The SMS Marketing Guide

Despite the boom in smartphones and mobile internet, SMS remains one of the most effective methods of mobile marketing. In this guide we’ll take a closer look at SMS marketing services and providers, delving into why the method still very relevant, how to best choose a provider/gateway, how to start a campaign and how to best leverage SMS to achieve your marketing goals. We’ve also got interviews with some of the biggest movers and shakers in the SMS marketing world and a directory of the top SMS marketing agencies and platforms.


Is SMS Marketing Effective and Does it Work?

SMS marketing quick stats

Ever since the rapid rise of the smartphone, the humble text message has been somewhat overlooked by advertisers. It’s understandable, given how many exciting new marketing doors smartphone technology has burst open. But there’s still plenty of value in communication to customers via SMS. In fact, if used correctly, it can be one of the most powerful forms of digital lead generation and advertising available to marketers.

Firstly just look at the reach. All mobile phones are capable of sending and receiving SMS and most western nations – and many developing countries – have mobile phone market penetration in excess of 100%. Globally we’re talking 87% of the world’s population, according to the latest figures from the International Telecommunication Union. The same reach is not possible with other forms of mobile marketing, which are heavily reliant on mobile internet connectivity and high-powered smartphone devices.
Quick overview of UK provider TextLocal

High engagement
Not only does SMS have great reach, it’s also a very direct form of marketing and there’s plenty data backing-up its effectiveness over other mediums. A marketing email is opened on average around six hours after being sent, while a text message is read within four minutes. Open rates are also much higher with SMS messages compared to emails. Around 95% of marketing text messages are read, compared to around 20% of emails.
While SMS messages are limited to 160 characters typically, it’s also becoming common to embed hyperlinks within texts. Signal published a recent study on click-through-rates for SMS hyperlinks related to the retail sector and found a healthy average CTR of 6.16%, much higher than the 2.8% average for email hyperlinks. You can also create customer feedback polls, SMS-based coupon discount codes and competitions.
Once signed-up to an SMS campaign, opt-out rates are pretty low. Cellit published a study in June, where it found the average opt out rate for SMS campaigns was just 3.7%, or 37 subscribers for every thousand text messages sent.
Ok, so SMS may not be able to deliver the wide range of media available with other forms of digital marketing. But it’s still more flexible than you might think. These days nearly all SMS marketing platforms allow you conduct SMS polls, run competitions via texts, offer redeemable coupons, QR code SMS sign-ups, click-to-call links and two-way communications, encouraging customers to interact with your business. SMS can also be used to send ringtones, images and animations. It’s not just text.

SMS billboard ad

While running an SMS may be a more expensive than sending marketing messages via email, when you take into account the incredibly high engagement rates it can be very cost-effective and its getting increasingly cheaper. Newer platforms such as Tatango offer unlimited text message plans and instead charge you based on the number of SMS subscribers you have, which means the fees only increase in line with the reach of your campaign.
It’s not all roses…
Of course, SMS isn’t without its problems. It’s a highly personal channel and few people are willing to hand over their mobile numbers to companies they might not trust. This means you have to work very hard at building your subscriber list. Plus getting a number is just the start. You have to be very careful with the frequency of text messages, otherwise you risk greatly annoying customers and potentially ruining your businesses relationship with them. Unlike emails, you also have a very limited amount of words to play with in a text message. So your current copywriting practices would need a complete rethink in order to be more be clear and highly concise. We’ll tackle these issue further down the page.
A guide to NightLife’s bulk SMS platform

SMS marketing: A quick feature guide

Before we get started on how to run an effective SMS marketing campaign, lets go over a few of the basics first.
SMS shortcodes are 5 or 6 digit phone numbers that you’ll be assigned by an SMS provider in order to build your list of subscribers. These are easy-to-remember numbers that customers text your keyword to in order to sign-up for further messages, be they coupons or simple alerts. Shortcodes can be advertised across billboards, web ads and other channels. You will usually be charged a separate fee to create a shortcode with an SMS platform, although some platforms offer this for free.
A keyword is a word used in relation to a particular SMS campaign you are running. So you can have one shortcode number but multiple keywords related to different campaigns. For instance, a restaurant might request that customers text the keyword “Pizza” to the shortcode “56876” to sign up for pizza coupons, or text the keyword “burger” for coupons on burgers. As with shortcodes some companies will charge you per keyword, while others let you have unlimited keywords, all depending on the pricing structure.
SMS Broadcasts
SMS broadcasts are the basic service offered by SMS platforms. A broadcast is simply sending out information via SMS to your subscriber base, whether its a news alert for shoppers, or an appointment confirmation for healthcare providers.
Coupons are discounts sent via SMS that can be redeemed at a physical location or at an ecommerce website. So for instance, a customer can show a text message at a restaurant to get 10% off the meal, or enter a texted code when buying an item online to receive a discount.
SMS polling allows you to survey customer opinion via SMS, adding an extra layer of interactivity between you and your subscribers. You could use polling for a variety of purposes, such as gathering valuable customer feedback on your business to running promotions, or voting on what items should go on sale at your store.
Most SMS platforms offer competitions, letting you advertise your short code with a keyword to enter a contest. The platform will then typically let you randomly select a winner from the database of entries. Competitions can be great methods to build your subscriber lists, as long as it’s clear that users are opting into further messages when signing up.
Auto responders
An auto-responder is basically a system that lets you deliver automatic responses to customer texts. For instance if you’re promoting a sale, you can invite subscribers to text different keywords to automatically receive further information on different sale items.
2-way SMS
As the name suggests, 2-way SMS is the ability to respond to SMS messages from your customers. Typically an SMS provider will allow you to respond via their CMS and sometimes you can set-up the platform to receive and respond to text messages via your email client.
Video showing the speed of Tatango’s platform

Picking an SMS platform/Gateway SMS provider

So you’ve decided to delve into SMS marketing and you need to find an SMS platform (also called a SMS Gateway Provider, or simply SMS Provider) to work with. Thankfully there’s plenty of platforms to choose from – check the end of this article for a list – and over the last couple of years they’ve all begun to converge feature-wise. But you still need to consider a variety of factors before you dive in.

SMS poll by Mobivity

Coverage: An obvious one – does the platform serve your desired territory? Some providers offer global coverage, others only national. This should all be clearly stated on the website. But beyond that, you also need to ask what operators the providers work with (this probably won’t be advertised), as even on a national level coverage can be limited. Coverage can be particularly problematic if your buying an international service and you don’t know much about the operators in a foreign country. India for example has over 20 operators and that may serve different geographical locations. Are your customers more likely to be in one location than others? Make sure you find out the operators and cross-reference with coverage maps where available.
Features: These days most platforms offer all the standard features that we listed above, such as polling, contests and autoresponders. But make sure you double check that you’re getting the features you need. One often overlooked feature is two-way SMS, which allows you to send as well as receive text messages.
Account management and CMS: Most small businesses will want to cut costs and self-manage their campaign. But perhaps you don’t have the time or expertise and you want a managed account. Some SMS platforms won’t offer this, so check to make sure. Most of SMS management systems are web-based and very similar, but some will be better than others. Do they auto-add stuff like legally necessary opt out messages to your texts (very useful)? Do they allow you to add sub-users to accounts? Can you choose what networks to route messages through? But ultimately, if you are going to self-manage your campaign you’ll need to make sure the platform is clean and easy-to-use. The best way to ensure this? Stick with platforms offering a free trial.
Security: Chances are you won’t need high level encryption for a regular marketing SMS campaign, but perhaps you’re in the medical or financial industry or have some other reason to keep the contents of the messages secure. In that case make sure you ask the platform about their level of encryption and specifically whether they offer HTTP + SSL encryption.
Pricing: There are a variety of pricing structures depending on what platform you choose. Some offer prices per SMS, whereas others offer a credit-based currency system that may charge say 3 credits for a text to one country, and 2 to another, or 2 credits for a poll SMS and 1 for a regular SMS etc. Other platforms take different approaches, for instance – as we mentioned above – Tatango gives you unlimited SMS messages and instead charges you a monthly fee based on the number of your subscribers. Other fees to watch out for include keywords charges – many platforms will charge you for more than one keyword per campaign – and set-up fees, which will include shortcode charges.

Building your SMS subscriber list

First things first, you need to understand your audience and understand your own goals for the campaign. Building a subscriber list consisting of individuals in the finance industry, may be very different to building a list for a pizza restaurant. Every industry will have its own unique channels that you can leverage to build a subscriber list and you’ll need to think creatively in order to do this. Similarly, different marketing goals will require different strategies. Are you trying to drive traffic to a physical store? Then perhaps a couponing campaign is the best option. Want to promote an app? Then you’ll need to advertise your campaign in areas where its more likely to be seen by smartphone users. The more you understand about your goals and your potential subscribers, the better you can target. Nevertheless, there are some general guidelines that everyone can benefit from.

SMS ad example

Obviously, you need to make sure your keyword is easy to remember, as customers may only see it while speeding past a billboard, or hearing a radio ad, or something similar. You also need to make sure the keyword is easy to type, because using a keypad or touchpad can be frustrating for many users. So keep the keyword as relevant to your campaign or brand as possible, eliminate any special characters and try not to mix numbers and letters.
As we mentioned above, there may be a variety of places you can advertise your shortcode that are more effective depending on the industry you are in. But below is a list of places that pretty much anyone thinking of SMS marketing should consider.
Direct Mail , Business Card , Facebook , Twitter , Website , Flyer , Shirt , TV Screen , Window , Table Tent , Button , Radio , Guest Check , MySpace , Billboard , Email Newsletter , Blog , Product , Projector, Email Signature , Newspaper , Brochure , Automobile , Sticker , Menus , Magazine , Yard sign.
SMS ad top tips

  • The advertisement itself is incredibly important. Remember, you’re asking for someone’s mobile number and you have to win their trust.
  • It’s therefore very important that the subscriber knows exactly what they’re opting into. Are you sending them coupons, news alerts, fun trivia, or something else? Be transparent.
  • Tell subscribers how many texts they will be receiving. For instance “text SAVE for our coupon of the week”, or “sign-up for our monthly SMS deals” (this is mandatory in the US and other countries. Your SMS provider should be able to help with legal requirements, so ask them about it).
  • Make sure you include details of how to opt out of messages on the ad (again this is mandatory in some countries).
  • Provide a URL, number, QR code, or email address where subscribers can head for more information.
  • Indicate that message and data rates may apply to signing-up to the service (the exact phrase “Msg&Data rates may apply” is mandatory in the US).
  • Think creatively when it comes to getting subscribers. Run a competition that requires SMS entry, offer ringtones via SMS, or invite people to vote in a poll. As long as you’re clear in the ad about what the customer is opting into, it pays to be creative.
  • Finally pay careful attention to your copy-writing and the design of the ad. Read-up on advertising theory, or consult someone with ad creative knowledge. People don’t give up their mobile numbers easily, so you need to ensure the ad is really compelling.

Case studies

Here’s a few case studies taken from showing how some big brands and small business have approached SMS marketing. Hopefully these can give you some inspiration on what might work best for your business.
SMS case study – Harley Davidson

Dealership saw big increase in sales of discounted items during campaign period. The sale of T-shirts purchased on T-shirt Day was over 250 percent more than a normal day.
SMS case study – Baxter Avenue Morgue
Haunted house that aimed to build awareness before Halloween. More than 50 percent opted to receive future SMS messages following the campaign.
SMS case study – KSTV
Ran sweepstakes to find out what sport shows viewers were interested in. Over 54 percent of the campaign respondents opted in to receive future messages from the channel.
SMS case study – Bellterra Casino
Goal was to build a mobile database of customer contacts for future messaging campaigns. Almost 60% elected to double opt-in to receive additional messages from Belterra in the future.
SMS case study – Southwest Airlines
Southwest Airlines ran a competition to watch an NBA basketball game in LA. The campaign received 10,154 total entries and 4,220 unique entries
SMS case study – Eagle Claw Fishing Equipment
Released a biodegradable fishing line and used SMS to promote it during a trade event. Eagle Claw concluded that 23 percent of overall Eagle Claw product sales for the four-day event, were directly related to the SMS campaign.
SMS case study – Skinny Water
Skinny Water ran an SMS contest to win headphones. The campaign produced more than 2,100 sweepstakes entries and also increased their brand Facebook fan count by 1,300.
SMS case study – University of Louisville
The University of Louisville used SMS providers to keep students up to date with important information during fresher’s week.
SMS case study – Carraba’s Italian Grill
Carraba ran an test SMS coupon campaign. The restaurant aimed for a 5% redemption rate. In the end there were 443 participants, accounting for a 35% redemption rate.

Writing your SMS Messages

As with advertising your campaign, the nature of your text messages will be dependent on what industry you’re in and what you need to get across. But there are some hard and fast rules that everyone should be aware of.
Who are you?
Many SMS platforms we’ve talked to say one of the most common mistakes is not telling subscribers who you are in your messages. Because of the limited word count, businesses often forget or are too obscure in terms of referencing themselves – leading to a bunch of confused recipients. So remember: be clear who’s sending the message.

Skinny Water’s SMS contest

You don’t want to undo all that hard work building a subscriber list by irritating customers with too many text messages. It’s a very easy thing to get wrong and all it takes is one text too many to push people into un-subscribing. The key here is to understand your business and customers. If you’re a restaurant, then perhaps one text a week is appropriate, given the frequency of customer visits. But if subscribers are likely to interact with your business on a less frequent basis, then there’s no point bombarding them with texts every week.
The value
Before you send a text ask yourself what value your subscribers are getting out of that message. Are they getting a coupon? Is it vital information they need to know? Are you advertising a sale they should be aware of? Always make sure your text contains value for the subscriber before sending it. This is also an opportunity to leverage data on your subscriber list – that you may have collected via SMS polls or other means – and data on what offers and messages are most popular with subscribers. This will ensure a higher rate of relevancy and cut down on subs receiving unwanted texts that may prompt them to opt out.
Call to action
Ideally you’ll want some kind of call to action in your texts, whether its inviting subscribers to visit your store to redeem a coupon, or take advantage of a sale. Or if its an link to a landing page or a request to call a number. It’s also important to include an expiration date when it comes to any offers or coupons, as this protects you from anyone trying to use the same offer a year after the campaign ends, and encourages a sense of urgency and action.

SMS Marketing: Ask the experts

We had a chat with three of the most popular SMS providers to find out more on what makes the industry tick and what businesses should look out for when running an SMS campaign. First up is Alastair Shortland, CEO of provider TextLocal, which has won awards for its UK-based SMS platform and campaigns. Then we’ve got Dennis Becker, CEO of Arizona-based Mobivity, which counts big brands such as Disney, Kellogs and KFC among its clients and finally Derek Johnson, CEO and founder of Tatango, which has really made waves in the SMS industry with its intuitive platform and cost-effective pricing.

Alastair Shortland, CEO, TextLocal

What would you say is the hardest part of running an SMS campaign when you’re a small business?
Simply, growing your opt in list.  It is easy to do, but it does take time and a little effort.  For example, imagine Jim’s Fish Shop.  He can grow an opt in list of numbers by asking people to text in “Join our VIP members club, text FISH to 60777”.  He can also supplement this list with numbers collected on paper forms and imported into Textlocal or from his existing contact database.  Once you have the opt in list it is easy to send a message, in seconds, for pennies.  It is well worth the initial leg work!
What kind of industries do you think best fit SMS marketing and what industries do the majority of TextLocal’s clients come from?
Personally I am not a fan of the term “SMS marketing” – it is “SMS communication” and the technology should be used by every single business!  From hairdressers sending appointment reminders, schools sending snow closure alerts to parents, accountants sending post budget reports to clients – as well as 2-for-1 offers at local restaurants, harvest festival reminders at the parish church, rota filling at the local charity offices… the uses are endless.  If there is ever a requirement to instantly communicate a message to a group of people – SMS text and ONLY SMS text fills that requirement. Not email, not Facebook, not Twitter.
Have you had any experience using SMS to market mobile apps? Do you think SMS marketing could be effective for app developers?
Absolutely.  Again, grow that opt in list and fire a link to or a page that detects the phone and drives the customer to the correct app store.  Its very simple and takes only a few lines of code.  Using inbound SMS keywords (“text GAME to 60777 to download the new game”) you can autorespond with that link – much more powerful than a QR code which only works when you have an internet signal and the business doesn’t capture the mobile number – with SMS they do.
How does TextLocal’s pricing structure work. Are there any hidden costs to SMS marketing our readers should know about? 
We simply charge for SMS text credits bundles, the larger the bundle the cheaper it is.  Prices start at £4.99 for 100 texts – that is the minimum spend.  There are no other charges – hidden or otherwise.  Our prices are very competitive for high quality UK routed texts.  People should beware of “grey routes” where messages are sent outside the UK and routed back in again – yes you can get cheaper texts, but you can’t guarantee deliverability, you can’t always set the “sender name” and you don’t get delivery reports.  Also, beware “SIM farms” where unscrupulous people send out messages using SIM cards in breach of the operator fair usage policies.
What kind of analytics are available with SMS?
You can track if a SMS has been delivered, and if you embed a URL in the message using Textlocal we can track if the link has been clicked, and gather information about the phone.  I believe we are unique in offering these analytics as part of an online SMS text service.  We can track links clicked to any website whether it is hosted with Textlocal or not.
What’s the most popular service other than SMS broadcasts?
MMS broadcasting (audio, pictures and short videos) are popular as well as surveys, polls, voting competitions and – most importantly – mobile web pages.  SMS text is the pipework that connects people to the mobile internet – grow the opt in list, create a simple webpage (flyers, football fixture list, specials board for restaurant) and attach to the SMS.  Our clients create thousands of these pages per week – all free of charge – and attach them to their messages.  So much cheaper than normal leaflets and flyers, high impact – and eco friendly too!
How big is the problem of SMS spam and how important do you think it is for companies to be sensitive to this issue?
There are two forms of SMS spam.  The really dirty kind, where people use stolen SIM cards to blast our millions of messages to sequential/randomly generated numbers in the hope that someone replies – which is damaging to the whole business text industry because it fuels the perception that mobile messaging is intrusive.  Why the operators are not doing more to prevent it is hard to fathom, after all, how hard would it be to detect 50 identical messages leaving a SIM card and lock it down?  The second kind of spam is where a business purchases “opt in” data from a broker and sends out a promotion.  However, how could it possibly ever be true opt-in data – has the end user requested to receive marketing from that specific sender?  Of course not, so the sender is simply wasting their time and money.  As long as a business is sending messages to customers who have chosen to receive them and they offer a simple optout path (reply STOP) then they are compliant.
Where do you see SMS marketing going in the next few years? How will it cope with the threat from newer forms of mobile marketing?
I expect business SMS messaging to continue to grow exponentially for the foreseeable future, as more businesses realise the potential of communicating with all their customers in seconds for pennies.  P2P applications like Blackberry Messenger, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger are not a threat because they can not be tapped into by businesses – SMS text is one simple channel for any business to communicate with any handset, this will always be the case.  Facebook itself is great, although neither myself or most of my own friends don’t use it regularly so any time limited promotion or important announcement could go unnoticed for weeks.  As for Twitter, finding that 2-for-1 deal at my local restaurant will be easily missed in the 2000 other tweets that swarm through my feed each day.  SMS text cuts through all this – you simply opt in to receive alerts from your favourite businesses, services and community groups and it comes straight to your inbox.  Whatever new forms of mobile marketing arrive, SMS text should always be the very first mobile strategy implemented by any business – people are too eager to jump on bandwagons like QR and Apps, but SMS has been around for years, hits every phone on the planet and 90% of businesses have not even considered it yet.
What’s your top three tips for any newcomers looking to run an SMS campaign?
Grow your opt in list, keep your message relevant, timely and interesting, imagine you are creating an “intimate ultra-VIP fan club” for your best customers and you won’t go wrong!

Dennis Becker, CEO, Mobivity

What’s the hardest part of setting up and running an SMS campaign?
Knowing your customers. The key to any marketing campaign – whether mobile, SMS, or otherwise – is knowing how to communicate with your customers. As David Ogilvy says, “If it doesn’t sell, it isn’t creative.” While not all SMS marketing campaigns are dedicated to sales, many are. And unfortunately, many of the small businesses out there don’t have the time or resources to work with focus-groups or have in depth customer analysis like the big guys do. So the quicker you get to know your customers, and how to best communicate with them, the sooner you’ll be able to see higher and more successful results with your mobile marketing campaign.
What’s your top tips for any newcomers looking to run an SMS campaign?

Learn about your customers as much as possible, they’re who you’re communicating with and who matter most. SMS marketing is much less of a sales tool, and much more of a communication tool – the more businesses use SMS as a method to begin a communication with a customer the more they will see loyal and returning customers, which will generate long-term and higher revenue than any other marketing tool could provide. Ensure that you’re picking the right provider for your needs – many mobile marketing companies will sign up and forget about their customers, but a successful mobile marketing campaign isn’t born in a day, it must be nurtured and tweaked based on customer-base and success rates; it is important to understand that each successful SMS campaign is just as unique and specific as the customers who receive them.

What kind of industries do you think best fit SMS marketing and what industries do the majority of Mobivity’s clients come from?
Mobivity has, in our six-year history, worked with a wide-range businesses and industries. We have worked in everything from live events with CNN and the NFL to connection campaigns with clients ranging from small businesses to Barack Obama’s 2008 mobile campaign. Our primary focus currently is the Quick Service Restaurant industry. We have corporate relationships with SONIC Drive-In, Jamba Juice, and Chick-fil-A nationwide, and have support nationwide roll-outs for each. We have experienced tremendous results in the QSR industry, which is why that is our current and primary focus. QSR’s love the ability to communicate with their customers in a direct, instant, and welcomed form, and the customers love the personalized way they receive messages and specials.
Have you had any experience using SMS to market mobile apps?

We have aided in the use of an SMS campaign to help market mobile apps before, and see similar results to nearly any other campaign. The fact of the matter is that SMS messages have a 95% read rate, and are often read within 15 minutes of receipt. Regardless of what message you’re trying to get in the hands of your audience, SMS has proven to be a successful way to achieve business goals. Mobile is much less of a question of “should we,” and has slowly turned into a question of “HOW should we.”
How does Mobivity’s pricing structure work and are there any hidden costs to SMS marketing our readers should know about?
Our pricing structure is primarily based on the features we offer. While we have seen success in the popular Message-Based and Subscriber-Based plans in the past, our platform offers the ability for businesses to communicate with their customers in a variety of ways, and we’ve found that bundling together the best of our products into packages and having a small monthly-fee for accessing these features has worked best. We use a simple software-as-service business model, which has no hidden fees to businesses looking to enter into the mobile marketing arena.
What kind of analytics are there available with SMS?
Unfortunately this is one of the key issues with mobile marketing today. While mobile is inherently successful, it doesn’t offer the same type of strict and intensive analytics that online-based marketing does. While we do offer in-depth reporting on opt-in, opt-out, and message success rates, these sorts of things can be very difficult to track.
How important is it to avoid spamming your subscribers?
SMS spam is absolutely a plague on the mobile marketing industry. As honest mobile marketers will always know, the ability to have direct, instant, and welcomed communication with customers through a mobile phone, one of the most personalized and attached pieces of technology humanity has ever seen, is an incredibly huge burden to bear. Even with explicit consent and permission to send an SMS message to a customer, it is far too simple to alienate and lose them, making it even more important for mobile marketing companies to act in an ethical manner to prevent the industry and consumers from turning away from mobile marketing completely.

Derek Johnson, CEO, Tatango

What makes Tatango different from the other SMS platforms out there?
What sets Tatango apart from other SMS platforms out there is how easy our platform is to use, it takes under 30 seconds to set up a campaign and send your first message. If you go to some of our competitors sites and try and send a message it takes forever to figure out how and there is no real-time support to help. Here at Tatango, we try and make our platform as easy to use as possible and if you do have any problems or need assistance we have an amazing support team who can help you out anytime you need it.
What would you say is the hardest part of running an SMS campaign when you’re a small business?
Probably the hardest part of running an SMS campaign for a small business is growing their subscriber lists, but the great thing about Tatango is we provide all of the necessary tools to help grow your campaign lists.
What kind of industries do you think best fit SMS marketing and what industries do the majority of Tatango’s clients come from?
The Tatango clients are extremely diverse, which just goes to show that everyone can utilize SMS marketing. In this day in age the majority of people have a cellphone that they keep within arms reach of them at all times. Whether it’s for a business communicating with their customers or an organization updating members, people are starting to prefer text communication and Tatango is here to help.
Have you had any experience using SMS to market mobile apps? Do you think SMS marketing could be effective for app developers?
Yes, one of our Tatango Customers Pirq used SMS to market their mobile app which has seen great results. Using SMS marketing for app downloads is very effective because it gives you the ability to send the direct link to your app download page through a simple text message. This decreases the friction experienced when downloading mobile apps, which in turn increases the amount of downloads for the app.
What’s your top three tips for any newcomers looking to run an SMS campaign?
I think the three tips I would give anyone looking to run an SMS campaign are:
  • The importance of following the opt-in requirements from the TCPA. You must have written consent from the subscriber before you can send them messages from your SMS list. Otherwise you can face HUGE financial repercussions.
  • Make sure your messages have value. Every message sent from your campaign should have a purpose, don’t just send subscribers fluff messages that have no real content. Think of it this way, if people were charged a quarter per message, would they still want to be part of your SMS campaign?
  • Track the success of your SMS campaign. For the majority of businesses the goal is to increase revenue, it’s important that you track how much business is generated from your SMS campaign at the point of sale. This shows you how successful it is and how much business is generated.
What was the thinking behind Tatango’s pricing structure and are there any hidden costs to SMS marketing in general that our reader should be aware of?
When we started Tatango we looked at the market and how other companies priced their plans and what we found was that they were all extremely confusing and had a lot of hidden fees and charged per Keyword and Message sent. We wanted our pricing plans to be as far as possible so we decided to mimic the pricing structure for email marketing that has a very simple upfront pricing plan with no hidden fees. Our pricing for Tatango is what you see is what you get.
What’s the most popular service other than SMS broadcasts?
People seem to really like our  Autoresponder campaigns, especially those in the real estate industry. This campaign allows people to text-in for more information and is a great way for people to request more information straight to their mobile phone.
How big is the problem of SMS spam and how important do you think it is for companies to be sensitive to this issue?
SMS Spam is becoming a huge problem and is something we do not take lightly. SMS spam not only negatively affects the people who receive the unwanted text messages but it also makes people wary of text message marketing as a whole. The more SPAM messages people receive from companies the less likely they will opt-in to a legitimate campaign. It is imperative that companies are aware of the TCPA regulations for SMS messages and comply with the rules.

SMS marketing companies and tools

Below is a global list of SMS providers and agencies that specialise in SMS marketing. If there’s a company you think we’ve left out, then let us know.
Mobile Storm – Mobile marketing company that provides its own SMS marketing platform that allows you to send out mass SMS texts containing calls to actions.
Snap Giant – SMS and social marketing platform that lets you send text ads to promote offers. Works with short codes that you invite users to sign-up with over social media.
TXT Impact – SMS platform that lets you use short codes to build your mobile list and send leads special offers, contests, and mobile coupons.
Tatango – SMS marketing company that provides the full range of SMS services, such as SMS contests, bulk broadcasts, SMS polls and autoresponders.
Mobivity – SMS marketing service designed for local businesses, with an emphasis on restaurant businesses. Uses SMS polling, SMS customer feedback and QR codes.
TextMarketer – UK-based SMS marketing company that provides low cost SMS software with no monthly fees or contracts, letting you use shortcodes and send bulk SMS.
Signal – Lets you create mobile-optimised web sites, QR codes and coupons and then share them via its SMS marketing platform.
Clickatell – Marketing company that offers a range SMS-related marketing tools including short codes and an SMS campaign manager. Aimed more at agencies.
Wham Mobile – Mobile SMS marketing company that offers a range of SMS-services, such as SMS contests, SMS voting and SMS marketing with text coupons.
Mfusion – SMS marketing platform that offers a range of features such as competitions, data lists, SMS to email, SMS coupons and more.
Trumpia – Mobile marketing company that specialises in SMS. Offers the full range of SMS marketing services such as coupons, QR codes, and SMS voting.
Text Magic – SMS platform that provides you with mobile sign-up forms for your website to help grow your SMS database. Also provides multi-lingual SMS text marketing.
Firetext – SMS marketing platform that specialises in schools and nuseries, hotels and retail industries. Has big name clients such as Pizza Hut and Peugeot.
Mobilla – White label SMS marketing and messaging platform for agencies. Lets you sell interantional SMS services using your own branding.
Promo2Cell – US-based SMS marketing platform that offers mobile coupons, event invitations, mobile contests and alerts. Also offers white label service.
Wire2Air – Mobile marketing agency that offers bulk SMS, email 2 SMS, polls and coupons. Specialises in health, finance and media industries.
Oxygen 8 – SMS platform that handles targeting, delivery and analysis of messages. Offers all the typical SMS services and works with big name clients such as Unilever and Phones4U.
Anchor Mobile – SMS marketing platform for enterprises that offers white label solutions. Operates in US, Canada, Mexico, Agentina, Columbia and Brazil.
Brick&Mobile – Mobile technology providers that offers QR, mobile CMS and SMS platforms for agencies and businesses.
CellTrust – SMS marketing platform that claims a global coverage of more than 200 countries and 800 mobile operators. Offers a range of services including 2 way SMS.
GoTextTalk – US-based SMS marketing platform, offering messages from $0.02 and keywords form $20 per month. Clients include Burger King and Arby’s.
Bulk SMS – India-based SMS provider that offers coupons, autoresponders, polling and other features for the Indian market.
Bulk SMS Ghana – SMS provider based in Ghana, Africa. Doesn’t look like it offers much beyond basic bulk SMS services.
TextNigeria – SMS provider offering bulk messages and short codes. Based in Lagos, Nigeria.
Alitria Inc – Offers a range of SMS services, including bulk messaging, MMS, premium SMS, as well as other mobile marketing services. Based in Spain.
High Connexion – Marketing agency based in France, offering SMS bulk messaging, campaign management, SMS coupons and other services.
TextLocal – UK based and award-winning SMS provider offering bulk SMS and two SMS. No contests or polling features.
SMS Gateway Center – Indian SMS provider offering bulk SMS services. Has a few big name clients including Samsung and the State Bank of India.
One Way SMS – SMS provider based in Thailand. Offers simple one-way bulk SMS services.
Media Burst – UK-based SMS provider offering 2  way bulk SMS services. Also offers email to SMS platform, letting you send messages via Outlook.
Trumpia – SMS gateway provider based in the US and offering 2 way SMS, coupons and live support. Looks like it has a focus on restaurant industry, with clients such as TGI Fridays, Wendy’s and Hard Rock Cafe.
HotBulk SMS – International SMS provider based in the US. Offers a range of services and includes a wide range of territories. Also touts its strong SMS encryption tech.
Info2Mobi – International SMS provider delivering to over 200 countries and 550 networks. Doesn’t look it offers much beyond one way bulk SMS.
SumoText – SMS provider based in the US and covering 98% of the US and Canadian population. Offers 2 way SMS and a free trial.
Betwixt – Broadcast SMS marketing platform based in the US. Offers pricers from 1 cent per message and unlimited keywords.
CRM Text Solutions – Provides broadcast SMS and two-way SMS for small and medium sized businesses in the US. Claims to have its own patented short code allocation tech.
ExciteM – SMS provider that focuses on instant polling campaign, allowing companies to gather feedback from customers. Based in the US.
Info-Beep – SMS provider that focuses on schools and non-profit organisations. Also offers white label reseller program. Based in the US.
MindMe – SMS provider designed for SMEs. Offers broadcasts, coupons, surveys and two way messaging. Based in San Diego.
Insermo – Offers email, social and SMS marketing services. Based in Melbourne, Australia.
LimeCellular – Full white label SMS platform that features billing, mobile coupons, and advanced branding and themes. Based in US, with offices in UK.
TextMarks – SMS marketing platform used by clients such as Microsoft and Ebay. Offers a free trial and is based in the US.
Mailboto – Offers bot email marketing and SMS marketing services. Free trial of the platform is available. Based in San Francisco.
Malvern  – Offers a range of mobile marketing services including SMS broadcasts. Based in Chicago.
SimpleTexting – SMS marketing platform offering coupons, bulk messages and other typical SMS services. Based in New York.
Mobilitrix – SMS provider that specialises in providing reward solutions to your customers, such as coupons and gift vouchers. Based in South Africa.
Mobilozophy – Offers text messaging services such as couponing and competitions, as well as other mobile services such as landing pages and QR codes. Based in US.
Slick Text – SMS platform with a variety of features such as automatic opt outs and detailed analytics. Based in US.
NatMobi – SMS marketing company focusing on SMS coupons. Also offers mobile website services. Based in US.
4Info – Mobile marketing company that also provides SMS services, such as coupons and bulk messaging. Clients include The Weather Channel and USA Today. Based in US.
Squib – Provides “affordable” SMS marketing software for SMEs working with Mac OS. Based in Chicago.
TellMyCell – Offers basic SMS services to small and big businesses. Has free trial. Based in the US.
NumberText – SMS provider offering a variety of services. Also provides a free trial of the platform. Based in Utah.
Panacea Mobile – Platform that lets you send bulk SMS from a traditional CMS as well as from mobile applications. Based in the US.
ProTexting – SMS provider based in New York. Offers locations based texting, mobile texting, text-to-win and surveys.
TextMarketer – UK-based SMS provider that offers bulk SMS and two-way messaging. Provides a free trial.
Ruxter – Mobile site creation tool that integrates SMS. Letting you market your site via text messaging. Based in US.
SMS Global – SMS platform based in Melbourne Australia, with global offices. Offers two-way SMS, bulk messaging and other services.
ShopText – Mobile marketing platform that focuses on SMS solutions for retail businesses, such as coupons and offer alerts. Based in US.
Twilio – SMS API company that lets you build text messaging into your app. Supports analytics and unicode.
Clockwork – SMS API that that lets your apps send texts from anywhere in the world. Used by Sky and Kellogs.
Nexmo – Cloud-based SMS API that lets you send and receive bulk messages at wholesale rates. Offers free trial.
SMSified – Lets you build SMS features into your applications with pay-as-you-go pricing. Clients include Comcast, HP and Pfizer.
Tropo – API that lets you add voice and SMS support to your applications. Texts from as low as $0.01. Features a free trial.
Guide to SMS Marketing
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