You might think you already have a good understanding of text messaging. After all, who doesn't know how to send a text message these days? That being said, business text messaging is a lot more complex. Do you know the difference between a short-code and a long-code? Did you know that you can text from a toll-free number? Do you know the costs, restrictions, and legal risks of each of these methods?
When I say business text messaging, I'm not simply referring to how employees communicate with customers or leverage text as a marketing tool. Keep reading, and we'll answer the questions above and help you understand when and where to use text messaging as part of an overall communication strategy.
Aren't all text messages the same?
Yes and no. At a basic level, text messages are delivered to mobile phones, tablets, desktops/laptops, or other devices. They can also be sent over a cellular network or an Internet connection.
Messages have also evolved beyond SMS to now include MMS. SMS is an acronym for "Short Message Service" and is the oldest, most widespread, and frequently used texting technology that is supported by every single mobile network and device today. MMS is an acronym for "Multimedia Message Service" and is most popularly used to send pictures or images.
The method in which text messages are delivered is where they differ. Each method has restrictions that you should be aware of when selecting the right solution for your business.
The method most familiar to people is long code texting or basically texting over a standard local phone number. While local numbers are widely available and easily recognized, they have limitations that can impact business usage. The biggest restriction a business should be aware of; delivery is limited to 100 msgs/hour and 500 msgs/day. Carriers highly restrict local number texting to prevent marketing spam. Simply put, local number texting is not meant for business usage, but rather personal communications.
The second method is short-code texting. Short-codes are often associated with automated services to deliver mass messages to thousands of recipients. There aren't really delivery limits on short-codes, but the numbers are expensive to lease and providers often share numbers among all their customers. Our own short code service uses 292929 with each customer having a unique keyword. While this is very effective for delivering urgent messages to many contacts at once, it isn't good for managing individual replies or conversations with customers. In "short" (sorry for the bad pun) it's good for marketing and mass messaging scenarios.
The final method, and also the newest, is toll-free texting. This is a hybrid model of short-codes and long-codes, the best of both worlds. Toll-free texting isn't as restricted as long-codes but is better for conversational texting than short-codes. Additionally, toll-free numbers carry an immediate association with business and are much less expensive than short-codes.
There are also systems that let you text by tapping into mobile carriers email systems. You simply type your message in an email and then send it to an email address like email@example.com and the message will be delivered to that Verizon user. However, these systems are unreliable and dependent on you knowing the mobile carrier of the contact.
What are the real costs of business text messaging?
There is an endless supply of text messaging providers available to businesses. Like most services on the web today, digging through the fine print to uncover hidden fees and charges can make it challenging to determine the real costs involved. Here's a quick breakdown of pricing models you will likely come across:
- Monthly w/Unlimited ($90/month with unlimited messages)
- Monthly w/Set Messages ($49/month for 2000 messages)
- Monthly w/Unlimited Messages to Some Contacts ($35/month for unlimited mesages to 100 contacts)
- Pay As You Go (5 cents per credit)
- Customized Packages (submit a quote)
Beware of "unlimited" plans over long-codes. As mentioned above, long codes are restricted so these aren't truly unlimited. Additionally, you should also be on the lookout for hidden charges. Many service providers charge additional fees for extra features, additional users, and premium support. Not to mention a whole host of services that lock you into long-term contracts with fluffy SLA's (service level agreements) that bosses tend to love, but provide very little real value.
What Should Businesses Know About Texting Services?
No matter how good the service, downtime is unavoidable. Almost all service providers rely on aggregators and mobile carriers to deliver messages - in addition, the service providers application is a factor. So inevitably, equipment fails, the API goes down, or a car crashes into a utility pole - and it's a domino effect that results in your messages not going out.
The network isn't perfect and messages don't always get delivered, especially in rural areas. The FCC is aware of known issues in rural America that result in undelivered messages.
You don't have to send a text message from a mobile phone. It's now possible to text enable a landline phone. This means you can enable texting on your existing business phone number and send/receive messages from a website interface.
Transparency, simplicity, and support are really important. Many of the businesses that use a mass texting service rely on it to deliver critical messages. Emergency notifications during severe weather are just one example. It's absolutely critical that a business evaluate beyond just cost, and look for a partner who understands their industry, is transparent about their service, offers a simple to use service, and makes support one of their highest priorities.
Longevity & technology. How long has the provider been in business? Do they have an open API with integrations? Is the user interface simple?
There are endless factors that go into choosing the right service provider, and only you can determine the right fit for your business.
How Should a Business Leverage Texting?
This can be a really tricky question. There are well-defined regulations and legal risks that businesses should be aware of related to text messaging. While businesses should understand these issues, common sense should be your guide. Don't send messages to people who don't want them, or people you don't have a relationship with. If you want to succeed with texting you should focus on providing meaningful content to your contacts. Nobody likes spam and you should be sure to follow a responsible use policy like ours.
Used responsibly, texting can be a great tool for any business. You've likely seen some amazing texting stats that show just how effective texting can be. As a general rule, if your message isn't urgent and isn't easily delivered in a couple of sentences - you shouldn't be sending it as a text.
Texting is a great way for businesses to deliver important messages, announcements, and reminders. Think about how you communicate with email, over the phone, and via regular mail. What scenarios might be better served with a brief text message?
If you're looking to grow your brand, texting can be a great way to provide consistent communication. Consider a branding workshop from an agency specializes in defining brands.
Don't Ignore Replies
You wouldn't ignore a voicemail message, so don't ignore replies to your text messages. This is a bigger problem when you're sending out mass text messages, but can quickly turn into a major headache when not managed. Having an opt-out system isn't enough. You should be looking for better opt-out solutions.
In summary, texting might not be as simple as you thought. This is where we come in. Call-Em-All offers mass texting via both short-codes and toll-free numbers. We also offer texting over long-codes. More importantly, we've got you covered on the voice broadcasting side and our customer experience team is the absolute best.
The Benefits of Business Texting
More and more people are warming up to the idea of interacting with businesses via texting with each passing day. And why not? Ninety-six percent of Americans own a cell phone of some kind, and smartphone use is up to over 80 percent. Odds are, virtually all your customers are already texting with friends and family every day, and a growing percentage of people are starting to include businesses and organizations in their texting exchanges.
That's good news for businesses that need an easier way to communicate with their many customers amid a growing need for comprehensive support when it's harder than ever to get people on the phone or to pay attention to an email. With texting, you can have asynchronous communications with your customers so that they can respond when they're free, not just because the phone started ringing.
Business Texting Is Convenient
While no one would call texting an ideal form of communication, it is far better than awkward phone calls that always seem to come in at the most inopportune times. Whether your customers are at work and unable to talk right now or they're busy doing something else and don't want to break away, it's true that most business phone calls are unwanted by the customers that value the goods and services that they use.
Business texting, however, is something that doesn't put quite as much pressure on the consumer. Because no one is waiting on the other end, a text can go unanswered for minutes or even hours, but you can be sure that when there's some spare time, your text will be read. Some estimates put texting at a 98 percent open rate, and nine out of 10 texts are read within just a few seconds, making texts far better than calls or any other type of business communication method.
Streamline Your Communication With Business Texting
The demands of managing an audience or customer base today can be overwhelming. Not only does everyone expect an immediate response to any question, but they're also starting to reward businesses and organizations that are easier to interact with. Those with long waits on the phone and a cumbersome process might just see their customers go somewhere else, and the pressures of getting everything right can make it difficult to do the things you need to do well to succeed.
A business texting service can help you change all that. Instead of spending hours trying to reach your customers by phone only to be greeted with voicemails and all those "I can't talk right now" responses, you can reach everyone at the most opportune time for their schedules by developing the right business texting program. Offloading the most repetitive tasks such as appointment reminders and past-due notices texting program gives you and your staff more time to focus on the things that matter, such as how to grow your business.
Do More With the Power of Automation
When you incorporate texting into your business strategy, you can do more while spending less time on the same tasks that are overwhelming your business today. Compared to calls and email, business texting is more automatable, more successful and easier to implement, and that can give you an outsized way to impact your bottom line.
In a sense, business texting combines the best parts of email (reach and asynchronicity) with the best parts of traditional phone calling (clarity and immediacy). With the advanced software packages available today, your business texting doesn't have to be limited to that lowest-common-denominator text-for-an-offer kind of thing -- texting can and does do a lot more.
Ron Kinkade is the Head of Marketing at Text-Em-All, an automated calling and mass texting company that provides solutions for small and medium-sized businesses, large corporations, membership organizations, community groups, and individuals. Ron has more than 20 years of experience with a proven track record of success. Ron enjoys bass fishing, beach vacations, and spending time with family.