By far one of the worst things about being a self-employed tradesman in the digital age is that, in order to use those tools, you need to take time out of your day and plonk yourself down in front of a screen. To quote a wise woman we once saw on Youtube, “ain’t nobody got time for that!”.
Sure – Facebook, Pinterest, email marketing and the like can all prove invaluable, but as busy, on-the-go tradesman, you just don’t have the time to spend hours working on marketing campaigns and scheduling social media posts. What you need then, is a method of marketing to, and communicating with, your customers that is quick, easy, and achievable no matter where you are.
So what’s the answer? A fancy new application? A groundbreaking new marketing strategy?
Nope. Just good old fashioned SMS text messaging. A completely underrated marketing tool.
With a whole wealth of innovative digital marketing tools at our disposal, it’s tempting to rank texting somewhere alongside sending a fax (remember them?) when it comes to effective modern marketing tools. To do so, however, is to seriously underestimate what a powerful tool SMS messaging can be for your trade business.
Here, we’ve put together our complete guide to SMS marketing for tradesmen, explaining how – and why – you should be using texting in your business.
Think about how much time you spend looking at your smartphone. It’s quite a bit, isn’t it? Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
According to research, the average person typically spends five hours a day on their phones. In other words, if you’re texting customers, you’re sending messages to a device their guaranteed to look at throughout the day.
But so what, right? What’s to say customers won’t just ignore your SMS and go back to Instagramming their dinner or playing Pokemon Go like it’s still 2016?
Simple statistics, that’s what. Earlier this year, more research was published which revealed that:
- 98% of text messages are opened (compared to just 20% of emails)
- 45% of text messages a responded to (compared to a mere 6% of emails)
- 90 seconds is the average time it takes someone to respond to a text (compared to 90 minutes for email).
What can we take from all this?
The fact that SMS marketing is a quick, super effective way of communicating with customers that busy tradesmen simply can’t afford to ignore. People aren’t just opening their texts; they’re responding to them far more than they would if you sent them an email or used another marketing platform.
And the benefits don’t end there either.
Skipping the spam folder
If you’ve ever attempted an email marketing campaign before, you’ll likely find that a good proportion of the emails you send bypass a person’s inbox and land squarely in the spam folder, never to be seen, let alone opened.
That doesn’t happen with text messaging – nor do you run the same risk you do with printed materials, which is that they’ll end up in the bin long before anybody has a chance to read them. Send an SMS, and you guarantee that it will get to where it’s going.
So far, so good, but what’s the best way to actually use SMS as a tradesman?
Keep it brief
Excited though you may be to tell customers all about the 50 different services you provide and the 20 different special offers you’re running, bombarding customers with too much information at once isn’t going to do you any favours. Doing so is only going to confuse, irritate and annoy people, and that’s the opposite of what you’re trying to do here.
Instead, keep it brief and to the point.
Stick to one simple message and keep it concise and you’ll stand a much better chance at ensuring your message is read, understood, and responded to.
Avoid text speak
Just because you’re keeping it concise doesn’t mean resorting to text speak and unnecessary abbreviations. Why?
Bcuz ur a professional lol.
Ahem, let’s try that again: because you’re a professional, and if you’re to have any chance to succeed with SMS, your messages need to reflect that.
Sending the occasional reminder about your services or news about a special offer is one thing. Spamming a potential customer’s phone with a never-ending series of messages is quite another. Remember, you want to get these people on your side and have them hire you, not annoy them to the point that they threaten to shove your smartphone somewhere unpleasant.
That covers what not to do, but what should you be doing to make the most of text messaging?
Create a quick, efficient process for communicating with your customers
Back-and-forth phone calls and emails can get pretty tiresome pretty quickly, but when you’re first booking a new job, you do need some level of communication with your customers.
Using text messaging can speed up the process of sending quotes and booking jobs. Customers are likely to prefer this quick and efficient approach. After all, it’s a good indication of how you’ll progress with the job itself.
Speaking of which…
Send progress reminders
The last thing any customer wants is to have to chase you down just to get an update on their job. You can make life easier for them by sending a quick text to keep them updated on progress.
Ask for feedback
We all know how important it is to get reviews from our customers, but none of us wants to come across as a nuisance when those customers aren’t exactly chomping at the bit to leave us some feedback.
We’ve already provided our top tips on collecting reviews and managing your online reputation, but here’s another: a few days after the job, send a quick text thanking your customer for their business and reminding them that you’d appreciate their feedback.
You can even include a link to the platform where you prefer to collect your reviews, whether that’s Facebook, Google Business, CheckaTrade or anywhere else. And, on the subject of including links, it’s always a good idea to include the URL of your website or other online presence at the bottom of any SMS you send.
Let customers know you’re in the area
If you work in multiple locations, you might consider creating a text group for customers in each area. When you pick up a job in one of those areas, consider sending a message to other customers who are nearby, letting them know that you’re in the area and happy to stop by to quote on new projects or carry out quick jobs.
Send tips & reminders
The most effective kind of marketing is that which delivers genuine value to your customers.
With SMS marketing, you can do that in a number of ways, including:
- Sending reminders that regular maintenance work (such as boiler servicing) is due
- Offering tips and suggestions to help customers make the most of their home, tied to your area of expertise
- Sending advice at particular times of year. For example, if you’re a plumber and the winter is especially harsh, offering advice on avoiding frozen pipes
Sending discounts & special offers
This one is fairly self-explanatory, but don’t forget that SMS can still be a useful tool to promote discounts or new services to those on your books – just remember the rules above about avoiding spam.
SMS marketing & GDPR
Up to now, you’ve been reading this whole article with a certain level of cynicism.
“Sure,” you say, “This would be all well and good if that whole GDPR thing hadn’t made SMS marketing practically impossible.”
But here’s the thing: it actually hasn’t.
Contrary to popular belief (and a certain amount of scaremongering), GDPR isn’t some big, evil entity out to destroy the marketing efforts of small businesses. If you have express consent to use a customer’s contact details in this way, or if you can prove a legitimate interest for doing so, you can continue to use SMS as a powerful tool to help you communicate with your customers and win more work, all whilst avoiding the time and hassle of other digital marketing tools.