A couple of weeks back, I wrote about the potential for text messaging. In that blog, I mentioned some scenarios where text can be used to quickly facilitate the dissemination of information to empower small and medium-sized businesses.
IT Business Edge reader Rob Warner chipped in with some comments, which proved an interesting read. Drawing from his experiences in this line, Warner highlighted a couple of issues preventing wider adoption of text messages, particularly with smaller businesses. I shall not duplicate his thoughts here, but they caused me to dwell on some of the challenges to implementing text messaging in an SMB, particularly where cost is concerned.
Today, I shall drill into some of the cost challenges to the use of text messaging in an SMB, as well as offering some suggestions to mitigate or justify the expense.
Depending on company preferences and the cost of sending text messages in different localities, it might make sense to send out messages via standard mobile plans with the use of your own hardware. In such a case, you will need to spend on hardware known as GSM modems, which are essentially mobile phones with their display and numeric pad ripped out.
If spending even a cent on hardware is unpalatable, though, a way to avoid investments on this front is to leverage what is known as SMS Gateways or SMSCs, which specialize in sending out text messages on your behalf. Most of these services allow you to connect via the Internet, effectively lowering any capital outlay to zero.
Anything beyond the simplest of applications will require some form of integration work. In fact, most vendors typically generate the largest chunk of their profits from integration work. In addition, further tweaking might need to be done on your current CMS or ERP system if it does not already support the sending of messages.
While there is really no way to avoid the cost of the latter, there are fortunately many software packages available that come with fully documented and accessible interfaces. While it might entail even more work from in-house developers, taking such a DIY approach might be the best option if cost is of paramount concern.
In the past, I helped an SMB transition from a pager-based system used for sending internal notifications to one based on text messages. Due to the differences in the pricing mechanism -- the pager was based on a flat rate while text messages was chargeable on a per message basis -- the use of text messages was actually a more expensive solution.
For companies employing a new text messaging system to replace an existing system, one possible approach might be to do a full cost comparison against the older system. In the above scenario, I tabulated the cost of the numerous phone lines required to support the paging. In addition, I did my research and opted for a plan with a cellular provider that gave the first couple of thousand messages at half the market rate. Extrapolating the costs based on a similar messaging volume, I was able to show that the increase in recurring costs to be negligible.
However, if you ultimately find yourself in a position where you are completely unable to justify the cost of sending text messages, then you should be prepared to accept the possibility that perhaps the use of text messaging just does not make sense for your organization.
Now, I must say that the above is hardly an exhaustive list. However, I hope some of the tips will help you overcome the cost barriers in order to benefit from the use of text messages in your SMB.