There are various methods to implement SMS Texting into your business. Each has its trade offs: Ease of use, message delivery rate, complexity, maintenance, startup cost, and monthly fees.
There are 4 basic methods
* Short Code with SMS Gateway
* Shared Short Code with Keywords
* Manually with Mobile Phone
* Windows PC with Mobile Modem
SHORT CODES AND SMS GATEWAY
Short Codes are 5 and 6 digit mobile phone numbers. This means there are 757,776 Short Codes available. In 1995 there were less than 20,000 domain names registered. Today there are over 200 Million domain names. Short Code use today is equivalent to domain usage in 1995. There is no limit to domain names. Short Codes are very finite at 757,776 max.
Today Website domain name monthly fees are typically $1.00. Monthly Short Code fees range from $500 to $2000 per month. The major factor in the cost is whether the Short Code is randomly selected or a “vanity” number. Your choice is to take a randomly selected Short Code number or pick your own from the a available.
The ideal Short Code is one that is a simple to remember combination of numbers (e.g. 23456)and at the same time the digits, as represented on the phone key pad can spell a word and the word spelled can be associated with your business.
Where 23456 is easy to remember it does not spell a word. Google SMS service’s Short Code is 466463. Not an easy to remember number but using the telephone key pad’s alpha characters it spells GOOGLE.
There are not many words that can be spelled using an easy to remember number. Like 33666=DEMON, 733337=REFER, 76667=ROOMS. Then there are some numbers that spell bonus words. 34448 spells DIGIT, EIGHT, and FIGHT.
Some easier numbers are those that start with 2 or 4 followed by a four or five letter word. Papa Johns uses 4PAPA (47272). When I investigated availability of restaurant Short Codes in late 2009 there were some very good 4’s still available (e.g.4RIBS and 4CHILI). They are still available today. There is still one very very good Short Code available today for the restaurant market. I’m keeping that one to myself.
SHORT CODE COST AND ISSUES
Short Code ownership is for those that will have high messages volume. And have the necessary budget. I do not recommend a short code unless you plan to collect 10,000 or more mobile number within a a year or so.
Once you have a short code there is still a long way to go before you can put it in use. You must understand the SMS Gateway. Short Code use requires that you use an SMS Gateway. An SMS Gateway is a service that allows you to send and receive SMS text messages. There are advantages and disadvantages to using an SMS Gateway.
The advantage is the number of messages per minute you can transmit and receive Text messages. This is only an advantage if you have collected a large list of mobile numbers.
On the downside, short codes come with good sized price tag. They require a very proficient programmer to get it up and running. Whether or not the programmer is supplied by your SMS Gateway provider, you are still paying. You need a PC dedicated to monitoring the Gateway 24/7. Communications between the Gateway and your PC is via the Internet. The communications protocol is SMPP. You never heard of SMPP? Don’t feel bad, not many have. Just think big bucks for an SMPP programmer.
Then there is the “provisioning” or setup costs. The SMS Gateway has their setup fees. Clickatell charges $1,700 for setup. Then there is a $1,700 monthly short code fees. Then the minimum messages per month at $0.05924 per message. All said and done you are looking at $2,500 to $3,000 per month minimum. 3 months payment up front. Carriers can up the per message charge for using the SMS gateway at anytime. Costs are not fixed.
Just to make it a lot more difficult and unpredictable, you have to apply to EVERY mobile carrier for approval of how you are going to use the Short Code. Each carrier requires this and they can reject your “campaign”. Then there are the carrier setup fees. T-Mobile charges a $500 “setup” fee. Sprint charges only $100 including their Boost subsidiary. Then Sprint’s Virgin Mobile subsidiary charges $175. And on and on.
If the carrier, in their opinion, does not think you have adhered to your proposed plan they can cut you off without notice. That explains why the Short Code HORNY 467 69, NYMPH 69 674, and 423858 4ADULT are still available. No carrier will approve these.
You do have to play by the rules. If you do not or if the carriers, in their opinion, thinks you broke a rule, you are cut off. This applies to all Texting methodologies. If you are sending messages you must know the rules. If you provide a pay for service you need to be especially careful. You can provide services where the cost is billed directly to the customer’s mobile phone bill. If the carrier charging their customers on your behalf start getting too many inquiries regarding your charges, you are cut off. If you get cut off by the carriers or are not approved, you still have to pay your $500-$2000 per month Short Code fees.
SHARED SHORT CODE AND KEYWORDS
Short Code Sharing can lower your monthly cost but that comes with risks and limitations. Aggregators get a Short Code, or multiple Short Codes, then rent keywords for a monthly fee ($25-$200 each) plus a $0.04 to $0.10 per message.
This allows you to use the same Short Code where you have your own keyword(s). This provides you with an adjunct to your traditional advertising. To supplement your TV, Radio, Billboard, and print advertising you include a call to action such as “For More Information, Text this Keyword to This Short Code.
It is highly recommended to use different keywords when using them in multiple campaigns. If your Short code Keyword will be displayed in multiple locations, use a different keyword in each location.
You can lose control if you plan to use a Shared Short Code for a long period of time. If you promote a short code that is owned by someone else you can lose access to the short code at anytime without notice. Think about what could go wrong. Are there policies and procedures in place to protect you. If things take a turn for the worse, do you have recourse? Make sure an attorney looks over your agreement.
Keep in mind mobile numbers with an opt-in are valuable. The main goal is to opt-in as many mobile numbers as possible. The owner of the short code controls the SMS gateway. They store every incoming and out going mobile number. Read the Terms of Service and privacy agreement carefully. Retain exclusive rights to your opt-in list of mobile numbers. Make sure you own mobile number is in the list. Verify the messages you pay for are actually sent. Make sure you do not receive messages on your Short Code from someone else.
Anybody can use the same short code as you. When a Shared Short Code message is received, there is no way to verify if the message was originated by you. Protect your list of mobile numbers. For example a disgruntled former employee or ex-spouse could cleverly but you out of business with your list of numbers. All they would have to do is open an account with the same Short Code provider as you, then send messages to your list.
I do not recommend using only a shared Short Code. Too many risks and limited abilities. As SMS Texting evolves you will find the keyword approach will become nearly useless. Sending bulk and group messages and keyword responders are just the tip of the iceberg.
If you do billboard or display advertising an easy to remember Short Code is a good tool.
But only if the short code aggregator can set you up so the response comes from your long code. The aggregator must specify they will not use the mobile numbers that respond to your short code in any way.
You pay a monthly fee for short codes. Certain types of advertising like magazine display advertising, yellow pages, can have a long life with diminishing returns. Plan carefully.
MANUAL MESSAGING WITH YOUR MOBILE PHONE
While this will work, the downside is obvious.
INEXPENSIVE TEXT MESSAGING
This is The Solution. See “Solutions” at top of this page.
A Long Code is simply the same 10 digit number as used by any mobile phone.
Once someone has your number in their phone, there is no need for them to remember it. I, like many others, do not know the phone numbers of the people I communicate with on a regular basis.
It does not matter at this point if the number is 5, 6, or 10 digits.
If you have a short term need for a short code, lease a keyword.
If someone in your geographical target market has been promoting a keyword with a short code, try to lease a keyword using the same short code.