“There’re not many marketing tactics that you can pull the trigger today and it’ll pay off tomorrow.”
-Crystal Williams
Lemon Seed Marketing

Texting may be the best marketing technique for the digital age: It’s quick, direct, cost-effective, and can be easily personalized.

“It’s really the fastest way from Point A to B,” said Marc Hansen, senior director of field marketing at Podium, a software company focused on customer relationship management (CRM) and electronic payments technology.

“There’re not many marketing tactics that you can pull the trigger today and it’ll pay off tomorrow,” said Crystal Williams, the founder of Lemon Seed Marketing, a marketing consulting firm with a focus on home services businesses.

Texting campaigns, said Williams, can cost less than a dime per message and the payoff in higher sales is typically on the order of five times the marketing investment.

“Everyone should have texting on their radar,” she said.

Hansen, who was joined by Isaiah Rendorio, a Podium product marketing manager, during an ACHR NEWS webinar on text-message marketing, said text messages have an open rate of 98%, compared to 42.2% for direct-mail marketing fliers and just 18% for emails. Some 95% of text messages are opened within three minutes of being received, Hansen said.

Text campaigns, Hansen added, have a higher response rate than phone, email, or Facebook campaigns.

A typical click-through rate for a text-message campaign to established customers who haven’t patronized the business for a while, Williams said, would be between 15% and 20%. “Twenty-five percent, that would be a win,” she added.

To compare, email campaigns average a click-through rate of just 2.6%, said Hansen, and direct-mail campaigns have response rate averaging less than 2%.

“SMS (short message service) or text-message marketing is an incredible channel to leverage in your marketing mix to really drive sales,” Hansen said.

However, said Rendorio, texting remains a largely untapped resource: Only 12% of local businesses use texting as part of their marketing. But changing consumer expectations favor texting, he said, pointing to the popularity of tech-driven services like Uber, DoorDash, and Nexflix, which, he said, offer speed, personalization, and convenience.

“Convenience is king and, ultimately, that means texting,” he said.

Williams, in a phone interview, and Hansen and Rendorio, in their webinar, offered some do’s and don’ts for HVACR contractors who are planning to market via text messaging.


Texting Do’s ...

  • Aim texting campaigns at established customers. That’s a good way to keep a business fresh in their minds and quickly fill up the dispatch board with work calls, Williams said. “You already have a relationship with that client,” she said. “They’ve already reached out to you before.”
  • Follow applicable regulations, such as gathering any required opt-ins — that is, making sure customers to whom texts are being sent have agreed to receive them — and respect customers’ time and privacy. Texts received at 4 a.m. are likely to make the recipients unhappy, Hansen said. Opt-ins, which can be recorded electronically, are especially important to have for customers who are being sent promotional messages that, for example, ask them to take advantage of a sale or service, said Hansen. Opt-in requests can be added to website chats, online forms, electronic payment platforms, and other customer “touchpoints,” Rendorio said. Transactional messages, such as appointment reminders or requests for reviews, don’t necessarily require opt-ins. “Ultimately, we recommend consulting with your company’s legal team,” Hansen said.
  • Personalize messages, addressing customers by name. This can be done even in mass texting campaigns with a good CRM system or through a marketing vendor with its own CRM technology, Williams said. “The key to success with text marketing is your automation plug-in to your existing CRM,” she said. “It’s not scalable for you to do one-on-one texting. It takes too much time.” “Today’s customers, today’s consumers, they crave personalization in every brand interaction,” said Hansen.
  • Use conversational language and keep messages short, simple, and to the point. “Try not to use complex messaging that really could be misinterpreted,” Hansen said.
  • Include a call to action, or CTA, such as an opportunity for recipients to reply back with any questions or a link with a promotional offer or way to conveniently book an appointment. Links should be short in order to save on characters in the message, but also branded in a way that leaves message recipients confident enough to click on them. “You need a link that gets them to your website so they can engage in a way that’s comfortable for them,” Williams said. “If you miss the CTA, in my opinion, you’re kind of missing the point of SMS marketing,” Rendorio said. Adding links, he said, also enables marketers to track engagements, an important step in measuring the effectiveness of a messaging campaign.
  • If a customer texts back, respond in a timely way. “Customers crave conversations, so the more human feel your communications can carry, the more effective they’re going to be,” Rendorio said.
  • Know your audience — and be willing to tinker with variables, like message language and the time messages are sent, in order to optimize them. “You’re going to want make sure you’re taking time to understand who your audience is so you ensure that your messages are going to hit the mark,” said Rendorio. Williams suggests HVAC newcomers to texting should start with a campaign directed at a small group of regular customers or perhaps with a mock campaign directed toward employees. “Build an audience that you know is fairly small so that you can get your feet wet,” she said.


... And Dont’s

  • Don’t send messages too frequently. “This is going to lead to a lot of frustration and ‘stop’ replies or unsubscribes,” Hansen said.
  • Don’t use slang. “It certainly increases the casual feel, but it risks unprofessionalism and misunderstandings with your customers,” Hansen said.
  • Don’t use all capital letters, which might be viewed as text screaming.
  • Don’t ignore text-message opt-outs. “You’re really going to damage your brand reputation if you continue spamming somebody after they’ve opted out,” Hansen said.
  • Don’t use messages that sound like a mass text. “Your message could be going out to a thousand people,” Hansen said. “It shouldn’t sound like it’s going to a thousand people though. It should sound like it’s going to an individual.”