The first step in setting up SMS for your business is choosing an SMS service provider. If you select the right SMS service provider, it makes it much easier to accomplish your goals with SMS.
Your SMS service provider impacts everything from compliance to CRM integration. Even small inconveniences add up to a lot of burned time and money, so nailing your SMS service provider selection is vital for any business looking to implement text communication.
Now, there are a lot of SMS service providers out there. On one hand, this gives you plenty of options, which is good. On the other hand, more options complicates the selection process.
Therefore, it’s critical to understand how to select the right SMS service provider, based on critical features and capabilities.
This article will give you a checklist of things to look for as you evaluate SMS service providers, starting with the most important stuff.
Here’s what to look for in an SMS service provider…
1. Network Ownership
The first thing to evaluate is how your SMS service provider is going to transmit your messages and how much control you get over the network infrastructure that’s carrying your messages.
It might seem like all SMS providers would be pretty much the same in this regard. After all, all of them use similar wires and cell towers in their network. How much difference could there be?
There’s one big differentiator between SMS service providers: who owns and operates their network.
Many SMS providers do not own their network. They work with contractors to provision network connectivity and essentially send your text messages over someone else’s network.
The best SMS providers own and operate their own network. This gives the provider much more control over how their network transmits your messages.
This control makes it easier for your SMS provider to optimize message delivery and ensure compliance.
It also improves customer service. Your provider can quickly troubleshoot issues if they can simply look at their network and see what’s going on. A provider that contracts out their connectivity must contact the third-party network operator and investigate to identify issues.
All this information points to one thing: an SMS service provider that owns and operates its own network is better than a provider that relies on third-party network operators.
2. API Support
This might seem obvious, but it’s important that your SMS provider offers a fully supported SMS API, in addition to owning and operating their own network
For reference, an API is an Application Programming Interface that enables you to use computers to connect to your SMS provider’s network and send messages.
The good news is that most SMS service providers have their own SMS API.
However, some SMS providers offer a pretty bare bones API that gives you a connection to the provider’s network and not much else. You’re left to get additional functionality—analytics, data reporting, message delivery tracking, etc.—from third-party software providers or build these functionalities yourself.
Ideally, your SMS provider should have an API that enables you to not only connect to your provider network, but also gives you enough control over the platform to easily implement features that make SMS marketing and communication as efficient as possible.
For instance, the Telnyx SMS API offers features like number lookup, opt-out management, message queuing, and other capabilities right out of the box. You don’t have to build anything yourself.
Bottom line, when you’re checking out SMS service providers, kick the tires on their SMS API, and make sure it does everything you need.
3. Message Delivery
Obviously, you want your SMS service provider to reliably deliver messages.
It’s very bad if messages get lost in transit or are sent to the wrong phone numbers. That’s why most SMS service providers give some message delivery metrics in their marketing or support documentation.
You’re looking for 98% or 99% message delivery rates. It’s pretty much impossible to get any higher than that.
If you’re checking out an SMS service provider, and you can’t find any delivery rates anywhere, either contact their sales team and ask about it or move on to another provider.
One of the primary reasons you should use an SMS API is to make it simple and easy to send a lot of text messages.
However, another big benefit of using an SMS API is that the API makes it much easier and cost-efficient to expand your SMS operations, or it should.
Your SMS service provider should let you pay only for what you need. Beware any SMS service provider that forces you to pay for large packages or service tiers that leave you with a lot of unused bandwidth and excess costs.
It should be simple to pay for as many SMS short codes and as much message volume as you need, and no more. When you need more, there shouldn’t be any penalty for ramping up your message volume or adding short codes. That’s true scalability.
5. Ease of Integration
You probably already have some communication tools in place. Most businesses have at least a CRM system.
It should be easy to integrate your SMS service with your existing tools. That way you can leverage the data you already have (primarily phone numbers) in your SMS program.
This means your SMS service provider must offer direct integration with your existing systems. The key here is that the integration is direct. If you have to add an external integration tool to achieve integration, that’s going to cost you a lot of efficiency.
Look for simple, direct integration.
6. Compliance Automation
Compliance is a huge deal in SMS marketing.
You must get permission from customers before you text them. You must provide clear instructions and a simple opt-out procedure. These and other requirements are mandated by the FCC.
Automation is the best way to deal with compliance, and your SMS provider should offer compliance automation. That way you don’t get slapped with fines because of an honest oversight.
Working with an SMS provider that offers compliance automation tools is the best way to automate compliance. It’s unwise to attempt DIY compliance automation. Stick with pre-built automations from your service provider.
7. Robust Analytics and Reporting
Data is crucial for optimizing your SMS program and getting maximum ROI. Your SMS provider has access to all the data you need, because they handle all the messages.
Your provider needs to give you access to this data, along with at least some basic analytics tools to help you make sense of all the information. Delivery rates, click-through rates, and open rates are some of the key metrics you need.
Make sure your SMS provider offers some sort of dashboard or analytics tools to give you the information you need to get the most from your SMS program.
8. User Reviews
You’re probably familiar with doing this already. There are tons of review platforms out there, and they’re an excellent resource for verifying that an SMS provider does what they claim.
It’s always a good last step to check and see how other customers feel about an SMS service provider.
Now that You Know How to Select the Right SMS Service Provider…
Now that you know, get out there and check out some SMS service providers.
Feel free to bookmark this article, and use the headings as your checklist. That way you can be confident you’re making the right choice.