Update: This page has been updated to include information on text message marketing pricing.
If you're searching for the best text message marketing service for your small business, you, like lots of other small business owners, probably feel overwhelmed with how many services there are, not to mention how many pricing plans there are, features, etc. To help you find the right service for your business, we studied and evaluated dozens of services. In this guide, we outline our best picks, the important features you should look for in a service, we answer readers' questions and touch on the regulations you need to be aware of before you start sending texts to your target audiences.
Prices for text message marketing vary by provider and typically include a per-text cost and the cost of renting keywords for campaigns. Most providers offer monthly plans that allow you to pay for texts and keywords together. There are free plans as well as plans that can cost upward of $4,000 per month, with a variety of features offered at different price points. For example, a free monthly plan will limit you to a very low text cap and no keywords, while a $4,000 plan allows you unlimited keywords and 225,000 text credits.
Other providers offer annual or pay-as-you-go plans that are priced depending on how much you use the service.
Text message marketing services should do much more than just send texts. They are full-scale marketing solutions that help you engage with your audience, track results and improve customer service.
It's understandable when you're looking for a text message marketing solution to not know exactly what features you need. Below are the features we think businesses will find most valuable:
Analytics and reports: Any text message marketing solution worth its salt will offer helpful reports about your campaigns, contacts and keywords that you can use to improve future campaigns.
Automation: The best text message marketing companies offer automation tools. These tools are helpful if you want to send out the same text message on a regular basis, such as recurring reminders.
Contact management: Contact lists are vital to successful text message marketing campaigns. If it's hard to manage your contact list or it's full of old numbers, your contacts won't receive your message and your campaigns won't succeed. The best solutions make it easy to add contacts, import existing lists and scrub lists to ensure only active numbers are on it.
Customization: The best text message campaigns are personalized. Some solutions capture customer data, such as the person's full name, birthday, ZIP code and more, which open up the possibilities your business has with its marketing campaigns.
Drip campaigns: With this feature, you can send out automated customer journeys that are triggered based on conditions you set.
Free incoming text messages: The best text message marketing companies offer free incoming text messages.
Integrations: Some text message companies integrate with other platforms, such as MailChimp and Constant Contact.
Message templates: If you send the same text message frequently, look for a solution that lets you create and save templates so you can send messages faster.
Multimedia messaging: Some services allow you to send pictures, videos and audio clips.
Mobile keywords: Build your contact list with mobile keywords. The best solutions allow you to choose custom keywords and track the use of these keywords.
Scheduling: You should be able to schedule text messages in advance to go out any date or time.
Surveys: Gather customer feedback with polls and surveys. The best solutions make it easy to gather feedback with these tools.
Text-to-landline: Text-to-landline lets you send and receive text messages through our business landline phone number with no changes to your voice service.
Mobile marketing can be a great tool for your business, but SMS marketing is not a free-for-all. There are some laws and best practices you should follow and consider when you plan your campaigns.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which the Federal Communications Commission developed, has laws in place that you must follow when you're collecting contacts and sending out text messages. Not everything in the TCPA applies to text message marketing, but it's still a good idea to review these laws and ensure you comply. One of the requirements of the act is that you must get permission from each contact before you start sending mass text messages to them. Also, you can only send texts between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. This specific rule refers to the time zone of the person you are texting – not the time zone from where you are sending messages.
CTIA and MMA
The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) and the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) have similar guidelines on appropriately using text message marketing. These guidelines are not laws, but they provide best practices you should follow. Here are some of the CTIA's and MMA's guidelines:
Don't use the term "free" unless you have a free-to-end-user program.
All advertising should include the program name, production description and quality, link to terms and conditions, stop instructions, and a note that message and data rates may apply. Alternatively, you can have all this information available when the customer texts HELP.
Get opt-in approval prior to sending messages.
Allow your customer the choice of opting out.
Maintain opt-in and opt-out records for at least six months.
Do not advocate the use of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs.
You may need to require age verification for some marketing campaigns.
To find the best text message marketing services for businesses, we started with more than 20 reputable companies based on our research and other review websites.
Next, we eliminated vendors with outdated websites and hard-to-use dashboards. We also eliminated providers that didn't offer the key features we looked for in text message marketing solutions.
After further research into each of the vendors, we cut down our list to nine vendors: Avochato, EZ Texting, Heymarket, Mobiniti, Mozeo, SimpleTexting, SlickText, Textedly and Trumpia.
From there, we conducted in-depth research into the remaining services. We scrutinized their plans and pricing, read user comments and reviewed Better Business Bureau ratings and complaints. We signed up for free trials, evaluating the dashboard, sending out test messages and adding and eliminating contacts. Once we narrowed down the list to our three finalists – EZ Texting, SlickText and SimpleTexting – we contacted each company posing as a small business owner to evaluate their customer service.
Common Text Message Marketing Questions & Answers
Have a text message marketing question of your own?
Primary means of communication are e-mail, voice, text and social media. A text will often get a reply when you've can't get a timely reply to a voice mail or e-mail. Also, use LinkedIn, Facebook and Twitter more and more to connect with clients that have been difficult to get in touch with. This works very well with new clients that you are just beginning to work with you. In the more professional membership culture of a LinkedIn, people get the opportunity to actually know something about you...
I don't like doing self-promotion but I have a mobile distribution platform that can send single or multiple messages, these can also be scheduled and has a full reporting system.
It also has a mobile landing page application that creates mobile landing pages and provides a unique URL which can be added to your text messages if that's of use.
I've posted a couple of videos which can be viewed at the following...
Collette: As reminders or as alerts, I think text messages are great. They cut through the clutter and get the users attention when needed. As a lead nurture tool to help move a prospective client from awareness to purchase, I do not think they are valuable. I think email provides a better means of moving a prospective client down the funnel. I know if I started receiving text messages with the frequency that I do emails, I would start opting out like crazy because it would be too...