When used wisely, text message marketing produces extremely high results and offers practitioners a powerful means of communication and relationship development with their tax and accounting clients.
Industry numbers indicate that more than 90% of text messages are read within 15 minutes of receipt! In comparison, an average email campaign generates less than 5% click rate!
Text Message Marketing offers a powerful means of communication and relationship development with your clients. In 2016, Text Message Marketing deserves a serious consideration by every Tax and Accounting business that wants to stay competitive.
This article provides introductory advice on this powerful technology. Although it contains specific references to Tax and Accounting professionals, the overall principles can be utilized in any industry.
As with any communication and marketing tool, there are certain do’s and don’ts in Text Message Marketing. Following are some of the best practices to keep in mind when evaluating a text message marketing service and establishing your overall text message marketing plan. Figure 1 provides a visual representation of some of these best practices.
Your Messages Must Be Personalized
Each of your message must start with the recipient’s name. This establishes instant credibility because it tells the recipient that the message is from someone who knows them and not an unwanted spam text! This guarantees that your message will be read almost immediately.
Your Messages Must Be Timely
Some clients come to you to prepare their income tax returns in late January or early February while some like to wait till late March or early April. There is little benefit in reminding late season clients in January; they may not even have their papers together. Similarly, early season clients cannot be reminded in March, as it is too late. Hence, it is important to time your messages carefully. Another great example of this is “birthday greetings”. In the Income Tax and Accounting industry, you have birthdates for your clients. This is a unique advantage compared to other industries that enables you to send out birthday greetings and stay in touch with your clients in a thoughtful and friendly manner.
Your Messages Must be Relevant
The content of the messages must be relevant to the recipient. In our experience, sending out a discount offer to non-returning clients produces great results. However, such an offer must not be sent to the entire client list, for obvious reasons, even if doing so may be extremely easy.
The Service Must Offer Automation
The previous three best practices are at the core of an effective marketing and communication strategy even outside of text message marketing. But, as you can imagine, they require a lot of time and energy to execute well, two resources that are in extreme scarcity during the tax season for the busy Tax professionals. The only real solution is that the technology platform provides automation.
The Service Must be Compatible with Your Tax Preparation Software
In any marketing or customer relationship strategy, the client information plays a very important role. The text messaging service must be capable of importing your client information directly from your tax preparation software, thereby minimizing additional time requirements of preparing the data files or worse yet, managing it in two different places!
The Communication Must Be Bi-Directional
Many times, marketing communication tends to be a one-way communication – from the business to the consumer. This cannot be the case with text message marketing. An optimal text message marketing platform must bring in human-to-human bi-directional communication. In response to a marketing text message from a business, customers must be able to text back a question, setup appointments, reschedule existing appointments or get other kinds of customer service.
The Messages Must Come from a Regular Phone Number
Many a times, companies use a so-called “short code” to send text messages. These are five or six digit numbers unlike a regular phone number. When a customer receives a message from a short code, it is clear to them that it is coming from a computer, not a human. While text messages from a short code may be effective for automated notifications, password recovery etc., they don’t do a great job in building client relationship. Hence, your text messages must come from a regular phone number in the same area code where your office is located. Moreover, it must also be possible for the customers to make a return phone call if they need assistance immediately.
A Picture Is Worth a…
Picture texting can deliver huge results. A plain text message is generally limited to 160 characters. Although some carriers and phone instruments are able to work around that limitation, it is best to keep the message within that limit to achieve highest level of deliverability to phones across various networks and phone carriers. As you can imagine, it might be very difficult to convey the full message in under 160 characters. This is where pictures can come extremely handy. Recently, a client of ours utilized this to inform their customers about their move after relocating to a different address. They used a picture of their local street map with arrows pointing from the old address to the new address. Their customers thanked them for that text message. Figure 2 provides some examples.
Texting is an opt-in based communication channel. Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) governs text message marketing along with automated phone calls and automated fax messages. It imposes several requirements and steep penalties for violations. The most significant requirement is that of “express written consent”. The good news is that getting adequate consent is fairly easy for Tax and Accounting professionals. It may be a matter of adding a checkbox with appropriate language to the client in-take sheet that the clients are asked to fill in and sign at each visit.
Common Mistakes to Avoid
One of the most common mistakes is over-use. When users complete their first well-designed text message marketing campaign and see the strong results, it becomes a natural tendency to want more. Unfortunately, that makes it a common mistake. With the high level of effectiveness of this communication channel, comes higher level of responsibilities. Consider this as an extremely powerful weapon in your marketing arsenal. Over-use of it, particularly while not following the best practices can cause the recipients to opt out, preventing you from sending future text messages to them.
About the Author
Majeed Ghadialy is founder and CEO of Textellent (www.textellent.com), a unique, patent-pending text message marketing service designed for Tax Professionals. He is a 20+ years veteran of technology and marketing with three patents under his name – two in the US and one in Japan. He also co-owned and operated an Income Tax preparation business for over a decade.