I've recently been myself digging into the world of SMS marketing services and software.
In the past, I've primarily used RingCentral to send marketing messages through text. They have an API and some built-in Zapier integrations, which makes sending out text messages to new leads and contacts pretty easy.
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Overall, I was pretty happy with RingCentral, but there was one thing that bothered me about their technology: there's no easy way to send bulk text messages without setting up a complicated script. On top of that, their SMS reporting was pretty much non-existent. Scratch that. It is non-existent. Open rates, click through rates, replies? Forget about it.
I just wanted to be able to export a big list of mobile phone numbers to a spreadsheet, import it, write up text message with a promo, add a link, and send. Then, I wanted to see performance metrics. Was that too much to ask? I didn't think so. And so began my search for a better SMS service.
I started out my SMS software search on Zapier. I did this because I use Zapier a lot to connect various different marketing apps together. Plus, from my experience, they do a really good job of narrowing down the top apps and technologies. If a certain software isn't on Zapier, there's usually a pretty good reason why. Either the technology sucks, or it's still too early in its existence and hasn't fully caught on yet.
The one challenge with Zapier is you can easily get paralysis by analysis. There's a BOATLOAD of SMS tools on there and you can get lost in all of the different types of integrations. The good news is Zapier sorts the apps by most popular. Again, there's a reason why things are popular.
The first two recommended SMS tools on Zapier are Twilio and ClickSend.
And wouldn't you know, my friend RingCentral is right below.
At this stage, I was getting a little nervous because a) RingCentral wasn't going to be what I wanted and b) I've used Twilio in the past.
Twilio is a heck of a company and software. When they say it's an easy tool for developers to send and receive SMS, they mean it. It's easy for developers. To send and receive SMS on Twilio you need to develop an application. There's also no dashboard to reply to messages directly. You basically need to program a chatbot for all conversations. Expensive much?
So, I rolled the dice with ClickSend. And man, did I hit the jackpot!
I was so delighted with their interface and how easy it was to get send out a bulk SMS campaign. I felt compelled to have to right a quick tutorial on how to use their software.
How to Send Bulk Text Messages From Your Computer
Set up a ClickSend account
The first thing that you'll want to do to send bulk SMS text message is to set up an account on ClickSend.
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When you get to their website, you can click either Sign Up or Get Sending For Free. Don't get your hopes up though. ClickSend isn't going to allow you to send bulk SMS text messages from your computer for free.
You can sign up for free, and they'll give you a small credit so you can test out their service. But that won't be enough to run a very big list of contacts.
The good news is that all inbound replies are free. So you'll only have to pay for the amount of messages that you want to send. I'll go over their pricing in a few.
Import your contacts
Once you have your account set up, you can navigate to the Contacts Tab and start the process of importing all of the phone numbers that you want to push your bulk SMS campaign to.
I created a quick little video tutorial above that walks you through this process. ClickSend also has some good documentation on how to do this on their support site if you get stuck. I haven't used their customer service yet, but they seem to be pretty proactive and message me from time to time to see if I need any help.
Before setting up your campaign, you're going to want to make sure you have sufficient funds.
The easiest way to do this is to navigated to the top of ClickSend's Dashboard. Locate your existing balance (there may be a small credit in there) and click that amount.
Once you click that tab, you'll be taken to the “Top up account” section of ClickSend's SMS platform. Here, you can see all of the various different packages that they have available.
For reference, the screenshot above was taken on 6/8/2020. You can see that the more funds you add up front, the more savings you create.
What I really like about ClickSend is they provide an exact total on how many text messages you'll get based on your purchase. So, if you're only looking to send one bulk SMS campaign, just go back to your imported contact list and count up the total rows. That'll make it easy to determine what package you should buy.
Create a campaign
Now your account is set up, your contacts have been imported, and you have enough firepower to contact all of them at once. You're ready to create a campaign.
Just click SMS > SMS Campaign to get started.
Then, click “Add Campaign” and use their campaign builder to create your SMS message.
Some quick features that I'd like to call out from the above screenshot:
- From: By default, you'll be assigned a shared number. You can also pay a fee to get a dedicated number or use your. I chose to use the shared number, but set up all replies to forward to one of our team's cell phone for follow ups. This was just an easier option for us than using ClickSend's built-in messenger app, which looks pretty nice on the surface.
- Message: You can use custom fields and data from your import here; ClickSend's version of “merge tags”. I also like that it tells you the characters that you have left before it gets into what's considered the second SMS. You'll want to be particular with copy editing here, or you can burn unnecessary funds.
- Link: Wonderful! Creates a custom short URL that uniquely tracks to each specific contact. Very helpful for reporting.
- Add opt-out: Don't glance over this. Give people a way out, especially if you're sending a mass promotion to and older list. It's not worth the headache of dealing with complaints. Plus, ClickSend tags these and automatically adds them to an opt-out list so you don't have to do any data management down the road.
Send and review performance
Click send now or schedule for an optimal delivery time.
It's that simple.
Give it a day or so and then check in on how your campaign performed by navigating back to your campaign. There, you can find some information on link clicks. I've pasted a snapshot of that view below:
You can export that data to a spreadsheet and interpret it however you like.
In addition, you can go to SMS > History to get a full log of all the messages that were sent. This will give you info on the status of the message. For example, you can export a list of all messages and that filter it down to inbound replies.
All in all, the above steps took me less than 30 minutes to complete.
In 24 hours after we sent our first campaign, we got four appointments scheduled for a client in the home services industry. Just for reference, each appointment is valued at around $300.
So the return on investment on this bulk SMS campaign after research, setup time and funding ClickSend was over 860%.
Talk about a slam dunk. Just remember to stay compliant with current text message marketing laws and regulations.