My dentist office texted me a few days ago about their ability to send me appointment reminders by text -- I'm sure they thought that was a cool upgrade/feature. Here's the thing: if you don't have a bucket of text messages or some sort of plan, incoming texts (even those that you don't want) cost you around $0.15 per message; currently there is no mechanism in place to charge the text message sender.
A software provider for our company talked about adding similar functionality in a new software service pack and I asked about permission; he didn't understand right away because he was focused on the fact that it was a new/cool/better feature. I asked him to consider being an employee for us that had to pay $0.15 per message that started receiving just 10 messages a month from us: it just cost you $1.50 to be an employee for us, which doesn't seem like a lot unless you're a person that counts every dollar. Once we got through the example, he backpedaled and said that they were just a software maker providing functionality and that it would be up to us to handle permissions, and he suggested that we develop some sort of opt-in form. Still haven't decided if we're going to make use of this functionality, but I can guarantee that we won't be sending text messages to anyone that doesn't opt-in if we do start using it.
So back to my dentist: if they knew that each message that they sent cost me $0.15, would it be worth it to her if the tables were turned and it cost her $0.15 per text message? I'm guessing that they will likely see higher return rates on appointments and less time for the front office staff making outbound calls to remind people of and to confirm appointments. However, I would also guess that she would take pause if she knew that $0.15 went out the door every time the system sent out a text. Figure it this way: each patient has at least 2 appointments for cleanings a year, so the system punches out 4 text messages per year per patient at a cost of $0.60 per year -- for 1000 patients that's $600, which is real money.
Here's another thing I worry about when someone like a dentist opens up a direct line of communication to me for which I have to pay: what happens if she tries to monetize it? What if the software manufacturer sells a client list to Sonicare of dentists that use the text messaging function? Maybe Sonicare reaches out to the dentists and makes a deal whereby the dentist sends out a text about a new Sonicare product and the dentists make a big commission on every Sonicare sale. It's any easy call for the dentists because it doesn't incrementally cost them any money, but it does cost the receiver that essentially just paid $0.15 to receive targeted advertising.
Text message permission marketing/communication will only become a bigger issue in the next couple of years.
PS -- try to get your wireless carrier to turn off text messaging on your phone; it's near impossible because of the way the revenue model is built.
Photo from JaseMan