SMS for small business: The basics
Learn the basics of SMS for small businesses, who should use it, best practices, and how to get started.
By Emily Wynne
Small businesses need to communicate with their customers effectively and efficiently, and SMS can be a valuable tool in their marketing and customer service strategies. With a 98% open rate and high response rates, SMS messaging can be an excellent way for small businesses to connect with customers more personally and immediately.
Whether you're a healthcare provider, retailer, restaurant owner, or real estate agent, SMS messaging can be a valuable addition to your communication strategy. In this blog post, we'll cover the basics of SMS for small businesses, including why it's essential, what types of organizations should use it, best practices for crafting effective messages, and how to set up SMS for your small business. Then, we'll tell you how to get started.
Why SMS is essential for any small business
Small businesses are under immense pressure to stand out in a crowded market. Fortunately, SMS—specifically, application-to-person (A2P) messaging—is a powerful tool small business owners can leverage to improve their marketing strategy, streamline business operations, and enhance customer engagement. In this section, we'll explore three reasons your small business should use SMS.
1. It’s a cost-effective marketing tool
Marketing plays a pivotal role in the success of any business, and small businesses are no exception. However, traditional marketing methods such as print ads, billboards, and TV or radio commercials can be expensive and may not provide the desired results. In contrast, small businesses can leverage SMS as a cost-effective marketing tool to reach their target audience instantly.
SMS campaigns are easy to create and execute, and small businesses can tailor their messaging to suit customers' preferences. For example, a restaurant can send SMS promotions on slow days to drive traffic. An online retailer can use it to offer exclusive discounts or notify customers about new arrivals.
Additionally, because SMS messages are sent and read almost immediately, businesses can quickly see a return on their investment.
2. It improves customer communication
Effective customer communication is vital to building long-term relationships with customers. SMS provides a convenient way for small businesses to communicate with their customers. For example, small businesses can send appointment reminders, order confirmations, and delivery updates via SMS. These communications reduce the likelihood of no-shows, misunderstandings, or missed deliveries.
Additionally, SMS offers a non-intrusive way for small businesses to solicit customer feedback. Small businesses can gather valuable insights that help improve their products and services by sending a simple text survey asking for feedback.
3. It streamlines business operations
Running a small business can be overwhelming, particularly if you have limited staff. SMS can streamline various aspects of your operations, making it easier for you to focus on other tasks.
For instance, small businesses can use SMS to automate appointment scheduling and reminders, reducing the need for manual follow-ups. Likewise, you can use SMS to streamline order management and delivery notifications, ensuring customers receive timely updates on their order status. By automating these processes, small businesses can reduce the likelihood of errors and enhance customer satisfaction.
With cost-effectiveness, convenient communication, and automation benefits, SMS is an ideal solution for small businesses looking to grow and thrive in today's competitive market.
Which small businesses can benefit most from SMS?
SMS is a versatile communication tool that can benefit small businesses in nearly any industry. This section will highlight some of the most common use cases.
Use case: Appointment reminders and communication
Healthcare providers can use SMS to send appointment reminders and communicate with patients. With SMS, healthcare providers can reduce missed appointments and improve patient satisfaction by providing timely updates and information. For example, a practice might use SMS to remind patients about upcoming appointments, send follow-up messages after a visit, automate prescription reminders, and securely share test results.
Retail and ecommerce
Use case: Order updates and personalized promotions
Retailers can use SMS to send order confirmations, shipping updates, and delivery notifications to keep customers informed and engaged. They can also use it to send personalized promotions, exclusive discounts, coupon codes, and limited-time offers to increase customer retention and drive sales.
Food and beverage
Use case: Order confirmations and delivery notifications
Restaurants can use SMS to send order confirmations, delivery notifications, and updates. With SMS, customers can see real-time order status, estimated delivery time, and order tracking information with SMS. For example, a pizza place can use SMS to notify customers that their order is ready or send a link to track their delivery.
Use case: Property updates and viewing confirmations
With SMS, landlords and real estate agents can streamline communication with prospective tenants or buyers and provide timely updates on property availability and status. They can use SMS to schedule property showings, provide updates on new listings, communicate with interested parties in real time, and send personalized offers or updates.
Use case: Class scheduling and cancellations
Staff can use SMS to send class schedules, cancellations, and account reminders to gym members. In addition, fitness studios can use SMS to send alerts when a class is full or canceled, provide updates on new classes, and send motivational messages to keep members engaged.
Use case: Service reminders and updates
Auto repair shops can use SMS to send alerts when it's time for routine maintenance, provide updates on the status of repairs, and offer discounts to encourage repeat business. For example, a business could notify customers that it's time for an oil change or tire rotation. They can also use SMS to inform customers of delays or changes to their scheduled appointment.
Use case: Account updates and fraud alerts
Banks and financial institutions can use SMS to send balance updates, transaction alerts, and security notifications to keep customers informed. Accountants can also use SMS to improve customer satisfaction by sending reminders about tax deadlines and providing real-time updates on a client's tax return status.
Education and services
Use case: Class cancellations and reminders
Educators—think speech therapists, dance classes, art studios, or language tutors—can use SMS to send class cancellation notices, schedule changes, and reminders. Organizations can also improve communication with students and staff by providing timely updates on class schedules or modifications and sending personalized reminders for upcoming events or deadlines.
Best practices for SMS
SMS is a powerful tool for small businesses to engage with their customers, but using it effectively requires a well-executed strategy. To maximize the benefits of SMS, small businesses must be mindful of several best practices, from strategically designing content to ensuring compliance with regulations.
Crafting the right SMS content
Writing effective SMS content is critical to engage customers and drive conversions. To make the most of SMS, small businesses must create SMS content that is relevant, concise, and actionable. Below are three key points to keep in mind:
- Understand your target audience and craft messages that meet their needs and preferences.
- SMS content should be concise, using clear and straightforward language that delivers the message in as few words as possible.
- SMS should include a clear call to action, such as a link to a website or a phone number to call.
For example, an ecommerce business might send an SMS with a time-limited discount code for a new product line. The message could read, "Limited time offer! Use code FALL20 for 20% off your next purchase. Valid through the end of the month. Shop now: [link to website]."
Timing and frequency of SMS
The timing and frequency of SMS can significantly impact the success of SMS campaigns. Sending too many messages or them at the wrong time can cause customers to unsubscribe or feel overwhelmed. On the other hand, sending messages at the right time can increase the likelihood of engagement and conversion. Therefore, small businesses must be strategic with the timing and frequency of SMS to ensure messages are well-received.
For example, a small business could send an SMS in the morning to remind customers of an upcoming appointment or reservation. In contrast, a restaurant could send a message to customers in the afternoon with a promotion for happy hour.
Ensuring SMS compliance and regulations
Small businesses must be mindful of SMS compliance and regulations. Federal and state laws regulate SMS messaging, and non-compliance can result in legal consequences and damage the business's reputation. To ensure compliance, small businesses must:
- Obtain consent from customers before sending SMS.
- Provide opt-out instructions in each message.
- Ensure messages aren’t spammy or misleading.
To learn more, read our SMS Compliance Guide, which includes an overview of the various regulatory organizations, a compliance checklist, and examples of compliant messages.
For example, a small business might send an SMS (to customers who have opted in to receive messages) reminding them of an upcoming appointment or notifying them of a new promotion. The message should include clear opt-out instructions, such as "Reply STOP to stop receiving SMS messages."
By implementing these best practices, small businesses can use SMS effectively to engage customers, drive conversions, and enhance their marketing strategy.
Ready to set up SMS for your small business?
Setting up SMS capabilities can seem daunting. Here's what you can do to make the process less complex:
Work with a provider that makes it simple
If you're new to SMS, navigating the technical requirements and compliance regulations can take time and effort. That's why partnering with a provider that can simplify the process is essential. Look for a provider that can handle number provisioning, registration/compliance, and ongoing maintenance. Choosing a comprehensive provider can help ensure you set up your SMS service correctly and comply with relevant regulations.
Have a dedicated number
Using a dedicated number for SMS messages is essential for small businesses. However, you should only use this number for business-related messages, so customers know who is sending them.
Small businesses should use a number customers already know, such as their toll-free customer service number, whenever possible. By using a familiar number, customers will be more likely to engage with the message and feel confident that it’s coming from a trusted source.
To learn more about toll-free SMS—including the benefits and drawbacks of this number type and how to implement and verify a toll-free number for SMS—watch the video below.
To watch the entire webinar, click here.
Telnyx provides businesses with a powerful and easy-to-use SMS platform that handles everything from number provisioning to compliance. With Telnyx, your small business can focus on creating and sending great campaigns while leaving the technical and regulatory details to us.
If you're ready to start using SMS for your small business, we can help. With Telnyx's easy-to-use platform, small businesses can get started using our SMS API in just a few clicks.
Talk to our team of experts to learn more and get started sending SMS today.