How to start sending texts to your customers – if you don't know where to start
SMS is the most popular and democratic communications channel ever known – apart from talking. Everyone with a phone sends texts. And just about everyone has a phone or access to one from someone else in their household.
Data from GSMA Intelligence shows that there were 4.22 million cellular mobile connections in The Gambia at the start of 2022. That's 111 subscriptions for every 100 people. In Senegal there were 114 subscriptions for every 100 people.
And in Sierra Leone 86.
The universal nature of the phone – and SMS – makes it the logical choice for business communications.
Compare it with the other options. Well, there are TV and radio. But they are broadcast media. They're great for sending out one big message. But you can’t micro-target a broadcast campaign to specific customers. And you have to plan TV and radio ads weeks in advance, and factor in all the costs of recording.
TV and radio are one-way channels too – your customers can’t reply directly to a TV or radio ad.
So what about email? Yes, it's certainly more personal and direct. And it's interactive: customers can respond to an email message. But email excludes anyone that cannot access the internet. In West Africa, any business using email to stay in touch with customers will lock out millions of people.
So this leaves SMS.
SMS messages are direct, immediate, personal and two-way. Let's quickly re-cap the benefits of text for businesses.
SMS is universal
Text messaging is available on even the most basic phones – no matter the operator, OS or country. There's no need to download an app or rely on wi-fi. SMS requires zero user training. All of your customers will receive your text messages.
SMS is immediate
Industry data says everyone reads their texts. SMS has a near-perfect open rate of 98 percent. Texts are short enough to read quickly – and 90 per cent of messages are read within three seconds.
SMS is flexible
Another great benefit of texts is that they can be stored and read/responded to later. Your customers can wait until it's convenient to reply.
SMS is two-way
Sometimes a text is just an alert. Sometimes it’s the start of a conversation. With SMS, your customers reply to your communications. You can include a mobile number in your message to give people a convenient channel to get in touch. You can even acquire a memorable short code – (which Alchemy can help you to acquire). You will then see all replies in your dashboard inbox
Because of all these important benefits, businesses all over the world are now embracing SMS. Business messaging (often called A2P or application-to-person messaging) is now a huge industry. Experts predict that enterprises will send 2.62 trillion messages in 2025. That's 7.18 billion messages a day.
What kinds of messages are these businesses sending? Well, all sorts – reminders, confirmations, emergency alerts, polls, public information, religious holiday greetings and more. Here are some examples of the kinds of messages enterprises might send in West Africa.
- "Here is your new account number."
- "Here is the weather forecast for today."
- "You just made a payment to your savings account. Your current balance is…"
- “Your appointment is tomorrow at 11.30am.”
- “It is safe to fish today.”
- “Here’s your electricity credit pin code.”
- “Eid Mubarak” or “Happy Easter.”
- “Click here (embedded link) to download our app.”
It should be clear by now that SMS has a lot to offer. However, many readers will now be asking: How do I get started?
The good news is that it's never been easier.
Obviously, any business that wants to send more than a handful of messages will need to work with an expert partner like Alchemy. We act as a specialist SMS provider – making it easy for you to send as many texts as you wish from a simple dashboard. We have all the operator connections in place, so you can be sure your texts will arrive immediately, no matter which mobile network your customers belong to.
So, what's the setup?
Broadly, there are two main options.
The first is to log in to the Alchemy dashboard. This is the best choice for enterprises without their own IT teams.
The second option is to embed Alchemy's own telco APIs into your systems. If you do this, you will be able to send texts from your own customer software platforms.
Let's look at the two options in more detail.
- Use the Alchemy dashboard
First you need to create an account on the Alchemy platform. You can do this via the 'register' section of our website.
Once you have logged in you will have access to the Alchemy customer dashboard. From here you can upload your list of customer phone numbers. You can do this in a few clicks if you have your numbers stored as a CSV file.
As soon as we have created your sender name you are ready to send your first text in three steps
- Select your recipients (you can filter your targets into individuals or send to pre-set groups).
- Compose your message (up to 155 characters) at the ‘Messaging’ tab.
- Click ‘Send’.
By using the Alchemy dashboard, you can reach an unlimited number of contacts, and you can even create and send template messages to save even more time.
You can send up to 500 SMSs per second, with arrival times averaging six to ten seconds. And with Alchemy you only pay for messages that reach an active SIM card.
Of course, you might want to give your customers the ability to reply. You can do this if you have a 4 digit short code (which Alchemy can help you to purchase). Every reply you get will appear in your dashboard inbox.
- Embed Alchemy APIs to send texts from your own systems
APis have changed the world. Over the last few years, they have radically altered the way enterprises do their work. Take the simple example of maps. Any company that wants to show a map on its website doesn't have to do their work of creating the maps itself. It simply uses the Google API to display a Google Map.
The same process has transformed telecoms. Communications platform as a service (CPaaS) has turned complicated telco processes into software.
Thanks to our custom-built CPaaS technology, Alchemy can provide APIs to its enterprise customers. These APIs provide a direct link between your customer databases and mobile networks. They make it possible to send and receive messages from inside your own business applications.
At Alchemy we find that our larger enterprise clients use our APis for a variety of use cases. These include:
- Sending annual insurance renewal reminders
- Issuing tax payment notices
- Sending rent reminders
- Scheduling pickups and deliveries
- Confirming port authority payments or collections due
- Sending wifi renewal notices
After you have sent your messages, you will want to find out how many have been received, read and responded to. This is easy. The Alchemy platform includes a comprehensive analytics feature. Here, you can analyse your activity to see what works best (message length, wording, time of day etc) and learn how to improve your results over time.
Finally, of course, there's cost. At Alchemy we charge per SMS, and ask for customers to pre-pay when creating a 'broadcast' bulk campaign.
We hope you can see from this quick introduction that getting started with business SMS is extremely easy. You can be up and running in just a few hours.
But, of course, you might have more questions. Our team is here to help. So don’t hesitate to contact us. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and any time.