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.
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 services that can make it easy and affordable; some are completely free if you keep your efforts small and focused:
TXT180  offers 500 messages for $19.95/monthly or $14.95/annually. Other plans are available for other volumes of messages. Includes “text 2 win,” text 2 vote,” “birthday messages,” many other features, and reports. They offer a 15-day free trial that includes 100 messages.
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.
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 14-day trial, then prices start at $45/month for up to 1,000 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 pay-as-you-go SMS plan is a basic flat rate of five cents per message. Or you can go for a monthly bundled package starting at $99 per month.
Mozeo  is another text platform with flat message pricing – three 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 the word PIZZA to your number to get a special offer). You get 10 free text messages to trial the service.
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 100 pack increments starting at $4 (4 cents per text message). 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 few 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 two cents per message. Monthly plans start at $9 per month for 3 keywords or $19/month for unlimited keywords.
Trumpia  sells texts in packaged units (i.e. 10,000 or 25,000) 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 $142/month – provided you prepay for 2 years. The lowest monthly plan is $285/month.
Groovv Offers  is a text, email and social marketing solution by Total Merchant Services. Groovv Offers acquired Fanminder, one of the SMS text messaging services included on this original list. Groovv does not make pricing public on its website.
Editor’s note: Since this original article was published, the following five SMS text messaging services no longer appear to be operational. We’ve left them in for historical reference purposes.
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.
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.
ReachPeople 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.
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.
Notifo is another that handles notifications to the iOS platform.
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.
JAXTR MOBILE (Formerly 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.
If you’ve been contemplating how to offer your customers a way to get special marketing offers, via cell phone, then one of these 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.
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Text  Photo via Shutterstock