Whether you’re searching for an SMS provider for personal or professional use, there are a few things you should consider before you make your choice.
As text marketing providers ourselves, we’re the first to admit that not all SMS software is created equal. There are elements to each program that may or may not make it a better fit for your use case.
So, to help you get a better idea of what you need to look for to find the right SMS provider for you, we’ve come up with seven things to consider during your search.
But first, for those of you who may be at the very beginning of your exploration, we’ll explain what a text message provider is and baseline what you can expect from every service.
A cellphone is excellent for texting friends and family. But when it comes to business, it can be a little limiting.
With your personal mobile device, you can’t:
That’s where a text marketing provider comes in. SMS marketing providers have developed software that takes the SMS capabilities of your mobile phone and opens it up to your desktop.
Send a single text message campaign to tens, hundreds, or thousands of customers at once. Then respond to each individual right from your inbox.
To further understand what text marketing providers do, you’ll want to get familiar with the following ten things that any good text marketing tool should provide.
At a minimum, a good SMS provider should let you send mass and one-on-one messages to your customers.
But there are some essential features they may not offer. Ones that you may assume are a given, but realize all too late that they aren’t.
The research process can feel overwhelming, but these ten non-negotiables should keep you moving forward in the right direction.
One of the most appealing aspects of texting is that it’s a communication tool on the go. You don’t need to be tied down to an office or a desk to connect through text.
That’s why every useful text marketing tool should offer a mobile app that allows you to view and respond to your business messages right from your phone.
Apps should be available on both iOS and Android devices and offer the same functionality as their desktop counterparts.
Most providers operate on a credit-based system. So if you see a pricing plan tiered by “credits,” know that’s just a way of quantifying how many messages you’re sending per month. Some messages, like those including photos or video, can cost you more “credits,” which is why it’s broken down that way.
For example, with SimpleTexting, SMS costs one credit and MMS three.
By estimating how many messages you plan on sending each month, you can roughly determine how many credits you’ll need. In turn, you can pick a plan best suited to your needs.
When it comes to hidden costs, some providers are less upfront about charging for incoming messages and outgoing. In general, you may want to favor a plan that doesn’t charge for incoming SMS messages due to the volume’s unpredictability.
They may also charge extra to access certain features.
So be sure to find that out before you get started, especially if a particular function, like multiple keywords or unlimited contacts, is essential for your success.
Depending on how you plan to use texting with your organization, you may need to grant multiple people access to your account.
For providers without team member or sub-account capabilities, it can become fairly hard to manage between many people. Additionally, it may not be possible to text-enable multiple numbers under your organization.
As with any software, there’s a learning curve. You want to make sure your SMS provider has a full staff of support team members on call to assist you should something go wrong. Responsive customer service is also essential should you need urgent help with a time-sensitive issue.
Good questions to ask yourself (or the provider) are:
More likely than not, text marketing isn’t all your organization is doing to communicate. You might also have a host of other digital tools making up your internal or external operations.
With that in mind, you want to find a provider who considers the flexible nature of text marketing and allows you to integrate it with your existing marketing programs.
A good SMS provider will have ample integration opportunities, either through Zapier or another program, that allows you to connect your text marketing with your existing systems.
On the topic of integrations, if you’re a developer, a provider’s API capabilities are invaluable.
If accessing features from your text marketing program within your platform or application is essential to you, you want to ensure your provider can give you API access. To find out if this is a possibility, simply ask about the API documentation.
Giving customers the ability to text your business is just as important as your ability to message them. Two-way communication is the key to relationship building.
Without the ability to receive messages in addition to sending them, you won’t be able to know if you’re reaching all your contacts. You also won’t be able to receive confirmation, questions, or feedback.
So, be sure you ask your provider if they’re able to fully text-enable your organization so you have the ability to both send and receive messages.
Depending on your business needs, plain text may not be enough to get your message across. Perhaps you’ll need to send photos, videos, links, or soundbites as well. Texting out rich media utilizes something different known as MMS (see the difference between SMS and MMS here), and not every provider supports it.
MMS is a crucial feature for marketing messages in particular, as texts sent with a photo have a 52% higher click-through-rate than traditional text messages. Just ask the provider, “Do you support MMS?” to get your answer.
Everyone’s tech abilities fall somewhere on the spectrum of totally technology repellant to computer guru. Because of that, you want to ensure you find a provider who not only caters to the less tech-inclined but doesn’t limit the possibilities of those with a proclivity.
In short, you want to find software that can be used by anyone, with advanced features available to those who have mastered the basics.
Ask to see a sample tour of the dashboard to get a feel for how user-friendly the interface is. How many clicks does it take to get a campaign sent out? What tools are there to stay organized? These are all valuable things to consider when getting started with a new platform.
Providers should have nothing to hide. If you’re new to text marketing, there’s a learning curve. A good provider will give you the chance to work out the kinks without spending a dime. Free trials ranging in the 7-14 day range give you an excellent opportunity to test things out before making your final decision. Plus, after all the questions we’ve helped you come up with to ask, you may need the extra time to do all of your research! A good provider will award you that opportunity.
No credit card required
In the spirit of keeping things skimmable and straightforward, we took the ten factors from above (and some additional popular ones as well 😊) and entered them into the chart below.
From there, we took a closer look at the top SMS providers in the industry to find out which ones offer what.
While features, pricing, and offerings are always subject to change, this might give you a good idea, at a glance, of what provider best fits your needs!
|Sends Mass Messages||✅||✅||✅||✅||✅|
|Multi-User Multi-Number Capabilities||🚫||✅||✅||✅||✅|
|Click-to-Text Button Generator||🚫||✅||🚫||✅||✅|
|Mobile Sign-Up Widget Builder||🚫||✅||🚫||🚫||✅|
|Web Sign-Up Forms||✅||✅||✅||✅||🚫|
|Create Segments Across Contact Lists||🚫||✅||✅||✅||🚫|
|Mobile App Available||✅||✅||✅||✅||✅|
|No Charge For Incoming SMS||✅||✅||✅||✅||🚫|
|No Hidden Carrier Fees||✅||✅||✅||✅||✅|
|Support Available By Phone And Chat||✅||✅||✅||✅||✅|
|Easy to Navigate UI||✅||✅||✅||✅||✅|
|Collect and Segment Custom Subscriber Data||🚫||✅||🚫||🚫||✅|
|Enable Desktop Push Notifications||🚫||✅||🚫||✅||✅|
|Supports Dedicated Short Codes||✅||✅||✅||🚫||🚫|
|SMS Survey Feature||✅||✅||✅||✅||🚫|
|Free Virtual Phone Numbers||✅||✅||✅||🚫||🚫|
|SMS Polling Feature||✅||✅||✅||🚫||🚫|
|Two-Way SMS Chat||✅||✅||✅||✅||✅|
As an SMS provider ourselves, we may be biased. But these tips aren’t. If you feel so inclined, give us a try, or feel free to reach out for further clarification on any of the above. We’re here seven days a week to help you out!
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