5 Text Messaging Marketing Strategies for Your Small Business
Looking for a way to reach your clients that ensures they’ll see your message? Have you tried text messages yet?
Email open rates are falling fast, and calling clients on the phone can be an unwelcome interruption in their day. Today, over 79% of Americans own a smartphone, and the average user checks their phone a staggering 150 times per day. Plus, SMS messages get a 98% open rate, so your marketing messages are practically guaranteed to be seen.
In this guide, we’ve outlined 5 text messaging marketing strategies that you can try for your small business or medical practice. We’ve also included several tips to ensure that your messages hit the mark and keep you out of legal hot water.
It’s estimated that 85% of people turn to the Internet when they’re looking for a local business, and one of the first things they’ll notice is your reviews. In fact, the majority of consumers will use reviews as a primary factor in their decision-making process.
Having a bank of positive reviews will help encourage new patients to reach out to your office and schedule an appointment. It can be a challenge to get patients to take the time to leave a review, and it can also be awkward for your staff to ask them to write one.
A smart way to ask for reviews is via text. 56% of online reviews come from mobile devices, so this method is seamless for your patients. All you have to do is follow up with the patient and provide them a link to leave you a review. Chances are you’ll get a decent participation rate. Weave has a tool that makes this simple.
If you want to reach your patients and clients with special offers, then a text is more likely to be seen than a flyer, email or ad, and it’s less intrusive than a phone call.
Here are some examples of offers you can share that should provide you with inspiration to get started:
- Free teeth whitening during the month of August.
- $50 off frames with an eye exam.
- Complimentary educational workshop announcements
- Patient Appreciation Week
We suggest that you make your offer irresistible so that your patients feel like they’re getting VIP treatment by being on your text distribution list. By making these offers valuable, you continue to train your patients and clients to check their phone whenever they get a text from your office.
Office Updates & Alerts
Again, SMS messages are much more likely to be seen than emails, so if you have an important announcement you need to make, then a text is fast, efficient and will reach your entire client base (as long as they have a smartphone).
You may need to send a note to every active client or just a select few.
Examples of office updates and alerts include:
- An announcement of your new office address
- An emergency closure for that day (to be sent to customers with appointments that day and to be followed up with a phone call).
- Road construction that may delay a customer en route
- Reminders that you’ll be closed for a holiday or event
If the alert requires immediate attention, you might still want to follow up with a phone call, but there’s no better way to send an instant message to multiple people than text messages. You could even ask your customers to reply with a one-word response to acknowledge they’ve received your note. That way, you won’t need to take any further action.
Provide Customer Service and Follow Up
You can boost your customer service performance by implementing an SMS messaging system. Texting allows your team to communicate immediately and provides your patients with another communication option they may feel more comfortable with.
Your team can text with your patients to reschedule appointments or discuss any issues that the patient had with their visit. You can also use SMS messaging to send receipts and surveys.
One of the most powerful applications of text message-based customer support is your ability to address urgent questions without delay.
Missed appointments can cost your business thousands, but sending a simple reminder has been shown to reduce the percentage of no-shows and last-minute cancellations.
Appointment reminders will help even your busiest patients keep their visits on track. We recommend sending text message reminders 24 to 72 hours in advance and making sure you use personalization features like including their first name and the date and time of their appointment.
Your reminders should also have an option that allows them to cancel and reschedule, whether it can be done directly online or requires a call to the office. That way, if the patient won’t be able to keep their commitment, your team will be notified, and they’ll have a chance to fill that time slot.
Follow the Rules
Before you’re blinded by the power and convenience of text message marketing as a new strategy for your business, it’s crucial to follow the rules and best practices to make sure you remain legally compliant and don’t annoy or alienate your clients.
Remember, just because you have your patient’s phone number doesn’t necessarily mean you can begin sending text messages. First, you must get consent. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) allows you to send any “non-marketing healthcare” messages, so you are free to send appointment reminders and customer service correspondence without prior authorization.
However, once you start sending promotional content, you’ll need prior consent. You can get consent in one of the following four ways:
a. Ask during the initial appointment scheduling if in addition to receiving an appointment reminder via text, whether they also want to receive healthcare tips, announcements, and special offers.
b. Include an option on your intake form allowing patients to check a box to stay up-to-date on information about your practice.
c. Discuss it with your patients when they’re in your office. Your staff can highlight the benefits when your patient is checking in and direct patients to a poster in your office that has more information.
d. You can also send an email notifying patients of your current service that sends appointment reminders and invite them to opt-in to receive other messaging from your office.
Even if someone consents to receive messages, they have a right to change their mind in the future. In promotional messages, make sure to include something along the lines of “Text STOP to unsubscribe.” It’s a good idea to then redirect them to a page that allows them to select their communication preferences. For example, they might still want to receive appointment reminders, but they might not want any other communication from your office.
Try not to get carried away with this tool. Resist the urge to send daily “inspiration” to your subscribers, and avoid bombarding them with messages. Frequent communication is okay as long as you’ve set expectations in advance. However, we suggest limiting your promotional texts to once per month.
Most people are on unlimited data plans, and your monthly text messages won’t cost your patients anything to receive. Still, there are laws in place to protect the consumers, and they haven’t quite caught up with modern times. A simple “message and data rates may apply” tacked on to the end of your promotional texts will ensure that you’re legally compliant.
Be respectful of your patients’ time and don’t send messages outside of business hours if you can avoid it. Another reason to follow this rule is that if you’re messaging your patients when your office is closed, they won’t be able to act on your message anyway.
Given the limited space you have in SMS text messages, it might be tempting to shorten your message with abbreviations and other language shortcuts. We recommend steering clear of this temptation; otherwise, you risk sacrificing clarity and harming your professional reputation. There are exceptions for standard abbreviations, which you’ll see in the example below.
Here are some examples of the right and wrong way:
Wrong: Hi, James. Ur appt. is tom. Fri. at 8 am. C u then!
Right: Hi, James. Your appointment is tomorrow, Fri, at 8 am. See you then!
In this case, abbreviating appointment and the day of the week is acceptable, but the other forms of abbreviation are considered unprofessional.
Don’t send texts just for the sake of sending them. That’s akin to when you get a message from someone you haven’t heard from in a while with a basic, “Hi” and nothing else. You wonder what they want, why they’re texting you, and what response is expected of you.
Instead of the aimless equivalent of “hi,” plan each piece of correspondence with a goal in mind. One way to make sure you follow the rules is by implementing a SMART system:
Each time you send a message to your clients, it should follow these guidelines and provide something of value, whether it’s a reminder about an appointment and or a generous offer they can’t refuse.
Text messaging is a convenient way to reach clients and patients, and, when done correctly it can enhance their experience as well. Instead of having to pick up the phone to contact your office, they’ll now have the option to communicate instantly and seamlessly via text. These strategies also enable you to share timely specials and marketing messages on a larger scale without taking up hours of your team’s time.