Short Message Service (SMS), the standard text messaging format we all know and love, has been around since 1993 and is still going strong. It is an especially powerful communication tool when paired with a shortcode and an API. We spoke with Dan Kamins, CEO of TextMarks, a popular text messaging platform doing just that. He shared his insights on TextMarks’ unique value proposition and the company’s strategic roadmap.
Give us a quick overview of TextMarks.
TextMarks is a fully hosted, cloud-based SMS solution with shared and dedicated shortcodes and a powerful API. We started it back in 2006 because we believed in the power of mobile devices and text messaging. Twelve years later, the future continues to be about mobile communications. We work with thousands of organizations, small to large and are the text messaging platform behind much of America’s text-for-arrival transit services. You and some of your readers may have seen one of the thousands of bus stop signs across the nation instructing riders to text 41411 for the next arrival time. We are pretty proud of that.
Despite the advent of Instant Messaging apps and platforms, SMS is still the communication tool of choice for many organizations? Why do you think that is?
There is no doubt that instant messaging apps have gained in popularity and we even experimented with creating one ourselves, and tested it with some of our own customers. Ultimately, we found our customers value SMS over apps. This is especially true of our enterprise customers who want to make sure everyone gets their message every time. They understand that one of the primary benefits of SMS is that it works everywhere for everyone without the need to install anything.
Could you elaborate more on your cloud-based dashboard and API integration?
Our website is built on top of our API. So, one of the powerful things about our platform is that the same data clients manage on the web-based dashboard, can be accessed through our API and vice-versa. This not only allows our customers to verify the accuracy of their integration, but it supports the business needs of different people within client organizations. For instance, IT staff may be working with our API tools, but business or marketing analysts can take advantage of the comprehensive analytics tools built into our dashboard.
What type of SMS Integrations does your API Support?
Our API supports multiple types of SMS interactions connecting humans and computers. Everything you might want to do is an available function of the API. “SMS Auto- Responders” are one of the most common.
Our website is built on top of our API. If our API is down, our business is down. We exceed five 9’s (99.999 percent) uptime
They allow anybody with a mobile phone to send a short text message to a predefined phone number and receive real-time, dynamic information in response.
This is used in many ways, such as:
• Checking bank balances
• Getting real estate listing information
• Getting bus time arrivals
• Getting information about items for sale (cars, etc.)
Our API protocols are open and easy to implement, based on simple HTTP interactions so clients can easily write their own integration in any language. We have production-ready client libraries for most popular programming languages. We also maintain documentation and tools that let you discover what’s possible and make calls in your browser without writing a single line of code. Everything you might want to do is an available function of the API, but if clients have questions about what’s possible or if they just want to bounce around ideas with an SMS expert—we’re here to help.
Share a client story with us.
We service directly and indirectly some of America’s largest transit agencies, healthcare providers, brands, and financial institutions. But what I really love is seeing how smaller organizations with limited resources are able to reach out to their communities more effectively through our powerful platform and API. These smaller teams don’t always have the manpower to handle complex API integrations or the budget to lease their own short codes, not to mention navigate the telecommunications compliance environment.
For example, Service Sheets helps churches distribute weekly bulletins in both print and digital formats. They use TextMarks to add additional value to their service by using our API to send out high volume SMS bulletins to the congregations of the churches who are their clients. This integration allows all of their church clients and their congregations to benefit from our powerful platforms working together. They’re seeing open rates as high as 80 percent, which is far higher than other distribution channels, and most importantly—they are helping connect communities.
FamZoo is another one of my favorites. It’s a personalized banking system that parents use to teach kids how to handle money, manage allowances and track chores. This is a very important service because, as we all know, poor financial literacy makes life difficult for many Americans. Teaching financial literacy early on, especially before bad habits are formed, can help mitigate that. FamZoo uses our API to support real-time banking information by text and the families love the convenience. They have seen their paid conversion rate more than double for families using the texting feature. We feel pretty good about having provided them with an easy to integrate SMS API that helped them focus on financial literacy and education and launch their valuable service.
Having had an impressive track record, what does the TextMarks’ roadmap look like?
Even though our API makes it easy for our customers to integrate with their own existing systems, we are always on the lookout for trends in what those systems are and ready to build turnkey integrations to benefit our customers. An example of this we are currently exploring is Natural Language Processing supporting free-form communication between people and computers.
The CIOs we speak with don’t want to integrate with dozens of separate APIs if they don’t have to. They appreciate it when their vendors roll up functionality from other services and expose it through one interface. We work with middleware providers who do just that with our messaging services, and we’re always looking for new providers who want to integrate us into their offerings.