How to Choose Between Specialty vs. Multipurpose SMS Service Providers
Businesses often have a choice when they look for service providers: speciality services or multipurpose solutions. Recently I came across a speciality SMS provider that looked good initially but weren’t exactly forthcoming on some details that businesses need to know. So, in this blog, I’m going to look at both types of SMS providers and discuss their pros and cons.
The idea behind speciality services is that they are designed to meet a specific need for a particular industry. The one I came across recently was for courier services. The software let companies get in touch with their freelance drivers via SMS to fill last minute jobs. They touted “real-time” ability, but that’s built into SMS anyway (assuming you use official Tier 1 routes). But, I’m getting ahead of myself.
Most of these types of services come with a fixed monthly cost and a set number of messages you can send. For example, £20 for 75 messages per month or £375 for 10,000 messages per month. If you go over that number of messages, you’re often “pushed” to the next level of service with a higher monthly fee, or the messages aren’t sent until you take some action to pay for them.
With this sort of pricing structure, you’re potentially paying for more messages than you will ever use, or you are limiting yourself because you can’t send more on your price level. Either way, there are restrictions you need to work within – either budgetary or operational.
Another potential operational impact is the learning curve to use the service. Sometimes these services require software downloads and configuration. Not only does it take time to learn, but the fact it’s downloaded to a computer limits who by and how it can be accessed. There are some that run on the web though, which let you use them from anywhere, but you still have to learn how.
Speciality SMS services with tiered pricing structures usually have feature tiers as well. To get all the features, or support, you need to get the highest paid plan. Sometimes the breakout of features makes sense, sometimes it doesn’t. For example, maybe the higher-tier, advanced features are usually only needed by bulk SMS senders. But not always. Sometimes there are handy features that anyone could use, but they are unavailable at lower pricing tiers.
Beyond price and features, the biggest downside of using a speciality service is that you can’t grow into using SMS for other things. Let’s go back to the courier example. Let’s say a company using the service is doing so well, they now want to use SMS messaging to market their business. The speciality SMS service doesn’t have the tools for using SMS marketing. If the company wanted to pursue marketing, they’d need to get a second solution, or find one that let them do both.
In summary, the cons of choosing a speciality SMS solution are:
- Fixed fees
- Learning curve
- Restricted features
- Limited possibilities
Interestingly, the argument for choosing a service like that also includes fixed fees. For some small businesses, knowing what the cost is from month to month may be an advantage because they don’t have the budgets larger companies do.
I know a few, very small, businesses that use a dedicated service that lets them send appointment reminders to clients. That’s all it does, but for them it works. They aren’t ready for something with more options yet. The solution meets their exact need, and that’s all they want right now. This will probably change though, as their business grows.
The pros then, of a speciality solution are:
- Fixed fees
- Meets current need
Next, we’ll look at the alternative: a multipurpose SMS provider.
Multipurpose SMS Solutions
There are many SMS providers that offer a service that can be used for anything. At their most basic, they provide the ability to send and receive SMS messages. This makes them adaptable for anything you need to do involving text messaging.
That said, some offer better solutions than others. Fastsms, is a multipurpose solution so I’ll use that as our example for what this type of service offers businesses, clubs, schools, or any organisation.
The only negative for a multipurpose solution is that it may seem like “too much” to someone who is just looking to fill a specific need and not interested in the possibilities for growth. I think the positives outweigh this negative, but let’s get through the whole list before deciding.
Many companies use SMS messaging for multiple purposes. Internal company communications, customer support, marketing, even helping with payroll are just a few examples. Using the same service for all these activities creates a single touchpoint for your business. This can reduce costs, management time, and headaches that happen when juggling multiple accounts and providers.
Costs for these types of providers is usually based on the number of messages you send, rather than some fixed monthly fee. Though some providers also charge a monthly fee, so always check the details! For fastsms though, all our accounts are free. You only spend money when you decide to send messages or rent a VMN (Virtual Mobile Number), keyword, or shortcode. And you only pay for just what you need and use. If you only need a keyword for a one month campaign, then you only pay for one month.
This pricing structure means that you are never limited in what you can send, and you are never paying for more than you want to use. In addition, there usually aren’t any restrictions on features with these types of providers. Our solution gives every account access to all our features and an account manager for support. You just use the features you want, and if you have questions you can ask without having to pay a separate premium for support.
So, at fastsms, you get all features, no matter how much you use your account. If you only send a few hundred, or a few hundred thousand, the features are there for you to use or grow into.
You may find some SMS providers offer downloadable software, but most use web-based solutions. This allows you to access your account from any device with an internet connection. You can send, receive and manage from anywhere with just a web browser.
If you choose to use a web-based solution, there will of course be a learning curve. But oftentimes you’ll also be able to use an application you already have, like an email client. Our email to SMS service can be used with any email client, so you and your employees don’t need to learn a new program or service. So, you may or may not have a learning curve with a solution like fastsms. It all depends on how you use it.
Another benefit is that multipurpose providers usually publish an API (Applications Programming Interface). The API allows you (or your developers) to connect with your existing business applications so you can send and receive SMS messages automatically, based on conditions, or from within your custom applications.
The pros of a multipurpose SMS provider are:
- Only pay for what you use
- Use, manage and pay just for one solution
- Access all features and support for same pricing
- Potentially low learning curve
- Ability to integrate with other applications
- Unlimited possibilities as needs change
Remember, the only negative might be that all these options can overwhelm a smaller business or organisation who is focused on doing what they need to right now. That’s understandable. But even for those businesses, it’s worth looking at the cost they pay monthly to see if they could save money by opting in for a more flexible solution like fastsms.
If you’d like to learn more, you can download our Buyer’s Guide to Choosing an SMS Provider. In it you’ll find all you need to know about choosing a provider as well as a checklist you can use for your research. Or if you’d rather, you can connect with us via Live Chat, email or phone.
Fastsms signed up a year ago with Feefo to provide feedback from customers of what they thought of our products and services. Read their comments here.
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