Does Your SMS Provider Care if You Succeed?

Now that you’re getting traction, make sure you can expand on your terms

You had an idea. You built an app that texts the location of your favorite food truck when it’s close to you. It’s a smash hit. Food trucks have fans waiting to meet them when they pull up. Fans love knowing where their favorite food truck is at a moment’s notice. Now, you’re getting calls from all over asking you to add their city and their food trucks to your app.


There’s a problem. The costs of sending all those messages is adding up fast. Some messages aren’t getting through to users. And when someone says, “What about chip trucks in London…” you learn that expanding outside of the U.S. might not work with the API you’re using.

Now that your app is up and running and you want to expand, you see that “fast and easy” doesn’t scale. When it’s time to grow, easy isn’t as important as scale, reliability, and cost-effectiveness.

There’s more to it than how fast you can get going

When you have an idea and a limited budget, you just want things working and working fast. No argument here. No point in spending two weeks working on SMS integration on a proof of concept app. Easy is what you need to get started, but when your app grows your needs change.

Good APIs aren’t just about cost, APIs need to offer advanced features and be able to grow with you. A good API means great reporting tools so you know what’s working and what isn’t. A good API isn’t just built on good code, it’s built on amazing customer service and developer support. When you’re building the next big thing, you need an SMS API built on top of a world-class infrastructure that delivers when it matters most.

A good SMS API is built to scale with you, not fight you as you grow.

Actually, cost does matter if you want to grow

Sending more messages per day means spending more money per day. You could raise prices to match, isn’t it better to use a less expensive service in the first place? Wouldn’t it be better to just spend less money on a better service?

The first SMS API you used saved you money by saving you time. Now you need a cheaper way to send more messages to more places. This isn’t a race to the bottom for the cheapest price. Not all APIs or providers can connect you with the world’s 6.8 billion cell phone owners. When you start sending millions of messages a day, you can leverage your provider’s economies of scale to connect cost effectively to a global market.

Message costs are based on a lot of factors from the provider’s relationship with Mobile Network Operators (MNOs) to the number of messages you want to send to the countries you want to reach. The right provider will be able to show you exactly what your messaging costs will be and how you can save money over the long haul.

How many of the world’s 6.8 billion cell phones can you reach?

Here’s how it works. If you want to send SMS messages to people in a certain country, you need work with one of the MNOs in that country (like Verizon, Bell, Orange, Virgin, O2). Since, it doesn’t make sense for companies to partner directly with MNOs themselves, companies work with messaging partners who have messaging agreements in place. Making things a little more interesting, messaging partners have varying levels of access in different countries. For example, company A might have connections for the U.S. and company B connections in Canada. If company B wants to send messages to the U.S., it would buy access through company A for its customers. Likewise, if company A wants to send messages in Canada, they would work with company B to do that. This is a simple two-hop connection; partner to partner to MNO. Where it gets complicated is when you have to go through two or more partners to send SMS messages in a country.

The goal is to reduce the number of hops your customer’s messages have to make. In the example above, company B’s customers only have one hop between them and the MNO. The more hops, the more the message costs to send, and the potential for something to go wrong. Because every step along the chain adds cost, choosing a partner with the most first tier (direct connection to MNOs) and second tier connections (one company between the partner and the MNO) lowers the cost to the customer and increases reliability of sending messages.

Being reliable is how it’s done

Having the best cost and access to any country you can imagine means nothing if the service isn’t reliable. When your app sends messages—like for two-factor authentication (2FA) or confirmation—that message must go through. There is no wiggle room. If a mobile number isn’t confirmed, then you’ve lost a potential new customer. If 2FA doesn’t work, someone can’t use your app. These are critical messages not just for users, but for your success. Providers who have to piggyback on lots of other providers can’t guarantee reliability like providers with fewer hops. Every hop can mean a delay. Every hop risks a failure. The most reliable providers have redundancies built in to reduce the risk that a message won’t be delivered.

Being reliable means that if Product Hunt features your app, the network can handle thousands of confirmation requests coming at once. Apps that can’t scale, can’t grow. Messaging providers need to be able to seamlessly and transparently scale up to handle message loads as you need them. Reliability comes from experience. Reliability comes from years of hard work creating network infrastructures that can handle more traffic than the most traffic any customer has ever sent. Reliable infrastructures handle billions and billions of messages a day without breaking a sweat.

This is what scale means. This is what you need to grow your business.

Photo from Flickr by Forrest Runner.

Jun 3rd, 2016
5 min read