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The Comprehensive Guide to Business SMS: Setting Up, Types, and Providers

Utilizing SMS for business purposes can be a powerful tool in engaging both existing and potential customers. However, knowing how to set up a text messaging service for your business can be a daunting task. In this comprehensive guide, we will demystify business SMS, outlining how to obtain an SMS number, effectively communicate with existing customers, and attract new ones.

Understanding SMS

Short Message Service (SMS) has become a ubiquitous form of communication, with over 65% of the global population using it. Despite being introduced in 1984, the technology has endured, and the first text was sent in 1992. SMS operates through cellular networks, passing through a cell tower to a carrier’s SMS Center before reaching the recipient. This process ensures message delivery even when the recipient’s phone is turned off.

How SMS Works

SMS Limitations

Although SMS remains a widely used medium, it does have limitations. Notably, it is technologically dated, characterized by a 160-character limit, an absence of rich content support, and an inability to function without a cellular network connection.

Introducing MMS

Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) emerged as an evolution of SMS, offering a richer messaging experience. MMS allows the transmission of multimedia content, including images, audio, and video files. Launched in 2002, MMS marked a significant milestone in the telecom industry, unlocking new marketing opportunities for businesses.

MMS Supports Rich Content

Advantages of MMS

MMS campaigns boast higher engagement and opt-in rates compared to SMS. Additionally, MMS content is eight times more likely to be shared by customers. Most notably, MMS messages allow for 1,600 characters, providing ample space for detailed communication.

RCS Messaging and iMessage

Rich Communication Services (RCS) arose to compete with feature-rich messaging apps, seeking to enhance SMS functionality. Although conceived in 2007, Google spearheaded its rollout in 2019. However, RCS messaging is specific to Android and lacks encryption. Google’s interest in RCS was likely influenced by the success of Apple’s iMessage.

RCS Messaging is Ideal For Business Use

iMessage for Business

Launched in 2011, iMessage offers features similar to RCS messaging, with the added benefit of end-to-end encryption. iMessage for business, known as Apple Business Chat, facilitates direct purchases within the platform.

Paying with Apple Pay in iMessages

The Popularity of SMS

Despite advancements in messaging technologies, SMS remains immensely popular. With 5 billion users worldwide, this figure is projected to reach 5.9 billion by 2025. China and India lead the pack with 1.1 billion and 730 million SMS users, respectively.

SMS: A Universal Medium

Unlike iMessage and RCS Messaging, SMS is built into every device and functions virtually everywhere. In North America, a staggering 80% of the population uses SMS. Its widespread accessibility and reach make it an invaluable communication tool for businesses.

Unrivaled Open and Click-Through Rates

SMS boasts an astounding open rate of 98% and an impressive click-through rate of 40%, in stark contrast to email’s meager 2% click-through rate. This unparalleled reach and engagement make SMS a paramount communication tool for businesses.

Choosing SMS Numbers and Providers

When venturing into SMS for business, two crucial decisions must be made: selecting the type of number and choosing a reliable SMS provider.

Types of SMS Numbers

There are four main types of SMS numbers: Alphanumeric IDs, Short Codes, Long Codes, and Toll-free Numbers. Each type serves distinct purposes, and the choice depends on the intended use case.

Types of SMS Numbers

Alphanumeric IDs

Alphanumeric IDs are ideal for governments and businesses looking to send one-way notifications from a recognizable, non-replyable number. They are perfect for broadcast messages like mass alerts and notifications.

Characteristics of Alphanumeric ID

Use Cases of Alphanumeric IDs

Short Codes

Short Codes, consisting of 5 to 6 digits, are designed for high-volume messaging. They can be shared or dedicated and are suitable for both outbound and two-way messaging.

Characteristics of Short Codes

Use Cases of Short Codes

Long Codes

Standard 10-digit phone numbers known as Long Codes are perfect for one-on-one communications, especially for customer support. They can also handle voice calls, providing a unified contact point.

Characteristics of Long Codes

Long codes cannot be used for broadcasting because messages are filtered by carriers. Filtering works like email filtering systems. It looks at the content and volume of messages to ensure compliance with local regulations and carriers’ policies.

Use Cases of Long Codes

Toll-free Numbers

Starting with a 1-800 prefix, Toll-free Numbers are an economical option for businesses looking to send broadcast messages. They are versatile, serving both one-to-many and one-to-one communications.

Characteristics of Toll-free Numbers

Choosing the Right Number

Selecting the appropriate type of number is crucial to ensure effective communication. Picking the wrong type may lead to suspension or termination of services.

SMS Providers

Given the decentralized nature of SMS infrastructure, partnering with an SMS provider is essential for seamless integration. Twilio and Vonage are popular choices, offering phone numbers and sending capabilities across numerous countries.

What Should You Look For In an SMS Provider

Benefits of SMS Providers

SMS providers streamline the process, removing the need for complex carrier partnerships. They offer accessibility to SMS services through APIs, making it cost-effective and efficient for businesses.

Benefits of SMS Providers

Setting Up Twilio SMS Account

Getting started with Twilio is straightforward:

1. Fill out the sign-up form with your name, email, and password.

Getting a Twilio Account: Fill Up the Form

2. Verify your details by clicking the confirmation link in the email and entering your phone number and verification code.

Getting a Twilio Account: Verify Your Details

3. Press the “Get a Trial Number” button on the Twilio dashboard to obtain a recommended phone number.

Getting a Twilio Number: Click the Get a Trial Number Button

4. Choose another phone number if the recommended one doesn’t suit your needs.

Getting a Twilio Number: Buy a Number

5. Connect your Twilio account to a CRM using the provided API credentials.

Find API Credentials for SMS Twilio Account

SMS Business: Best Practices

Businesses Need to Follow Government and Industry SMS Regulations

SMS Contact Opt-in & Opt-out

Opt-in Strategies

Opting-in is the cornerstone of ethical SMS business communication. Contacts must explicitly grant consent to receive messages. This can be achieved through various methods, including handset opt-ins, web forms, automated phone systems, or point-of-sale interactions. Handset opt-ins, where users send a keyword to a designated number, are the most common method.

SMS Opt-in Methods

Additionally, businesses can implement a double opt-in process, where customers confirm their consent after the initial opt-in. This extra step not only ensures compliance but also reaffirms the customer’s choice.

SMS Double Opt-in

Opt-out Procedures

Equally important is the provision for Contacts to opt out of receiving messages. This can be facilitated through keywords like STOP, END, or CANCEL, which trigger an automatic opt-out. Honoring opt-out requests is imperative to avoid legal repercussions and maintain a positive customer relationship.

SMS Opt-out methods

Contacts who have opted out should also have the option to easily opt back in by replying with affirmative keywords such as START, YES, or UNSTOP.

Messaging Customers via SMS

Character Limitation

SMS messages are limited to 160 characters. However, including certain punctuation marks or non-Latin characters may reduce this limit to 70. It is crucial for businesses to be mindful of this constraint, as exceeding the limit results in messages being segmented and incurring double the cost.

Character Limitation On SMS Business Messaging

Rate Limit Restrictions

Long Codes, while useful, have limitations when it comes to volume. They are restricted to one outbound SMS per second. Businesses should be aware of these constraints, especially when considering SMS broadcasts.

Rate Limit Restrictions On SMS Business Messaging

Furthermore, it’s essential to note that SMS sent from a Long Code may be subject to filtering by carriers, potentially leading to delivery failures. The exact threshold for triggering filtering is often ambiguous.

Frequency and Timing

Maintaining an optimal frequency of SMS broadcasts is key to retaining customer engagement. Bombarding customers with daily messages may lead to opt-outs. A recommended frequency is once or twice a week.

Ideal Frequency and Timing On SMS Business Messaging

Moreover, timing plays a crucial role in SMS business messaging. Sending messages at inappropriate hours can lead to customer dissatisfaction and legal consequences. Some countries even have specific regulations regarding the timing of promotional messages.

Geographical Restrictions

Engaging international subscribers introduces an added layer of complexity. Cross-border restrictions apply to certain numbers like Short Codes, and achieving two-way messaging is not always guaranteed.

Geographical Restriction On SMS Business Messaging

Short Codes are typically limited to sending messages to local phone numbers. To reach an international audience, a Short Code in the recipient’s country of residence is necessary.

Additionally, in some regions, carriers may alter the displayed number on the recipient’s phone, preventing replies from reaching the original sender.


Business SMS is a powerful tool for customer engagement and outreach. Understanding the types of SMS numbers and selecting the right SMS provider are crucial steps in effectively utilizing this communication medium. With its wide-reaching capabilities, SMS remains a cornerstone in modern business communication.

Remember, choosing the right SMS strategy for your business can significantly impact your success. Whether it’s SMS, MMS, RCS, or iMessage, each has its strengths and weaknesses. By understanding their unique features, you can make an informed decision on the best fit for your business needs. Visit our website today!


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