Learn How to Get Started with an SMS Marketing Provider + List of the Best SMS Marketing Services
There’s no question that text message marketing works, especially when used in tandem with email and other marketing channels.
But selecting an SMS marketing software isn’t straightforward. You’ve got a lot of great choices (including MessageDesk).
So I’ve put together a guide to getting started.
In this article I cover:
- What SMS marketing software is and how to get started
- A list of the top 9 SMS marketing services
- 7 considerations when selecting an SMS marketing provider
- Answers to frequently asked SMS text marketing service questions
By the end, you’ll know how to find and get started with the right text message marketing solution.
Read on for more.
How to Get Started with SMS Marketing Software
There are many business text messaging services built for marketing including MessageDesk.
Below is a step-by-step guide for evaluating your options and getting started.
1. Choose an SMS marketing service
The first step to getting started with SMS text marketing is to sign up with a text marketing platform.
There are many things to consider when choosing SMS marketing software (I’ve written the full list below).
But there are some baseline features you’ll want to look for first when evaluating solutions.
The feature is high-volume, carrier-verified, bulk texting—also known as carrier-verified A2P 10DLC.
You’ll need text marketing software that can get you near 100% delivery rates for large-scale SMS marketing campaigns. Without this, you can only send a limited number of texts, and delivery isn’t guaranteed.
Note: MessageDesk’s mass text message broadcasts do support high-volume, carrier-verified 10DLC messaging.
The second grouping of features you’ll want to look for involves text message automation. This includes:
- Text message scheduling
- Support for templates, tags, links, and media
- Keyword-based autoresponder texts
- Contact list management features and custom fields
- CRM and email marketing integrations
2. Create a free account and trial the service
Get started with a free account once you select an SMS marketing platform. This gives you time to get answers to questions and test the platform's capabilities.
Note: you’re always free to try MessageDesk for 14 days, free.
3. Text-enable your business phone or select a new text number
Some platforms allow you to select various types of SMS phone numbers, including toll-free 800 numbers.
Note: It will likely take from 1-7 days to successfully text-enable your business number once you submit your request.
4. Import and segment your contacts into groups and lists
Once you’ve got your SMS phone number configured, you’ll want to upload contact lists or sync with your CRM. MessageDesk makes this easy with built-in CSV upload, custom fields, and Zapier integrations.
Keep in mind, TCPA compliance requires contacts to opt-in to receive promotional messages (more on this below).
This is where SMS subscriber systems, like those built into MessageDesk can help. MessageDesk makes it easy to track who has and hasn’t consented to receive promotional messages.
5. Pre-save marketing messages with templates, tags, links, and media
Once you upload your contacts to your SMS marketing service, you can now compose your messages.
Templates ultimately allow you to create more personalized texts. This allows you to optimize your marketing based on customer data.
It’s also possible to pre-save templates. You can use these for different types of text message marketing automation for events and other various campaigns.
6. Schedule and automate SMS marketing broadcasts
It also helps ensure that your message gets in front of people when they're most likely to be receptive. This can be after they’ve made a purchase or when they first join your text subscriber list.
Need to send a message on a certain day at a specific time? You can schedule SMS messages to send at a later time. You can also schedule messages at specific intervals as part of automated text message campaigns.
7. Set up keyword-based autoresponder automation
An autoresponder sends an automatic text when someone texts your organization’s phone number with a keyword.
Here’s an example:
8. Use Zapier to integrate your promotional SMS with third-party tools
Zapier makes it easy to integrate texting services like MessageDesk with other third-party marketing software. You can sync contacts from ConstantContact, HubSpot, Shopify, or even Mailchimp.
An example is if a Shopify e-commerce shopper abandons their cart. You could set up a MessageDesk and Zapier integration with Shopify. This could automatically send an abandoned cart message and prompt the shopper to complete checkout.
9 Best SMS Marketing Services
I’ve covered what SMS marketing software is and how to get started. Now let's cover the best SMS marketing platforms.
Businesses and organizations that need to send mass text message broadcasts and route, organize, and respond as a team.
MessageDesk is the best SMS marketing software for organizations with teams. It works great for texting one-on-one and broadcasting to large groups from a 10-digit phone number. You can also connect your existing business phone number or text enable your landline.
MessageDesk is a great tool if you’re looking to create conversational customer experiences. This makes it well-suited for conversational commerce. It also works great for customer service, appointment reminders, review and feedback collection, and more.
After a free trial, starting costs are $14 per month for one user. MessageDesk also offers custom pricing for larger teams.
- Scheduled and automated text messages
- Templates and MMS messages
- Mass text broadcasts
- Call forwarding and voicemails to any number
- Desktop, tablet, and mobile apps
- Supports high-volume A2P carrier-verified bulk messaging
- Built-in opt-in and opt-out tools for TCPA compliance
- Highly functional shared team-inbox
- Affordable starting price
- Excellent customer service
- Few native integrations (but can integrate with anything through Zapier)
What users say:
Larger businesses and organizations looking for a sleek way to run large-scale text message marketing campaigns.
SimpleTexting is a great mass text messaging software. They offer a slick, polished user interface that gives you easy ways to run text message marketing campaigns.
SimpleTexting also offers texting with shortcodes for very large-scale text message blasts to thousands of contacts. With SimpleTexting you get a host of automation features and a built-out list of integrations as well.
- Scheduling and automation
- Campaigns and triggers
- Automated birthday texts
- Feedback campaigns
- Clean and intuitive user interface
- Flexible number selection (shortcodes, 10-digit and toll-free)
- Automation and campaign triggers
- Great customer service
- Not the most functional inbox for managing many 1-on-1 conversations
- Weak mobile app experience
- Pricing can be prohibitive for smaller organizations
What users say:
Businesses and organizations that already know how to get the most out of large-scale text message marketing campaigns.
EZTexting is a long-standing business texting platform. Like SimpleTexting, they started with shortcodes for marketing campaigns and have since evolved and expanded their text messaging capabilities.
In the time that EZTexting has been around, they’ve developed a lot of excellent features. You’re getting a lot of capability with this platform. But you also get some bloat. EZTexting can do it all, so long as you know what you’re looking to accomplish.
- Bulk text messages
- Add unlimited contacts
- MMS picture messaging
- 2-way texting and text-to-landline
- Personalized templates
- Many phone number options, including shortcodes
- Great for text message marketing and drip campaigns
- Robust automation features
- Integrations with email marketing platforms and CRMs like Hubspot
- Poor mobile app experience
- Needs better conversation assignment features (not a shared team inbox)
- Character limits
What users say:
Businesses and organizations that need a straightforward way to market to a text list and set up automation using keywords.
Textedly is another standard texting messaging platform that’s been around for a while. But like SimpleTexting and EZTexting, it's quite powerful.
Textedly offers standard mass texting, scheduling, and automated reply features. It's on par with what you’d expect from the other platforms on my list.
They’ve got a long track record of offering great SMS deliverability and customers comment on how good their support is.
- Mass text messaging
- Scheduled and automated messages
- Keyword-based autoresponders
- MMS picture messaging
- Zapier integration
- Standard, well-built text message marketing features
- Great user interface
- Robust selection of pre-made text message templates
- Not a great way to manage conversations (not a shared team inbox)
- Unused texts don’t roll over to the next month
- Each feature incurs a new cost, no straight monthly fee for access to everything
What users say:
Marketing agencies and large-scale eCommerce businesses who need to send marketing messages and maintain carrier promotional messaging compliance.
SlickText is another slick tool for crafting text message marketing campaigns. They’re a great way to generate and send out coupons and for getting people to opt-in to marketing messages.
You can create keyword-focused campaigns for “text this number to receive” offers. Or you can craft longer messages and set up automated long-term drip campaigns.
- “Text to” campaigns
- Text surveys
- MMS / picture messaging
- Multiple ways to manage opt-in
- Automated workflows, drip campaigns, and text message scheduling
- List management features
- All of the standard text marketing features you’d expect
- Great managed opt-in and promotional messaging compliance
- Good customer support and service
- Pricing can get expensive
- No message roll-over
What users say:
Shopify stores that want to add SMS marketing to the communications strategy.
Postscript is a Shopify partnered text message marketing platform. It's great for businesses built on Shopify. Specifically, those who are looking to build an SMS subscriber list, automate text marketing, and segment using Shopify data.
These guys are great at tracking revenue and ROI from campaigns and helping you to text compliantly. Because they integrate so directly with Shopify, Postscript can help you make the most of your customer base with great segmentation.
- Automation tools
- Segmentation features
- Desktop and mobile popups
- Keyword-based autoresponders
- Landing pages and opt-in forms
- QR codes
- Full TCPA compliance
- Shopify partner with deep integration
- Great additional tools like popups and landing pages
- Standard text marketing features
- Great customer support
Shopify-centric (obviously not a con if you’re a Shopify user though)
Some users complain about the analytics dashboard and reporting features
What users say:
TextMagic is another, well-established, text message marketing software. They offer all of the standard text message marketing features you’d expect.
With TextMagic, you can send notifications, alerts, reminders, confirmations, and SMS marketing campaigns. It’s great when you need to send short and accurate messages to customers, partners, or employees.
- Automated and scheduled text messages
- SMS attachments and MMS
- Email to SMS
- Mail merge SMS and templates
- Opt-in and opt-out and list management features
- Good reporting and analytics
- Open API
- Simple per-message pricing
- UI/UX is a little dated
- Not as deeply integrated or feature-rich as other text marketing platforms
What users say:
Businesses and organizations that need multiple “gateways” (email, voice, and text) to send messages.
ClickSend is a unique text message marketing platform that allows you to send texts, emails, voice messages, and more. They call these “gateways” and each comes with its own features.
The SMS and MMS gateways that ClickSend offers allow you to send both promotional and transactional messages. You can also send emails, rich messages, text to voice messages, faxes, and physical postage messages.
- SMS/MMS Gateway
- Email Gateway
- Rich Messaging
- Voice Gateway
- Fax Gateway
- Online Post
- Robust API and developer documentation
- Many ways to send a message
- Zapier, Slack, and Salesforce integrations
- Some assembly required - developer and API centric
- Not user friendly for the average marketer
What users say:
Businesses of all sizes that need to send and receive SMS messages reliably and securely.
Messente is a global SMS API platform and two-factor authentication (2FA) solution for businesses. It provides a secure and reliable way to send and receive SMS messages, as well as to implement 2FA.
- Global coverage
- High deliverability
- SMS Gateway API
- Bulk sms service
- Global coverage
- Great customer support
- Can be expensive for large volumes of messages
- Not as user-friendly as some other platforms
7 Things to Consider When Evaluating an SMS Marketing Provider
Here are 7 things to consider before choosing a business texting service:
- How many messages do you need to send?
- What kind of number do you want to send and receive texts from?
- How do you acquire and manage contacts and subscribers?
- How much automation and integration do you need?
- Do you want to share images and media?
- Do you need to track link clicks and see campaign analytics?
- How will you handle opt-in and opt-out TCPA compliance?
1. How many messages do you need to send?
You might already have hundreds or thousands of contacts you want to send promotional text messages to.
So the first step in choosing the right text message marketing platform is knowing how many messages you need to send. Some text messaging platforms don’t support high-volume text messaging.
And before you start sending bulk text messages, know that promotional SMS campaigns also come with some regulations and carrier restrictions.
To send promotional text messages in high volumes, you’ll need an SMS marketing service that offers:
- Support for higher “through-put” (messages per second)
- Carrier-vetted high-volume A2P text message campaigns
When it comes to volume, standard texting services can send 1-3 text messages per second to up to 25 contacts.
But to send higher-volume text blasts for SMS marketing you’ll need a more advanced platform. One that supports carrier-verified high-volume A2P text message campaigns.
Without this special designation, you can’t send bulk SMS at scale, and your messages may not get delivered at all.
Most text message marketing services undergo carrier vetting and approval through services like Campaign Registry. This is what allows them to register campaigns and send bulk text marketing messages.
With MessageDesk, all it takes to get A2P approval for mass texting is a single form submission.
Keep in mind: many business texting services do charge additional fees for A2P texting. So you’ll need to factor it into your pricing plan and/or per text message fees to gauge cost-effectiveness.
2. What kind of number do you want to send and receive texts from?
Originally, businesses and organizations could only text from five or six-digit short code phone numbers. These were special numbers set aside for text marketing texting.
Shortcodes are still around and they’re great for bulk SMS. But texting is changing and carriers are beginning to phase out shortcodes.
The good news is that you have multiple options. You can text enable a local 10-digit phone number. Or you can use a toll-free 800 number to send high volumes of text messages.
But what if you’re running a smaller operation? Maybe you’re using your personal cell phone to send group texts with promotional messages.
I highly suggest that you don’t use group texts for marketing messages. This is for several reasons including privacy and security.
Additionally, group texts are hard to manage. And there isn’t a way to manage opt-ins and opt-outs (more on that later).
10-digit phone numbers vs. shortcodes vs. toll-free SMS numbers
3. How do you acquire and manage contacts and subscribers?
Groups, lists, forms, and custom fields are all-important bulk text service features.
They’re essential for organizing customers and contacts into lists. Each helps you craft more targeted messages for the right kinds of people.
This is called segmentation in the marketing world.
The top SMS marketing platforms allow you to segment and create all kinds of lists and groups.
Many text messaging marketing platforms like MessageDesk also offer custom fields. These allow you to add specialized data fields to further customize your contact segments.
But as you start segmenting, how can you get more people to subscribe to your marketing messages?
To get more subscribers and to generate leads from your website you’ll want to look for additional features like:
- Click-to-text buttons from your website
- Website contact forms that automatically send texts
- Website chatbots that collect contact info and start conversations
Click-to-text buttons, contact forms, and chatbots are all great. They give contacts and customers an easy way to connect with you from your website. This makes them fantastic lead-generation tools.
Many of the best SMS marketing tools (including MessageDesk) offer these additional features. So be sure to look for them when researching solutions.
4. How much automation and integration do you need?
Text message automation breaks down into two main categories.
- Basic text message scheduling (scheduling one-time, individual, non-recurring SMS messages)
- Advanced text message automation (stringing together multiple recurring, scheduled text messages and autoresponders as part of a campaign)
Most SMS marketing services offer basic text message scheduling. This means scheduling one text message, to one person, at one time.
Looking for drip campaigns and automation? Then you’ll need a more advanced mass texting service.
Additionally, the best email and sms marketing software offer integrations.
For marketing, integrations with email and text marketing platforms like Mailchimp and ConstantContact are also valuable.
But your needs will differ depending on your messaging needs and workflows.
For specialty workflows, many business text messaging apps integrate with Zapier. Zapier is a slick tool that allows you to set up text message automation based on triggers.
5. Do you want to share images and media?
Having the ability to text images, videos, and media (MMS messages) is particularly useful when it comes to SMS marketing.
So you’ll want an SMS marketing platform that allows you to upload, manage and share media with your customers.
You’ll also want to be able to compose your media messages and save them as templates. Text message templates work especially well for saving messages you send all the time.
Instead of having to type the same message over and over again, you can save the text as a templated message. This is an advanced feature that not all SMS marketing solutions offer.
Text message templates also make messaging more consistent. Especially if you have multiple people texting contacts and customers.
Here’s an example of a templated text message advertisement with a QR code advertising a deal:
6. Do you need to track link clicks and see campaign analytics?
Once you text a marketing message to your customers, you’ll want to gauge its performance.
Analytics capabilities vary from platform to platform, but almost all come with some sort of analytics tracking capabilities.
More advanced text messaging platforms will show you metrics like:
- Successful delivery rate
- Failed message delivery rate
- Non-mobile phone number recipients
- Number of contacts opted-in/out of messaging
- Numer of contacts unsubscribed
- Text message link clicks
Link click tracking is particularly useful. It’s what allows you to gauge open rates, response rates, and your message’s effectiveness.
And best of all, they make it easy to calculate your ROI and revenue per text message.
7. How will you handle opt-in and opt-out TCPA compliance?
Opt-in and opt-out TCPA compliance is important and often overlooked. This is especially true when it comes to SMS marketing campaigns.
Text messaging is a regulated form of communication per the Telephone and Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA). This means your business or organization needs to get the right level of consent for promotional messages before you text customers.
Don’t worry if this sounds complicated. Many mass text messaging apps like MessageDesk will automatically handle opt-in and opt-out compliance for you.
When a contact texts STOP, they automatically go into a do-not-contact list. Everything gets automated for you in the background.
Frequently Asked SMS Text Marketing Service Questions
Below is a list of frequently asked questions regarding SMS marketing software.
Have questions that aren’t covered here? You’re always free to connect with one of our Messaging Experts here at MessageDesk.
What are the benefits of SMS marketing software?
Benefits of SMS marketing software include:
- Texts are direct and immediate
- Texts are universally accessible
- Texts have great open and engagement rates
- Texting increases reach and awareness
- Texting is a conversational way to boost engagement
- Texting makes it easy to personalize marketing messages at scale
- Texts can save time with automation
- Texting is relatively cost-effective
Are there any free text marketing platforms?
No, there aren’t any free text marketing platforms available. Every text marketing app limits features, messages, and subscribers to paid plans. Keep in mind, many marketing SMS services do offer a free trial period.
How much does text message marketing software cost?
SMS marketing software costs vary depending on several factors. These include the scale of your campaign, your SMS marketing company, and if your messages are domestic or international.
Many text message marketing companies charge a monthly platform fee. This ranges from $20 to several hundred dollars. This fee gets you access to the software, key features, and customer support. But your cost will further depend on the complexity of the platform and the size of your contact list.
In addition to the platform fees, per-message costs are typical. These costs vary from less than a cent to several cents per message, depending on the message type, volume, and destination. Some services, like MessageDesk, offer volume discounts where per-message cost decreases as you send more messages.
Additional charges may apply for extras like local phone numbers, extra keywords, and carrier-verified campaign registration.
Ready to get started with SMS marketing software?
Ready to start texting? MessageDesk is here to help you start more meaningful customer conversations.
Feel free to start a free MesageDesk trial.