By Justin Scarborough, Programmatic Media Director at PMG
Consumers are gravitating toward faster communication, with an increasing number of tools in the workplace (and daily life) sending short, push-style notifications. As such, marketers are recognizing the opportunity this presents to expedite conversations with existing and prospective B2B customers. While these new approaches can take different forms, the key thing to remember is that there must be an obvious value exchange when brand and consumer communication takes place, no matter the method. Achieving this clear and consistent message requires a thorough understanding of the nuances of texting and email.
The Difference Between Email and Text Engagement
While email is still an extremely valuable tool across business and personal lives, it’s a thirty year old technology that continues to age. New options are emerging, prompting many today to use email less frequently than they once did. Considering that some don’t check personal email every day, people are less responsive, opting to respond later. Many now see email as a place reserved for sign-ups and certain tailored communication but not a go-to messaging platform.
Meanwhile, texting’s short-form nature and informal tone encourage users to engage more quickly. While informal, it’s more personal because texting is part of peoples’ every day (or even every minute) lives. This intimacy requires messages to be super relevant, be consensual, and offer something people want. This is a major departure from email, where there is an acceptance that irrelevant items will simply be glanced over rather than harm a relationship.
The Blurring Lines Between “Texting” and “Messaging”
Increasingly, the differences between “texting” and “messaging” are being blurred. For example, if you have an Apple device, you may often use iMessage across a variety of devices rather than “texting” across cell service. This can often blur the lines between the use of each device, no longer are you just using your work computer for work or your personal mobile for personal life.
Many social platforms are also beginning to offer messaging support. Whatsapp’s wide popularity in EMEA and Wechat/Webo’s in Asia is a prime example of this. A B2B sales rep may use these platforms to impact customers or prospects. Additionally, as these applications have existing promotions through social advertising, it may feel less invasive to send promotional B2B messages through these platforms.
These methods of communication are being put to use in the B2C sphere with tools like Community, a text-based tool for celebrities and artists to connect with their fans more directly. Celebrities like Kerry Washington and Ashton Kutcher have “personal” cell phone numbers where they can interact with fans rapidly in a way that’s more intimate than social media.
Similar tools are being utilized across B2B teams to offer instant support to customers and prospects in a way that builds a more emotional bond. However, this isn’t the answer at all times – it’s important for marketers to take a measured approach to text/messaging communication by identifying those who would be most receptive.
B2B Texting Requires Finesse
Many people use their mobile device for personal use so a business message can feel out of place. Additionally, you’re typically talking about a longer cycle of engagement. While consumers may take five minutes to purchase a t-shirt in-store, the B2B decision-making process for an enterprise software might take five months.
Marketers should be careful about how they use automated texts blasted to multiple people. Generally, it’s best for texts to be personalized, coming from one person to another instead of a generic push notification. This isn’t a new concept, however. Anyone in a customer- or prospect-facing role, will always benefit more from sending a personalized message to check-in or share valuable information.
When approaching a B2C prospect, there is a pre-established protocol for using text to send less personal messages, often because there has already been communication around an existing relationship. For example, AT&T may text regarding bill paying or signing up for different services, because they already established a 1:1 relationship via text. This interaction is established and consensual. Or, if I take my dog to a clinic, I may want to receive a reminder when he is due for a service, whether transactional or promotional.
However, this differs from a B2B prospect where you are often selling to more than a single decision maker so text messaging requires a different strategy.
Evaluate Analytics to Reach Customers the Right Way
Overall, companies should evaluate their analytics to understand where and how marketing targets are engaging. For example, if a prospect has just begun an engagement, they are likely researching on desktop. Meanwhile, if they submit a lead form or ask for info on a specific device, they’ll probably continue to engage via that device. If the company has a long lead cycle, it may engage across different devices throughout the process.
Additionally, different aspects of the funnel or cycle require different engagement. For a company with a long lead time that requires a variety of engagement, it may be a fit to develop more personal, one-to-one, mobile-style engagement as the prospect moves towards closing.
If a company finds that many end-users use their tool on mobile, text messaging can be a valuable means of communication. For example, a content creator may use Canva frequently to create Instagram posts on mobile, in which case they may be more interested in receiving texts regarding renewals. This is a good example of how push notifications could be used for B2B engagement.
Texting vs. Email: The Answer’s in the Data
No matter the method, there must be a genuine value exchange when brand to consumer communication takes place. Texting is short-form, good for transactions, and always more personal. Meanwhile, email is longer-form, great for items that have a longer timeline, and is not required to be so personal. This simplified approach is a good start, but it’s essential for brands to check the data behind their marketing efforts while building campaigns to B2B targets. In doing so, marketers can find the right recipes for success in this era of instant communication.