First, the answer: “I have a Blackberry and these multimedia devices make it easy to type out communications. It makes no difference technically what channel you use, sending it as an email or text. Text is better as a more immediate and reliable form of communication. It’s more personal and informal so best used when you have some type of relationship with the recipient and a less formal response is required.”
Now, let me explain. On Thursday I got a very long text message with detailed instructions on how to settle the car-repair bill from a fender-bender I had the previous week. Normally, one would expect this information via email or phone. So I called John to ask why he chose SMS and what type of cellphone he had – and got the reply above.
I think the question begs to be asked: is it the lack of Blackberries, iPhones and the like or narrow-mindedness that is holding back other businesspeople from using text messaging more to communicate with clients and each other? It will be interesting to see what happens after Telecom’s new 3G system debuts.
When I ask those in business why they don’t use text, the answers are similarly negative. “My clients don’t text message,” a physiotherapist replied. “Why would I want to type on the tiny keyboard of my phone?” a sales rep asked. “Email is good enough,” a mortgage broker stated. “My clients would not welcome a message from me,” agreed almost all the others.
However, there was one enlightened insurance broker in Christchurch who presented a different view. “I use text all the time,” he said. “Most of my clients are professionals like doctors. They’re busy people and don’t have time to talk or check their emails regularly. Yet they always respond to my text messages within 15 minutes.”
Before your hackles rise over the thought of a new avenue for spam, let’s qualify the question of text becoming the new email. It’s not about sending your newsletter out to 15,000, hoping the majority will have an iPhone on which to view it. It’s not beaming in on every individual walking past a shop with a promotion. I’m simply talking about a fabulous way to whisper directly into a client’s or prospect’s ear with certainty and immediacy. I’m talking about using text messages for simple business communications between consenting parties.
Text does not have an IT manager, ISP or company filtering it out. Your client will have their cellphone in their pocket or handbag, whereas getting to the email you sent them on their computer could take several hours to a day. Not good if you want to confirm an appointment in four hours’ time.
Besides, who can guarantee when they’ll get to your email if it’s one in a queue of 78 to read at that moment?
I know sending an email is free, yet a text costs 20 cents. This is still one-fifth of the cost if you were to post a letter (taking postage, stationery and time into the equation). For a simple confirmation or prompt, the text message takes less time than a phone call – and again, time is money.
I know what you’re thinking. I can do bulk email sends – why would I want to text one by one? Well, of course you don’t. Many industry software programs have text merging built in. For a free system where you pay for only the messages you have, consider Vodafone web2TXT, Telecom eText and Skype. Many companies also offer the merging service. How easy is it to load up your phone list, type a short message and hit go?
Iain Bamber, a sales director for a New Zealand brewery, gave me some surprising statistics about text messaging volume.
Individuals from 18 to 25 years old get about 40-60 text messages a day. “It’s like wallpaper to them; they don’t notice them much.” Forty-year-olds get 40 a week; 60-year-olds get 40 a year.
Iain’s company has a very successful text message campaign called Pocket Vouchers. The recipient brings their phone to a bar or club. The establishment will have had a small refit to their Eftpos machine which is used to validate the voucher code for a free drink. The business gets the gross profit from the free drink from the company.
Over time, additional vouchers are sent to those who have redeemed – for them and a friend; for them and three mates. The average redemption rate is around 35-45 per cent but the most surprising statistic is the 75 per cent redemption rate for individuals over 60.
So let me ask you: isn’t it time you considered text as something more than your means of communication with your children and friends?