How to receive business text messages online

SMS can be an excellent marketing vehicle, but it’s a tool no longer confined to mobile phones. There are services available that allow businesses to send and receive text messages directly to customers’ phones, all from the familiar confines of their computer.

Benefits of receiving SMS

The benefits of this don’t start and end with familiarity, though. Receiving replies is a vital part of any campaign, and it’s all very well sending out hundreds of messages, but receiving dozens of replies to a mobile phone could be overwhelming in the least – not to mention an admin nightmare. Whether sending customer surveys, running competitions or offering general information, gaining customer feedback and immediate responses is a key part of the communication process.

There are many websites out there which allow individuals to send and receive messages via a website. All that users need to do is type in the number and their desired message, but the character amount is invariably limited and often the website requires the sender to know the recipient’s carrier. To receive a reply it’s usually required to sign up for an account, but that does enable two-way chatting with friends, handy for those times when the mobile is out of juice or there’s no reception.

However, for running professional text marketing campaigns a much more sophisticated approach is required. For this it’s best to use a specialised provider, making it easy to send bulk messages and receive them in a straightforward manner.

Text marketing campaigns

Once signed up – by simply setting an inbound text number or short code – recipients can easily reply to messages, creating a great way to provide leads and accurate contact numbers. Two-way conversation with customers via SMS is quick and easy, and great for customer service. Being able to handle this directly from a computer screen means better accessibility to a real, physical QWERTY keyboard, not to mention the ability to copy and paste prepared responses if required, and easy access whilst at work.

Replies will be stored in the inbox and can be forwarded to any email address, website or mobile number. It’s easy to set up a service to automatically forward the message to a URL, which gives anyone in the company with sufficient permissions the ability to log on and respond. It’s possible to simplify it further still, by building it into a message system on the corporate website or into a CRM application.

In order to receive direct replies a text number is needed, as opposed to a word, so that the relieving phone knows where to return a text. With some services, replies cost nothing to receive, only costing the sender, depending on their text package. This makes it ideal when sending out calls to actions, for example encouraging customers to subscribe to a service or mailing list.

Options to suit any marketing campaign

Keywords allow any sent messages to be immediately forwarded to the business messenger account when used with a short code e.g. 60777. The customer simply needs to start the text message with the keyword, then pay their standard network charge. There’s no cost to receive the reply into the business messenger account.

Another option, similar to the above, is to send the message from a normal looking mobile phone number, e.g. 077********. This has the added benefit of being free for the sender to reply, provided they have an encompassing text bundle. There will be no cost to receive texts into the messenger account.

It is also possible to choose the keyword and short code, as opposed to using the provider’s generic one. This is an excellent tool for building up opt-in data and can add to the customer’s perceived authenticity.

With a dedicated long number, the company has all ownership rights over it, so all messages received are sent directly. This ensures all replies are received; there is no margin for error if the customer misses off the keyword or gets it wrong, as one is not required. The ability to set as many keywords as desired comes in handy; allowing different campaigns to be run through the one number, offering greater control and the ability for easier two-way messaging – perfect for customer service.

Dedicated short codes provide an ideal solution for heavy-use customers. With similar uses to the dedicated number option, the obvious extra benefit lies in the number being short and easy to remember.

To ensure customers don’t have to pay to reply to texts, there is the option for them to reply using a specific keyword of the company’s choosing. This means the business pays for the reply, similar to the traditional 0800 free-phone approach – which costs more but is great for customer service and encouraging replies.

Handy add-ons for business text messages

A clever extra option can allow the customer to text back with an email address, which can be picked up automatically by the system to push back a free email. This enables companies to reach out with attachments like brochures. It’s also possible to add web and telephone links to outgoing texts, which can then be forwarded to email, web server or another phone.

By selecting the right option for the company’s needs, and with the right guidance, a successful text marketing campaign can be built and managed easily over the internet.