5 Tips for Choosing an SMS Gateway Provider

Choose the right SMS gateway provider to meet your needs. An SMS gateway provider empowers an individual—that’s YOU—to use your computer to send SMS / text messages to your customers and contacts through a communications network.

But how do you choose the right one? What should you look for? What’s important and what’s not?

Relax. We can help.

Illustration of hand holding smartphone

The Right SMS Gateway Provider Can Make All the Difference!

In other words, it’s the portal that connects you with your contacts’ cell phones mobile devices via mobile carriers like Sprint, Bell, AT&T, Verizon, Fido, Koodo, Virgin and so on. If you’re a business owner or manager investigating SMS mobile marketing strategies for your business and you don’t have the time, in-house expertise, desire or even the finances to develop your own gateway, connecting with the right SMS gateway provider is what you need to do to move forward.

Here are 5 important things to keep in mind when choosing an SMS provider…

1. Choose a SMS Gateway Provider Intimately Familiar with Your Country’s Applicable SMS Marketing Laws.

This is critical.

Depending on where in world you operate, violating the laws that govern the sending of SMS messages will lead you to incur serious legal liabilities in the form of punitive fines from regulatory agencies and / or civil suits from end users.

Regardless of whether the violation was intentional or not.

In the U.S., for example, fines range from $500 to $1,500… per unauthorized text.

In Canada, where the sending of SMS messages is regulated under CASL (Canada’s Anti Spam Legislation) fines are also especially punitive. And of course, fines from government regulatory agencies are only one part of the equation. There’s also the potential of civil suits.

Yeah, them. And here’s the kicker: some country’s laws do not hold the service provider responsible for the sending of unwanted texts, which mean many gateway providers either allow you to do whatever you want, or alternatively, don’t know enough about the laws in question to ensure you’re operating on the right side of them.

This is especially true of U.S. SMS Gateway Providers offering services to Canadian businesses. I have yet to see one that delivers messages according to the definition of a CEM (Commercial Electronic Message) as defined by Canada’s Anti Spam Legislation.

This can be potentially disastrous for your business. Especially since “spam” isn’t really on the radar of small business owners who work primarily in an offline environment. Or for people who believe that a prior business relationship is all they need to connect with their customers (this is not the case).

In my opinion, letting your customers unknowingly assume huge legal liabilities is not the best way to look after their best interests.

Gateway provider services may operate internationally, or they may be national / regional, so it’s important you know where they operate from, and what their approach to full compliance happens to be.

2. Choose a Provider that uses the SMPP Protocol

OK, bear with me for a moment; I know this sounds technical.

SMPP stands for Short Message Peer-to-Peer, and it’s the gold standard protocol for sending text messages to your clients via the carrier networks—Bell, AT&T, Verizon, etc. It’s reliable, effective, fast, and easy to track delivery.

If the service you are investigating costs is extremely cheap and can’t guarantee delivery rates, they are probably using SMTP, which is an email protocol.

How do I know that? Because there is a real cost to sending messages via SMPP, and no one is in business to lose money.

Essentially, while SMTP works very well for email, and it costs next to nothing to use, it’s an extremely unreliable protocol to use for sending text messages.

If you’re here reading this, I’m assuming that you take your business seriously, and recognize that you always get exactly what you pay for—and that “free” and “cheap” are not always the best solutions for a serious business, even if you’re budget is restrictive.

There’s no point embarking on any SMS marketing campaign unless you do it properly. That means connecting via the carrier networks. That’s what the pros do, after all.

3. Choose a Service that’s Small Business-Friendly

Unless you happen to be in the enviable position of having a team of technical or computer-savvy people who manage the various software applications that keep your business running smoothly, chances are it’s either you, or you and a small select group, that handle everything.

And while I can’t speak to your unique situation, most business owners I know are busy “on the ground”, managing the day-today operations of their businesses. They’re aren’t computer engineers, nor do they have time to waste time learning complicated applications. They need to “get it done” and move on.

That’s why it’s important that the SMS Gateway Provider you choose offers an intuitive, easy-to-use interface with a minimal learning curve. Setup should be simple and fast so that you and your team can get started sending out your messaging ASAP. Most services, including our own, offer a free trial option so that you can take a good look around before you commit to anything.

I highly recommend you do this.

4. Choose a Business-Oriented Partner

What do I mean by this? Essentially, while just about every gateway service in the world will allow you to send an SMS message to a group of contacts, some are better suited for boosting revenue than others, and…

1. Offers specialized business functionality

If the service you choose was built with business-boosting in mind, chances are you’re going to gain access to the sort of functionality designed specifically to attain that goal. And that’s a good thing.

2. “Bells and whistles free.”

In my opinion, tons of extraneous functionality does not enable small business owners to be successful on the mobile marketing channel. When you’re not a computer software engineer, it is paralyzing, not liberating. At its core, SMS marketing is pretty simple; entice people to subscribe to your service with a compelling incentive, get them to redeem that incentive, and then follow up with them regularly with messages that provide value.

Bada bing, bada boom.

Bells and whistles only get in the way.

5. Choose a Service that’s Customer-Focused

This one’s pretty straight forward. Do you want to be customer #1,052,458 and have your calls routed to a call center in Bangalore? Or do you want to do business with people who really appreciate your business? With people who “have your back?”

With friends?

I know who I like to do business with; people who know my name. People whom I like. People genuinely have my best interests at heart.

People I can get on the phone. I suspect you’re no different.

What Doesn't Matter

There a few things that really don’t matter so much, regardless of what anyone says…

Price

Obviously, no one wants to pay more than what’s fair, but price is ultimately about value—about what you’re getting for your money. Let me ask you this…

If you had a choice to pay a SMS Gateway Provider $10/month to obtain a 0% Return On Investment (ROI), or $50/month to obtain a 500% ROI, which would you choose?

The latter, of course.

Dedicated Short Codes Vs. Long Codes

Dedicated short codes are 5 or 6 digit numbers used specifically for the sending of SMS messages. Long codes are 10-digit numbers (like “regular” phone numbers) that do the same. Their are pros and cons to each, but most business can really use either. We recently switched from short codes to long codes, largely because of the confusion they were causing with a large number of our Canadian clients’ customer bases.

Big box stores and Fortune 1000 companies will probably want to use short codes, because they can be used for branding purposes. But for small businesses not interested in the US$500–$1,000 monthly lease fee (short codes are leased from the mobile carriers), these codes are not an option.

Ultimately, both get the job done.

APIs

If you require an API, you’re a not a typical client. The average small business owner—like the people we serve—don’t need one (we’re in the process of building APIs for a couple of larger clients, but these are customized solutions, not out of the box offerings. We can do the same for you).

Number of Credits/Texts

Almost any SMS Gateway provider can provide you with a customized package allowing you to send however many text messages you need with however number of credits you need.

What’s far more important is whether they “rollover” your unused credits or texts from month to month. Many services don’t; they delete what you don’t use from your account at the end of each month. I don’t think that’s fair; if you pay for something, should you be penalized if you don’t use it?

I don’t think so.

Carrier Coverage

This is almost a non-issue anymore. Most providers can boast well over 90% coverage in North America.

Number of Keywords

The “keyword” is the unique word associated with your account, and what prospects will type on their phones to subscribe on your service. For example, in…

“To get 20% off your next order and receive exclusive weekly deals direct to your cell phone, Text PIZZA to 41932.”

“Pizza” is the keyword.

Your business will have its own.

I get a kick out of services that offer “15 keywords” with their accounts. Fact is, 99% of the businesses on our service—and I suspect on every service—only use 1 keyword. Adding extra keywords to subscriptions adds the perception of value, but in reality, it’s very unlikely you’ll ever use more than 1.

What Sets Us Apart From the Others

Our SMS Gateway Service is…

  1. Priced fairly.
  2. Built by people who have real world “brick and mortar” business experience, and who know what you need.
  3. Simple and easy to use.
  4. Packed with business-boosting features – features that will make your business money!
  5. Supported by a passionate team dedicated to your business’ success.

So why not…

Visit the Local Text Marketers home page to determine which of our services is right for you!

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