Setting up an SMS (short message service, or text messaging) service involves obtaining a short code, building the back-end software to power the service and creating a sales and marketing plan to sell SMS messaging. A short code is the five digit to six digit number that is used by consumers to sign up for text message campaigns (e.g., Text PIZZA to 12345). The back-end software is a web-based program that actually sends the messages. It's the combination of technology and marketing that will make your SMS business a success.

Setting Up an SMS Service

Step 1.

Obtaining a short code is a critical step to setting up an SMS service. Go to the Common Short Code Administration website, click on "Obtain a Code" and follow the detailed instructions. This process, including waiting time, will take you 6 weeks to 12 weeks or more from start to finish.

Step 2.

Build an SMS gateway, a software program that interfaces with the short code and the cell phone carriers. This will be your back-end software platform. If you don't have the computer programming skills to accomplish this, hire someone with these skills to do the work for you.

Step 3.

Determine your target market and create a comprehensive marketing plan to reach these businesses who will be your customers. Business-to-consumer businesses are typically the best type to utilize SMS marketing.

Step 4.

Begin doing face-to-face selling to get businesses signed up for text messaging services. The end users, who are their customers, are the people who will actually receive the SMS messages.


If you find the process of starting your own SMS service too daunting, you can instead become an affiliate or reseller of an already existing text message company and utilize their short code and software. This is called sharing a short code. Going this route eliminates the steps of obtaining a short code and building your back-end software. Instead you can begin selling SMS messaging to your clients immediately.

It's helpful when selling text message services to have a demonstration set up to show your potential customers. They appreciate seeing the text message service in action and it shows them exactly what it is they can do with the service.


Most businesses find that obtaining a short code is a lengthy process that does not always go as smoothly or as quickly as they hope. Schedule extra time for this step and be patient.