Top tips for selecting an SMS provider you can rely on

August 19, 2015

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Receiving an appointment reminder from the dentist or a notification that check-in is open for your flight are two of the many hundreds of ways SMS marketing adds value to customers. For the most part, customers are happy to receive such messages as they are predominantly opt-in and add value to them.

The benefits of SMS marketing

The prevalence of mobile technology and our increasing reliability on smartphones managing both business and personal lives means reaching those devices allows you to reach the audience. As long as the message offers value, the huge majority of opted-in recipients view such messages positively. This means the messages you send are already off to a great start.

In an increasingly ad-blind world, getting the message into our consciousness is becoming an uphill struggle. A carefully constructed SMS marketing campaign can reach those that otherwise cannot be reached. It can engage those that would otherwise be ad-blind and deliver engagement in those that would usually ignore marketing messages.

How does SMS marketing work?

SMS marketing is usually broken down into two parts, the message and the medium. Marketers will identify the audience, create the awareness, build the need and then devise the message. The medium will deliver it to that audience via SMS messages.

For the purpose of this article, we are only concerning ourselves with that last part, the medium.

We all know how to send text messages from a phone. We also know roughly how much they cost. So how can you manage to send thousands of them without having to spend all day and all of your marketing budget? By using a third-party SMS provider.

An SMS provider is the middleman that sits between your business and the mobile networks. Often referred to as aggregators, they will have the hardware to broadcast messages anywhere in the world and wholesale contracts with the mobile networks that enable huge discounts for bulk messaging. The combination of the two is how they can benefit your business.

Why you need a quality SMS provider

The great strength of SMS marketing is in being able to reach only the targeted recipients at a suitable time. Messages that are not delivered, sent to the wrong person, are late or arrive at the wrong time will negatively impact your brand. They will also lose you customers pretty quickly!

If you’re sending an authentication text, emergency message or other time-sensitive message, delays or non-delivery will have serious repercussions in any situation.

There is also the issue of less trustworthy companies- those that use standard SIMS to send bulk messages in violation of network Terms of Service, and those who don’t offer guarantees. These companies are not good for your business.

The most “famous” incident of using one of these companies is in Brazil in 2011 where the authorities in Rio de Janeiro contracted a company to provide flood warnings to residents. Those warnings never got delivered and people lost their lives as a result. An extreme example for sure, but illustrative of why quality should always triumph over cost.

How to choose a good SMS provider

Choosing a good SMS provider is similar to selecting any other strategic partner. Cost is of course an issue, but quality and reliability are more important in this situation. Given that timely messages and reliable delivery mechanisms are more important to the success of the campaign than the actual cost per message, it has to be the primary consideration.

If you’re considering SMS providers, ask them these questions to get a good idea of how they operate.

  1. How much per message, per 100, per 1000, per 10,000?
  2. Are there any hidden costs or standing charges?
  3. Are there any minimum purchase or usage requirements?
  4. What guarantees and SLAs are offered?
  5. What networks are used in different areas?
  6. Do you provide click-through tracking?
  7. Are deliveries tracked?
  8. Are you a member of the Mobile Ecosystem Forum?
  9. Does the gateway support your protocol of choice? e.g. XML, HTTPS, SMTP?
  10. Is the interface easy to use and is training provided?
  11. What performance reports are provided?
  12. What response handling mechanisms are offered?
  13. Is there a test or trial period?
  14. What customers currently use your service?
  15. Are they happy with the service and can we ask them?

The answers to these fifteen questions should sit alongside gut instinct to let you know whether an SMS provider can deliver the quality of service you need to make your campaigns a success.

The provider that offers you the most guarantees, who delivers robust reporting tools so you can see where and when your messages are delivered, uses mainly Tier-1 networks to deliver those messages, and doesn’t hide charges or time-limit credits are ones worthy of considering.

If that provider also offers multiple protocol support, a simple UI with which to send those messages, response handling that you can use and offers a trial period should be worth extra consideration. As would those who are willing to provide testimonials and references for their work. A company who is good at what they do should be happy to share it!

Whether you’re a seasoned marketing professional or are new to SMS communications, selecting an SMS provider involves the same processes. Asking lots of questions, reading plenty of small print and trying before you buy is the only way you’ll ever know for sure if you ‘re selecting an SMS provider you can rely on.

If you’d like to find out more about how we can help you out get in touch. 

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