Editor’s Note: This article was originally published by Web Marketing Today. Practical Ecommerce acquired Web Marketing Today in 2012. In 2016, we merged the two sites, leaving Practical Ecommerce as the successor.
Text messaging, also known as SMS (Short Message Service), lets businesses communicate with consumers through their cell phones in 160 character messages. It gives businesses the opportunity to present relevant information, enhanced customer experiences and service, and special offers.
This article showcases examples of how companies currently use SMS services and lists a few of the many tools available, arranged by industry category. The examples serve as a springboard for how your business might use text messaging to build relationships and amplify your local marketing efforts.
A business traveler arrives at your hotel tired from a long journey. Upon check-in, you inform her that you have a text service available to provide immediate information for any requests she may have — extra towels, bar service, or her car from valet parking. Upon receiving her OK, you send a welcome message.
Without calling the front desk, she orders dinner and receives a reply that it will arrive within 15 minutes. The next day, she texts the valet that she needs her car and receives a message that it will be ready in seven minutes. Finally, during her meeting, she texts the spa that she would like to book a massage for 6 p.m. and receives immediate confirmation.
Here are two services, designed for the hospitality industry, that facilitate such interaction.
Zingle Hospitality supplies 2-way real time texting messaging services, most notably for the hotel, food and beverage, and parking industries. Businesses receive customer requests via the Zingle Dashboard, complete with analytics, contact information, and automated responses, or through the Zingle Printer, a portable device that prints incoming text requests, and can reply using a custom or pre-packaged response.
Pricing: Basic package includes 500 messages a month and one user for $39 per month; Pro includes 2000 messages a month and three users for $79 per month; Enterprise package requires a custom quote.
HelloShift. Specifically for hotels, HelloShift is designed for staff-to-staff and staff-to-guest interactions. The Facebook-like interface enables staff members to coordinate, assign, and track responsibilities with notes, tasks, and tags. Guest requests are available via text and email, for a quick response.
Pricing: 30-day free trial. Staff collaboration: $1 per room, per month; Guest engagement: $2 per room, per month.
Food and Dining
A restaurant in a trendy shopping mall received favorable Yelp reviews and began getting walk-in traffic as a result. The staff tried to provide quality customer service by telling people that wait times could be 15 minutes or longer.
Estimations weren’t always correct, however, leaving both patrons and restaurant staff frustrated. After adopting an SMS pager system (such as Table’s Ready), patrons could window shop and be notified when their table was ready.
Table’s Ready uses your patron’s phone to send a text message or automated call when their table is available. Features include wait-time analytics, customizable alerts, extended range, and unlimited concurrent waiting guests.
Pricing: Free trial. Premium packages are $69.95 per month.
Speakers and Authors
A speaker is making a presentation to an audience of prospective clients and entrepreneurs. A third of the way through, she announces that she has a gift for the audience. A slide appears with a special code and phone number.
The speaker asks everyone to take out their phones and text the word “Blastoff” to the number on the screen. After texting the keyword, attendees receive a message asking for their email address, to gain access to the gift, a free CD. By making this part of the presentation, she gets valid email addresses with definitive opt-ins.
The following tools expedite such an exchange.
Betwext features include autoresponse to keywords, built-in list management with segmentation, campaign templates, and link shortening. As with many of the other services, your contacts must agree (opt-in) to receive SMS messages.
Pricing: Per-message charge of 2 cents per incoming and outgoing message, plus a monthly fee. The Silver program, with three keywords, begins at $9 per month, and the Gold program, with unlimited keywords, is $19 per month.
Ez Texting provides SMS marketing through services such as keywords, short codes, sign-up widgets, and text-2-vote SMS polls. The website includes case studies involving religious groups, non-profit and community groups, restaurants, retail, and real estate. It also has a small business resource center.
Pricing: Pay & Go – 5 cents per message; Free & EZ – 500 Free SMS per month (limited time offer); Plus – $49 per month for 1,000 messages.
SimpleTexting includes unlimited keywords, an easy to remember shortcode, free incoming messages, and free one-on-one consultations. Features include voting, contest management, calendar reminders, coupons, and social integration with Twitter and Facebook. Integration with MailChimp is also available.
Pricing: Free trial. $45 per month, for 1,000 messages.
Chris likes to shop but doesn’t want to pay full price. While in the store, a sign catches his eye, directing customers to sign up for text messages. The promise: receive coupons, sales notices, and special event notifications. After signing up, texts began to appear for both the online and brick and mortar store.
Call Loop is a text messaging service for retail store use.
Call Loop is a comprehensive SMS service with many features: coupons, short codes, SMS broadcasts, SMS contests, text promotions, and autoresponders. Call Loop includes analytics and can integrate with services such as MailChimp, Infusionsoft, HubSpot, AWeber, Constant Contact, and Unbounce.
Pricing: Free trial. Pay As You Go Plan with messaging starting at 5 cents per text; Basic – $29 per month, for 250 messages; Pro – $49 per month, for 1000 messages.
A fitness coach has an appointment with a new client. In the past, he assumed clients would come when scheduled, but there were some no-shows. He started calling clients but found he didn’t have the time to do so and, often, was sent to voice mail. Recently, he started using an SMS text service to send appointment reminders and request confirmations.
These three services offer appointment-setting and reminder capability.
Timely is an appointment booking and reminder service. Consumers can book appointments directly on your business’s website or Facebook page. You can send emails and text messages to remind your customers of their appointment. Customer details, including a record of their bookings and purchases, is also available.
Pricing: Starts at $19 per month.
SMS Client Reminders is a simple, secure online text appointment reminder system that sends emails or text messages based on your client data and its linked designated appointment calendar.
Pricing: Starts at $13.99 per month, for 150 messages.
Appointment Reminder. Intended for use by professional services and medical practices, Appointment Reminder sends out phone, email, and text reminders to clients and patients, to reduce no-shows. The service is HIPAA-compliant and gives medical practices control on a per-patient basis.
Pricing: Starts at $99 per month.