The 6 Best SMS Apps for Small Businesses

Harry Guinness
Harry Guinness / Published June 13, 2019

When's the last time you didn't read an email you received? Probably within the last 24 hours. How about a text message? Not as common. Gartner reports that, on average, emails are opened about 20% of the time, while SMS messages are opened up to 98% of the time. So if you have a small business and want to feel confident that your customers are looking at the appointment reminders, invoices, and special offers you send, using an SMS marketing tool is a good way to do it.

There are lots of text message marketing apps that offer a way for you to send SMS messages to your customers without the manual work. They let you send messages directly from a web app, connect them to your scheduling or booking system so reminders and receipts are sent automatically, create marketing campaigns with special offers, and otherwise automate your SMS outreach.

We've tested dozens of the most popular options, and here we'll present our picks for the six best SMS apps for business.

What Makes a Great SMS App?

There are dozens of SMS services out there for pretty much every kind of business you could imagine. For small businesses, we noted four important things that each service had to be:

  • Easy to use
  • Capable of true two-way communication
  • Able to integrate with other apps and services
  • Affordable to get started with while still being able to scale as your business grows

There are great SMS API services out there that developers can connect to whatever apps they're building, but, for the most part, they fall outside our easy-to-use criterion. A regular person would struggle to connect them to whatever systems they were already using since they require some coding knowledge. In practice, this means that almost all the apps on our list have a dedicated web app you can use to send and receive messages. A lot of them also have the ability to send and receive text messages through your email client or with mobile apps. In other words, they're really simple to start using.

Similarly, there are some really powerful text messaging services that can send 100,000 text messages with the click of a button. If your business is looking for that kind of marketing volume, those apps will work wonders. For most small businesses, however, that kind of one-way, mass marketing seems unnecessary—even inappropriate—and could really only be used to spam customers. Instead, we looked at SMS services that had true two-way communication: Your customers could text back to any message you sent and you'd be able to reply directly, rather than just relying on automated responses or data collection. Some of the apps we feature do offer automated responses and can gather survey data, but they also give you the ability to jump in and text your customer yourself, as a human.

Some SMS services offer appointment and booking features, but others can only send and receive messages. This meant that for a service to make our list, it had to integrate with other apps in some capacity. This could either be directly plugging in to Outlook or Google Calendar through the app or using Zapier. In practice, all the services we selected connect directly to some apps and use Zapier to handle everything else.

Finally, we required the SMS services to be affordable to start but also have the ability to scale with your business as it grows. We weren't comfortable recommending anything with high monthly fees or large volume requirements. Instead, all the services are either pay-as-you-go or have low volume, low fee monthly plans that you can later upgrade if you need to. This means that you can start using an SMS service while you only have a few customers, and, if things take off, you won't have to worry about changing SMS services down the line.

We tested all sorts of apps that met these criteria, and here are the six best.

The 6 Best SMS Apps for Small Businesses


Best SMS app for getting started quickly

TextMagic screenshot

Within moments of signing up for TextMagic, I'd already sent a text to my cell phone. The Setup Wizard and friendly interface make the entire process simple. All you have to do is enter the phone number, type your message, click Send, and bam!, the message is delivered.

But just because TextMagic makes things easy, doesn't mean it's not powerful. You can send messages from TextMagic's number so replies go to the API, web app, or your email, or from your own mobile number so replies go directly to your phone. It connects, through Zapier, to any organizational or scheduling software you want to use. You can build contact lists by importing an Excel spreadsheet or CSV file, manually entering them in the Contacts tab of the app, saving the number of anyone who texts you, or using a Click to Text form on your website.

In the Scheduled tab, you can schedule messages, for example, to send out a Friday Specials text every week. You can also set up templates in the Templates tab to make it faster to send recurring messages—like appointment confirmations—and automate responses to customer texts. And of course, you can quickly and easily send customers a text from the web or the iOS and Android apps.

In other words, TextMagic offers pretty much every feature you could want in an SMS service, is easy to use, and, with dedicated virtual numbers from $4.00/month and texts starting at $0.04 with no contract, it's affordable to get started.

TextMagic Price: Pay as you go starts at $0.04/text.

Automate TextMagic with TextMagic's Zapier Integrations.


Best SMS app for easy-to-run marketing campaigns

SimpleTexting screenshot

SimpleTexting is the best option if you're looking to run marketing campaigns quickly. Like TextMagic, the user interface is intuitive with everything accessible from the main screen—I didn't even need to view any tutorials to grasp how things worked. SimpleTexting is just more focused on direct-to-customer marketing.

You can contact customers directly, but SimpleTexting also makes it easy to run marketing campaigns, texting the same marketing message to everyone on a list. Go to the Campaigns tab, click New Campaign, give it a name, and you're ready to start marketing to your customers.

To get new prospects on your list, set up a keyword in the Keywords tab. For example, potential customers can text PIZZA to 555888 and get put on your pizza deals list. As soon as they join, an autoresponder can immediately text them with a discount code and ask them if they want more information. If they do, it can respond with another text. With SimpleTexting's built-in apps available in the Apps tab, you can also conduct more technical marketing efforts like running surveys, polls, and sweepstakes.

Of course, for any marketing effort, you need analytics. SimpleTexting's analytics offer detailed breakdowns of how your campaigns are going with information like the number of new subscribers, what keyword they're using to join, how many autoresponders have triggered, how many people have unsubscribed, and what responses you've been sent.

SimpleTexting Price: From $25/month for 500 credits (enough for 500 texts). Additional credits cost $0.045 on the entry plan; there are higher volume plans if you need to send more texts.

Automate SimpleTexting with SimpleTexting's Zapier Integrations.


Best SMS app for integrating with other marketing channels

ClickSend screenshot

Marketing campaigns are often run through multiple channels at the same time. If you want to combine text message marketing with an email, phone, mail, or even fax (?!) campaign, ClickSend is the best option. For example, you can send someone both a text message with a short summary of a special offer and, at the same time, an email with the full details on how they can claim it. Or you can set up an automation so that if someone sends you a text message, you respond with an MMS or email.

Each channel is controlled separately. To send a text message campaign, select SMS then SMS Campaigns from the sidebar; to send an email, it's Email Marketing then Email Campaigns. They're also planning to add WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and similar platforms soon, so you'll really be able to reach your customers wherever they are and whatever apps they use. Of course, this sort of outreach is only as good as your contacts list: If you don't have both an email address and phone number for everyone you're reaching out to, they'll only receive half of your marketing effort.

Since ClickSend offers so much functionality, it's a bit harder to get the hang of than simpler services like TextMagic and SimpleTexting. The sidebar is packed with menus and submenus: SMS, voice, email marketing, transactional emails, fax, and letters or postcards, plus account information, integrations, automations, and more. They're all logically laid out—it's just that there are so many of them. If you're simply trying to text your customers, you don't need 99% of what's on offer. Regardless, the solid help docs available under Support Articles will be your friend.

ClickSend Price: SMS starts at $0.0093/message for your first 2,000, and the price goes down from there; a dedicated number is $3.59/month.

Automate ClickSend with ClickSend's Zapier Integrations.


Best SMS app for small, local businesses


Salesmsg is a great option for U.S.- or Canada-based small businesses—unfortunately it's not available internationally beyond that.

Salesmsg has the most basic web app of any of the services on this list. There are only four tabs on the sidebar: Conversations, Contacts, Broadcasts, and Triggers. Most of Salesmsg's power comes from how you integrate it with other apps.

As soon as you sign up, you're prompted to create a local number. This is the number that all your texts will appear to come from, and you can assign a separate number for each team member. If you want, you can also enable call forwarding, so if a customer calls your text number, they'll get forwarded to your personal or business phone.

Out of the box, Salesmsg integrates with Outlook and Google Calendar to handle appointments. When a customer makes an appointment by text, just click Book Appointment to add it to your calendar of choice. For more powerful customer management, it integrates with CRM platforms like HubSpot, Pipedrive, and Zoho, so you can use your CRM of choice and have Salesmsg automatically handle the text messaging. You can also use Salesmsg's Triggers to create a webhook that you can use to send specific kinds of messages like appointment reminders. Or you can use Zapier to hook in any service you want.

Salesmsg: From $35/month for 750 text messages and a single phone number. Additional messages are $0.025; additional numbers are $10/month. If you need a higher volume setup, they offer custom solutions.

Automate Salesmsg with Salesmsg's Zapier Integrations.


Best SMS app for teams

Heymarket screenshots

Heymarket is a bit different from the other services we've looked at so far. It's designed for teams to work together, mainly to provide customer support.

Say a customer texts your number asking if a certain product is in stock. You get the notification while you're out and about. You can reply to the customer saying that you'll get a staff member to check, then, in the same chat, leave a private comment and assign the task to whoever's in the shop by typing @\[theirname] and then explaining what you need them to do. Your staff member will get a notification and can then check the stockroom and get back to the customer. You can also use Heymarket to connect with customers using Facebook Messenger.

Heymarket's web and mobile apps are clean and easy to use. The seven tabs in the sidebar are Chats, Lists, Templates, Contacts, Campaigns, Automations, and Reports, and each one does exactly what you think. The team features are similarly simple, and they won't take you more than a few minutes to figure out. An extra nice touch is that all of Heymarket's support is done through their own platform.

At $29/month (billed annually) for 500 text messages and unlimited users, Heymarket is at the more expensive end of the SMS service spectrum. While it can be used like any of the other services for marketing and following up with customers, if you're not using the team features, there are cheaper options like ClickSend or Salesmsg.

Heymarket Price: From $29/month (billed annually).

Automate Heymarket with Heymarket's Zapier Integrations.


Best SMS app for customization

Twilio is the biggest name in SMS services, and, while it's mainly an API and aimed at developers, you don't actually need to be a developer to use it.

Twilio is basically a blank canvas. Developers can use its API to build SMS features into any app or create whatever service they need. However, apps like Zapier, HubSpot, and Zoho CRM can also use Twilio's API directly, without the need for you to do any coding. For example, by connecting your Twilio account to your Zapier account, you'll be able to send and receive text messages using your email account or collect texts in Slack or a Google Sheets spreadsheet.

Twilio also offers Studio, a drag-and-drop app builder for creating things like SMS surveys and autoresponders. You start with a trigger, like an incoming message or a calendar event. You can then create reply criteria based on what's happened. It's all very intuitive, and the built-in tutorials and project templates make it possible for anyone to get started.

Twilio makes the whole process easy. When you sign up, you're asked whether or not you're a developer. Whichever option you choose, the interface is customized to your needs. If you're not a developer, you get links to all the information you need to connect Twilio to third-party apps or use Studio so you can quickly get started.

For most use cases, Twilio should work out cheaper than the other services if you're prepared to do the work to get it up and running.

Twilio Price: Since Twilio is more of a platform than an app, its pricing is a little different from the others on this list. Text messages start at $0.0075/message sent and received—although there's an additional $0.005/message carrier fee on messages you send. Dedicated phone numbers start at $1/month.

Automate Twilio with Twilio's Zapier Integrations.

Which SMS App Should I Use?

Which app you should use depends entirely on what you're trying to do. If you want a simple, easy-to-use service that you can get up and running quickly, TextMagic and Salesmsg are great options. If you're looking for something that's more marketing focused, SimpleTexting and ClickSend are your best bets. Heymarket's team features are a feature you can't get elsewhere, and you can make Twilio do more or less anything you want. All the apps offer free or $1 trials, so give a few a try and then decide.

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