TextingOMG – Americans sent more than 2 trillion texts in 2012! With so many eyeballs glued to the tiny screens on phones, any local business should consider text message marketing as part of its marketing mix.

Using the basic form of text marketing, SMS (for Short Message Service), you can text a message to a list of numbers announcing  a sale or to one number confirming an appointment. You can also distribute a simple coupon—the customer just shows the phone screen in the store to redeem. You’ll need an SMS vendor but costs are fairly low. And you’ll need to get the permission of your customers to send messages, for instance by advertising a way for them to text a number to join your distribution list.

Here are some pros and cons on SMS text message marketing for local businesses:


It’s Opt-In

As wary as folks are about handing out their cell phone numbers, if customers give it to you, they really want to hear from you. Just be careful that, if you ask for a number for appointment reminders, you also get permission to send marketing messages.

It’s Available to Everybody

Unless you’re selling survivalist gear in northern Montana, we guarantee that every one of your customers has a cell phone. And they can all receive SMS texts, regardless of the make and model of the phone.

It Ain’t Rocket Science Marketing

With a 160-character limit to an SMS message, you have to make a simple, direct offer like “Show this text for a free drink with a hamburger order” or “To get your free piece of cake, text CAKE to 31965”.  Easy for you to create, easy for customers to understand.

It’s Great for Foot Traffic

“Show this text” coupons or appointment reminders drive foot traffic to your business with the kind of messages that customers should be glad to get.

It’s Cheap to Try                 

A typical deal from an SMS vendor: 2 cents a message. Keep a close eye on your return on investment, of course.

It’s Trackable

Your SMS text marketing vendor will give you reports on responses to your texts and you can capture on your POS system the store walk-ins who show a text coupon.


You May Push the Limits on Customer Comfort Levels

Texting is primarily personal communication among friends or family and people react to the arrival of a text. While that’s good for getting attention, it also puts the burden on you to send a valuable message that won’t annoy your customer.

It Might Cost Customers Money

Less of a problem as the cell carriers push unlimited talk and text plans, but some of your customers may still be charged for texting. It’s a good idea to add “Msg&Data rates may apply” to your message if you are asking them to text you back.

Email Is Cheaper and Social Media Is Free

Twitter and Facebook are great customer messaging tools and don’t cost you money—just time to engage in two conversations. Email is way cheaper (a recent deal from a big vendor: unlimited messages to 1,000 subscribers for $15 a month) but inbox clutter may crowd out your message. The real question is what mix of media will hit the widest group of your customers at the right moment?

You Can’t Deliver Much of a Marketing Message

A character limit of 160 means texting is best for get-it-now offers, not branding.

It May Be On the Way Out

The number of text messages sent in the U.S. declined 5% in 2012 after years of rising – perhaps as more people get smartphones, email and social media are starting to crowd out texting for mobile communication. But did we mention that there were still 2 trillion texts sent in 2012?