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From making donations to launching alerts about local emergencies, text messaging has far exceeded its original purpose of communicating with friends. Yet, harnessing the power of SMS technologies is not always easy or affordable for small businesses that may want to communicate en masse with its constituencies. Until now. Clickatell, a South African-based online SMS mobile messaging gateway provider, has launched a US small business SMS messaging package aimed at providing an accessible way to interact with and help customers via simple text messages.

The ROI, Reach of SMS

By using Clickatell’s Personalized Priority Messaging via mobile devices, businesses can reach, retain and engage with customers in cost-effective ways. The ROI on SMS is pretty impressive, too. CEO and Founder of Clickatell, Pieter de Villiers, reports that SMS messaging can generate 10 times or higher direct response rates than other media, averaging between 15% and 45%, vs. a typical 1% to 5% percent for popular forms of direct marketing. Additionally, text messaging also has an open rate that’s five times higher than email (98% vs. 20%).

It’s not just that text messaging is capable of reaching more people than social media (approximately 5 billion mobile phones are reportedly in use) -- it’s that mobile messaging can facilitate more targeted, personal interaction and receipt notification than other platforms. Though there’s no denying that Twitter and Facebook have also become great channels for communication, when the Internet gets shut down, the best way to send alerts is with text messaging.

Affordable, Easy, Open

Clickatell’s new monthly service for US small businesses starts at $24.95 per month and includes a dedicated number and up to 1,000 free outbound text messages per month. Additional outbound text messages are as little as 2¢ per message, and all incoming customer messages are free of charge. For smaller businesses needing to keep customers up-to-date, Clickatell now offers a way for them to do so without lots of time needed for set up and integration.

Additionally, the service provides an opportunity for developers who want to create customized web or mobile applications that use text messaging. Developers sign up for a Central SMS gateway account for access to API integration, flexible APIs for ease of use, reporting features and the benefit of a dedicated long-distance number, free incoming text messages and up to 1,000 free outbound text messages per month.

An Invitation to Innovation

Clickatell’s commitment to delivering meaningful access to mobile messaging platforms has secured them $12 million in a series B round of venture funding led by Sequoia Capital and DAG Ventures. Intended to help Clickatell expand its role in mobile payment processing, the company plans to use its Personalized Priority Messaging-based services to enable financial transactions over the mobile phone in developing countries.

As we’ve previously reported, the future of mobile banking is in full swing for banks and financial institutions looking to expand their customer base, while offering on-the-go solutions. For Clickatell, the future of mobile transactions is focused on taking SMS messaging to emerging markets in an effort to empower and engage a global audience.