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Mobilize Your Business

Three steps to mobilize your business now. (And why you need to...)

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Kim Dushinski

So does mobile marketing keep you up at night? Either figuring it out or being excited by the opportunities? Me too.

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The biggest misconception around mobile marketing lies in the idea that a business builds a database of mobile phone numbers and then dives into a mobile marketing campaign using these numbers. Nothing could be further from the truth. The reality is that in order to build a database of opt-in mobile numbers you have to do a mobile marketing campaign. Here’s why.

Text messaging is a mandatory opt-in marketing channel. It is never smart or ethical to send text messages that are not explicitly requested. And in many places around the world it is illegal to do so. This explicit permission is not granted simply by being a customer or giving a business a cell phone number for other purposes.

Opting in has very specific criteria. You have to get someone to text in to opt in, sign up online with using a fill in the blank form or reply “Yes” when you have gotten verbal permission to add them to your mobile list. None of these can be done without having a mobile marketing campaign going.

The good news is that everybody starts at zero. Fortune 500 companies and small businesses alike all start with no one in their mobile marketing database.

Even better news is that it only takes a smart marketing strategy and powerful marketing implementation to get people opting in like crazy. Give people a good reason to sign up and make sure they know all about it and your campaign is underway. Your text message database is being built.

Waiting to start mobile marketing until you have a mobile database is impossible. You cannot build a mobile marketing database without doing mobile marketing.

Shout out to my friend Chris Torbit with SmartReply who coined the phrase “everybody starts at zero.”

U.S. Text Message Companies

Choosing a text message company can be daunting. There are so many choices with a wide variety of services available by each vendor.

Once you have eliminated any company that only offers SMTP email based texting (see why here) you can move on to choosing a provider based on the types of features a particular company offers and whether or not their service will work for what you want to do.

Need help getting started with text messaging? Want to be sure you are developing a smart campaign before you hire the vendor to get it done? Check out my Mobile Marketing Launch Kit which includes a module about creating a successful text messaging campaign.

Listed below are several text message companies that I have either personally used or have gone through an in depth tour of their platform.  Full disclosure: In some cases I will earn a referral fee if you choose to do business with them. However, no company is listed here that I wouldn’t personally do business with myself or suggest to a dear friend.

You will find companies that are Self-Service, Specialty Self-Service and Managed Service.

SELF-SERVICE

The following text message companies are set up so that you can sign up and handle your own campaign. Whether that means you are doing it yourself or have your in-house marketing team taking charge.

Texting Forward
Texting Forward is owned by Jerson Daganzo, a very smart and savvy marketer who also owns a Cold Stone Creamery franchise. His real world business experience translates into a very powerful text message platform that includes mobile coupons, a loyalty club with automatic tracking and reward delivery and the ability to create a variety of sublists for smarter marketing.

All campaigns are created and monitored in the easy to use campaign control center. Reports are built with a business owner mindset. It is easy to see what is working with your text campaign and what needs attention. The Texting Forward platform includes a coupon redemption module that makes every campaign trackable in a very easy way.

I highly recommend TextingForward, especially for businesses doing mobile coupons with staff who will be responsible for redeeming them. It is the business owner’s dream program because the reporting is so detailed. The easy to use user interface and powerful campaign features (including a social networking component) and robust reporting make this a knockout platform.

More Info

markUmobile
markUmobile is run by Kathryn Rose, a smart businesswoman who understands that it is technology’s job to do what we want and then makes it happen. Her platform is set up to work for any type of business but she has specialty platforms for realtors (HomeSearchMobile), mortgage lenders (RateWatchMobile) and banks (Mobile Banking).

The admin panel is easy enough to find your way around in to get done what you want. Plus, Kathryn will walk you through it in your demo, so you’ll know what you’re doing.

There is an online widget available that you can use to capture text message sign ups from your website. This allows for the markUmobile platform to help you build your subscriber list from multiple sources.

More Info


TxtWire

TxtWire, run by CEO Doug Moss, has txtdispatcher which is their service for schools and universities to send text message alerts (emergency and otherwise) to their students and faculty. They also have txtnet which is a network that lists participating schools, businesses and organizations in a given geographic area. Consumers sign up to receive information from only the entities of interest to them.  They also offer custom solutions for businesses.

One really great thing about TxtWire is that through txtnet consumers get to choose exactly what they want to receive – event alerts, coupons, other offers – and from whom. It works well for everybody.

More Info

Mobivity
Mobivity is an excellent platform for small businesses that need a cost-effective way to get started in text messaging. The Mobivity platform has a lot of features, but is not as user friendly as it could be. Mobivity 2.0 is said to be coming out shortly which should solve that issue.

Campaigns are created in the admin site, but there is not much that can be monitored there.  (This is ironic because the Mobivity team is also responsible for Mobilytics, the best mobile web analytics available.)  Within Mobivity you can do SMS autoresponders, text clubs, mobile coupons, polling/voting and contests.

The best feature of Mobivity is its small business friendly pricing and variety of features. If you are open to figuring out how to use the admin panel, then Mobivity is a solid, smart choice. I use Mobivity for my Mobile Marketing Text News Brief and am very happy with their service.

More Info

i2SMS
i2SMS is an Australian company with a U.S. branch office run by Giff Gfroerer. Their program handles text blasts, text clubs, mobile coupons and mobile originated information requests. I2SMS is the best text company to go with if you have a database of information that you want to serve up to customers via text messaging upon their request.

The admin panel is easy enough to figure out and there is some level of reporting you can see. When you sign up you will get a complete walk through of the system by someone from the company. That is one of the best reasons to go with i2SMS.

You also get unlimited secondary keywords that can be used to crate sub-lists and make campaigns more trackable.  A very cool feature of 12SMS is that you can send messages to your subscribers by using your phone.

More Info

mobileStorm
The most robust and multi-channeled platform presented so far, mobileStorm helps you pull out the big guns. You can do mobile coupons, autoresponders, scheduled texts and text clubs. You can even use their platform to create a Text to Screen. Additionally, the mobileStorm platform does so much more than text messaging. It handles email, voice, faxing and also video promotion. They even have an RSVP Manager that is wonderful for clubs & restaurants who can use it to get more people in the door.

Customer service is high touch at mobileStorm. You will likely get a personal call from someone there when you sign up to make sure you are getting started OK. There is a lot of data and information about your campaigns you can access in the admin panel.

I highly recommend mobileStorm because their platform is more than text messaging and so it gives you more marketing channels in one. Plus they are a top of the line company with affordable introductory pricing to get started.

More Info

SPECIALTY SELF-SERVICE


PhindMe / EverywhereIGo

EverywhereIGo is a mobile site building service with integrated text messaging. This is very smart to combine the two mobile marketing tools. The website builder is fairly robust and easy enough to use. As with all mobile site builders it feels a bit like wearing new shoes.

The user interface is mostly intuitive and you can certainly get at least a preliminary mobile site built in less than an hour. It will help to have a clear cut idea of what you want to create before you start using the site builder. Integrating in the text messaging component is super easy. Most of it is built in for you.

If you need a mobile site with a text messaging component, I highly recommend EveryhwhereIGo, especially because they have a fully functional free version so you can try it out.

More Info

JitterGram
JitterGram is a local-oriented mobile coupon provider. You can very easily set up a mobile coupon offer and then send out coupons via this service. Their back end software takes care of everything you just plug in your initial offer and then you can send text message on a set pre-programmed schedule or whenever you want to send one.

There is a basic report for each JitterGram sent but you have to manually input the redemption numbers. JitterGram gets huge kudos for being super easy to use. Another bonus is that consumers who are signing up to receive JitterGrams from their website will see all the offers in a particular area.

If you need the easiest, fastest way to create a basic mobile coupon campaign, JitterGram is it. They offer the first month free as well, so there is no risk to give it a try.

More Info

MANAGED SERVICE

The following are companies that actually do the text messaging for you. They work with your marketing team to create the campaigns and then they implement it for you. The minimum budget you need to work with a managed service company is $10,000 plus you need marketing support for your campaign.

Blast Companies / Smart Reply
If you are looking for a company that will handle the text messaging campaign for you, instead of you doing it yourself, then Smart Reply is the place to go. They will take care of every detail of your campaign from start to finish. In addition to text messaging they can also help you with a voice campaign.

More Info

Confused by how to get started with text messaging? Want to be sure you are developing a smart campaign before you hire the vendor to get it done? Check out my Mobile Marketing Launch Kit which includes a module about creating a successful text messaging campaign.

Not Listed Here?
If you are an SMS text message company provider and would like to be listed, please contact me to set up a tour of your platform. I am open to reviewing companies worldwide even though right now I only list U.S. companies.

WARNING:
This post will not be popular amongst some text messaging companies.

There is No Free Lunch in Text Marketing

Undoubtedly you have discovered that there are tons of text message companies to choose between when you are ready to dive into text marketing. While there are a large number of terrific options available you may also come across some that are downright bad for your business. This post will help you to tell the difference.

Let me start off with some basic text messaging knowledge.

There are two ways to send text messages – SMS and SMTP. SMS is true text messaging that utilizes short code technology and there is a fee charged for each message that is sent. SMTP is essentially sending an email to a cell phone number and it arrives looking like a text message; there are no fees for sending SMTP messages.

To many people it will seem like the same thing. Using either method a business sends a message and a consumer gets it on their phone. No difference, right? Wrong. In fact, the SMTP method might seem better since there is no fee per message. Free is always better, right? Wrong.

To be blunt, SMTP text messaging is DANGEROUS for your business for three reasons.

1)
Your messages sent via SMTP are likely not getting delivered to your customers.

From the Mobile Marketing Association’s Consumer Best Practices Guidelines:

Carriers, at their discretion, make available SMTP gateways so that subscribers may receive SMS messages originated via email. Example: A mobile subscriber can be reached by sending an email (SMTP) message to [10 digit number]@[carrierdomainname].com. The carriers that support such gateways do so with the intent that they are not utilized for any commercial traffic. To that end, carriers actively monitor and filter against these connections to protect subscribers from unsolicited messages (spam) and utilize a variety of mechanisms to do so, including spam keyword filters, throttling against questionable domain or IP addresses suspected of abuse, and the like.

That’s right. The cell phone carriers are actively monitoring these gateways for commercial traffic and abuse of the system. They can and will shut down your messages with a flick of a switch. All your hard work to build a text message list will be wasted as the carriers shut down your messages.

You will receive no notification that they have done so. You will have no recourse to get things moving again. Your text messaging will simply stop working one carrier at a time.

When your messages don’t get delivered you will see your results plummet and may incorrectly think that mobile marketing doesn’t work. It will be worse if you have signed up for an SMTP service that charges a monthly fee because you’ll be paying money for nothing. A marketing tool that you may be counting on to bolster your bottom line will fail you.

2)
If your messages do get delivered you are opening yourself up to legal action.

Because messages sent by SMTP are sent via email, they are subject to Section 14(b)(1) of the CAN-SPAM act and anyone sending unsolicited messages can and will likely be prosecuted. If you think people are fussy about getting spam in their email, just imagine how quickly they will report spam text messages coming to their phones.

Even if you have gotten permission and think you are not spamming, it is entirely possible that customers will think that you are. Or report you as a text message spammer just because they want to opt out of getting your messages.

Using true SMS messaging with short codes there are systems set in place to protect businesses from unfair accusation of spamming – there are opt-in audit trails and built in opt out mechanisms (support for HELP or STOP commands).

3)
You risk your company’s reputation and customer good will by doing text messaging wrong.

There is no other media that is so personal as the mobile phone. When you send a message to your list you are going directly to your customer wherever they are and interrupting them with a personal message. This is a very powerful communication channel and must be used responsibly. Your customers will not tolerate anything on their mobile device that is not relevant to them and gives them the ultimate control over the communication. SMTP messaging does not.

Bottom Line:
Do not use SMTP text messaging for your business mobile marketing efforts or you will ultimately regret it.

How to tell if a text message company is using SMS or SMTP technology:

Side Note:
Not all of the companies who have built services on SMTP platforms are scammers. They may think they have built a viable service and are offering an affordable option to fee-based text messages. Regardless of the intent behind it, you should steer clear of their services.

Many of the text message companies that are using SMTP technology will have the words SMS messaging spread widely throughout their site. Simply seeing the phrase “SMS” is not enough to ensure you are getting the right kind of service.

The only way to tell if a particular company is using SMS technology is to see if you will be using a short code (a 5 or 6 digit number) in your messaging. It might be a shared short code where all customers of theirs utilize the same number but are distinguished by keyword or they may work with you to lease your own short code.

The first question you should ask a potential text messaging vendor is
“What short code will I be using if I go with your service?”


Your messages will come from that code and your customers can send a text message to opt-in to your messages using it. You will pay a fee for each message you send. There is no such thing as free SMS messages. There are some SMS companies that allow you to send messages free, but their revenue model is to include advertising within your messages. Still, not free is it?

Still Confused? Need Help?

If you are not certain if a particular company you are considering working with is using SMTP or SMS technology, please email me and I will be happy to check it out and let you know. I’m also happy to refer you to a selection of text message companies that you can choose between knowing you are in good hands.