, Main Street ROI
SMS open rates now exceed 99 percent. And the overwhelming majority of these messages are read within minutes of receipt. When it's relevant and timely, a text message is perhaps the most effective and influential customer engagement tool available to marketers today. - Jared Reitzin, MobileStorm Inc.
Texting can really help as a customer engagement tool, especially if done at a personal level. For example, when trying to close a sale with a customer, sending a quick text can feel personal if done in a non-intrusive/pushy way. In our case, we often send messages like "We want to make sure you got all you need to make a decision. Let us know, we are here to help!" can make it easier for them to send a response -- often a positive one. - Santiago Halty, Senda Athletics
Some clients or customers want fast communication with you as a service provider, and text messaging is a great tool for that. There is a thin line between being too personal with your clients and offering necessary communication that keeps them at ease. I find that after getting comfortable with a client, we can text each other for faster communication, which ultimately provides better results and is faster for them. - Russ Oja, Seattle Windows and Construction, LLC
My dentist office started sending me personal text reminders, and it's so convenient. No more waiting on hold when I call back. That, and the appointment reminders go right into the calendar on my phone. It is under utilized by businesses, but that will inevitably change. - Brendon Schenecker, Travel Vegas
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world's most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.