Text Messaging Marketing Using SMS Gateways

If you want to get your feet wet doing text messaging marketing, a great way to try it out is by using a Web-based do-it-yourself service much like the e-mail marketing service Constant Contact, which basically broadcast text messages to your subscriber list and are a way to allow visitors to your Web site opt-in to receive text messages.

If you want to see an example of Text Messaging in action, visit Verizon’s Vtext.com page to send a message to someone you know. But if your goal is to build a text message subscriber list, the vtext.com example won’t help you, though it’s a nice feature of the Web site.

Like soliciting signups to an e-mail newsletter, you should offer your target audience something compelling enough to give you their phone number. For a text messaging campaign for a retailer, for example, you might offer to send subscribers notices of special sales or celebrity appearances or even text message-only coupons.

Your content must, by the very nature of the medium, be short and sweet. You are limited to 160 characters when using text messaging.

Two services I recently researched were Clickatell and Textalert.

Clickatell

Clickatell’s headquarters are in Cape Town, South Africa.

As do all the others I’ve researched, their “Communicator” service includes bulk delivery and a list upload function so you can import delimited subscriber lists from your internal databases or services such as Constant Contact. But in addition to that, they also offer the ability to send personalized messages with your subscriber’s first name dropped into the text of the message and a customized sender address, so your subscribers would see "Your Company’s Name" in the from field instead of a number when they get the text message.

Finally, according to their online pricing calculator, their pricing starts at about five cents a message, as opposed to either the 15 cents a message the others charge or a flat $24.95/month fee another service charges for unlimited usage. But since they bill in Euro’s, you’ll need a Euro calculator to figure out your costs.

Beware, though, because Clickatell does have more fees than what they display at their site upon sign up. We found out about them during testing when trying to troubleshoot an error message we were getting; the help section explained that the reason we were getting the error message was that we needed to buy a “shortcode,” basically, a five-digit cell number specifically designed for text messaging. The set up fee is about $700 with an additional $700 a month for the service. Needless to say, I was extremely annoyed.

Textalert

Textalert doesn’t have a personalization function like Clickatell, but it works and it’s far less expensive because you are not required to buy a shortcode. The cost, from the calculator on their site, is $161.25 per 1000 messages, $16.55 per 100 messages, or $1.70 per 10 messages (you buy them in blocks of 10, 100, or 1000 messages). The Textalert site does say on it that there are no additional charges and there are not.

Textalert was easy to configure and use. While it is limited to one-way communication–since you don’t buy a shortcode, you don’t have the capability to respond to subscribers replies to your text message–and it does not offer the customization that Clickatell does, if you don’t need those features, Textalert is a solid and definitely affordable service.

Textalert’s customer service is done exclusively through e-mail but they respond quickly. Clickatell encourages e-mail queries for technical support but the site also lists phone numbers–to South Africa and the UK–so those charges apply.

Text Messaging Links

  • SMSdelivery.net – a web-based system that creates, delivers, and tracks text messages.
  • 160Characters.org – The site of the SMS & mobile messaging association.
  • textually.org – all about text messaging and how cell phones are being used around the world. The blog is produced by Emily Turrettini from Geneva, Switzerland.

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About David Erickson

David Erickson is principal of e-Strategy Media, a digital marketing consultancy based in Minnesota. David has extensive experience in digital marketing and is often used as an expert source by media and asked to speak on the topic before organizations and to sit on panel discussions.