Once you’ve decided that you would like to integrate a mobile marketing strategy into your overall marketing strategy, you will need to know how to choose an SMS gateway provider. Choosing a gateway provider can be a bit tricky, so we’ve put together this handy guide to help walk you through the process. This guide is much simpler than our more in-depth SMS Gateway provider article we wrote awhile back.
The first thing you will want to know is that an SMS gateway provider is basically a business or company that provides SMS messaging services. They are not a mobile network operator, but they will act as the middleman between the operators and your SMS end users. SMS gateway providers can also be called SMS service providers, SMS brokers, or SMS resellers. There ARE differences between these titles.
An SMS gateway provider provides an SMS gateway for its users to send text messages to. This gateway will route the messages to another SMS gateway or SMSC. An SMS reseller or SMS broker buys text messages in bulk from numerous different wireless carriers at a very lost cost per text message. They then sell the same messages at a higher price to the company that is wanting to use the messages for their SMS program. Keeping all this in mind, these are the 13 questions you want to ask yourself when deciding on an SMS gateway provider.
How Much Does a Single Message Cost?
Credit-based gateway providers allow you to buy credits for your text messages. For example, you can purchase X amount of credits from the provider. Sending a message will cost you X amount of credits depending on which country the message is going to.
SMS-based providers also allow you to buy credits for your text messages, but instead you are paying as you go rather than buying a bunch of credits at the beginning of the month like with credit-based SMS.
Now, you would think you would only want to purchase SMS-based credits, but if your provider allows you rollover credits from month to month, then sticking with credit-based might be the better choice.
Are There Hidden Costs?
Sometimes there may be some hidden charges associated with the pricing of your SMS messaging program. A lot of companies like to hide a lot of their fees so their services look cheaper on the service, when it’s really not. Be aware of any hidden charges and fees before ever diving into an SMS marketing program.
What Are the Minimum Buying or Monthly Usage Requirements?
Some gateway providers will require you to buy a minimum number of credits each time you make a purchase. If you are feeling iffy about your SMS program anyways, you will want to find a provider that does not have a minimum requirement so you can feel more comfortable starting out.
Luckily, most gateway providers do not have minimum requirements on a monthly basis. You usually see mobile network operators set requirements. For example, a network operator may not offer you any SMS messaging services until you have built up your monthly traffic to at least 50,000 messages. So in other words, if you’re starting out, find someone without a minimum monthly requirement.
Is the Gateway Provider’s Coverage Good?
This will be dependent on who and where you are trying to reach with your messsages. Some gateway providers will not be able to deliver messages to certain countries and mobile operators, so you will want to be aware of these if they exist. The list of countries and operators supported by a particular provider can usually be found on their website.
Despite this, you will still want to doublecheck to make sure that their list is updated and accurate. A lot of providers allow you a certain number of free messages to test out their coverage, so use these to your advantage.
What is the Quality of the Provider’s Network
Keep in mind that if a provider is offering you an extremely cheap price per message, then their network’s quality may be poor. In other words, your messages may get delayed in their delivery, or they may not make it to their destinations at all. Like with coverage, you will want to take advantage of any free messages the provider offers so you can test out the quality of their network.
Does the Provider Support the Interface/Protocol You Want to Use?
The most common protocols and interfaces supported by providers are HTTP, HTTPS, XML over HTTP/HTTPS, SMTP, FTP, and SMPP. You can get a more detailed explanation of each of these protocols in our in-depth service provider article. Depending on your provider, you may or may not be getting the protocol you want, so make sure you know which ones are offered before diving into a campaign.
Is the Provider’s API Easy to Use and Well Documented?
If your provider has an API and sample code that is well documented, this could be invaluable to developers due to the time they save on development. You can use this API documentation to see what specific elements it can support before ever making a final decision on your provider.
What Are the Payment Options Offered by the Service Provider?
Usually, service providers will let you pay with credit since most SMS programs run off of a web-based account management system. Some may also offer PayPal, check payments, direct deposits, or wire transfers. However, since the web-based account management systems usually allow you to manage your entire SMS campaign from a central location you will probably end up paying with credit. On another note, you will also want to be aware of the different features offered by different web-based platforms.
Are Free Messages Offered by the Provider?
If they are, use them to test out their network’s coverage and quality. You do not want to blindly purchase SMS messages or credits without knowing the full capabilities of your network.
Are 2-Way Messaging Services Offered?
Every single gateway provider will offer 1-way messaging, but some will also offer 2-way messaging which will give you and your end users to send and receive messages, not just send messages. This will depend on the SMS campaign you plan to run, but if you are hoping to communicate with your customers back and forth, you will want to make sure you have 2-way messaging capabilities.
How Good is the Provider’s Support?
This can be the most important part of choosing a service provider! If your provider simply sets you up with an SMS campaign, sells you credits and messages, and just lets you go after that, who will you turn to for help if you have a problem or question? The best service providers have a complete understanding of their own system and are willing to give you full support whenever you may need it. Make sure you have a good idea of the support you will be given before ever jumping into your SMS program.
Of course, this is just scraping the surface when it comes to the considerations you need to make when choosing an SMS gateway provider. This article simplified the process as best as possible, but you can learn much, much more in our in-depth article regarding SMS gateway providers. Good luck!