By Jake Meador | 25 Feb 2020
If you’ve owned your own business long enough, you’ve experienced this problem: You need more leads. You don’t get revenue without sales and you don’t get sales without leads. But how? Social media is an unreliable marketing channel. Google Search requires a great deal of time. Traditional channels, like newspaper classifieds or TV and radio ads, don’t perform like they once did, leaving you frustrated by the wasted expense and wondering where your leads will come from. So how can you generate the leads your business needs?
The answer is with a new marketing strategy built around text messaging rather than email, social media, or SEO. In this post, we’re going to help explain how SMS can become an excellent lead generation channel for your business.
Let’s start by defining four different types of relationships that a person can have with your business.
What you’re trying to do as a business is start with the largest group—potential customers who have no relationship with your business at all—and move them all the way down to becoming a paying customer.
The mistake many people make is that they think you move people from the first stage to the last simply by raising their awareness level. Once they’re aware of your business they will (eventually) buy from your business. That may be true, in a very simplistic way, but it’s not a good way to think about marketing and lead generation.
Because if you think the primary problem to solve is ‘awareness’ then the primary goal of your marketing is ‘reach the largest possible audience.’ As a result, you spend a great deal of money on expensive advertising campaigns that reach a large audience but, depressingly, never seem to translate into many sales. In other words: You just lit a bunch of money on fire without accomplishing any of your goals.
Many of the people you’ll reach with expensive ad campaigns or even many expensive Google Ads will simply never become customers because they’re not a good fit for one reason or another.
Let’s go back to the four categories we mentioned above. Now let’s talk about how a person moves from one category to the next.
The first obstacle you need to overcome is awareness. That is how a person moves from having no relationship with your brand to being what we call a ‘contact.’ A person can’t buy from you if they don’t know you exist so you need to raise awareness and get some kind of contact information from a person.
That said, you shouldn’t blow your entire marketing budget raising awareness. Instead, dedicate a small portion of your budget to it. Buy ads on your branded keywords. Have a website. Have a Facebook page. These are the ways that people can become aware of you. But awareness is usually not a business’s biggest marketing challenge. Awareness is relatively easy. A big billboard on a busy street can attract attention. But unless that billboard is driving people to actually buy from you, it doesn’t do you any good. You can’t pay the bills with awareness.
The challenge is moving from awareness to engagement. This is how people move from being contacts to being leads.
You don’t just want people to be aware of your brand. They can be aware of you forever and never buy. You want them to be interested in it, to think that your business can help them in some real and tangible way. This is the hard part. And this is where SMS marketing can be so valuable.
So once people become aware of you, it’s not unusual that they’ve made some kind of effort to follow your brand—maybe they signed up for an email newsletter or they followed you on Facebook. The problem is those channels are terrible for converting people into sales. Email open rates are hanging out at around 18% on average right now. Facebook’s organic reach—the number of people who see your posts automatically when you post from your page—are at or near zero. So you’ve raised awareness and gotten contact information, but now you’re stuck. We think the best way to solve the problem is by collecting a different kind of contact information—not emails, not Facebook accounts, but phone numbers. Text message open rates are estimated to be anywhere between 95% and 99%! That kind of open rate is unimaginable on any other marketing platform. If you send texts to your list, they’ll be read at a high rate. And if you are able to communicate with your leads, you can take the final step to move a person from a lead to a customer.
The final step, moving from lead to customer, is made once a person is actually excited to buy from your business. This is when they’re filling their cart on your ecommerce site or they’re on the way to the store to make a purchase.
You can collect phone numbers the same way you do email addresses: by asking for them on your website, social media accounts, in-store, and so on. Include a note on your website inviting people to sign up to receive text alerts from your store. You can incentivize them to do this by offering some kind of benefit: 20% of your first purchase or some other kind of special deal.
The goal here is that you are building a list of contacts using a phone number rather than email addresses or social media follows. Once you have that list, there are many ways you can help move these people from simply being a contact to actually being a lead and even on from there to being a sale.
Here are a few examples.
First, you can create things called “drip campaigns,” to repeatedly get in front of your prospects and help them move closer to buying. “Drip campaigns” are campaigns that use a slow “drip” of messages spread out over several days—so you send the first message on day one, a second message two days later, a third four days after that, and so on.
With drip campaigns, you can offer multiple deals, tell a story, or make a longer case for why your business will help a person solve a real problem they are facing.
Beverly, an online retailer who works with affiliate partners, sends 20 text messages over 20 days which include valuable videos, images, links and resources to help her affiliate partners make more sales.
Ally, another online retailer, uses drip campaigns to send a “four-day text education series” to her prospects to engage with them before closing the sale.
Second, offer a coupon, discount, or one-time deal. This is an excellent way to reach contacts less likely to purchase: Offer them a fairly specific, high-value perk that will motivate them to buy. For people who would not come in under normal circumstances, a special deal can provide the motivation they need to buy or visit the store—which also provides you an opportunity to give them a great experience and turn them into a regular customer.
Theo, who runs a meal-delivery service, sent a text saying, “Use the code HolidayCheer” to receive 10% off your next purchase! [link] *Expires Sunday 11:59PM PST*”
Third, use text messaging to promote your webinar. One of the classic ways to collect contact information from potential customers is through offering a webinar. But then the hardest part about webinars is getting people to actually attend. If you ask for their phone number when they sign up, you can send them a reminder text a few minutes before the webinar begins. We have seen webinar hosts increase attendance by 24% with SMS reminders.
Nehemiah has set up a webinar reminder text that is sent out one minute before his webinar starts, “We are live. Join the webinar now! [link]”
Fourth, use multimedia text messages to launch new products. Launching new products is one of the most important (and difficult) things you do as a business. On the one hand, a new product can open up new sales opportunities and generate additional revenue. On the other, a new product requires a great deal of time and money to create and launch. So if it fails, you could lose a lot of money. MMS messages can combine photography and text to inform your contacts about new products your store is offering.
Moving people from being unaware of your business to being engaged to being excited to buy is difficult. But, then again, of course it’s difficult: If it was easy, everyone would run their own business. If you own a small or online business and have struggled to generate the leads you need to hit your revenue goals, consider trying text messages as a way to help engage your contacts and move them closer to becoming a customer. If you’d like to try text message marketing for yourself, take 30 seconds and sign up for a free trial today.