Interview: The SMS Works’ Henry Cazalet on why the humble text message is king

The co-founder of The SMS Works tells us about his Bristol-based startup, a business-to-customer SMS service with a twist
5th December 2017

Communicating effectively with your customer as a business can be tricky. The widely used and cost-efficient e-mail marketing campaign is wearing thin, phone calls are easily missed and high tech communication methods including artificial intelligence and chatbots, whilst impressive and novel, still need a bit of work to become useful in the mainstream.

“The humble text message is still the most responsive way that companies can communicate with their customers”

 

For many businesses, keeping things relatively simple is the key to catching the attention of their customers. So, for Bristol-based business-to-customer SMS texting service The SMS Works, the unassuming text message is a sure-fire win.

Check out the video below to find out more about The SMS Works:

 

Keen to find out how, in a world that puts an increasing demand on high tech, SMS is proving key to this startup, we had a chat with The SMS Works’ co-founder and director¬†Henry Cazalet.

TechSPARK: If you were down the pub and someone asked you what you do and why it’s interesting, what would you tell them?

Henry Cazalet: We offer a business texting service that allows companies to send texts to their customers.

When you receive a text reminder from your dentist or a parcel delivery notification, that text is routed via a business texting company. We’re one of them!

Companies use our SMS API in a huge variety of ways, from sending booking confirmations, appointment reminders, special offers or anything else where you need to be sure you get important information straight into the hand of your customer.

What many people find amazing is that texting is still alive and well. It seems such a basic technology. But it’s still the most reliable and responsive way for businesses to get in touch.

Every single phone ever made is able to send and receive texts. It’s the one truly universal messaging platform. It’s basic but very effective.

TS: How are you different from other SMS companies?

HC: We’ve got a simple but powerful unique selling point. We don’t charge companies for undelivered messages.

Almost all SMS API providers charge their customers when a message is undelivered. Maybe they’ve got the number wrong or the phone is switched off. So they have to pay for all the messages that they send, even if some of them don’t arrive.

“Response rates to SMS marketing campaigns can be as high as 30%”

 

It’s an unfair policy as the SMS companies aren’t charged for messages that fail, so they’re making an additional profit on all these undelivered texts.

The average non-delivered rate is about 18%, so that’s quite some additional margin the industry’s been enjoying for the past 20 years or so.

With The SMS Works, all messages that fail are refunded back into customers’ accounts. It’s a small difference that can massively reduce the overall cost of using an SMS service.

TS: Why should businesses use SMS in their marketing and communications?

HC: The humble text message is still the most responsive way that companies can communicate with their customers.

90% of messages sent are read within 5 minutes and response rates to SMS marketing campaigns can be as high as 30%. It’s simply the most powerful and effective way of communicating. By comparison, email response rates are almost always way below 1%.

The fact that we have to pay for sending texts means that we’re not all buried in an avalanche of spam. This makes it all the more effective.

Whether you’re letting someone know about your latest amazing offer or reminding someone that a parcel is out for delivery, there’s a strong case for using SMS.

TS: What’s the most imaginative thing you’ve seen a business do with SMS?

HC: There’s a growing use of SMS within healthcare. A number of services have emerged in recent years that allow clinicians to collect vital readings from patients by text.

These texts can then be forwarded to the medical team if they don’t look right or show worrying trends.

This is all part of an increasing move to allow patients with long-term conditions to spend more time at home and less time at outpatient appointments.

TS: Why are you based in Bristol?

HC: I moved to Bristol from London in 1995 and like most people who come here, I have no intention of going anywhere.

Our city always seems to be voted the best place to live in the UK and it’s not hard to see why. Going out in Bristol just seems to get better and better, with new venues opening every week.

“Bristol has a reputation for innovation and the Silicon Gorge is building a stronger and stronger influence throughout the UK”

 

Bristol is the perfect place to work. It’s big enough to have a critical mass of businesses and services with plenty of opportunities to network and collaborate with others. It’s also small enough to have a unique and friendly personality.

We love Bristol so much we wanted to incorporate it into our branding. The obvious Bristol icon is the suspension bridge but there are dozens of companies that use that as their inspiration.

Bristol inspired: The SMS Works marketing image with a
sneaky Banksy-inspired background

 

Our light bulb moment came from a walk through Ashton Court where the imposing Wills tobacco warehouses dominate the skyline. What better place to base our new company than within one of these impressive brick monoliths.

TS: Is it a good place to start a tech company in your opinion?

HC: We’re a web-based company¬†so, strictly speaking, we could set up anywhere in the UK.

However, Bristol has a reputation for innovation and the Silicon Gorge is building a stronger and stronger influence throughout the UK.

People rightly view Bristol as achingly cool and, as the country gets less London-centric, it’s being seen as a desirable place to work from.

TS: Are there any other tech companies in the South West who inspire you?

HC: It’s hard not to be impressed with the incredible Open Bionics who make low-cost prosthetic limbs for amputees.

TS: Are you involved with any events in the region, or are there any other ways people can get involved with The SMS Works?

HC: There are a number of business events in Bristol and the South West region that we’re looking to get involved in next year to showcase our SMS service. We haven’t yet decided on which ones are likely to give us the best exposure to our audience.

Companies who are looking to add SMS to their communications can set up a free SMS account. Accounts come with 50 free text credits for testing which is usually plenty – but let us know if you need more.

We’ve also got copy and paste code snippets to help get you up and running.

TS: What’s next for the SMS works?

HC: Growth!

It’s been fun and hard work putting out products and services in place. We’re pleased with our offering and how our website’s come together but now’s the time to press on with customer acquisition.

It’s going to be tough as our competitors will outrank us in web-search for many months, probably years.

We’re going to need all our creative energy to get our message across in this crowded market. We’ll let you know how it goes.

Thanks to Henry for chatting with us about the power of the humble SMS. To find out more, head to The SMS Works website or follow them on Twitter here: @thesmsworks.