Picking The Best SMS API Provider
When it comes to your SMS API provider, you need a comprehensive service that will meet all your communication and marketing needs. When considering providers, most companies compare API components like features, pricing, and customer support.
But while these are important, they’re not all you should be analyzing. You should also ask about message delivery rates, scalability, integration, free trials, security, reporting, best practices, and reputation. And, of course, any other API aspects that will meet your company’s unique needs.
We’ll cover each of these in more detail below. While none are necessarily more important than the other, they’re all markers of the best APIs.
What To Look For In An SMS API Provider
Considering how vital SMS messaging is to today’s marketing and communication landscape, choosing an SMS API provider is no small undertaking. The right provider can boost your SMS campaigns and increase your reach, while less valuable providers won’t add much discernible value.
The best SMS API providers will be able to answer your questions in-depth and meet criteria related to pricing, features, security, delivery, and more. For example, the best API providers are upfront about their pricing, offer a variety of features, guarantee at least 99% uptime, and offer free trials. Of course, these aren’t the only API components you’ll need to look at.
Keep reading to learn what to look for in an SMS texting service provider, in addition to tips about the best providers and what questions to ask when researching.
In order to connect with customers, you need to be able to reach them. As such, message delivery is one of the most important aspects of any SMS service. Ask about delivery rates, coverage, and guaranteed uptime. What may impact message delivery and how does the provider guarantee their delivery rates?
In line with this, ask about the service level agreement (SLA) and what’s included. The best SMS provider APIs will be open about their SLAs and have at least 99.9% guaranteed uptime. Review the SLA prior to making any long-term commitments or signing contracts.
It’s also wise to ask about their networks. Look for providers that use a Tier 1 SMS network, which better guarantees delivery and uptime.
Scalability and Ease of Use
SMS APIs won’t be much use to your company if they’re difficult to work with and can’t adapt to your needs. The best SMS provider APIs are built by developers, for developers so that the integration process is as smooth as possible. The API should come with easy-to-understand and comprehensive documentation that can be implemented into all of your applications.
Beyond being easy to use, the API you select should also be capable of meeting your future needs as well as it can meet your current needs. Every company has a goal, whether it’s to better connect with customers, expand into new markets, or a different vision entirely. Either way, you need an API that can grow with you.
In addition to being able to grow with you, the API should also be able to downsize with you. If you decide to focus on a more select group of customers, will be the API still meet your needs? Or will the majority of it be redundant?
Scalability should be at the core of whatever API provider you choose.
Integration with Your Website, Application, or CRM
Before committing to an SMS messaging service provider, make sure you’re clear on how the API works. When people reference SMS APIs, they typically mean programmable SMS APIs integrate with your website, applicate, or CRM.
Here are just a few ways buHowever, there are also out-of-the-box text messaging services that require no programming. While technically a type of software or service, these are sometimes mistakenly referred to as SMS APIs.sinesses can use SMS APIs:
Be clear on whether the API requires integration via programming. If it’s a true API, you should also ask how the integration process works, who needs to perform it, and how long it will take. Typically, a professional software developer or programmer can code and integrate your API within one business day.
Most companies will offer programmable SMS API demos, but that only gives you a limited view of the API’s capabilities. More than that, it doesn’t give you an idea of how the API will specifically work within your current marketing and communication strategies.
Though you should absolutely take advantage of demos, make sure the API provider you’re looking into offer free SMS API trials, as well. This way, you’ll be able to see how the API works in real time and weigh its benefits against its drawbacks. Based on how the trial goes, you can decide whether or not it’s worth signing up.
You should also make sure the free trials are actually free. Avoid providers that require contracts, credit cards, or other commitments in exchange for a free trial.
During the free trial, take note of how the API works, how easy it is to use, and if it makes a difference in terms of return on value for your SMS campaigns. What features do you like? What do you dislike? What is redundant?
Before moving forward, make sure to address these notes with the provider. Ask what can be done to reduce redundancy and improve the features that aren’t working for you.
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Ask SMS API providers what features they offer that can boost your business and enhance your SMS campaigns. Some features are more common, such as two-way messaging and MMS messaging, but that doesn’t mean they’re automatically included.
Features such as autoresponder, templates, and text scheduling are useful for maximizing your resources and time. Along the same vein, keywords and opt out handling are geared toward keeping you compliant with SMS API rules and regulations. And still other features, such as emoticons and regional languages, help you better connect with different demographics and communities.
Because SMS providers offer so many features, it can be helpful to research the ones that would most benefit your business prior to any meetings or inquiries. This can help you better discern how effective the API will be for your company.
No matter what industry you’re in, protecting your customers and your data is essential to building strong, lasting connections. Trust is integral to that. Before investing in a text message service provider, ask them what security measures are in place to protect your company and your customers.
You should also ask about pricing in terms of security. Will you have to pay more for extra security measures or more rigorous protection? The best API companies will provide the same level of service and security no matter what pricing plan you’re on.
It’s also a good idea to ask if they’ve had any security breaches in the past and, if so, what they did to resolve the problem and what safeguards they added to prevent future issues.
Analytics and Reporting
In order to use the SMS API to the best of its ability, you’ll need comprehensive analytics and reporting. Whatever SMS provider you’re considering, ask about features related to these. Delivery reports are one example of reporting that many providers offer.
You should also ask about whether reports are available for each SMS campaign. This is preferable, so that you can see how each individual campaign performs and how your SMS marketing as a whole is performing.
Analytics and reporting will drive the effectiveness of your campaigns and tell you what changes need to be made, if any, so this is an essential part of the research you’ll need to perform on each potential provider.
Adherence to Best Practices
When it comes to SMS, it’s important to ensure your API provider follows best practices. This not only encourages healthy business practices, but also ensures that you stay compliant with federal and state regulations.
Providers that don’t follow best practices should be avoided, no matter how affordable they seem or what great features they offer. Make sure to ask them about their adherence to best practices and how rigorously they follow them.
Prior to asking providers about best practices, it’s best to perform your own research. Being able to ask about specifics rather than a generalized, “Do you follow best practices?” will help you find the best API providers.
Pricing is one of the most important components of an SMS API, since it will determine whether or not the API falls within your budget. API providers should be upfront about their pricing.
You’ll need to know the monthly API fee, SMS fees for inbound and outbound messages, MMS fees for inbound and outbound fees, short code carrier fees, and short code and long code fees.
Check to see if the provider offers volume-based pricing or custom pricing, so that you don’t pay for more than you need and maximize your savings.
Additionally, make sure to ask how coverage affects that pricing. If the quoted pricing is for U.S. or domestic rates, ask about international coverage and pricing.
Customer and Technical Support
Before signing up with a text messaging service provider, check into what support they offer. Most providers offer basic customer support during business hours, but emergencies aren’t limited to business hours.
What emergency support does the provider offer? Preferably, you should have access to 24/7 SMS API emergency support. In terms of the emergency support providers, what experience do they have? Are they professional developers or programmers?
Also ask what contact methods they offer. Email is standard, but live chat and phone are much quicker methods of resolution. Do they offer all three forms of contact, or just one or two?
Beyond this, it’s also useful to know the escalation path. If the customer service representative is unable to solve your problem, what are the next steps? Are they able to guarantee a resolution time?
Besides demos and free trials, researching an SMS service provider’s online reputation is one of the best ways to gauge whether or not they’re the right provider for you. Look for providers that have a strong online presence with lots of reviews.
Many providers will post reviews on their websites, but these are usually selected with care to make the company look good. As such, they’re not an accurate reflection of the provider’s reputation.
Look for reviews on Google, GetApp, Capterra, and other websites. What is their overall rating? Are there more positive than negative reviews? As you research, look for recurring points of interest. What issues do customers keep mentioning? Alternatively, are there any positive elements that keep coming up?
It’s also useful to look at what companies or individuals are leaving reviews. Is the provider servicing a variety of customers in terms of industries and business sizes? Or do they appear to be servicing a specific niche?