Of course, by now, your Google My Business (GMB) profile is active and optimized, updated regularly, and monitored for reviews and other customer contact, right? (Oh – it’s not? Catch up here to learn why your Google My Business profile should be your top online marketing priority and how to use this free tool to its maximum – hint: it’s way, WAY more than a simple listing).
1 – Messaging Makes It Easy for Potential Clients to Reach You
Where were we…ah yes…the GMB messaging feature.
When it’s enabled, Google messaging is a texting platform that allows mobile device users to send you a text message directly from your GMB listing in Search or Maps. You’ll need the GMB app to manage incoming messages. Make sure notifications are turned on, and then you (or a designated staff person) can see the messages come in, in real time, and reply accordingly. The phone number you use to set it up and the incoming message/phone numbers will be hidden, so privacy is maintained on that front.
Let’s say someone is searching for a fitness studio similar to what you offer, and your listing shows up in their search results. They like what they see and want to know more, so they click the “message” icon directly from your listing and type in their question. Boom! The enabled messaging feature on your profile offers another way to obtain new business and, according to numerous research, text messaging is a communication channel that the public WANTS to use as a way to interact with businesses.
And now consider we’re in the midst of a pandemic. The ability to use text messages supports customer contact without requiring physically being there in person. Have a quick question about the virtual cross-training class? Need to ask the front desk staff about a misplaced gym bag? Are there last minute slots available for acupuncture? Want to see if the introductory trial period promo is still available? Send a message and find out!
Sure, phones accomplish this too. But since texting volume rivals or even exceeds phone calls, it makes sense to offer both.
2 – Messaging Is Frictionless Engagement
Texting doesn’t have the pressure that some feel when making a phone call. It’s EASY.
When someone sees your GMB profile and has a question, messaging gives them the freedom to carry on with their day – no waiting on hold, no worry about sales pressure, no standing in line, no flagging down an employee for help.
Of course, some folks would rather call you. Luckily, adding the ability to send a message doesn’t stop anyone from calling you. It just adds another mode of communication that some people prefer.
Consider the folks who are curious about an aspect of your services but can’t call at the moment because they’re at work, they’re preoccupied with the kids, or they’re simply otherwise engaged. For them, making a phone call is out of the question.
- Best case – calling: immediate conversation, answers on the spot, engagement with a live person
- Worse case – calling: could be placed on hold for a long time, might encounter a frustrating call menu, might go to voicemail, might get disconnected, might have a bad connection, might not get a call back
- Best case – texting: send in questions without the frustration of stopping what you’re doing, timely reply, potential for active chatting and immediate engagement
- Worst case – texting: no one replies, need an answer quickly and it comes too late or not at all
Since preferences vary, messaging gives you yet another way to connect with more potential customers.
3 – Messaging Helps Prospects Buy Faster
This isn’t just about adding a convenience. GMB messaging helps potential members and clients move through your sales funnel faster, which means more ROI.
This marketing channel actually increases brand loyalty. Response rates for individual text messages out-perform emails, and research shows that up to 2/3 of folks make a purchase after texting with a business.
When someone sends a message from your listing, that’s a buying signal – so be ready to run with it. Give them the information that can move them closer to a conversion, like purchasing a membership, buying a virtual class card or scheduling an appointment.
Schedule enough people and time to field incoming messages quickly, and well. Don’t fly by the seat of your pants. The QUALITY of the replies people receive will reflect on your wellness business. So develop a process for handling messages and then properly train enough staff. A dedicated mobile phone just for messaging can make it easy for different trained staff to respond at different times—for example, after hours or when you’re closed for lunch.
Response Time Matters – A Lot
Customers want an answer right now, and Google will disable your messaging capability if you don’t respond quickly.
Responding fast is non-negotiable if you want this platform to succeed. “Timely” doesn’t mean tomorrow, by the way. It means minutes or a couple of hours, not longer. If you can’t reliably do that, disable messaging.
Periodically checking and replying to messages throughout the day will ensure folks have a positive encounter with your business. Consider setting reminders to check messages at frequent intervals throughout the day.
Even more important: Google expects businesses to respond within 24 hours and we have seen it deactivate Google My Business messaging when an account did not respond timely. You absolutely cannot be single-threaded when it comes to this platform. You need a plan for who’s going to catch these messages even if someone’s out sick or on vacation.
One of our clients answered all the GMB messages himself and did not want to train any staff. Sure, the quality of replies was great…but they were often so delayed it didn’t even matter anymore. The prospect had already moved on.
And as if you needed another reason to respond promptly: it’s likely that over time your listing will display your typical response time based on Google’s analysis of your previous 28 days of activity.
Make sure yours has a good record.
You’re probably thinking, “but what if messages come in when we’re closed?”. Good question!
You’ll have the opportunity to set up an automated reply. This is the message they’ll get back immediately. Use that auto reply to convey a friendly tone and indicate a general time frame in which they can expect a reply.
For example: “Thanks for contacting Yoga Flex – have a question? One of us will get right back to you in 30 min or less, unless it’s after 9PM or it’s Sunday. Then it will be tomorrow. Thank you!”
Our take: Don’t expect folks to be satisfied with a reply that comes a day or more after they send a message. At that point, you’ve blown it. They probably moved onto your competitors.
Know the Guidelines
There are extensive guidelines associated with messaging designed to ensure a positive user experience, so it’s important to make sure you understand what they are and train staff sufficiently. You can review them in the Google My Business messaging support pages. Here’s a few plus some other key points that are especially important for health and wellness businesses:
- Google My Business is not HIPAA-compliant, so don’t discuss patient information via GMB messaging
- Don’t ask for private or secure information on this platform, such as credit card numbers.
- This isn’t the platform for hard sells. Don’t bring up products or services that are completely unrelated to the original question. Nudging is OK. Don’t push.
- Avoid texting long URLs, excessive use of URLs or using lots of emojis – keep your messages easy to digest and understand.
- Don’t keep messaging someone who has stopped responding.