Developing a texting strategy can seem daunting. Where do you even start? What sort of things do you need to account for?
We’re here to help.
In this guide, you’ll find a step-by-step approach to creating your business texting strategy – from choosing your phone line and software to marketing that you can text.
Ready? Let’s start planning.
1. Choose your platform
The first step in setting up your texting strategy is to decide which type of line you’d like to text-enable.
You have a few options here, each with their own strengths. You can text using:
- A “regular” 10-digit phone number (Landline or VoIP)
- A toll-free or 800 number
- Or a short code
Your everyday business landline or VoIP can be activated to send and receive texts, saving you the time and effort needed to acquire and market a new number for your customers to text.
Toll-free numbers have the advantage of high throughput and fast deliverability. If your business already uses a toll-free number, text-enabling will extend your reach by providing customers the option to text or call one number.
Toll free is also a great option for businesses looking to add two-way, conversational texting capabilities without sacrificing A2P necessities like status codes and automated messaging. You can do this by implementing an SMS API.
A short code is a five- or six-digit phone number that businesses often utilize to send mass texts for things like marketing and two-factor authentication. They give businesses the ability to reach a lot of people quickly, but most often only allow customers to respond with a few preset commands and do not provide the ability for a two-way conversation.
While short codes work well for mass texting, activating your current 10-digit phone number is a great way to maximize the impact of your current phone number. By adding conversational texting capabilities to your existing line, you can have it pull twice its weight by allowing customers to text or call you.
Your business phone number is as much a part of your brand as your website. Chances are that your customers are already trying to text you on it!
2. Determine key features you want from your software provider
As you shop around for a business texting software provider, be sure to see what features each competitor offers and think about how they’ll fit into your workflow. It’s also worth asking vendors about deliverability, API’s, pricing packages and integrations.
You want your texting tool to work for you and increase your efficiency, so it’ll need key capabilities to be able to keep up with your goals and scale with your business.
Look for these key features in your texting software:
Multiple ways to access your software to get the most functionality and value out of your texting tool while keeping your conversations synced and archived on the cloud. See if the company offers options like:
- A desktop app that can auto load on startup and stay visible on your dock or taskbar
- A web app that can be accessed from any computer
- A browser extension that works with your online documents and CRMs
- A mobile app that lets you text on the go, but keeps your personal and business texting separate
Notifications and alerts to ensure you and your team never miss a message.
Productivity features like contact management, templates and branded signatures that can help ensure you are compliant with TCPA regulations and offer an enhanced customer experience.
Automation features like scheduled texts, auto replies and dynamic fields to help your employees save time and be more efficient.
These are the basic capabilities that make business texting a part of business, not just an extension of your personal device.
Deliverability and security
It’s a good idea to ask your vendor about deliverability, too. Your texting strategy won’t be any good if your texts aren’t reaching customers.
Message deliverability also includes how data is handled—which is especially important for texting in medical, insurance and finance—and how the platform identifies and stops spam texts from reaching consumers.
The key areas of deliverability to look at are:
- Direct carrier relationships to ensure reliable and prompt message distribution
- Sent message indicators to confirm delivery
- Data encryption to protect PII (Personal Identifiable Information)
- Spam and fraud detection to protect consumers from spam
- Privacy standards for security and compliance
It’s also important to know whether your partner is SOC2 compliant. This is a voluntary audit based on the AICPA’s criteria and an industry standard for SaaS providers. It signifies trust and confidence in a company’s security and privacy practices. A security breach can wreak havoc on the relationships that your company has strived to build with your customers.
Do they have an API?
Does the vendor sell an API (Application Programming Interface) as well as texting software?
If you want to integrate texting capabilities into your CRM or software, an SMS API can save your business (and your developers) the time and money it would take to build one from scratch.
An SMS API can be ultra-customized to suit your product while integrating A2P and P2P (or two-way) texting. If you have a specific use case or integration you need to achieve, an API can be shaped to fill that need when the software doesn’t quite fit.
API’s may provide higher message throughput and faster deliverability rates, both of which make this an ideal option for enterprise and mid-market businesses that send out thousands of programmatic and automated texts, but still want the option to have two-way text conversations.
Important factors in choosing an API include:
- Provisioning and implementation time – How long will it take to get started? On landline, VoIP and toll-free lines, the process may only take a few minutes.
- Developer documentation – Does the company offer robust, updated and easy-to-understand documentation and resources to help your team program and integrate the API?
- Pricing model – Do they charge a flat rate no matter how many messages are sent? Or do they charge per message and scale pricing based on expected volumes? Make sure the pricing structure fits your business goals and budget.
What integrations do they offer?
One of the great things about texting software is its ability to integrate with other programs that your company already uses, such as CRMs or Applicant Tracking Systems. Among other things, integrations will allow you to text contacts without leaving your software and record or archive those text conversations.
Start by asking whether or not the texting provider can integrate with your existing CRM. If not, ask if they have a browser extension that will simplify your processes or an SMS API for custom integration.
It’s not a requirement, but it’s worth seeing who has software that can work with the tools you use every day. These partnerships can range from popular CRMs like Salesforce to specialized industry platforms like Guidewire for insurance, ClubReady for fitness or Bullhorn for staffing.
Do they have on-call support and success teams?
Every new business tool takes some time getting used to. This implementation time can be a lot easier, and faster, if the software provider has dedicated teams to ensure your success:
Customer Support will help you with account updates and if there’s an outage or technical issue with your software. So, look into the team’s:
- Accessibility: Do you need to call them? Can you email, text or message them online?
- Availability: When can you contact support? Do those hours work for your business?
Customer Success is responsible for helping businesses implement and use their texting software. They want to ensure you’re achieving your goals and that the product meets your expectations.
- A great Customer Success team will ensure your team understands the features and that they’re correctly set up. This is often facilitated by post-signup training.
- This team will also evaluate employee usage of the software and compare it to pre-sale expectations. If there are any gaps, they may conduct additional training or set aside time to answer questions more thoroughly and clarify communication. The relationship between your business and Customer Success is long lasting, so test out the waters and see if they’re a good fit.
These teams are there to help your business be successful and a great texting provider should have them. Be sure to investigate their hours and their processes to ensure your expectations are met. That way, if you have any trouble with your new software, if there’s an outage or you want training on a new feature, your texting strategy won’t grind to a halt.
3. Design a strategy to suit your needs and use cases
Okay. You’ve chosen the phone lines you want to activate. You’ve decided on a vendor for your texting software, ensuring they offer key features you need. Now it’s time to figure out how you’ll use those features.
It may seem obvious, but no two texting strategies are identical. The best ones are tailored to an individual business to best serve their customers and then honed over time.
But the best way to start any texting strategy is to think through and define your key use cases.
- What areas are you looking to improve with texting?
- How will you and your employees use texting to communicate with customers?
- How will this channel fit into your current workflow?
Common use cases for business texting include:
- Service and support
- Alerts and reminders
- Marketing and promotions
- Billing and collections
- Internal communications
A great example is an insurance company that needs to communicate with an insured to resolve a claim. Back-and-forth questions and descriptions and images of damage can create a backlog of communication, so it may help to strategize how agents can use texting to have those conversations.
Texting can also be a great way to save your team the hassle of playing phone tag to schedule or confirm appointments. If you’re a fitness studio looking to decrease no-shows and fill those last-minute class openings, see how you can leverage your texting software’s automation features for appointment reminders and waitlist notifications.
Define how you measure success
Your texting software should enable you to track trends in your communication and make data driven decision. Leverage the data and establish metrics that align with your business goals:
- Are you working to decrease the amount of time it takes to resolve a customer issue or trouble ticket?
- Are you looking to measure the effectiveness of an advertising campaign with special offers sent to customers on multiple channels?
- Are you searching for a way to ensure your employees respond to customer communications in an effective manner?
Just like you’d organize and track open rates for your newsletter, be sure to check those reports and nurture your contact list for business texts.
4. Apply best practices to build and nurture your contact list
Take the time to determine how you’ll build your contact list before you jump right into texting customers.
For one, you need to ensure that they opt-in to receiving text messages. This will serve as their consent to receive business texts from you.
Without an opt-in, your texts could be classified as spam under the TCPA (which we’ll talk more about in the next step). Essentially, spam texts are unwanted, unsolicited and unhelpful.
So, strategize how you’ll provide customers with an opt-in so that your texts are wanted, solicited and helpful. And, if the customer changes their mind, be transparent with the option for them to opt-out later.
You can start building your list by:
- Promoting that you can “text or call” the business number – customers opt-in when they text you first
- Asking customers to sign up to receive text messages – just be sure to give them options to easily opt-out later (and that your texting provider supports this functionality)
- Building a preference center on your website – customers can check a box and enter their number to opt-in to your text channel
If your texting software supports automated messages or the use of templates, this would be a great time to set up a first text that introduces your business.
Your introductory text can also be used to thank the customer for signing up, offer any initial promotions or information and let them know upfront how to opt-out of the channel.
5. Review TCPA compliance
Compliance is a critical part of business texting, no matter your industry or use case.
The Telephone Consumer’s Protection Act (TCPA) creates strict rules around phone calls to protect consumer privacy.
The TCPA is administered by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and covers both phone calls and business texting.
You can learn more about spam texts and the TCPA in this crash course on spam, fraud and compliance.
Texting via personal cell phones can create business risk
It may be tempting, especially in smaller agencies with one or two people, to simply allow employees to text customers through a personal cellphone.
But this can create future challenges for businesses and open you up to more risk.
If you or your employees text customers from the native messaging app on a personal device you:
- Have no oversight, central message history or the ability to ensure appropriate communications
- Have no control of company branding, messaging or assets
- Could lose customer contact information if a phone is lost or an employee leaves the company
- Have less data encryption to protect customer PII
- Aren’t following best practices for TCPA compliance
- Open up the door to receive texts at any time of the day, night or weekend
Texting through dedicated software helps protect your customers and your business.
6. Training your team
Even if your team is filled with tech-savvy, customer-communication geniuses, you’ll need to create an onboarding plan.
Your onboarding plan should clearly explain how business texting will help your employees and your customers. Teams are often more receptive to new technology when they see how it will benefit them.
For example, texting can decrease no-shows. If your team schedules and frequently reschedules appointments because someone forgets to cancel or can’t show up, automated text reminders can help cut down that lost time.
Or explain how texting can help teams close more sales and keep leads from going cold throughout the sales cycle. It can even help the more introverted members of your sales team shine.
Other elements to add to your onboarding plan include:
Creating a formal training program – Define what a successful software adoption plan will look like and take the opportunity to walk through the interface, demo the software and note which features will require more training. Leverage your early adopters and ambassadors and utilize resources, such as webinars and tutorial videos, from your texting software vendor.
Incentivizing your team – Some businesses create a contest for their “power users” and reward them with prizes.
Organizing regular check-ins with your team – It’s important to gather feedback and see how the program is going. How are the people who actually use the software liking it? What could be improved? What are your gaps in training?
Use your software’s reporting tools – Your dashboard can help you find out how often your team is texting customers, who is excelling and who may need help catching up. You can even present metrics to show how much time the employees who consistently use the tool are saving in their workday.
Be sure to train around best practices
It’s better to learn how to text for business the right way rather than to unlearn bad habits later, so make sure your team understands best practices.
Some key practices include:
- Keeping the message short
- Spell checking before you hit send
- Replying promptly
- Understanding when to incorporate clear CTAs in your text
Think about your texting etiquette
Business texting has its own rules and guidelines to help keep your communication professional, without sounding like a robot. So, be sure that your team learns the basics of business texting etiquette.
Texting etiquette involves:
- Being mindful of the time of day
- Introducing yourself
- Personalizing your message
You can learn more about business texting etiquette from Natalie and Keith.
7. Market your new texting capabilities
You’ve implemented your texting program. Your team is trained. Now, how do you let customers know they can text you?
If you incorporated any of the tips from Step 4 when building your contacts list, you’ll have a head start from gathering opt-ins through your website or customer interactions.
A cross-channel approach to marketing will get the most reach. You can leverage your existing:
- Website by adding “Call or text” to your activated phone number on your home and contact page. You can even include a Click to Text button for mobile audiences.
- Social Media: Leverage your social CTAs and promote your phone number.
- Email Signatures: Update your email signature for every outbound message to include “Call or text.”
- Physical signage: Don’t knock the old-school approach. If it fits the context, a poster on the front desk of your studio or even a label can be a great way of promoting your new ability.
If you’re looking for more ideas, check out these marketing tips from Chief Marketing Officer Scott Heimes.
Key takeaways for building your texting strategy
- Decide which line to activate
- Choose a high-quality, secure business texting software partner with the features you need
- Design a strategy tailored to your use cases
- Apply best practices to build your contact list
- Ensure regulatory safeguards and review TCPA compliance
- Create a training program around best practices for employees
- Market your texting capabilities to customers
For more help on how to start texting for business, including free text templates, check out our free e-book The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers.