A text message has the potential to be interpreted a lot of different ways, ranging from cheerfully helpful to dreadfully obnoxious. Texting is like a tap on the shoulder. If it’s not gentle and well-timed, it’s going to come across like a poke. No one likes to be poked.
Though it’s still not common, the use of texting for marketing and communication is growing. How and when you send a text makes all the difference.
Always include your name in your first text and continue to do so if you think the recipient may not have added you to their contacts. Use words like “please” and “thank you.” Short can still be sweet.
Exception: There is really no good reason not to follow rules of etiquette. Professionalism conveys credibility.
The nature of texting means you should be sending short messages that require short or no responses—up to 30 words is a good rule of thumb. If you want to include a hyperlink but it’s a long one, try a service such as Bitly (www.bitly.com) to convert and shorten the URL.
Exception: If your client has mobility issues or does not have access to a computer or smartphone, they may appreciate receiving messages with more detail via text.
Most texts are read within three minutes. Think about this before you send one at 1:00 a.m. on Saturday. Stick to business hours. You’re not likely to score points with or get a response from a customer by interrupting their downtime.
Exception: If you have a client who works unusual shifts, you can demonstrate superior attention to detail if you text during their work hours.
Keep communication professional. Don’t shorten words or allow misspellings just because “it’s only a text.” Friend rules don’t apply here. And keep an eye out for erroneous auto-corrects. “Here’s a link to your insulation politics” doesn’t make sense coming from an insurance agent.
Exception: If you’ve established a friendly rapport with a customer, common abbreviations like LOL or BTW are fine.
When texting a lead for the first time, be sure to introduce yourself and offer a specific benefit in addition to your service. (i.e., “All paperwork can be easily completed online.”) Also remember that some information is especially useful when received via text:
- Contact information that can be easily saved to a customer’s phone
- Directions that can be accessed by a mapping app
- Quick notifications (i.e., “This is Jim from Farmer’s. Your renewal is coming up. Please call this number or email me at XX@XX.com to discuss. Thanks.”)
Texting is likely to evolve, just as email has. (Remember when receiving 10 emails in a day was a lot?) For the time being, these are a few good rules of thumb:
- You should always give a customer a way to opt out of texting. It’s actually illegal not to.
- Never include a customer on a group text without their permission.
- Texting is not a substitute for email, which is a better choice for lengthy material.
- There is no texting inbox to review at a later date. If it’s not information that can be immediately incorporated or acted on, it may be forgotten.
Texting has a place in business communications that is likely to continue to grow. Just be thoughtful about it—make sure you are clear about when and why you are doing it.