Businesses See a Sales Lift with Texting
As the population ages, buying power is shifting to Millennials and others who are communicating far differently than their older counterparts. Today’s younger generations are moving away from phone calls and emails and replacing them with texting. Companies are starting to shift in that direction as well, recognizing that text messaging could help them reach an untapped group of consumers, though the change is still in its very early stages.
To show just how commonplace texting has become, a recent Pew Study found that 97 percent of people text at least once a day. Similar research by Nielsen found that 56 percent of people would rather text businesses than call customer service.
While businesses are increasing turning to text as a customer service tool, there are a few reasons for businesses to elevate texting as a sales tool as well.
First, telephoning a prospect is becoming harder and less effective. Robocalls have continued to grow in number and annoyance, and they have caused consumers to block or ignore calls from companies. According to Transaction Network Services’ “2019 Robocall Investigation Report,” nearly 30 percent of all calls placed in the United States in the first half of this year—totaling about 200 million—were garbage, as in nuisance, scam, or fraud calls. CallerID, robocall blocking technologies, and other safeguards have been ineffective lately because unscrupulous robocallers have turned to “spoofing” numbers to bypass these systems.
Similarly, because of the growing amount of spam in the marketplace, email has become noise for many prospects and customers, who can be inundated with dozens of emails a day.
Texting, so far, has largely avoided these issues. But it is still an underutilized sales tool.
Bob Bentz, president of Advanced Telecom Services, traces the first significant uptick in text message marketing to the 2016 presidential election. During the debates, each candidate had a sign in front of the podium asking supporters to text to a specific number to opt in for campaign communications.
Yet there is still a long way to go. An InsideSales.com study found that the average sales rep performs 107.8 activities (communication with prospects) per day. Of those, 1.3 are text messages. That’s compared to 40.7 phone calls and 38.4 emails.
“Customers and prospects expect to be contacted the way they prefer to communicate as consumers, which is largely via text,” says Gabe Larsen, vice president of growth at InsideSales.com. “Once reps establish a texting relationship, this tool is a great way to share big news, serve as an appointment reminder, or even reconnect with a prospect that might have gone cold.”
Bentz warns, however, that texting can also alienate clients if used the wrong way, like texting prospects cold or sending irrelevant texts.
Another advantage of texting is known engagement, says Cliff Holsenbeck, senior director of iconectiv, the company that manages the U.S. Short Code Registry. If a restaurant, for example, runs a campaign asking prospects/customers to text a word (e.g., sandwich) to a specific number to receive a promotional item, the business knows the person has engaged. But the company needs to ask permission regarding further engagement, he says.
“More of the spending for mobile marketers has moved to interactive communications,” Holsenbeck says.
Texting can be a powerful communication tool for salespeople also because of its immediacy and intimacy, says Mike Orr, chief operating officer at Grapevine6, which offers a social engagement platform. “Texting can overtake email as a sales tool once the relationship gets to a certain point. [First] salespeople need to develop a relationship with their prospects before moving conversations to an informal channel like text, or their prospects will shut down communications entirely.”
Orr and others urge companies to ask for permission or invite prospects to start text conversations. They can use text selectively when information is time-sensitive or the communication is brief and highly personalized.