Today’s business VoIP providers prioritize unified communications, allowing customers to connect with companies or employees on their preferred communications platforms and devices.

Although phone calls and emails have long been the business communication standard, recent studies show that over 60% of consumers would prefer to work with companies that offer text messaging.

Business SMS texting platforms provide excellent marketing opportunities, improve customer service, and save employees from spending hours of the workweek on the phone answering the same questions.

Read on to learn more about common use cases, features to look for, and top SMS provider pricing and plans.

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What is Business SMS?

Business Short Messaging Service (SMS) is an application for sending text messages to those who have opted into receiving messages from your company. These messages are sent/received using your business phone number, over both mobile phones and desktop computers as a normal text message.

Business texts can be sent in bulk, to small groups, or to a single person. As of this writing, SMS texts have a limit of 160 characters, though longer messages are broken up into multiple texts. One-on-one two-way communication is also possible with most business messaging software.

Note that SMS sends plain text messages only (though they can send text links.) MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) allows users to send/receive audio and video files, images, phone contacts, and other multimedia files.

While SMS texts are cut off after 160 characters, there is no universal standard for maximum MMS file size as that depends on the limits of specific carrier and device. In the majority of cases, however, 300 KB is the maximum multimedia file size limit. Usually, business messaging providers include multimedia message capabilities as a part of their package.

Business texting capabilities can be both a standalone product or a prominent feature of unified communications or contact center software.

 

Common SMS Messaging Use Cases

The beauty of any SMS texting service is that it has a wide variety of use cases across countless industries.

For example, the soft drink giant Coca-Cola uses the SMS platform Twilio  to send texts to technicians when immediate service is needed on vending machines. This has drastically reduced the time it takes to completely repair broken machines and allowed for prioritization of major issues.

Toroe Eyewear used Simple Texting’s SMS text subscriber sign-up form to generate an additional $7,000 of revenue each month.

Medical providers like Argus Radiology uses TextMagic to send appointment reminders and confirmations, as well as to send out notifications to technicians and team members when imaging equipment goes down. This has prevented appointment no-shows and appointment cancellations because of broken equipment.

Jersey Mike’s Subs used Textedly’s Enterprise text message marketing solutions to send out bulk SMS messages and increased sandwich sales by 50% as a result.

Whether used for customer engagement, support, appointment confirmation, or security protocols, there is no limit to ways in which companies can take advantage of business messaging services.

 

Business Text Messaging Laws

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, (TCPA) created by the FCC, regulates business telemarketing and phone calls, call recording, and text message communications.

It requires companies to obtain written consent (verbal consent is not acceptable) from consumers before sending them texts and adding them to any kind of subscriber list. This is especially important for businesses considering bulk text marketing to understand.

Note that even if a consumer provides a business with their phone number, that business must still get consent and allow them to opt-in before sending a text.

This consent can be obtained through a completed paper form, but most commonly customers will text a keyword like “YES” to a shortcode or fill out an online form.

The customer must receive a brief description of the company/messaging purposes, the average number of texts they can expect in a set period, a link to the company’s privacy policy, and information on how to stop getting texts from the company at any time.

A more detailed version of the TCPA messaging regulations can be found here.

 

Top Business Messaging Features

Though some companies may have more specific business messaging features to look for, there are a few essential ones that any reputable SMS service will provide.

These include:

  • Free incoming messages
  • One-on-one and group/bulk messaging
  • SMS and MMS capabilities
  • A dedicated phone line
  • Auto-response messaging
  • SMS Keywords (ie: “Text ‘NEWBREW’ to 523-54 for 10% off your next order)
  • Shortcodes
  • Link inclusion/link shorteners
  • Scheduled and staggered messages
  • iOS and Andriod apps
  • Polls and website subscriber list signups
  • Saved message templates
  • Integration with other business communication/CMS tools
  • Message personalization
  • Analytics and reporting

 

Top Five Business SMS Platforms

Below, we’ve outlined the features, available plans, and pricing of the top 5 business messaging providers in 2020.

They are:

  • Twilio
  • Simple Texting
  • TextMagic
  • EZ Texting
  • Textedly

 

Twilio

 

Twilio is perhaps best known as a CPaaS platform.  However, its standalone SMS & Messaging API platform is considered the gold standard for business texting. Top clients include 1-800-Flowers, the American Red Cross, United Way, Hulu, Trulia, and more.

The app uses intelligent route selection via 900 million daily data points, ensuring near-instant delivery and a 99.999% uptime for high volume messaging. Its Messaging Insights analytics provide information on key metrics like delivery and opt-out rates, open rates, conversion ratios, cost-per-conversion, and more.

The Twilio Verify API provides users authentication, works to block toll fraud, and includes carrier-approved message templates to prevent messages from being filtered out.

It’s also one of the few multi-channel messaging systems, allowing not only standard carrier-based communication but also messaging through WhatsApp.

Additional top features include:

  • International SMS messaging in 180+ countries
  • Multimedia messaging  for GIFs, images, audio, video, and PDFs
  • Local and toll-free numbers, or the ability to use an existing number
  • Automated responses
  • Short codes
  • Two-way text messaging
  • Bulk messaging
  • Text-to-email
  • Salesforce, Zapier, and Mailchimp integrations
  • Phone number lookup
  • Link sharing
  • Message queuing/drip campaigns
  • Multi-tenant subaccounts
  • Emojis
  • Geo-matching

 

Twilio pricing and plans for messaging services offer two main options: pay-as-you-go and more cost-effective volume discounts.

The two pricing structures are outlined in the tables below. Note that committed-use discounts are also available, but this piece of information is not listed on the Twilio website.

 

Pay-As-You-Go

Type of Number Used Send/Receive Text Messages Send Picture Messages Receive Picture Messages
Local Number $.0075 each $0.0200 each $0.0100 each
Toll-Free Number $.0075 each X X
Short Code $.0075 each $0.0200 each $0.0200 each

 

Volume Discount

SMS Messages Per Month Inbound/Outbound
First 5 million $0.0075 each
Next 20 million $0.0050 each
Next 75 million $0.0030 each
Next 150 million $0.0020 each
Next 250 million  $0.0015 each
Next 500 million $0.0010 each

 

Best For: Twilio is best for companies that have an extremely high number of subscribers, such as political campaigns, nationwide pharmaceutical chains, and Fortune 500 companies. It is also a good fit for businesses that need to reach international customers, as well as customers who rely heavily on WhatsApp, as opposed to standard carrier-based messaging.  It primarily serves the healthcare, real estate, education, and financial services sectors.

 

Simple Texting

 

Simple Texting is an all-in-one business text messaging service trusted by Starbucks, Century 21, Marriot, and Samsung.

It offers both 1-on-1 2-way messaging and group SMS and multimedia messaging, and users can elect to keep their current business number or select a toll-free, local, or short code number. Its best-known features are subscriber segmentation, robust subscriber data collection, and link tracking that lets users see how many times sent links have been clicked.

It also allows for up to 304 characters per message, automatic dead number self-cleaning lists, and even automated birthday texts.

Other features include:

  • Scheduled texts
  • Staggered messaging for drip campaigns
  • Contact list import
  • iOS and Android apps
  • Multiple telephone numbers per account, so individuals and departments can be individually reached
  • Live push notifications
  • Industry-specific short codes and keywords
  • Unlimited default and custom text fields
  • Saved message templates
  • Auto-response messages (“Triggers”)
  • Integration with Zapier, Mailchimp, Salesforce, Shopify, and more
  • Analytics and Reporting
  • SMS polls and forms

 

Simple Texting offers a 14-day free trial and has both monthly and annual payment options. There are 8 available tier-based pricing plans to choose from, based on the number of credits users purchase each month.

Each SMS message counts as one credit, while 1 multimedia message counts as 3 credits. All unused credits roll over to the next month. Additional credits can be purchased without having to upgrade your plan.

Users can choose from:

  • 500 monthly credits ($25.00/month)
  • 1,000 monthly credits ($45.00/month)
  • 2,000 monthly credits ($75.00/month)
  • 3,000 monthly credits ($95.00/month)
  • 7,500 monthly credits ($145.00/month)
  • 25,000 monthly credits ($375.00/month)
  • 50,000+ monthly credits $625.00+/month)

 

All plans include:

  • A free dedicated telephone number
  • Short code access
  • Unlimited contacts
  • Customer support
  • Unlimited keywords
  • Rollover credits

 

Best For: Though Simple Texting is ideal for companies of all sizes and across several industries, where it really shines is in its Enterprise Level plans. It can accommodate businesses that send over 1 million monthly messages, offers unlimited users and permissions, and provides priority support with a dedicated account representative. Best of all, it offers a dedicated SMS short code and an SMS API that lets users add messages functions to their CRM software.

 

TextMagic

 

TextMagic is an especially user-friendly all-in-one business messaging platform.

In spite of its basic interface, it has robust features that allow businesses to easily evaluate whether or not SMS messaging is a platform their customers would benefit from. In lieu of multimedia messages, TextMagic uses SMS attachments allowing companies to send images, PDFs, and Word files.

As with other providers here, TextMagic allows for one-on-one two-way chat and bulk messaging. However, it also offers email to SMS, which converts emails into texts and then routes replies to your email inbox. Text to speech is another rare feature, which transforms multimedia messages into a call to both cell phones and landlines.

It also has strong security features like email and carrier lookup and validations, two-factor authentication, and SSO.

Additional features include:

  • SMS customer surveys
  • Messaging distribution lists
  • Import mobile numbers from Excel
  • Contact list segmentation
  • Global SMS coverage in 1,000 mobile networks/200+ countries
  • iOS and Android apps
  • Link messages
  • SMS templates
  • Message notifications
  • Personalized messages
  • Scheduled messages and drip message campaigns
  • Zapier integration

 

TextMagic’s payment structure is also unique, in that it offers free inbound SMS and a pay-as-you-go pricing model for outbound messages. It costs $0.04 per text sent to the United States, and also offers international outbound texting at varying rates. It also offers a free 30-day trial, the longest on this list. Note that after the first month, US and Canadian customers will need a dedicated virtual number, which costs $4.00 per month.

 

Best For: TextMagic is best for small businesses or newer companies who need basic and intuitive SMS solutions and don’t have much to spend. It’s also ideal for those looking to grow their subscriber list, as it provides SMS subscription forms you can easily add to your website through their SMS Gateway API. Top customers include florists, event management companies, debt collections agencies, and schools.

 

EZ Texting

EZ Texting has over 16 years of experience in the world of business messaging and counts Domino’s, Big Brother/Big Sister, Aeroflow Healthcare, and more among its over 160,000 customers.

Though it offers one-to-one direct two-way messaging, its primary purpose is to serve as a platform for SMS marketing campaigns, as opposed to customer service. Because it is geared towards retailers, it takes extra steps to ensure absolute compliance with regulations. This includes its SafeSTOP opt-out tool, which not only updates your contacts, but also provides customer feedback by asking subscribers why they’ve opted out.

The contacts segmentation feature allows users to categorize and segment their contacts according to the level of engagement, customer history, and demographics. This means not only greater personalization, but also increased sales — since you’re presenting customers with the offer that’s most likely to interest them.

 

Additional features include:

  • Dedicated short codes
  • Link inclusion and link shortening
  • Toll-free numbers
  • Multimedia picture, GIF, audio, and video messaging
  • Hubspot, Constant Contact, Zapier, Mailchimp, Salesforce integrations
  • Simplified opt-outs, automated disclosure, and identity verification
  • Automated reminders
  • Text personalization
  • Message templates
  • Reporting and Analytics
  • Live push notifications
  • Text-to-Join and Text-to-Win campaigns
  • Contact management
  • Customer SMS polls
  • Web messaging subscriber list signup forms
  • Emojis
  • Psyched iOS mobile app
  • Recurring messages
  • Drip campaigns
  • Text forwarding to email
  • Text-to-landline

 

EZ Texting offers four flexible plans that offer a set number of monthly credits (1 credit per SMS, 3 credits per MMS) and keywords. It is also one of the rare companies that offer a free plan and has monthly and annual billing options. Additional messages can be purchased for a small fee if needed.

Note that high volume, enterprise-level plans with up to 50,000 credits per month are also available.

The below table outlines the four plans, all of which include the same set of standard features.

 

Features Free Plan  Plus Plan Select Plan Elite Plan
Pricing Free $39.00/month $75.00/month $119.00/month
Credits 100 in Total  1,000/month 2,000/month 3,300/month
Keywords  1 Demo Keyword 1 keyword 2 keywords 3 keywords

 

Best For: EZ Texting is ideal for mid-sized companies that rely on many business communication tools and need a business messaging app that will seamlessly integrate with them. It’s also a good fit for online and brick-and-mortar retailers that generate a significant amount of revenue from discount codes, giveaway contests, and seasonal or flash sales. Additional clients include gym owners, marketing and ad agencies, real estate companies, and recruitment/staffing agencies.

 

Textedly

 

Trusted by the New York Yankees, Lyft, and the American Heart Association, Textedly is perhaps best known for offering unlimited keywords and unlimited subscribers.

Its built-in link sharing feature lets users shorten longer URL addresses, saving valuable character space (Textedly has a limit of 300 per message.) It’s an especially useful option for companies that send a high number of MMS messages, as any picture message allows for up to 1,600 additional characters.

Another standout feature is the “Just Once” auto response, which ensures that subscribers receive only one automated “welcome” message, as opposed to getting another welcome message whenever they opt-out and opt-in again.

 

Additional features include:

  • Single-send messages (Individual appointment reminders, etc.)
  • Mass texting
  • Dedicated Textedly number
  • Keywords and shortcodes
  • Scheduled and drip messages
  • Customized auto-replies
  • Two-way text notifications (one-on-one conversations)
  • Live notifications
  • CTIA and Carrier Compliant
  • Analytics and subscriber data
  • Mobile app
  • Inbound MMS
  • Contacts upload
  • Multi-user support
  • Two-factor authentication
  • Message personalization
  • Integration with social media platforms like Instagram

 

Textedly offers no less than 12 tiered plans to choose from, ranging in price from $29.00 a month for 1,200 messages per month to $2800 a month for 24,000 monthly messages. All plans offer free incoming messages and standard features but vary only in the number of monthly texts and the number of custom keywords.

Textedly offers a free 14-day trial.

The pricing table below outlines four of their plans.

 

Features Bronze Plan Enterprise Plan Premium Plan Champion Plan
Pricing $29.00/month $50.00/month $350.00/month  $2800.00/month
Messages per month 1,200 4,200 30,000 240,000
Custom Keywords  1 3 10 50

 

Best For: Textedly is especially popular with nonprofits, who use it to register volunteers for events, collect donations, and send out links to petitions and other informational resources. Restaurants also use it to confirm reservations, send delivery order updates or contactless menus, and offer loyalty coupon codes. It is also widely used in the hospitality, retail, and salon/spa industries.

 

Live Chat vs Business SMS

Business SMS allows team members to communicate with clients and subscribers via text messaging.

However, most companies that have messaging platforms also rely on live chat software that allows website visitors and employees to answer customer service questions, make product suggestions, and more in real-time.

 

Check out our interactive table of the top live chat software to learn more about the differences between live website chat and SMS messaging — and add chat capabilities to your website to include another customer communication channel.