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    When used wisely, text message marketing produces extremely high results and offers practitioners a powerful means of growing their practice

    Industry numbers indicate that more than 98% of text messages are delivered and 90% read within 3 minutes of receipt! In comparison, consumers today perceive 90% of their emails as SPAM and an average email campaign generates less than 5% click rate! Response rates for businesses that follow the guidelines below can produce response rates of 25% and more.

    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.

    Best Practices

    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 using text messaging service for business and establishing your overall text messaging communication plan. Figure 1 provides a visual representation of some of these best practices.

    Your Messages Must Be Personalized

    Each of your message should 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. If your client’s tax return is held up due to missing paperwork, then sending them a reminder message about that is extremely relevant and will produce action. Another example relates to procrastinating or non-returning clients. You might send out a discount offer to those clients making them a special offer. 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 best practices are at the core of any effective service and communication strategy for tax professional. Of course thanking customers or business and asking them for referrals is also a key component of growing your practice, but when you are busy, it is hard to get all of these proven strategies. A texting service that integrates with your tax software can make this easy and provide personalization that makes it look like every message was typed by you directly, yet in reality it was completely automated.

    The Service Must be Compatible with Your Tax Preparation Software

    In any customer relationship, the client information and service history 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!

    Text Communication Must Be Bi-Directional

    Many current texting solutions tend to focus on one-way communication or broadcast messages from a business to the consumer, such as when a package is shipping or confirmation of an order This is not appropriate for service professionals where you hope to have a long-term relationship with clients. A business texting platform must bring in human-to-human two-way communication. Customers must be able to text back a question, setup appointments, reschedule existing appointments or get other kinds of customer service.

    Messages Should Come from a Text-Enabled Business Line

    Much research has been done that demonstrates customers would often rather text a business than call or email them, but they can’t because the business line doesn’t accept text messages. Using the right texting service for small business you will easily be able to “text-enable” your existing business lines. That way when clients receive your text they likely already have you in their contact list and they will recognize you. By doing this customers can determine if they want to send a return text or make a phone call if they need assistance immediately. You have just opened up a new channel of communication that helps streamline future exchanges and capture the history of their text correspondence.

    A Picture Is Worth a…

    Texts that include an image can deliver even better 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. 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. Even including your logo or picture will make your texts more engaging. Figure 2 provides some examples.

    Legal Compliance

    Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) governs the use of text messaging for  marketing, but it does not apply to customers servicing messages, such as making appointments, reminders or post-service activities (thank you messages and requests for referrals.) This means you don’t want to send marketing texts to numbers of non-clients or SPAM your existing clients with unwanted marketing messages. For pure marketing messages you need  “express written consent”. The good news is that getting adequate consent is 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. You can also use “opt-in” keywords to get potential clients to opt-in to receive messages from you. For more on that see out blog article on that technique.

    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.

    Growing your Business Using Texting

    Tax professionals that use automated texting services to implement the concepts described above see their client retention increase to levels of 90% +, they frequently add new clients by automating their referral campaigns and they win back some clients who might not have returned by sending special text offers. In addition, they are frequently able to cut down the need to additional part-time staff due to automating much of their client communications via texting. All these benefits can be managed and automated as many tax professionals have done using Textellent’s  business texting services. Talk to an expert or try the service for free for 30 days to see how it might help your practice.