Text marketing: Immediate and intimate

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Mobile devices have become an integral part of our lives and most of us use them every day to stay connected to the world around us and to access the digital services we’ve come to rely on. The ubiquitous nature of mobile phones is highlighted by the Pew Research Center’s Technology Device Ownership Survey, which shows that 92 percent of U.S. adults now own a mobile phone.

An obvious, but often-overlooked, fact is that every cellphone in use is SMS-enabled (even if it’s not a smartphone), making it the mobile channel with the broadest reach. SMS text messaging is also very simple to use – you don’t need to be particularly tech savvy to receive and read an SMS message. Almost anyone knows how to respond to an SMS message alert going off in a pocket or bag! In addition to its reach and immediacy, text messaging is also very affordable and it offers a great ROI for businesses.

Although text messaging has built its reputation on sending short and sharp confirmations and announcements, smart businesses are increasingly using SMS marketing to boost their conversion rates, build customer loyalty and develop long-term customer relationships.

Some of the world’s top brands invest heavily in text messaging to communicate with customers, as more than 90 percent of SMS messages are read within three minutes of receipt. In fact, it’s reported that 70 percent of Coca-Cola’s mobile budget is dedicated to SMS marketing and it has one of the industry’s largest SMS databases of fans that it can talk to on an ongoing basis.

In today’s competitive environment, it’s essential for any business to use technologies such as text messaging to stay in touch with customers and build ‘stickiness’. This is as true for the veterinary industry, which is facing challenges such as growing corporatisation and price competition from online channels. Veterinarians are also increasingly encountering pet owners who are seeking treatment advice from pet stores or the Internet, making it harder to get clients to return for appointments and undermining practice profitability. Henry Schein Veterinary Solutions report that customers will on average read an SMS within 3 minutes and over 45% will respond, highlighting the effectiveness of this method of communication.

Veterinary clinics are also competing with each other. The 2016 IBISWorld Veterinary Services report comments: “Veterinary practices compete with each other on the quality and range of services and facilities provided, including opening hours. Customer loyalty appears to be relatively low in domestic animal practices in the cities… Industry competition is increasing due to an increase in the number of veterinarians, which limits pricing increases and reduces profit.”

One way to counter these challenges is to proactively reach out to customers using text messaging. The personal nature of SMS messages, combined with high read rates, gives the opportunity to develop relationships with each customer. And it is these personal relationships that can make the difference between your customers staying with you, or jumping to your competitor, which in turn directly affects your bottom line.

Here are three ways that text messaging can help you build customer loyalty and boost revenue:

1. Send messages for specific events or dates. This includes appointment reminders, birthdays, holidays or other important milestones. A quick text message with a personalised comment can mean a lot to your customer. Remember, people are looking for an experience, not just a business relationship.

2. Send information on something that interests them. Customers will appreciate a short message with a link to more detail. As long as you only send information they want, and not too often, they are more likely to think of you first the next time they want to make a purchase. Emails have traditionally been the ‘go-to’ channel of communication, but these are increasingly being ignored. Research shows that the open rates of text messages are about 98 percent, while email sits around 22 percent.

3. Follow up after a purchase or visit. If a customer makes a visit or a significant purchase, loyalty can be boosted by sending a follow-up text message asking how things are going. You can also let them know you’re there to help if needed.

The key to making this approach work is balance. Like anything, if you use it too much the customer may get annoyed. And always make sure you have permission to send them messages first.

Unlike email, which is constantly fighting to get through spam and junk mail filters, SMS is safe. Mobile phones don’t have a spam box, so once you’ve hit the send button you can be sure your message has arrived safely. Even if the mobile phone is switched off or out of the signal, a text message will usually be delivered within 48 hours of being sent.

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