August 17th, 2017 / SMS
SMS integrations: 5 critical questions every startup should ask
SMS remains such a critical channel for startups in both operational and marketing communications. As renowned growth marketer AJ Agrawal says, “If your startup isn’t using SMS…your leaving money on the table because SMS messages have a 99% open rate.”
But the vast choice of SMS integrations, platforms, vendors and API providers can be overwhelming.
Whether your startup needs SMS notifications, 2-factor authentication or SMS surveys, you are faced with a confusing range of options.
You could have your developers integrate via API to system-trigger the SMS. You might send a spreadsheet to a vendor for a marketing blast. Or you might use an online platform to upload a list and build your own 2-way SMS sequence.
To help you find the right path, here’s 5 questions to ask:
1. How important is deliverability vs cost?
If your SMS relates to critical business messaging – 2-factor authentication, shipping notifications, receipts – deliverability is critical.
For these applications, you need to avoid dodgy SMS providers using grey routes.
Bulk SMS providers are renowned for using unreliable ‘grey routes’ to deliver SMS. This helps them offer cheap prices, with the cost being poor reliability.
Grey routes are a way of sending SMS via a network operator where the company sending the SMS do not have a commercial agreement or relationship with the receiving network operator.
Network operators will shut them down as soon as they find them – hence the poor deliverability.
The only reason you’d consider using these bulk SMS providers is if you are starting out, you’re strapped for cash, and it’s marketing SMS you are sending. (I.E. it’s not the end of the world if they don’t arrive).
2. Do you need to send system-triggered SMS?
Are you sending notifications, shipping status updates, receipts…anything that requires automation to trigger the send? If so, you’re looking at an SMS integration. You’ll need a solution with user friendly APIs, good documentation, and support if required.
To do this you’ll want to have an IT developer you can tap to help with the set up of the API.
If you are looking to SMS for infrequent surveys, marketing campaigns or maybe even a once-a-day batch run, you can live without integration. You’ll just want to be able to upload a spreadsheet of recipients and run it from there.
3.Can you code or do you need an IT developer?
So you’ve identified you need automation for your SMS capability, so integration is required.
The next question is can you code, or do you need to engage help or reallocate IT resources to do this?
This one’s important. As a growing startup, you will almost certainly need to make changes to this SMS integration in the future as business requirements change.
If developer resources are going to be an issue, you’ll want an SMS platform with a simple interface that requires no coding to change message content, personalisation or triggers (after the initial API integration). Platforms such as Upwire and One Reach are ones to consider.
“As a growing startup, you will almost certainly need to make changes to this SMS integration in the future”
Raw API providers such as Nexmo, Twilio and Plivo require you to be able to code. If you can code yourself or have a ready supply of developers you can tap, this is fine. In fact, some coders even think it’s fun.
4. Will you need to change the SMS in the future?
Built-in agility is critical in SMS solutions for startups. If your SMS integration is all coded up, you need to think how you will approach it when you need to change the message, content, personalisation or trigger.
If you can’t code and your chosen solution doesn’t feature a non-code interface, then any future changes will incur time and expense with an IT developer.
Again, if you’ve got developers you can re-allocate to this, no problem. Otherwise a drag and drop SMS platform is preferable. This allows staff with no IT experience to change all aspects of the SMS.
5. What is the reporting capability?
Don’t underestimate the importance of real-time, detailed reporting. You’ll need it to verify customer enquiries about SMS being received, campaign performance and real-time status of large sends.
Depending on your use case, you’ll need full visibility of deliverability, opt-outs, weblink clinks, and full transcripts of reply SMS. The industry standard is for not only a web-based dashboard, but also fully exportable data files.
Expect no less from your chosen SMS solution provider.
Try before you buy
As always, there’s no substitute for trialling a platform or service provider.
Whether you’re looking at a fully integrated SMS solution or a standalone option with manual data upload, always try before you buy. Test usability, deliverability and agility (how easy will it be to make changes as your business evolves?).
Before any integration you should be able to run a test to a sample of recipients. If any providers insist on account or campaign management fees, walk away.