How to Pick the Right Number for Your SMS Marketing Efforts

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Should your business use a dedicated short code, toll-free number or a 10-digit long code? In this article, we'll walk you through how to make a decision.

Text messages are an easy, cost-effective way to get in touch with your customers, employees, fans, or any other group of people. But hang on! Before you send your first message, it’s important to take the time to figure out what type of number is right for you.

You have three main options: toll-free numbers, long codes, and dedicated short codes. All of these can send and receive messages, but they differ in a few key ways. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before you select a number:

  • How often do I plan to send messages?
  • What type of messages do I plan to send?
  • Do I need to be able to send photos or other multimedia using MMS?
  • How will people sign up for my messages?

Your answers to these questions will help guide your decision. Let’s start by talking about the most common choice—toll-free numbers.

Toll-Free Numbers

By default, every SimpleTexting account is set up with a dedicated toll-free number. This is because it’s the most versatile type of number. They’re approved for mass messaging and 2-way communication. Toll-free numbers have a high throughput, meaning they can be used to send many messages at once.

If you’d prefer to use a toll-free number you already own, we can text-enable it! This can usually be done in under 48 hours.

Let’s talk about keywords. These are short words or phrases people can text to your number to join your list. With a dedicated toll-free number, you don’t have to share keywords with anyone!

Because toll-free numbers are long, many businesses prefer to have their customers subscribe to messages with online web form—as opposed to keywords. However, there’s an easy solution if you plan to use keywords often.

You can purchase a number that includes your business name from a third-party site such as Avoxi.com (starts at $4.49/month) or 800.com (starts at $23/month). For example, you could get a vanity number like 1-800-MY-PIZZA. You’ll also have the ability to pick between a 1-800 number or 1-833, 844, 855, 866, 877, or 888. Another benefit that both Avoxi and 800.com offer is the ability to forward calls to another number.

Key info about toll-free numbers:

  • Useful for mass messaging and 2-way communication
  • Perfect for promotions or customer service
  • Best used for importing contacts, as opposed to keyword opt-ins
  • Quick, easy setup
  • Can be used for sending/receiving SMS and MMS

Long Codes

Another inexpensive option is to use a long code. These are standard 10-digit numbers. Yes, just like your landline or VoIP number. If you already have one that you’d like to use, we can text enable it! Calls will go through as normal, and texts will be routed directly to our platform.

Many businesses choose this option because they’re able to send texts from a recognizable area code. Long codes are perfect for 1-on-1 customer service, support, and sales conversations. They can also be used to send small text blasts. You can reliably text groups of 200 contacts once per day. For larger groups, consider a toll-free number or short code.

Key info about 10-digit long codes:

  • Good for customer service, support or appointment reminders
  • Recognizable area code
  • No MMS
  • Not ideal for texting groups over 200 contacts

Dedicated Short Codes

A dedicated short code is a 5- to 6-digit long number that only your business can use. Because of their cost and set up time, few businesses choose to use a dedicated short code. Dedicated short codes require a $2,000 set-up fee plus a $1,000 per month leasing fee. This cost is set by the Common Short Code Administration, which oversees all short codes in the U.S. If you plan on sending a significant amount of messages, it may be worth the investment.

We have years of experience provisioning short codes, and can help make the process as smooth as possible. From completing your service approval form to testing your short code, we’ll be there for you every step of the way.

Key info about dedicated short codes:

  • Mass messaging and 2-way communication
  • Short, easy-to-remember number
  • Ideal for keyword opt-in
  • Can be used for sending/receiving SMS and MMS

Comparing Your Options at a Glance

In the end, your choice will come down to your budget, intended use and whether you plan on using mass texts, 1-on-1 messaging, or both. The chart below will give you a quick overview of your options.

  Toll-free Dedicated short code Long code
Format 10 digits 5-6 digits 10 digits
Primary Use Hybrid Mass texting 1-on-1 comms, limited group texting
Throughput Medium High Low
Setup Cost Low High Low
Setup Time Minutes Weeks Minutes

Ready to Pick a Number?

Whether you’re just getting started with texting, or are already using our shared short code and want your own number—we’re here to help. Get in touch with our support team by clicking the chat bubble at the corner of your screen. We’re happy to answer any questions you have, and get you up-and-running with the right number in no time.

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