October 31, 2014

13 SMS Text Messaging Services for Marketing in the Mobile Age

Ninety nine percent of the time statistics can drive you to heavy drinking. In researching this post on SMS or Text Message Marketing, I wanted to find out how many people use text messaging, how quickly they are read, and are business owners using it as a way to reach customers.

texting

More than any other topic that I’ve written about recently, the data is all over the place:

  • Text Messages have a 98 percent read rate
  • Text Messages have a 100 percent open rate
  • Texts are typically read within 15 minutes of being received
  • Mobile phones have reached 100 percent penetration in the United States

Let’s go with something more trustworthy: Do you know very many adults without a mobile phone? How about business owners without one? Have you had a customer without a cell phone? Here’s the leap, but I have pretty good evidence it is true: If they have one, they likely use text messaging on it, too.

Text message marketing is a permission-based approach to sharing short updates or specials with your customers. It lends itself to point of sale or retail offers, but not entirely. My gut or intuition tells me that it’s a good way to share news, updates, ideas, and special offers with customers with whom you have a relationship and who express interest in signing up.

Here are 13+ services that can make it easy and affordable; some are completely free if you keep your efforts small and focused:

Fanminder is a great service that I’ve reviewed before and think has a lot to offer. They offer a combination of social, email, and mobile phone marketing. It is free to text to up to 100 numbers. Pricing starts at $15/month after that.

Signal is pretty robust and lets you send text messages, QR codes, barcodes, and mobile optimized web pages. You can do coupons, sweepstakes, polls and plans start at $29/month with a free trial.

TellMyCell is useful if you want to give your customers a specific keyword to text in and receive a special offer (or any response really). You can have unlimited contacts and unlimited groups, but you pay on a per message basis. You can pay-as-you-go for five cents per message or plans start at $29/month after free trial.

Trumpia sells texts in packaged units (i.e. 500 or 1,000) and they don’t expire. You can use them in your text message marketing in a variety of ways, from appointment reminders to event coordination to standard marketing messages. Plans start at $25/month with 30-day free trial.

ReachPeople.com charges by the number of contacts and number of messages. They have a full free plan with up to 25 messages and 100 contacts. Paid plans start at $29/month. I like that they had a voice broadcasting option if you wanted to leave a voicemail for a group.

Simple Texting has one of those sites that is just clear and easy to grasp and the main screen calls out to business owners. I like that. You can integrate with social media like Facebook and Twitter. Free 30-day trial, then $15/month for up to 250 messages.

CallFire offers a variety of telephone-based services like IVR (interactive voice response – you know those automated attendant types) and a virtual call center service. But their SMS plan is a basic flat rate of three cents per message and it has a free trial.

SnapGiant knows that many small businesses (including restaurants and food service businesses)  use text message marketing and their page gently reflects that. You only pay for outgoing messages, not incoming, and unused messages roll over to the next month (that’s kind of cool). Plans start at $19.95/month after free 30-day trial.

Mozeo is another text platform with flat message pricing – five cents per message. Unlimited contacts, unused messages roll to the next month. You pay a one-time charge for keywords (as in your customer texts in PIZZA to your number to get a special offer). You get 10 free text messages to trial the service.

TXT180 offers 500 messages for $14.95 per month. Discounted to only $9.95/month if you prepay for 12-month contract. No free trial.

SMS Marketing has a one-time flat rate of $35 to setup your web-based text messaging account, then a per message fee. You get unlimited autoresponders and can schedule text message offers with ease. It even comes with one free keyword.

TextMagic is a text messaging service that you don’t even need a phone to use. You can forward your emails to this SMS service, too. You buy credits in 200 pack increments starting at $27. I discovered this UK-based service via a terrific post at the Content Marketing Institute: Why SMS is a Must for a Younger Audience.

Betwext is one of the only text message marketing companies that had unlimited keywords (which could be important if you intend to do a lot of different campaigns) and a low rate of only one cent per message. There is no monthly fee and that’s sure to shake up the marketplace.

Some Bonuses:

If you simply want to replace your mobile phone text plan for something less expensive, these five options are worth a look:

Go SMS Android App. Free texting. Handcent is another.

JaxtrSMS is sort of like Skype but just for texting. If you text another Jaxtr user, it’s free. Otherwise a low message fee based on destination country. Makes international texting pretty easy.

Kik Messenger  is texting for smartphones. Or more like texting with an instant messenger feel. Free.

Google Voice  is a free voice-over-IP phone (like Skype) but offers free texting, too.  You can send to up to five people at one time.

GroupMe is part of Skype and is a novel way to text a group of people. Totally free. Might not work in a business situation with a group of customers, but might be good for internal teams.

If you just want to be able to get Twitter or Facebook updates on a mobile device, but not cell phone type text messages, then Boxcar for iPhone, iPod Touch, and iPad is a notification app that allows you to get updates from many different web services (Curdbee, FourSquare, GitHub, Google Voice, just to name a few more). Free for the iOS world. Android and PC versions coming.

Notifo is another that handles notifications to the iOS platform.

If you’ve been contemplating how to offer your customers a way to get special marketing offers, via cell phone, then one of these 13 text messaging solutions will help. Like all services we review, I try to pick ones with transparent, affordable pricing and that make it easy for a busy small business owner to figure out. Let us know what services you’ve been using in the comments below.


Text Photo via Shutterstock

47 Comments ▼

TJ McCue - Product Editor


TJ McCue TJ McCue served as Technology/Product Review Editor for Small Business Trends for many years and now contributes on 3D technologies. He is currently traveling the USA on the 3DRV roadtrip and writes at the Refine Digital blog.

47 Reactions

  1. It’s my first time to read about Mozeo. Is it good? What do you think?

  2. Thanks for including Signal in your list! We offer an unlimited frees trial with 100 messages per month, so no risk in checking it out. We’re rolling out a bunch stuff over the next few weeks that people are going to pretty excited about.

  3. This is a great list. I think geotargeted apps are great as well (Foursquare, Whatspp or Yelp). They’re not quite SMS, but they definitely cater to mobile audiences.

  4. I second the warning about making sure you are using text messaging services approved and certified by the mobile carriers. Service providers operating on a 5 or 6 digit short code are the only ones permitted to send A2P messaging traffic on the mobile carrier networks.

    I’m happy to explain the ins and outs to anyone who is considering text messaging and isn’t sure what the difference is between certified and not permitted.

    • I’d like to learn more about permitted verses not permitted texts. So, are you saying http://www.betwext.com sends texts that aren’t permitted? Looks like they aren’t using a short code. What happens if you don’t use a “permitted” system?

      • Ryan,

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe what you are referring to is also called “unsolicited” text messages. If you are using text messaging for sales and marketing, you will want to make sure that you are sending SMS messages to people who want to receive them. There are many lawsuits which have been settled as well as are on going which are because of unsolicited text messages.

        Most often, whichever provider you choose will offer a mechanism for handling opt-ins and opt-outs. This way you are sending text messages to those who have expressly said they want to (by opting in) and you will no longer send text messages to anyone who as opted out.

    • Noel,

      Can you elaborate on the your suggestion to use services certified with mobile carriers.

      And Seth,

      you supported his claims implying long codes SMTP are somehow either illegal or inappropriate versus SMPP.

      What is the reasoning behind the comments?

      • Sure.

        Only providers using 5 or 6 digit short codes are technically certified by the mobile carriers. When you step outside of mobile marketing, there are some other routes, but if you’re looking to manage a list of opted in subscribers in the multiple hundreds or thousands, short codes are technically how you are supposed to go about this.

        I keep using the word “technically” because I believe in people doing whatever they feel is right and don’t want to get flamed by a mobile marketing company using long codes/virtual numbers, but they are supposed to be strictly for person to person messaging, not mass texting. It’s still the wild wild west out there, I’m just sharing the information I’ve heard (including an email directly from the President of the CTIA).

        SMTP = Email to SMS (sending emails to 4155551212@vtext.com for example)
        IMO, probably the worst way to do mobile marketing, the carriers watch this traffic closely because it is way too easy for spammers to set up and I’ve heard you’ll get blocked extremely fast.

        Long Codes/Virtual Texting Numbers
        Not nearly as strong as short codes because you’re still playing cat and mouse with mobile carrier spam filters (again, these are supposed to be for person to person. At any significant volumes these virtual numbers will get blocked. More people are having problems with Google Voice because they have internal filters (sending of the same message over and over for example to multiple numbers) so as to not set off carrier spam filters and get the GV number blocked.

        My company isn’t in mobile marketing (we focus on other uses/industries), so I’m not competitive with any of the companies listed (although quite shocked this list doesn’t include Tatango http://www.tatango.com as they seem to be a top tier mobile marketing company in the space), but I figured I would chime back in and reply to your note, since you asked.

        Finally, I’m not here to upset anyone who may be doing mobile marketing in any ways outside of short codes, I’m just sharing what knowledge and experience I have. Do whatever works best for you. If a company doesn’t use short codes, but they are knowledgeable about mobile marketing, go with your gut. Best of luck!

      • Sending one-to-many messages via long code or SMTP is not illegal. But that doesn’t mean you are immune to civil cases if someone is to sue you for possible spamming. If you run into a lawsuit, using something other than SMPP makes it hard to have a foot to stand on. The reason being, using a short code requires you to follow rules put in place by and audited by the CTIA. That affords you that you are at least doing what is considered best for those who you are marketing to.

        Noel is right, surprisingly, it is still the wild west in this medium of marketing and it is about how you choose to go about using the technology you are most comfortable using based on how you feel it comes across to the end recipient. After all, it is marketing and if you are trying to entice them to buy something from you, the first thing to do isn’t to make them dislike the way you are doing it.

        Regardless of the method, please make sure you use a provider that respects STOP, QUIT, END, CANCEL, UNSUBSCRIBE, or STOP ALL requests. It is just the right thing to do.

  5. Ditto on Noel’s comment about making sure that whichever SMS Marketing service you choose does use a carrier approved short code (SMPP) and not using long code (SMTP).

    The importance of SMS marketing is to provide quality messages that allow the recipient to perform an action. Whether it be “Redeem a coupon”, “An ending sale/promotion”.

    Also, when sending a offer/coupon, be sure to include an expiration so that employees aren’t having to deal with stragglers coming in to redeem. This also allows you to continue to send different offers/coupons.

    • Seth, there wasn’t a reply button under your response to my comment above, so I figured I’d reply here.

      I’m not referring to unsolicited messages. I’m referring to sending it through a carrier approved short code, not a long code. http://www.betwext.com is one of the services mentioned in the article, however, it looks like they use long codes. They are also very cheap. What trouble could I run into if I use a service that uses long codes? Are there legal implications, delivery issues, or other problems?

      • Hey Ryan,

        From a mobile marketing perspective, long codes are kosher as long as they follow the rules put in place by the wireless carriers (rolled up into one lowest common denominator standards by the MMA and administered by the CTIA).

        Short codes offer three advantages over long codes, they are (1) generally easier to use in terms of memory recall, (2) generally offer higher throughput then long codes, and (3) are generally less expensive than long codes.

        To elaborate:

        – re: #1, It’s easier to see a call-to-action (CTA) where you text a keyword to a 5-digit number vs a 10-digit number.
        – re: #2, at Signal we have a throughput of over 300 messages per second for a short code, vs where long codes are typically limited to 1 message per second
        – re: #3, at Signal, we charge a $0.01 per outbound text message, where as a long code would charge $0.0075 to $0.01 for both the inbound and outbound text message.

        Long codes (or really just regular phone numbers) are definitely great – just wanted to highlight the differences that I see between the two.

        Thanks,
        Jeff

      • In the eyes of the carriers, short codes are what should be used for mass marketing/sales messages. Using a provider which uses a short code means the provider is making sure they are complying with the rules, which then means you would be complying with the rules which the CTIA (http://www.ctia.org/) has setup. Whether right or not, short codes will be given priority delivery and also be able to receive metrics regarding being sent to carrier, received at handset, etc. While it can’t say whether it was read or not, there is a comfort level to it being received.

        Using a short code does not exempt you from legal trouble, as anyone can sue whenever they want (see: http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nhl-puck-daddy/fan-sues-pittsburgh-penguins-excessive-text-message-alerts-211205341.html),however, it might set you up to have a better defense as you were following industry best practices.

        Unfortunately, there is a lot of ambiguity in the text message sales/marketing arena. As it is now, we recommend siding with the carriers and going short code.

  6. Those stats are crazy! “Text Messages have a 98 percent read rate
    Text Messages have a 100 percent open rate” I wonder how many new web-based companies incorporate SMS marketing into their strategies at all?

  7. hi Duncan, i’m not saying those stats are accurate or true (noted above). I have read them in different reports. I question their validity, too. Question everything is a great motto (and bumper sticker)! But, one thing is sure — mobile is the future. Forget all the hype and just look around, right?

  8. Duncan, TJ – What’s interesting is that there’s no evidence behind that stat. The carriers don’t provide any mechanism to measure open rate. You can calculate delivery rate and click though rate depending short URL usage. We wrote a blog post about SMS click through rates a few months ago. We’ve been spending a lot of time around this area in our platform lately.

  9. RE: TJ’s reply
    Mobile sure is the future. Hard to know the way it will go with the Apps though. We’re debating whether to make an App or do a html5 version of the web app we’ve got. We’re favoring the cheaper html5 version at first.

    Re: Jeff’s reply
    …the other thing is that I don’t know about your phones, but on the phones i’ve had before, there is no mechanism by which to delete an SMS without opening it. So you either leave it unread forever and probably miss important messages because you don’t know the number of Unread SMSs changed, or you delete it…

  10. This is a great and very comprehensive list! We at Austin Scott Mobile Marketing offer many mass SMS as well as picture mail services, but take our offerings further with voice broadcasting, mobile coupons, text to screen, Facebook and Twitter integration and more. We offer a free trial with access to all of our features and support with helping you set up your mobile campaigns.

  11. Perhaps if you ever update this list you might consider our company Text Republic. Great list though I am familiar with many of these great companies especially Signal.

  12. This is a very good list. I’d like to add a new startup to the list: PriceMob. It is in a class of its own compared with the ones mentioned above, as it has a very narrow focus: generating more customers and sales from existing customers via text messaging. They only do this one thing, and I think they are on the right track to being the ones who do it the best. Check them out here, I think they’re still in BETA. Or, they’ve just launched last week. http://pricemob.co

  13. Text message marketing has many advantages in addition to the ones listed. I think a main one missed is the ability to create same day sales. If your business missed the sales goal for the lunch period or early in the week, send out a text blast to increase sales and meet or exceed your goals for that day or week.

  14. I’d like to add Clearstream into the above list.

    We offer free SMS marketing through the shortcode 97000. Our platform is user-friendly, we integrate with Facebook & Twitter, and we utilize Bitly to track clicks on links included in any text message blasts you send.

    Trevor Gehman

  15. Great article. No matter the platform you choose make sure it fits your needs. Talk to the provider about what you are looking to accomplish, metrics to benchmark success and resources you require.

    Now for a shameless plug:

    I would add TextSprout to the list
    -No contracts,
    -Cancel anytime,
    -Training included,
    -Complete Client Resource Center
    -Optional account management
    -Text credits roll over
    -Packages to fit every budget!

  16. Thank you for including Trumpia in your list of top providers!

  17. Hello,

    Please add onepgr.com to your list of service providers. Using OnePgr, businesses can create an entire page and invite their prospects or customers to the page by sharing the link using SMS or email. The page also offers integrated audio and video conferencing. Would appreciate any feedback.

    Best regards,
    Rajiv

  18. SMS marketing will for sure become even more “trendy” in 2015.

  1. Pingback: The Best Small Business Marketing News & Blog Posts of the Week — May 25, 2012 – DIYSEO

  2. Pingback: Creating Effective Text-Based Campaigns | RealSparx

  3. Pingback: Creating Effective Text-Based Campaigns |

  4. Pingback: Creating Effective Text-Based Campaigns « RealSparx Marketing

  5. Pingback: Can U Read Me Now? SMS for Small Business

  6. Pingback: Why SMS Marketing Can Boost Your Business « Writeca

  7. Pingback: Why SMS Marketing Can Boost Your Business | Writeca

  8. Pingback: Seattle Radio Advertising » Blog Archive Tracking your campaign » Seattle Radio Advertising

  9. Pingback: 10 Ways to Use Restaurant Text Marketing

  10. Pingback: Mobile advertising | Pearltrees

  11. Pingback: 5 Cost-Effective Ways to Make Your Business Mobile-Friendly | Direct Selling Education Foundation

  12. Pingback: 13 SMS Text Messaging Services for Marketing in...

  13. Pingback: Cost-Effective Ways to Make Your Business Mobile-Friendly | Short Code Nigeria

  14. Pingback: Using Customer Data to Improve Campaign Relevancy | Instant.ly

  15. Pingback: Mobile advertising | Pearltrees

  16. Pingback: Is your small business texting, and should it be? | Virtual Executive Personal Assistants of America (VEPAA™)

  17. Pingback: “Can I Get Your Digits?” 5 Ways Retailers Can Use Text Marketing |

  18. Pingback: 3 Ways to Integrate Text Messaging Into Your Customer Service -

  19. Pingback: Four Strategies to Boost Mobile Marketing Efforts for Your Small Business - Orapin Marketing + Public Relations | Orapin Marketing + Public Relations

  20. Pingback: 10 Ways to Use Restaurant Text Marketing | Epitome Marketing Consultancy

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

*

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>



Compare your business to the industry - Try our new tool