Business Texting for Beginners: An Open Q&A

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It’s a vital time to be able to reach your customers quickly and effectively, but it’s challenging when they don’t answer the phone and your emails get buried in their inboxes. That’s why 70% of businesses now use texting. Our 2021 State of Texting report shows that nearly 60% of consumers say a text is the fastest way for a business to reach them.

But how does texting fit into your strategy, and where do you start? We’re here to answer your questions.

This is a 30-minute Q&A webinar with two Zipwhip experts: Katie Burt (Sr. Director of Customer Success) and Adam Anderson (VP of revenue marketing). They address some of the questions we hear often, including:

  • What are some of the common use cases for texting?
  • Why shouldn’t my team use a personal cell phone to text?
  • What are some texting best practices I should follow?
  • And more!


Adam Anderson
Adam Anderson
VP, Revenue Marketing, Zipwhip
Katie Burt
Senior Director of Customer Success

Keith Hitchcock: Hello, and welcome to another webinar at Zipwhip. I’m Keith Hitchcock, your Digital Content Producer at Zipwhip, and welcome to Business Texting for Beginners: An Open Q&A. I want to introduce our special guests right away. It’s Adam Anderson and Katie Burt, are you with us in cyberspace? There’s Adam.

Adam Anderson: Hi Keith.

Keith Hitchcock: And there is Katie.

Adam Anderson: Hi Katie.

Katie Burt: Hi.

Keith Hitchcock: Hey Adam, let’s start with you. What’s your role at Zipwhip? And tell us a little more about what you do.

Adam Anderson: Sure. So I’m the Vice President of Revenue Marketing, and that means I just spent a lot of time talking about texting for business. A big part of my job is trying to educate folks about this medium, really why it’s a useful way to communicate with customers and then hopefully they’ll sign up. And then I’m also in charge with Katie of helping make sure they have a good experience once they’re customers.

Keith Hitchcock: Right. Good. That’s a good segue into Katie. Katie, tell us a little bit more about what your role is at Zipwhip.

Katie Burt: Yeah. I’m the Senior Director, Customer Success. So, our team works with all sorts of customers of different sizes, small, medium, large enterprises, Fortune 50, Fortune 1000, across all different verticals and just supercharging their communication strategy with texting.

Keith Hitchcock: Awesome. Well, you both are the perfect people to help us out and answer all these questions coming to us today, so glad you’re with us. We also have a couple of moderators that are helping behind the scenes, they might even be answering questions that come up that don’t even get to us. So, you’ve got to know us, so let’s get to know you a little bit. I’m going to launch a poll here just so we can get to know who we’re talking to today. So how does your company currently text with customers? Is it with a cell phone? Is it maybe you are a Zipwhip texting for business customer already? Maybe you use a different solution or you’re not texting yet and you’re just here finding out more about texting for business. There’s no wrong answer here, but please do engage, it’s fun. And I’ll let you engage with that for just another couple of moments here before I close.

Keith Hitchcock: And there we go.

Keith Hitchcock: Okay. I’m going to share the results here, for fun here. It looks like we do have some Zipwhip customers on board today, and thank you for your business, a lot of people who are using cell phones for business texting, and a lot of people who are not yet texting their customers. So, thanks for playing. We’re getting to know each other here a little bit. And moving on… Oops, here we go. So just a couple of more moments of housekeeping and then we’re going to dive into the questions. If you’re new to the GoToWebinar app, there’s a question window, which is the most important one for today. Feel free to engage with that at any point along the way, whether it’s a comment or a question. Only our staff is going to see those questions coming in so don’t be nervous. There’s no stupid questions here, anything goes so send them our way.

Keith Hitchcock: As a thank you for filling out a brief survey at the end of the webinar, we’re going to send you a link to the video of what you’re seeing now and a PDF of the slides that you’re seeing as well.

Keith Hitchcock: So, with that, I do want to highlight this. We’re showcasing our keyword functionality actually. We have a webinar info line, and if you want to try this, you can, you can text this word to our webinar info line and we are going to automatically, our system via our keyword magic is going to send back a bunch of other resource that you can continue to go deeper with some of the content that we’re bringing up today, some of the resources that we’re going to be referencing. And make sure you just send just that word, especially if you are a Zipwhip customer, you might have a signature, be sure to turn off your signature when you text that keyword in, so just that word.

Keith Hitchcock: With that, I think we’re ready to dive in and answer as many questions as we can get to today in the time that we have until 11:30, and then we’ll go on our merry way. So, I have the pleasure of asking the first question and we have a lot of people who haven’t texted customers before us and they might be new to the concept of texting for business versus personal texting. So, we’re going to start with a simple question I hope, before our panelists, which is, what is texting for business?

Adam Anderson: Well, I can take that one. I get this question a lot and if you imagine the marketing space, we have to present what our solution is a lot of times. Thank you for the opportunity. Really, I like to boil it down to just really the customer experience. Texting for business is really all about communicating with your customers in the way that they prefer. So, we just did a State Of Texting Report that we recently published, you should go onto the website and download, it’s completely free. Lot of great data in there. And one of the insights I want to share to put this in context is that more than half our customers, 58% of them, consumers rather, say that texting is the fastest way to reach them. So, not email, not phone calls, not fax, it’s texting.

Adam Anderson: And, if you combine that with the business need, the business need is that more than half of the businesses that we pull, so they have a difficult time getting hold of customers. And then there are almost 80% of them play phone tag with their customers often. So, really it’s about getting to the customer quickly, there’s a 98% response or read rate and that blue customers will respond quickly and won’t overlook the messages that you’re trying to get over to them.

Keith Hitchcock: All right. Perfect. Thank you, Adam. And just so attendees know here, I have a deck full of slides that I think might be helpful in backing up some of the responses. And so I might be hopping around a little bit here to provide some visuals to whatever answers are coming up. So, just so you know what is going on, on the slide side of things. So, let’s just dive into whatever questions you see coming in and I’ll kind of let you take some and I’ll toss them your way as well. Here I see one, which is, how should we adapt our texting strategies according to the pandemic? Katie, you want to take a crack at that?

Katie Burt: Sure. We get that question daily, so it’s a great one. So at the end of the day, all these businesses, everyone, they’re all being impacted by COVID and you’re learning to adapt. And the number one thing we’re telling customers is just make sure you’re communicating to your customer base how your business has changed during this time. So one thing we’re saying is, definitely online, let your customers know they can get a hold of you. At the state of texting report that Natalie just posted, 50% of consumers are texting more during COVID than they were before. So, people are just accessible on their phone, it’s multi-generational, they can really get a hold of anybody.

Katie Burt: The thing that we really talk about with customers is, when you’re talking about COVID protocols as an example, that’s an easy way to let people know how they can come in and interact with your business. So we work with the credit union as one example, and they’re actually having a lot of members in the credit union, obviously still wanting to do loans and mortgages and talk about personal banking. We had them put on their website that they’re text-enabled. And actually when you pull up to the credit union, you just text the keyword “HERE” and then they’ll let you know when they’re ready. So, they’re not at too much capacity within the credit union. So, it’s just a really easy way to get a hold of people and we just encourage that texting is the preferred method for consumers.

Adam Anderson: Yeah. I realized, I mean… I’ll add that, every year we’re seeing more and more people using texting for business and we’re up 3% year over year and those who adopted in 2020, 34% of those businesses do so because of the pandemic. So, it just really has changed the need to communicate with customers and you have to be able to communicate these real time and often dynamic rules and engagement strategies. So, it became really relevant I think this year. I also wanted to mention that when I explained what texting for business is, I failed to mention how it works. And so, I thought I’d hop in with a quick overview that.

Adam Anderson: Really what we offer is the ability to text enable your existing business number. So the number that you have on your business cards, on your, maybe advertisements on the front of your store if you’re a retail… The number that customers are used to have and they might even be having it in their phone book. We’re able to work with the carriers and text-enable that number so that it can send and receive texts and with that we give you software that has the ability to send text messages from your computer using that number. And then a lot of other advanced features like group messages and automations, auto replies, keywords like Keith had mentioned. So the idea is really easy to do it. You get access to the keyboard, you’re doing it in a setting where you can really manage your volume, manage your conversations, keep record of all that stuff, get reporting. It’s a little bit more expansive and scalable than texting on your cell phone, for example, which we saw some folks from the poll are doing today.

Keith Hitchcock: There’s a question that was submitted ahead of time that I think would be a good one in the spirit of just kind of starting from square one and talking about use cases. So the question’s, how are businesses using texting?

Adam Anderson: Katie, you’re at that business every day. You want to take this one?

Katie Burt: Yeah. They’re using it in every way humanly possible, I’ll tell you that. So, people are using it for internal communications. We use it, it’s equipped to message all of our employees about updates that are happening within the company. They use it for their service and support lines, so if you are needing to get a hold of a product or service company, they love to prefer texting alerts and reminders.

Katie Burt: So if you think about all the different types of services you use, that maybe you have a scheduled appointment coming up or a reminder on how to get there, how to interact with them during COVID, a lot of companies use this for that. Kind of go down the list here, you see the slide here, marketing promotions, sales, to talk about different products and services that are out there. It’s a really varying type of use case, it kind of can be used across the board with all these different industries. And I said this earlier, we work with all types of companies. So, they can be large companies but they can also be mom-and-pop shops that are just really interested in connecting with their end consumers.

Adam Anderson: Yeah, we had some insights come back from the state of texting report. And when we asked customers what types of business texts they found most valuable, they said that appointment reminders were top of that list. So about two thirds of response and [inaudible 00:12:08] reminders were the most valuable use case. But updates and shipments was high up on the list and discounts on products and services were also up there as well.

Keith Hitchcock: Thank you. Let’s see. Here’s a question, can I collect payments from customers via text?

Adam Anderson: Yes. That’s a great use case actually and it’s one that is relatively new. We have a partnership that enables that. It is really easy to set up, you can actually just… You could request a payment from a consumer. They just will need to set up a quick account information. And then using our templates, you can just sort of basically send like an invoice. And when they just authorize it through the text message, it automatically process, the payment goes through. We’re finding that that’s been a real growth area for us. Actually, a lot of people are implementing that. And anyone who’s ever worked in finance or accounts payable or accounts receivable, I should say, he knows that collecting money is actually… We spend a lot of time doing that. There’s operations associated with that, getting in touch with people’s tough.

Adam Anderson: And so it makes sense that doing this over text, which we know gets the highest response rates and highest read rates is a great venue to collect that payment, and it’s made it super, super simple. So I think we’re going to continue to see that use case grow, but a great question. And I think, in addition to our solution, as the platform continues to evolve, and there’s a technology called RCS which stands for Rich Communication Services, it’s the sort of next richest layer of text messaging. Some of that functionality you’re going to see really come alive and more broadly, but you can do it today. So, I highly encourage that use case, you’ll find it’s very effective way to make sure your customers are seeing your invoice, paying it quickly. Great question.

Keith Hitchcock: Yeah, I know that-

Adam Anderson: I see another one here, actually if I could hop in, I just saw one that came through about software allowing photos, videos, and links. Yes, it texts everything, it’s a really core part of it. Very common use case for all of those. So, by all means.

Katie Burt: And I can even, on that question about photos and videos and links from the customer side, lot of different applications. So, insurance companies, if you are unfortunately in an accident, you no longer need to call, wait on the phone, submit something via email, and so we work with actually a lot of insurance companies that you can just send a picture right away at the accident, get a hold of them, maybe they can send you a picture back of your insurance information. We’ve seen some really cute use cases during COVID, people dropping off their dogs to get groomed, and the groomers are actually sending pictures back of their dogs or any sort of vet care that’s happening. So it’s really wide and varied across the board. And some people are sending links out for just updates on how their business is operating or maybe to get them to fill out information before they come in for an appointment. So, it’s just a really easy way to get something out concisely to customers.

Adam Anderson: I had a fun use case recently actually. I had to get some service on my HVAC system in the house. And I got a text from the company introducing my technician, there’s a picture of him, talked about the last book he read, what he likes to do… I’m just kind of humanized it, made it, so when he came to the door, it was like I kind of knew him a little bit already. I thought that was a really cool way to do it, recognized him from the photo. So, there’s all these creative applications that we’re seeing. And, I personally felt like that was a really creative and helpful execution for somebody who I’m going to be inviting into my home.

Katie Burt: Yeah. Personal touch, I love it.

Keith Hitchcock: You had an eight-track player that you needed repaired?

Adam Anderson: HVAC, HVAC.

Katie Burt: HVAC.

Keith Hitchcock: Okay. You people, I don’t even know what eight-track player is, but… In another question coming in, “I have a small marketing agency. What are the best strategies for B2B texting to potential clients to introduce them to our marketing services?”

Adam Anderson: I guess since I’m in marketing maybe I’ll hop in on this one. So I think it’s a great idea. The one thing that I would make sure you understand is the TCPA compliance. So, I guess that should be really the only word of counsel that I’ll offer. And so you can learn a ton more about that on our website. It stands for Telephone Consumer Protection Act, it’s a regulation passed by the FCC. And really, probably the most important part of that is that you need to receive permission to send text messages to somebody, particularly in like a group or bulk text option. So we have tons of resources to navigate that. But first and foremost, just think about, have these guys been engaged with you? Have you been sending them materials in other places? Do you feel like you have opt-in or consent to send them a text message if you do? Then by all means I think texting would be a wonderful way to do it. We discourage you from texting people who may not know about you or expect to hear from you.

Keith Hitchcock: Yeah. And just by point of reference, Adam mentioned the TCPA ebook that we have. That’s actually one of the resources that I’ve included in my automatic response to that keyword “BEGIN”. And I’ll show the number later on too, if you want to send that so you can connect with that resource.

Adam Anderson: For sure.

Katie Burt: I see one of the questions, “How is this different from some of the current chat message apps such as Microsoft Teams or Slack or the likes?” And I can take that. The really cool thing about texting is it’s accessible by anybody. So you don’t need to have a standalone application like a Slack and have access in order to engage with the end user. So, everybody has texting on their cell phone, it’s live. The other thing is it’s just multi-generational, I said this earlier. My baby boomer parents, they text nonstop, they also want updates on my life, friends, I’m texting with doctors for doctors’ appointments and schedules, it’s really… You can kind of talk to whoever. It’s discreet as well. I have a little one-year-old at home so my ability to jump on the phone or check email is nearly impossible. So if I’m communicating via text that’s the best way to get a hold of me and our consumers are also saying the same thing that, that’s the best way they want to get a hold of people.

Adam Anderson: Yeah. I actually just like to underscore something that Katie said earlier, which is that, the big differentiator is that this is just what’s the standard default messaging app on every single phone. So, users don’t need to download anything, so and examples are MS teams and Slack, you have to actually download that software, you have to sort of create an account, sign up… All that stuff. That’s not the case with texting which I think is really one of the reasons it’s so effective, is it’s standard on every phone and everybody has it. So, really big competitive differentiation with so many other of the channels which require someone to download like a messenger client or a specific app. That’s a big barrier to entry to a lot of folks. And there’s a lot of competing solutions out there, but text messaging is ubiquitous, it’s an open platform. And if you think about, as a sender, your total addressable market, it’s anybody who has a cell phone, and it’s a very, very big audience.

Katie Burt: I think you should do a poll here to see how many people have unread text messages versus unread emails, that’s the other thing. It’s just, you’re able to get a hold of people.

Keith Hitchcock: Yeah. We’ve had those. In our state of texting reports, we ask those kinds of questions and it’s always remarkable how many… Yeah. We could speak anecdotally to like, how many of us could hold up our phones and talk about how many unread texts we have on there. So, for sure.

Adam Anderson: Yeah, I hate to say it, but I’m in the tens of thousands. I just was checking my phone and I’m in the tens of thousands of unread emails.

Katie Burt: Yeah. [inaudible 00:21:19] like that.

Adam Anderson: I have zero unread text messages right now.

Keith Hitchcock: Yeah. That really gets at the why. This next question is a little bit related. It’s, what’s the difference between short code and 10 digit number when it comes to texting?

Katie Burt: Got it. I can answer that question. I talk about it a lot. So, short code is what we describe as really one way texting. You tend to see it a lot from retailers as an example. So you might get a text come through from a five digit number that says, “Hey, we’re running a sale. Hey, there’s a discount.” They’re just sending messages out en mass, it’s not conversational or two way, you’re not responding back. They’re also pretty expensive, that’s the other thing. So, if you are utilizing shortcode, it’s fairly costly to get it set up and then you’re paying for the message.

Katie Burt: Long code, 10-digit is a long code, that’s just an easy way of saying your phone number. That’s conversational in nature. It is something that they can respond back to. You can also leverage the key features like scheduled messages, templates, keywords, just a lot of different ways that you can engage with the person on the other end of the phone. So, short code has its place, but really the way that we’re talking about engaging with consumers is along the lines of 10 digit texting. It’s just lighting up your business line in different locations and different departments within your company.

Keith Hitchcock: Great.

Adam Anderson: Hey, you know what? I just thought of was something that I’d like to respond to with the earlier question about the marketing agency and best practices. There’s one really important thing that, from a marketing perspective, that businesses should really realize when adopting texting for business. And that’s really, get the word out there that you are text-enabled. That is the probably most important sort of first step that we recommend, when someone comes and onboards with the software, it’s one of the first things we tell them to do. And, think about putting call or texts on item materials like your website, your emails, any advertising, maybe your business car, put it up on the… Social media, we have social media templates you can actually download from our site. So if you want to just put something out on your Facebook or Twitter feeds, Instagram feeds, we have it all pretty built so you can do that.

Adam Anderson: Your outgoing voicemail is another one. Let people know like, “Hey, thanks for calling Katie Burt’s Dog Grooming Service. We’re not able to pick up the phone but if you would like to text this number, we’ll get back to you as soon as possible. So, all those types of things are really important. And, in terms of other like marketing use cases, this is one that really we find a lot of use in and in some venues is retail in particular, but also in like radio, where you use key words for promotional purposes. These can be for contests, these could be for just getting quick material out there but keywords are like automatic replies that are set when somebody texts a specific keywords and you can set those up in somewhat more advanced plans so that you can engage the customers in an automated basis.

Adam Anderson: They’re not just for marketing, they’re also good for operations like someone’s asking about hours, what hours are you operating? So hours is the keyword then you can tell them, “Okay, we’re open from 9:00 to 5:00, Monday through Friday.” So a lot of applications there but we do think that certainly on the marketing side of the business, there’s a great opportunity to increase that customer communication, make it conversational.

Keith Hitchcock: Great. Next question, is TXT2PAY available in all separate plans?

Adam Anderson: That’s a good question. I believe it is.

Katie Burt: It is.

Keith Hitchcock: My understanding is that it’s for premium.

Adam Anderson: Is it only Keith that’s… I didn’t know that that’s the case, but maybe that’s true.

Katie Burt: Well, I believe, and we can get back to you on this, I think it’s for folks with… We have certain packages, I know on my side of the house with any of the customers we work with that have a customer success manager, it’s available for any of those accounts. I do believe for starting out, there might be one package, the entry-level package where you can’t access TXT2PAY, but it’s a small incremental price to pay, a little bit more to leverage that sort of pay texting, which we would highly encourage.

Keith Hitchcock: Yeah. We’ll make a point of getting back to you via email to make sure we give you a definitive response, so thanks for that question. So, we’re starting to get towards the end of our time. Let’s see how many we can get to in the next couple of minutes.

Adam Anderson: Come in, I lost the question, but there was a question about group messaging.

Keith Hitchcock: Yeah, I see it here. It’s, is there a way to send group texts with each person individually getting a text not connected to a group?

Adam Anderson: Oh yes, definitely. So, group text messaging is sent in a way that only the user sees, they don’t see everybody on the distribution, it looks like an individual text message to them. And when you do group text messaging too, you can take advantage of our templates so that you can drop in your customer’s name in there. So, in my case, somebody would say, “Hey Adam, do you know that we’re offering a sale on max?” That’s really easy to do because they only see it coming from you, when they reply it only goes to you. We see this on any pretty regular basis and generally because we want to make sure that it’s something, it uses a big, broad. So, everything we limit it to groups of 100, so you’d have to commit and do batches of 100 if you’re sending it out out broadly. But hopefully that answers your question. That is a commonly requested feature, one that we see a lot of customers asking about. So, thanks for the interest.

Adam Anderson: We’ve got a few more here. “I see premium plan can only have five users, what is the cost to add additional users?” We start getting into a commercial plan, we can figure out some custom pricing for you, but it’s usually around like $30 a user, after that. So, if you have users that you want to get above five, just on the pricing page, just pick that commercial package and somebody on our team will reach out and make sure we get you what you need.

Adam Anderson: There’s another question here, Katie. I don’t know if this is one of this you want to take, but can customers can text in their personal cell phones?

Katie Burt: Yes.

Adam Anderson: What are some of the considerations there?

Katie Burt: Yeah. So I would say, make sure you’re identifying yourself. First and foremost you want to get consent, so hopefully through some form of interaction with them, you have gotten consent that you can text them. You want to let them know who you are. Those random texts out of nowhere with no description of who they are and whether texting you is a little odd. So just make sure you let them know who you are, keep it short and sweet, that’s what texting is for. There’s certainly the time and place for email if you’re going to send something long with a lot of details, texting is meant to be short and sweet. Make sure that you are doing stop to opt out of the bottom. You want to give them an opportunity, if they don’t participate via text, they can opt out, if they’d like. And the last thing that, and I think that’s pretty much it.

Katie Burt: I did have one more that might come back to me, but Adam and I don’t know if you have anything else to add on-

Adam Anderson: Yes.

Katie Burt: And oh, it was hours, that’s what it was. Just common sense, it’s not texting people at 5:00 in the morning. So just be mindful of the hours and where you’re at and who you’re engaging with. You want to try to set some like core business hours that you’re engaging with them. Would definitely recommend reading TCPA guidelines that we have, there are some great suggestions there about the do’s and don’ts and when you can engage with folks.

Adam Anderson: I think you nailed it Katie. Nothing I’m really going to add.

Keith Hitchcock: Great. Well, if we didn’t get to your question, we will do our best to follow up with you with an answer with any of those questions. So, as we begin to close up here, I would just want to reiterate the keyword that you can text to this number to get some more links to go deeper with texting for business. And as always our website and the resource center and our blog are always great places to continue going. If you also, if you’re ready to talk about texting with someone from Zipwhip, feel free to text the chat to that number. And thank you for joining us today. Half of you are maybe just beginning this texting for business journey and so hope it’s so far so good and we’re here to help. Adam, thank you for joining and all of your knowledge and wisdom around texting and Katie likewise, you’re both such a wealth of information here around texting for business, so thank you.

Katie Burt: Thank you.

Adam Anderson: Thank you. Pleasure.

Keith Hitchcock: Yeah. And as we close out here in a couple of moments, a survey is going to pop up on your window. Please take a moment just to fill that out, helps us do what we do. And again, as a thank you for taking just a brief moment with that, we’re going to send you the video and the PDF of the slides you saw today. And thanks again, we’ll hope to see you again for another webinar in the future. Take care.


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