In my previous post about where to get started with texting strategies for businesses, I was clear that the starting point was the same for any business. Go capture mobile numbers. Whether you know how you want to text your customers or not, start collecting the numbers and you can figure out the rest later.
As I was outlining the post, I almost included this corollary but decided to not confuse the message and make sure people jump on setting up systems to grab numbers without worrying about how to send your first text message. Once done with step 1, however, there is no time to waste as step 1.1 is incredibly important as well.
You need to choose your texting tool of choice immediately because the next step after capturing a mobile phone number is to text it right away. This is what I refer to as “warming up” the channel. When warming up the channel, what you text is way less important than texting as soon as you can. Texting something as innocuous as “Thanks and welcome to Tape!” can get the job done.
So why is essentially a throwaway text so valuable? There are a few reasons:
A text right after submitting a phone number if done automatically takes advantage of a golden window in text message marketing which is the time immediately after a consumer interacts with your company. When engaging in a personal channel like text messaging, part of the struggle is avoiding the reaction of “why the F is this business texting me??”. One of the times that lowers sensitivities is immediately after an interaction. The buzz of the notification can be startling, but people understand why you’ve texted. Also, as you’ve taken advantage of this golden window, the text doesn’t have to be throwaway. You could take the opportunity to share important information or get them to take some sort of action.
Any well received communication with a customer (email, phone call, text, etc) helps build a connection. The problem is emails rarely get opened and phone calls are never answered. Because of that, businesses especially those who only have a digital relationship with its customers have very few opportunities to build a connection through communication. Sending a message after collecting a phone number can start the process of building a closer relationship with the customer. A thanks🙏 or hello👋 can push a customer relationship forward even if just in a small way.
And if being very clear about sharing opt-out options with your users is important to you, this message is a really easy place to do so. A short message sharing why you might text in the future followed by opt-out instructions is clean and easy.
All of these reasons are certainly valuable elements of “warming up” the texting channel, but the most important part of this practice, especially if you’re not exactly sure how or when you’re going to start engaging over text, is that it nicely prepares your customer for texting communications (if you do so in a relatively shortly after) AND if you wait months or even years to send your first text, it reduces the anger directed at your company for a surprise text.
Here’s an example of what “warming up” the channel could help you avoid. In November 2018 I got the following message from Flywheel, the Soul Cycle competitor.
Maybe not the worst message in the world, but man it had been years since I took my last Flywheel class and I didn’t even realize they had my phone number to be honest. I’m not one of those people that gets overly upset at businesses so I let it slide, but I did wonder if others had a similar experience… Luckily, Twitter.
And the tweets went on and on. Flywheel had decided texting was an exciting opportunity and blasted their entire user list. Their response to upset customers?
There response was “but we got permission!”
The thing is technically getting a customer’s approval to text them doesn’t protect you from group anger on Twitter if you text them out of the blue. Which brings us back to warming up the channel. If Flywheel had sent an initial message saying
We’re excited to have you Flywheel. Enjoy your ride!
text stop to unsubscribe
the anger stemming from a subsequent message years later would be largely defanged as a recipient would see the warmup message before the offending message and realize they had a chance to complain years before!
So in summary…start collecting numbers immediately! And then hurry up and setup a way to warm up the channel, you’ll appreciate it.