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How to Use WhatsApp for Business & 4 Ideas to Get Started

WhatsApp has grown immensely popular over the last years, and it’s even gotten to the point where any type of business (especially restaurants and retail stores) can take advantage of it to increase customer engagement.

Still, we know it’s completely possible that not every one of you is familiar with what WhatsApp is and how it can be a valuable business marketing tool (not everyone has enough time at their disposal to spend on the app, after all).

WhatsApp App Icon

So, before we offer some useful marketing ideas for this app, we’ll also discuss why you should think about using WhatsApp, and how you can use it. In case you’re already familiar with the app, you can just skip to the section that details the marketing tips.

What Is WhatsApp, and Why Should Your Business Use It?

Essentially, WhatsApp is a mobile app that’s free, and which lets users chat with each other by using their phone’s Internet connection without having to deal with text message charges.

The app also offers free video and voice calls, lets users share files and images among themselves, and supports various types of phones (Windows phone, iPhone, BlackBerry, and so on).

As for how it works, you just need to download the app, install it, confirm your country and enter your phone number. You then set up a profile, and the app shows you a list of users you can interact with based on the phone numbers in your phone’s contact list.

Now, there are 3 ways to interact with other users:

  • One-on-One Chat – Basically, you can easily chat with anyone in your phone list (voice or video), and share files with them. If you want, you can also record snippets of audio text and send them over.
  • Group Chat – A group chat supports up to 256 people, and each one of them can talk and share photos, files, and videos.
  • Broadcast Lists – Sending a message to a broadcast list means it will be received by anyone in said list who has your number saved in their phone’s address book (the number of people is limited to 256). The message will show up as a normal one for them (think of it as the BCC function with emails). If you get a reply from anyone, the chat will act like a normal one-on-one discussion.

WhatsApp Social Network

Even though WhatsApp has been bought by Facebook back in 2014, the app has yet to be redefined with features that are marketing-friendly (like Facebook Messenger has, for example).

So, given all that, why should you use it as a business marketing tool?

Well, the audience, for one. WhatsApp has about 1 billion active users – per day. Out of those, around 20.5 million are from the US alone (and the numbers are only expected to grow in the next years). So, it’s quite clear that, marketing-wise, you’d have access to a very large number of consumers. On top of that, it’s highly likely that many of your existing customers (or potential clients too) are already using the app.

Another reason would be the fact that modern consumers are actually expecting to interact with businesses (now and in the future) through messaging apps like WhatsApp.

In fact, according to a survey, 67% of consumers feel that way. At the same time, 53% of the people who participated in that survey said that they are more likely to do business with a brand they can message directly.

Lastly, one more reason we strongly believe you should use this app for your business is because its engagement rates are simply amazing. 98% of mobile messages are actually opened (with 90% of them being opened within 3 seconds of being received).

4 WhatsApp Marketing Ideas for Your Business

Before we discuss the marketing ideas, we need to make one thing clear: It’s paramount to understand that WhatsApp doesn’t have any features you can actually use to promote your business, nor do they sell any ad space on their app.

Furthermore, you must understand that you cannot create a business account – there’s no such thing like that on WhatsApp. That essentially means you’ll need to create a basic user account for your brand.

Also, please keep in mind that any business marketing strategy you employ must be have a personal side to it first and foremost. That’s the nature of this app, and doing anything else will make your approach feel extremely salesy.

Personalized Messaging

So, with that out of the way, here are 4 WhatsApp marketing ideas you should try to improve your brand’s image and boost customer satisfaction while also attracting new clients:

1. Offer Customer Support Through WhatsApp

Before you ask, no, we’re not referring to literally offering customer support to every single one of your clients through this app – it just wouldn’t be feasible.

What you can – and should – do is to set up a branded customer support account that caters to your most loyal clients. Basically, the ones who buy from you the most and who promote your brand too, or clients who are part of your loyalty program (if you have one).

There are plenty of possibilities with this. If you run a restaurant or a QSR, you can use such an account to handle more sensitive or serious complaints, or address all sorts of questions customers might have about future or potential products (they’re more likely to interact with you here since they know they have more chances to get a response.

If you run a retail chain, you can use this type of premium support to let your top customers know about new products and events, and also keep them updated about any online orders they might have placed.

You can advertise this feature on your website and on social media, and also make it a feature that’s part of your loyalty program. Calling it “VIP Customer Support” is an excellent idea, and one that’s sure to get plenty of engagement.

Customer Support

And in case you have a loyalty program and want to offer this feature to your most profitable customers but don’t know how to get access to such info, we recommend giving our platform a try – it can offer you the customer insights you need.

2. Create a Relevant Brand Persona

Just because you must have a basic user account doesn’t mean you can’t personalize it to the point where it represents your brand in a decent manner. The persona you create can be both imaginary or played by someone within your company (or, why not, someone outside the company who you hire).

You can do this to simply promote your brand, or raise awareness about new products, services, or business locations. The catch here is that you need to make people interested enough to contact said persona by using WhatsApp. You can contact them, but it’s not really worth it in this scenario given the limitations we previously discussed.

Here’s an example to give you a better idea of what we’re talking about.

Say you run a retail store chain, and you’re about to open a new location. To create a lot of hype around it, you’re planning on offering a wide range of discounts (or other potential rewards) during the opening day. However, since there’s likely to be too many people attending because of that, only a certain number of customers will be allowed in during that day.

And the only way for people to gain entrance would be to talk with the brand persona you created on WhatsApp (it can represent the store owner or manager, or – why not – even the store doorman) to convince him/her to let them in over other people.

People can do that by chatting with the brand persona or sharing files with them (photos of products they bought before to prove they’re loyal customers, and things like that). The idea is that you’ll end up creating a lot of buzz and engagement over your new retail store.

Mobile Contesting on WhatsApp

The “winners” could be awarded with a QR code (which you can easily send over), which they can show on their phone during the opening to gain access. And if you don’t want to alienate the ones who don’t get in during the first day, you can send over a coupon through the WhatsApp account to make up for it.

Naturally, you won’t just set everything up and wait for people to contact you. You should also promote this marketing strategy on your other social media accounts and pages, as well as your website.

This is just an imaginary example to help you understand what can be done with a WhatsApp brand persona, of course. All the details of this fictional campaign can be changed according to your needs.

3. Offer One-on-One Help Through WhatsApp

No, this is not the same as the VIP customer support bit. This is more marketing-oriented, and more focused on promoting your products and services than addressing customer issues and complaints.

For instance, if you have a restaurant or QSR chain, you could connect existing or potential customers to some of your chefs through WhatsApp who can offer them step-by-step assistance with cooking a dish similar to what you offer on your menu.

Cooking Instructions

If you have a retail store chain, you could have some brand specialists offer customers help through the app with putting together outfits that incorporate your products.

And it’s all pretty straightforward thanks to how easy it is to use the app, and how flexible its file-sharing features are. Once more, you should definitely promote this feature online.

4. Organize a Quiz

Quizzes (like contests) are extremely engaging, and – actually – some people might be more inclined to partake in quizzes since they don’t solely rely on luck but skill as well. So, they end up being more satisfying.

Whether you run a retail or restaurant/QSR business, setting this up is quite easy. During the promotion, just let customers (and potential clients) know that if they add your number on WhatsApp, they can participate in a quiz to win coupons, discount, or redeemable rewards.

They’ll just need to get in touch with you through the app, and answer 3-5 questions. The questions can be about your brand, relevant pop culture, or your products – it’s all up to you, ultimately.

Quiz Customers on WhatsApp

Best of all – you can also tie this in with your loyalty program. For example, you can offer winners to chance to sign up for your program when they use their discounts/coupons or redeem their rewards. Offer them an incentive by adding some extra loyalty points into the mix too.

As for people who don’t win the quiz, let them know they can enjoy the same rewards (and more) if they sign up for your loyalty program and accumulate points.

What about Business Marketing Tools for WhatsApp?

We expected you’d be asking yourself this. Truth be told, there are various marketing tools you can use for this app. However, we don’t recommend doing this at all.

Why?

Well, to quote WhatsApp’s own terms: “You will not use (or assist others in using) our Services in ways that involve sending illegal or impermissible communications such as bulk messaging, auto-messaging, auto-dialing, and the like.”

That’s pretty obvious that if you try to use any marketing tools, you’re likely to get banned or temporarily suspended (and that’s a best case scenario).

Plus, let’s face it: Even if you don’t get caught, mass-messaging users in this type of context and with this app will most likely backfire and ruin the image of your brand. Interacting with them has to feel natural, otherwise they’ll easily catch on to what you’re doing.

WhatsApp Customer Messaging

We know that doesn’t sound too great, but look on the bright side: WhatsApp is at least working on future features that will make it easier for businesses to engage with users.

Have Other WhatsApp Marketing Ideas You’d Like to Highlight?

Then feel free to share them with us in the comment section below. And if you felt that this article was really insightful, please remember to share it with anyone you think it might really help.

Max Bailey

Max Bailey is CEO and Co-Founder at Spoonity, a highly successful loyalty rewards company that specializes in customer engagement programs for restaurants and retailers. With Spoonity, Max focuses on expanding marketing operations, resource management, and data analysis. His diverse background and international experience contribute heavily towards the resources and the direction of Spoonity.
Specialties: Entrepreneurship, Loyalty Marketing, Online Ordering, Loyalty Programs Business Development, Management