How to use WhatsApp for Business to step up your comms

WhatsApp for Business can help you communicate directly with customers. We explain what it can do, how to get started, and best practice for using it.

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Communication is an essential part of running a successful company. Knowing how best to use your mobile phone for business can make a positive impact on both your customer service output and your operation’s success as a whole.

Most of us in the UK use WhatsApp to send messages to friends and family on a regular basis. Whatsapp for Business is the app’s business-focused comparative.

This article will explore what exactly WhatsApp for Business is, how to make the most of its capabilities, and how it differs from standard WhatsApp.

What is WhatsApp for Business?

Regular WhatsApp may simply be a personal messaging app, but WhatsApp for Business is a portfolio of communications tools for businesses. It features a suite of solutions that help businesses communicate at scale with customers and bring in revenue.

The tool offers support for every business size – enabling you to do anything from managing customer service queries to creating catalogues that act as mobile storefronts – and is available on Android and iOS-enabled devices.

What capabilities does WhatsApp for Business have?

WhatsApp for Business offers businesses the opportunity to engage with their customers via their mobile phone – a simple and direct way to connect given 84% of adults in the UK have smartphones, according to the ONS. Its features allow you to do so professionally, efficiently, and at scale.

Its portfolio of tools allows businesses to:

  • Respond to customer service enquiries
  • Send automated transactional messages, like recurring bill statements or confirmations for purchases
  • Help protect against fraud via authentication conversations and one-time passcodes
  • Build catalogues to showcase products or services
  • Send broadcast messages to all customers – this could promote a limited-time offer, or perhaps a customer relationship-building message like a ‘Happy Christmas’
  • Label conversations with customers – for example, to separate urgent enquiries from new customer enquiries
  • Create and reuse message templates

It’s important to note that you can still use regular WhatsApp for your business operations if you see fit – for example, if you are a tradesperson, you may want to message customers via your personal WhatsApp account for quick and easy communication. Using WhatsApp Web, it’s also possible to communicate via a desktop device rather than your smartphone.

WhatsApp for Business simply supercharges what you can do, like reaching out to customers en masse via individual messages to promote something new your business is offering.

Read more: How secure is WhatsApp for businesses to use?

What are the key benefits this offers my business?

Customers can be difficult to reach, thanks to uncrackable algorithms and saturated social media feeds. WhatsApp for Business provides a way to connect with them directly.

Some of the benefits of using the platform are:

  • Cost effectiveness versus a call centre, for example
  • You’ll have a wide audience reach of up to 256 people at once, including international customers
  • It gives customers a quick and easy way to engage with you
  • It can integrate with other business tools like CRM software
  • It’s easy to use for both businesses and customers

There are four ways to communicate with your customers via WhatsApp for Business: one-to-one, group, broadcast (saved lists of contacts that allow you to message many customers at once), or video and voice calls. Business owners can incorporate these four options into their marketing and communication strategies to directly connect with customers instantly – which is difficult to do on many other channels.

How do I start using WhatsApp for Business?

There are two different versions of WhatsApp for Business, and which is best for you will be determined by your operation’s size.

For small business owners, WhatsApp Business is a free-to-download app that allows you to interact with customers using the capabilities we’ve covered above.

For medium and larger businesses, there’s the WhatsApp Business Platform – sometimes referred to as WhatsApp Business API. This platform is home to a range of APIs and tools that allow medium-sized businesses to interact with their customers on a much bigger scale.

The WhatsApp Business Platform/API helps businesses to connect agents and bots with customers so they can interact as needed. It also integrates with backend systems like customer relationship management (CRM) and marketing platforms, too.

To clarify, the WhatsApp Business App and the WhatsApp Business Platform/API have different offerings. For example:

WhatsApp Personal AppWhatsApp Business AppWhatsApp Business Platform/API
User typeIndividualsSmall businessMedium to large businesses
Messaging toolsPersonal, basicEnhanced, such as chat automationAdvanced, like chatbot use
Business profilesNoYesYes
CostFreeFreePaid, dependent on volume and use case (see below)
Auto responseNoYesYes
Product catalogueNoYesYes
Need to know

Your WhatsApp for Business account can’t use the same phone number as your standard messaging account, so make sure to sign up with your dedicated business phone number – this can be a mobile or landline. You can still use one smartphone for both personal and business versions of WhatsApp, but it needs to have dual-SIM capability to use two different phone numbers.

What is best practice for using WhatsApp for Business?

While WhatsApp for Business may feel familiar to regular WhatsApp users, it’s important to avoid getting the two mixed up, and approach your business communications with a professional mindset.

Have conversations with customers in a friendly yet professional manner, and avoid using overly promotional and pushy language in marketing broadcast messages, as this will likely have the opposite of the intended impact and actually put customers off your business – no one likes to be spammed.

This may be the case, too, if you send messages late at night and disturb someone’s sleep – be mindful of different time zones and use the platform’s labelling capability to categorise customers in different parts of the world.

Respond as quickly as you can to customer messages to keep them engaged, and don’t forget to add a friendly call-to-action when the conversation is over, such as ‘Please leave us a review!’

Read more: Best practice for using WhatsApp in the workplace

How can customers find me on WhatsApp for Business?

Business owners can build a profile featuring their company name, email address, hours of operation, and so on to help customers engage as much as possible.

You can also add a call-to-action button to your Facebook and Instagram ads that opens a direct thread with your business on WhatsApp. Signpost to this service via your own platforms, too – like on your website, or via a link in your weekly newsletter.

How much does WhatsApp for Business cost?

Like regular WhatsApp, the WhatsApp Business app is free to download and uses wifi or mobile data to operate.

The WhatsApp Business Platform/API is available on a per-conversation basis – but all business owner users receive 1,000 free service conversations every month. Beyond that, businesses are charged per 24-hour conversation, with different rates applicable for each of the four conversation categories – marketing, utility, authentication and service. You can contact WhatsApp’s sales team to get a better idea of how much its platform would cost you.

Conversations that start when a customer messages you from a Facebook or Instagram ad are free for 72 hours.

Final thoughts

It may initially feel like an informal way to interact with your customer base, but tools like WhatsApp for Business can streamline your customer engagement processes in a professional yet accessible way for all.

Remember, implementing a new tool into your small business might seem overwhelming at first and a big leap, but with time and practice, it will become second nature and likely an integral part of your business strategy.

Mid shot of Kirstie Pickering freelance journalist.
Kirstie Pickering - business journalist

Kirstie is a freelance journalist writing in the tech, startup and business spaces for publications including Sifted, TNW, UKTN, The Business Magazine and Maddyness UK. She also works closely with agencies such as CEW Communications to develop content for their startup and scaleup clients.

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