Text messaging for B2B can be used as an engagement tool at every single stage of the customer journey.
For sales, it has the immediacy of phone calls but the conversational control of email. The customer decides when she will respond to your message, but it’s low pressure, with a very different feel than closing a deal over the phone. Texting has a casual quality about it that gives some of the control back to the customer without sacrificing the intimacy of the sales call.
The benefits of using text messaging and the ways B2B marketers can use this fast communication channel go far beyond sales. We could go into the philosophy behind how the marketing hourglass has replaced the sales funnel in the age of content marketing and digital UX. Instead, we’ll highlight the basis of the concept: Customers aren’t just important before the sale. The customer journey extends beyond the purchase, potentially to a lifetime of value. The longer and stronger the lifetime of that customer is, the more value they have.
Of course, companies can’t expect to get a valuable long-term customer without reciprocity. Businesses that want long, strong relationships with customers must give those customers value in exchange for their business.
This value, of course, comes mostly from providing a product or service that continues to make the customer’s life better in some way. It should be innately built into what you’re offering them.
Good comms are a value add
There are other ways, however, that a business can add value to its customers’ lives, through means that are peripheral but integral to delivering their product or service. One of those key ways is communicating well.
When a company communicates well with its customers, sometimes the value of the product or service becomes more apparent. Sometimes it makes the customer feel like their wants and needs are being listened to. Sometimes it makes them feel special. Most of the time, it builds trust.
So how do B2B businesses communicate well with customers?
A large part of good communication is understanding what is relevant. You’ve probably been in a conversation with someone whose story is so irrelevant, you can’t help but zone out. And, you’ve probably been in a conversation that was so one-sided, you couldn’t wait to escape it.
Needless to say, these are the conversational experiences you don’t want your customers to have with your brand. Instead, you want to have conversations that engage them, draw them in, make them feel heard and respected. It’s discussions like those that build strong relationships. And in B2B marketing, relationships are everything.
Here are some ways text messages can enhance B2B customer conversations at various points throughout the customer journey:
Use text messages to nurture leads
For companies that sell to companies, price points are often higher and it takes longer to close a sale because of all the decision-makers involved. Content marketing is a tried and true way to give leads information that nudge them in your direction without being outright salesy. It might surprise you to know that B2B leads love content marketing. In fact, Elise Dopson reports that the average B2B buyer consumes 13 pieces of branded content every month.
Text messages can immediately humanize your content and help you build trust the easy way. By that, we specifically mean through automation, which can help you reach leads through automated campaigns targeted to the part of the journey they’re on. Just as you can do with email, you can use texts to nudge leads down the funnel and keep track of their actions. Automated texts campaigns are run similarly to email campaigns in that you can personalize fields, set the message to go out to various contacts at one specified time, and you can track essential metrics to move contacts down the funnel.
Unlike email, however, you can have greater confidence that your text messages will be seen by your contacts, and if you want them to take an action, they are more likely to do so. Texts have a 98 percent open rate, and people are 134 percent more likely to respond to a text than an email.
Use SMS to close more deals
Nine out of 10 texts are read within the first three minutes of receipt. The speed to close becomes much faster when you don’t have to wait for emails to be opened and responded to or calls to be returned. In three minutes, 90 percent of your leads will see your message. And, with an average click-through rate of 19 percent and response rates as high as 45 percent, text messages could be the fastest, most effective tool for B2B sales and marketing pros.
Overall, SMS has a 14 percent conversion rate, which is much higher than email’s conversion rate (4 percent). This stat shows that the number of leads who take action on your messages increases incrementally when you text instead of email. Faster deal closing means there’s more time for more deals to be closed.
Think about it from a lead’s point of view: You’re standing at your desk, skimming messages from Slack, Microsoft Teams and your email, trying to determine what to prioritize. You skip over the various sales and marketing messages, figuring that you’ll deal with them later, even though you know your company is in desperate need for new accounting software.
Then, later, your phone buzzes. It’s a message from your contact at the accounting software company, saying something like, “Hi, Awen, I know you wanted to start talking new accounting software before Q2, so I’d love to get on your calendar this week. Are you free for 15 minutes on Friday?” You read it, are grateful for the directness (and lack of decisions you have to make) and respond with some times you’re free to have a chat.
If it’s done in a respectful, relevant, targeted way that encourages a two-way conversation, texting your prospects is not likely to annoy them. In fact, 61 percent of people say they want businesses to text them while they’re at work. Your leads might be surprised by the channel you use to reach them, but in a world of over-inundated inboxes, that might be a good thing.
Manage customer relationships through text
If there’s one thing B2B marketers have come to master in recent years, it’s customer relationship management. You already know that continuing to keep lines of communication open and nurturing your brand’s relationship with customers will result in more business. But are your current channels doing the job well enough?
Imagine two customers who subscribe to two different analytics platforms. Both are having issues with a new update. The first customer tries to reach out to customer service via email or find a phone number on the website, but it’s too time consuming, and she’s forced to wait on hold. Instead of fixing the problem, she starts to shop around for other solutions.
The second customer, on the other hand, sends a quick text to customer service and gets a response back right away. They schedule a call to walk through the update and get her whatever help she needs. Problem solved, quickly and effortlessly. That’s the power texting can have on your customer relationships.
Building relationships with customers in different generations could matter. Although millennials don’t make up your entire B2B audience, you are likely to have at least a few on your contact list. If there’s any one quality shared by millennials (and the generations following that), it’s that they prefer messaging to calling. In fact, 75 percent of millennials consider talking on the phone to be too time consuming. The survey this number came from is actually based on personal communication, which can only make you think it’s probably the same if not even higher when the communication is business marketing and sales. One in four consumers won’t even listen to a voicemail from a phone number they don’t recognize, which means you may miss out entirely on the benefits of contacting customers through text. And it’s not just millennials who prefer texts: 69 percent of people from all generations say they would prefer texts to phone calls from an unfamiliar brand.
Keeping pace with trends and customer preferences is essential to maintaining strong relationships. At the very least, make sure that the means you use to contact your customers is one that won’t annoy them, and at the very best, make it one that will get their attention in a positive way.
Of course it’s not practical to make B2B text messaging the only channel you use to reach out to contacts, leads and customers. But it should absolutely be part of the suite of tools you use. There are some situations that call for email, some that call for phone calls, and some that call for a quick, efficient text message.
The more agile you are with your communications, the better prepared you’ll be for each situation. Plus, you’ll be open to hearing from your customers in multiple ways. The more lines of communication you have that are open for your audience to reach out to you, the better.