Zipcast Episode 23: Texting for Small Business

woman texting on phone

Business texting isn’t only for large enterprises. Small businesses in almost every type of industry are benefiting from texting their customers—in real estate, fitness, insurance, pet care, education, home services, and countless others. Adam Anderson, VP of revenue marketing at Zipwhip, returns to the Zipcast to explain how small businesses can leverage texting to drive growth and improve customer satisfaction.

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Podcast transcript:

Scott Heimes: Welcome to the Zipcast, where we talk about the latest trends in texting for business, customer communication strategies and technology. I’m your host, Scott Heimes, chief marketing officer at Zipwhip, and thanks for tuning in.

Scott Heimes: Texting is becoming a necessary channel of communication for salons, clinics, gyms, restaurants, and almost every other kind of small business out there. Especially in challenging economic times like these, companies of all types are looking for effective ways to communicate with customers in their preferred medium, texting. Adam Anderson, VP of revenue marketing here at Zipwhip, joins us to talk about ways small businesses are using texting to engage with their customers, build relationships, and start growing again. Welcome back to the Zipcast, Adam.

Adam Anderson: Hey, thanks, Scott. Happy to be here.

Scott Heimes: So remind our listeners, tell us what you do at Zipwhip.

Adam Anderson: Sure. So I’m the VP of revenue marketing, and the simplest way to put the job is that I am trying to get the word out about Zipwhip’s Texting for Business and really get users engaged with the product.

Scott Heimes: And you also lead our self-service channel and help us drive customer acquisition and primarily small businesses through that channel.

Adam Anderson: You bet.

Scott Heimes: So we know that Zipwhip offers software and API solutions for all kinds of businesses. We have over 35,000 businesses using our tools, including very small ones, lots of mid-market companies, and of course, enterprises with thousands of employees as well. But today, we want to talk specifically about our small business customers, the ones that you help acquire through our self-service channel. They’ve been particularly hit hard by the economic fallout or the pandemic. And so we’ve been thinking about them and how texting can help them ramp their businesses back up. So from your standpoint, what do small businesses need to know about Texting for Business?

Adam Anderson: Well, first, I mean, it’s really one of the preferred communication channels that customers have. I mean, everybody’s texting with each other and that’s pretty commonplace, but 43% of consumers said they proactively texted a business. And it’s really become pretty commonplace. So that is a way that consumers and businesses transact. You mentioned today’s economy and what’s happening with the pandemic. I mean, right now, more than ever, might be the opportunity or the need for these businesses to stay connected with customers. There’s really like a lot to communicate. It’s new social distancing measures. It’s maybe different hours or when you open back up or different ways of interacting.

Adam Anderson: So this has become a very important consideration for small businesses as they consider how they’re going to adapt their business.

Scott Heimes: So what types of small businesses benefit the most from business texting?

Adam Anderson: Oh god, really it’s everything. Funny, actually, I was preparing a slide last night. And I was looking through some of our customer base, and I was really getting a kick out of seeing some of the recent customers come in and some of the different types of small businesses. So for example, I saw a ballroom. I saw a cosmetology class or school. I saw a missionary training center. I saw a DJ service. So it’s really anyone who’s got customers who has to stay connected with them, who is concerned about response rate and cutting through the clutter probably has a use case for texting.

Scott Heimes: In fact, we’ve done a bunch of research on this, right? And what was it? 43% of consumers said they proactively texted a business.

Adam Anderson: Yeah.

Scott Heimes: And those that do, they do it a lot 35 or 40% of the time. One in three customers has tried to text a business and never gotten a response back. This is starting to become a customer satisfaction issue. There’s an expectation building now in the market that businesses will respond to the text from a customer.

Adam Anderson: Oh, you bet. I mean, 68% of businesses are using some sort of form of texting today. And 91% of respondents from our State of Texting survey earlier this year said that they’ve received texts from a business. And that’s 20% growth year over year. So this is really mainstream. And to the earlier example that you’ve given, I mean, anecdotally I can tell you I have texted businesses and not gotten a response. It’s really frustrating. I think a dentist is a great example. My dentist used to, doesn’t do this anymore, used to have a short code and said, “Hey, press C to confirm your appointment coming up,” and I’d respond back saying, “Oh, hey, how long is this going to take? I’ve got 45 minutes and then gotta run,” and then I don’t get a response back.

Adam Anderson: That’s pretty frustrating. It just goes into the ether. In fact, a lot of times when we text enable a business line for customers, we’re able to show them the texts that they haven’t been receiving over the last six months, a year or longer. So it’s really eye-opening. I mean, this is how people want to communicate. At the end of the day, it’s just a good marketing principle, a good business principle, to meet customers where they want to interact with you.
Scott Heimes: Zipwhip has been investing in the success of small businesses for a long time, looking at ease of adoption and our pricing structure. Tell us about some of the more recent stuff that we’ve done.

Adam Anderson: Yeah, sure. We’ve really, really made a big evolution in how we are working with small businesses. We have a new self-service checkout process and what that enables is somebody to come in and try out Zipwhip’s Texting for Business for free, or just flat out get signed up. And we can do that within minutes. You don’t actually need to interact with a sales person or go through the sales process. It’s completely self-serve. And I know a lot of people like that. I certainly do. And because of that technology and how that scales, we’ve been able to adjust some of our pricing. And so we have some new pricing models to go along with that. And I’m pleased to share that we have pricing for some of these texting packages starting at $19 a month.

Adam Anderson: So even some of the smallest businesses with tight budgets can afford Zipwhip’s Texting for Business. I think I’d encourage someone to give it a try. We offer a two week trial. And if you like it, you can keep going. But if you don’t, you at least get to experience it and see how your customers like it.

Scott Heimes: I think one of the most interesting parts of the signup process is that we text enable your landline during the checkout experience in minutes, so that you can promote that customers can text or call the same number that you use for your business and text via your computer or that line. It’s exciting. Let’s go a little deeper on some of the points-

Adam Anderson: Actually on that point, if you don’t… I’m sorry, Scott. Can I just hop in on that point because this is something that we just were exploring recently. The challenge with texting is if you don’t tell people that it’s available, if you don’t reach out and make sure folks know that they can send texts your business, you’re really cutting the experience short. And so the most successful customers, even in the trial period that we’ve seen, are the ones who are putting that “click-to-text” button on their site. They’re saying “call or text this number.” They’re putting it on their website, their business cards, their signage to really get that message going in. And this is really about conversational texting, right?

Adam Anderson: So it’s about a two way dialogue that’s happening. And so that’s good behavior that I would encourage anybody who’s considering this medium is you got to make sure that you let people know that this is available. And I think your customers will be delighted, and you’ll see a lot more uptake that way.

Scott Heimes: You bet. Let’s go a little deeper on the point of why it’s better to text over a business landline versus your mobile personal cell phone.

Adam Anderson: Yeah. Good question. We get this question from customers a lot. And so a couple of things to consider. One is… well, my favorite reason is just hands on a keyboard at the computer, at your workstation, right? That’s really easy. It’s a lot easier to sort of manage conversations that way. Our software has got some really easy to use functionality. It’s a lot like an email client, set up a very familiar way, so that it doesn’t feel like you’re learning new technology. It’s got a lot of the automations and really helpful business tools that make you more efficient, like after hours notices or keywords so that you can do promotions or give people very specific answers to common questions very quickly. Those are all really helpful.

Adam Anderson: Of course, the landline that you mentioned is another important factor of that. So you don’t want to have your business number, like on an ad, and then have a mobile number that they text. You want to have the same number. And if you’re doing short codes, they couldn’t even call that number back. It’s really reassuring for customers when they get one single number: call or text. They can, if the text exchange requires a call, and sometimes you do have to shift media, then you can call that number immediately. So it’s really convenient, really user friendly, but there’s also some security considerations as well. And so there’s some TCPA compliance issues that folks need to know if they’re running their business through texting.

Adam Anderson: It has to do with making sure that spammy type behavior is avoided. When someone says, “Hey, text…” they know they can text “stop” to get off the contacts list or stop the communication. So the software enables that. And finally, when you think about the handsets, like what happens if an employee is texting and they leave for another job? You lose all that history. So this is really designed for the business owner, the business manager, for a scalable solution, it really means specifically for the business scenario.

Scott Heimes: Also, if you are a business that uses a CRM or other type of workflow product, the ability to integrate our solution or software with your CRM into that workflow. That’s pretty powerful too. You can’t do that on a personal cell phone.

Adam Anderson: Absolutely.

Scott Heimes: What are some of the other features that a small business might appreciate in our solution?

Adam Anderson: Well, it’s really easy to import your contacts and get your sort of business directory in there. We have really easy to use features and guides to help get people started so that it’s really like a very simple experience. It doesn’t require a lot of training or familiarity before you’re up and running there. In addition to some of the automations that I mentioned, there’s other features such as templates, which is quickly sending standard templates where you have… Let’s say you have like a billing template and you want to send somebody a bill, and you always kind of do this the same way. Well, we can streamline that and make it faster. Custom signatures to make sure that they always know who they’re talking to in the branding.

Adam Anderson: Group messaging is a big part. That’s one of our more popular features. Analytics so that you could see, okay, how many customers am I talking to over text? What’s the average hold time? I mean, that is actually just in general one of the things that we’ve heard from customers that makes them really happy about this solution is that in some businesses where they found it hard to get customers to respond, hard to find customers real time via phone call, they’re finding their handling times going way down. Particularly some of the feedback we’ve gotten from like the insurance industry and staffing industry, they’re finding like, “listen, we’re just able to get what we need from our customers and move on really quickly.”

Scott Heimes: You haven’t mentioned one of my favorite things about texting them. What about emojis? Can you still use emojis?

Adam Anderson: Yeah. Actually emojis is one of our most used features. We measure the usage of all of the different things that we do, and it’s very popular. And you know what? There is a place for emojis in business texting too. Obviously you got to think about your tone and your brand and things like that, but it’s a way to make sure that customers understand the sentiment of your message, or maybe even just show a little fun and whimsy in there as well.

Scott Heimes: So, final question here, we’re all still experiencing the effects of the pandemic and businesses are slowly starting to come back online, but there’s still a lot that have been operating throughout. What are some of the specific texting use cases that could help small businesses during this time? Any come to mind?

Adam Anderson: Yeah, sure. I can think of a couple. So we have a really interesting customer who’s a medical clinic. They’ve been using texting to help facilitate some of their social distancing considerations. So for example, this clinic, they would communicate with the customer via text, but their instructions were: drive to the clinic, stay in your car in the parking lot, text us when you get here, hang tight until we text you that it’s clear. And what they’re doing is they’re making sure that the waiting room isn’t getting crowded, right? Once they have their last patient leaves, they give you the all clear and you come in. Here in Washington, the gyms are still closed. What I got recently was some updates from my gym saying, “Hey, here’s the latest information. Here’s our rough timeline of what we’re doing. And when we go back, we’re going to have to operate at limited capacity, and here’s what this means to you.”

Adam Anderson: And so they’re talking a little bit about what to expect and giving people a forum to ask questions because what they really want to make sure they do is there’s not misinformation out there, so that they’re setting expectations, and that in this unusual time, they have the opportunity to have a dialogue where their customers. I thought those are pretty slick, but you could imagine there’s lots of different use cases when you’re returning back to business in an unprecedented environment that you need to make sure you have clear communication that cuts through the clutter and make sure that those communication lines remain open.

Scott Heimes: And communicate on the preferred medium of your customers. So many use cases come to mind for me. I think about restaurants using us for curbside pick-up or take out. We get a restaurant signing up every day. The ability of even personal services of all types that just are using texting to stay in touch, to continue the relationship with their customers during this time even if they’re closed, like massage places are here in Washington. Anyway, we–

Adam Anderson: Actually, massage is an interesting one, Scott. Not to interrupt you, but I’ve been surprised at how many massage businesses that come in through the self-service channel are signing up for Texting for Business. There’s clearly a need.

Scott Heimes: Well, we’ve assembled a whole bunch of resources around how to leverage business texting during the COVID-19 crisis at Zipwhip.com/covid. So people can check that out. But for a business that’s exploring texting, what’s a good next step? What do you recommend?

Adam Anderson: Come to Zipwhip.com. Check out our self-service path. We’ll get you two weeks free so you can try it out for yourself.

Scott Heimes: There you go. All right. Well, hey, thanks so much for joining us on the Zipcast, Adam.

Adam Anderson: Thank you. It’s my pleasure.

Scott Heimes: Thanks for joining us. Now if you’re like me, you enjoy nerding out on texting data and industry predictions. So go ahead and download our new 2020 State of Texting report. You can find this at zipwhip.com/SOT2020. And make sure you subscribe to the Zipcast on Apple Podcasts or wherever you listen, so you get the latest episodes. And feel free to text us with topics you’d like to hear about or other feedback for the show. Just send a text to (347) 772-3529. Until next time.

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