In the previous issue of Welding & Gases Today, I looked at the remarkable ability of text messaging (SMS) to drive immediate sales. No other direct marketing tool comes close. Because of its phenomenal message open and response rates, text has unparalleled access to your customer’s attention. And yet, in the business-to-business landscape for distributors, SMS is a technology that is just beginning to make it into the distributor’s marketing toolkit.
In this article, I’d like to highlight an additional seven use cases for text messaging that bring additional value to your relationship with your customers. Understanding this wide array of capabilities will enable an educated decision about whether text messaging can be a valuable tool for your own business.
Driving Timely Cylinder Orders
The truck for tomorrow’s delivery will be loaded by 6:00 p.m., but, as usual, there are orders that aren’t in yet. Maybe someone is on vacation. Maybe somebody has forgotten the audit. But the bottom line is that the gases that your client demands are going to need to be specially delivered. This incurs a cost to you in fuel, driver overtime and more. For your customer, of course, there are additional charges.
Scheduled texts to your clients to keep them aware of the countdown to getting their orders in can provide value for everyone. A scheduled message, 24 hours and 4 hours prior, can be the simple reminder that gets the job done and saves your clients fees that can really add up. One client of ours is currently considering adding this notification as a for-fee service.
Whether canister audit reminders are a potential revenue stream for you or just an added value service, you can be sure that few, if any, of your competitors have automated this service. Yet.
Service is the game. If our customers need something or aren’t happy with something, we want to make sure there is no additional friction involved with letting us know about it. The quicker and more easily a customer can let us know that something is wrong, get a question answered or, better yet, order something, the better. The more channels that we can enable for this conversation, the more likely we can address dissatisfaction, answer questions or fill an order.
As the workforce becomes younger and more tech-savvy, more points of digital access are open.
Of course, customers will always call or email. But, as studies have shown, a call often requires more engagement and potential direct confrontation than a customer wants, and an email can require more effort – particularly if the issue is experienced away from an office computer. A monitored text channel with highly proactive responses can reach a client where they are so that they don’t have to come to you.
Text messaging also enables the transmission of messages greater than the standard limitation of 160 characters. This longer format is called MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service.) With MMS you can get almost 1,600 characters and can embed up to 40 seconds of video. The ability to send video is a game changer.
If you have created marketing content that you want to drive your customers to view, a short video from the shop floor or a safety tip can capture your customer’s attention. We are an increasingly video-driven culture and your ability to tell a quick story can bring value to your audience and drive sales.
Moreover, MMS texts can become a complementary part of driving traffic to other marketing channels. A new Facebook post getting an underwhelming response can be fixed with a quick video. More and more, the ability to develop cross-channel campaigns is key to successful outcomes.
Best of all, the video doesn’t even need to be high quality. Your marketing team doesn’t need an elaborate set up or production quality. A simple video message from a key salesperson or leader in your organization will immediately capture eyeballs and there is little expectation from them that a video over text will be high quality. It is a visual text and no more.
The Micro Survey
Text offers about the fastest and most effortless way to get your customer’s opinion.
I don’t know about you, but when I am given an email link to a survey, I don’t trust that it won’t turn into ten screens of questions and finish up by asking me to write an essay. When I call a service line and the auto-router then asks me to answer a survey, I find it irritating. I’m already wasting time chasing a problem down; why are they asking for even more of my time?
Because of this saturated need for customer input, it is getting harder and harder for marketers to get the information they need – whether it is about untapped needs, quality of service or anything else.
But there’s no way around it: We all still need to understand our customers. If we don’t understand the value we create and the problem “frictions” in our service, then we can’t increase or manage their experience effectively. And if we can’t listen, we’re flying blind.
Consider the micro-survey: It’s a single question. “Let us know how your delivery went today from 1-10. If 1 is terrible and 10 is amazing, how did we do?” If a question is super easy to answer – a single number! – your customers are highly likely to respond.
Micro-survey question creation is almost effortless and response rates are an estimated 31%. That should be eye-opening.
Text has two important functions in supporting events.
The first is the event countdown and reminder. You are undoubtedly familiar with the doctor’s office reminder or the airline boarding text. A text might alert us to an event a day or so before and then several hours prior. Texts can have a huge impact on attendance by keeping an event top of mind. Of course, these reminders can also include links to supplemental information to maintain or heighten interest.
So, imagine your next store opening, trade show, webinar or annual sale preceded by a carefully crafted event countdown via text. It doesn’t make sense not to drive participation with text.
The New Product
Text is a great way to feature new products.
The rich video capabilities of text, the ability to link to supplemental information, the channel to provide discounts, coupons, timed deals and more are unlimited. Your pictures are worth a thousand words, and if one of your manufacturers has something special on the way, make sure to count it down for your customers and let them know when it’s available so they can take a look.
Perhaps your manufacturer would even like to be part of the effort.
If your customers are interested in your products, they’ll be open to information and they’ll be far more likely to come to your store to purchase it. Staying out in front with new products can make the difference between a purchase from a big box store and one at your branch location.
Safety Updates and Product Recalls
Finally, text messaging is a great tool to notify about product recalls, safety and other informational content that is a service to your customers.
In summary, driving immediate sales isn’t the only powerful application of text marketing. These additional capabilities make it a valuable tool to consider for your company. It is well worth your marketing team’s time to make a deliberate decision on whether you are “in” or “out.” It’s too powerful a tool to ignore.