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Martin Cogburn


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    SMS Overview



    About SMS in ONTRAPORT

    SMS in ONTRAPORT allows you to have two-way communication via text messages with your contacts.

    This feature allows you to:

    • Have people opt in by filling in the SMS Number field on a Smart Form
    • Have people opt in by sending an SMS to your number
    • Send contacts SMS messages via a broadcast (see warning below)
    • Send contacts SMS messages via Campaign
    • Fire other automations based on the content of SMS messages received
    • Send yourself or other team members an email or SMS with the text of the SMS message received
    • Legacy: Send contacts SMS messages via a Sequence or Global Rule

    To perform SMS functions, ONTRAPORT utilizes a unique, default SMS number field in your account as well as one or more recipient SMS numbers for your Contacts.

    Quick Start

    Want to jump right in using SMS in your ONTRAPORT account? Make sure you are logged in on another tab in this browser and click this link to: Capture New Leads Via SMS.

    This opens an ONTRAPORT Project within your account. ONTRAPORT Projects are step-by-step in-app instructions with a checklist to track your progress. You can stop and resume the Project at any time.

    The SMS Number Field

    The SMS Number field is a default system field in ONTRAPORT, and is located in the Contact Information section. It is not connected to the Mobile Number field. SMS numbers are a special field in ONTRAPORT. You can import the number, but cannot send to the SMS number without specific permission. Your contacts will have to fill in a form with that number, or text your ONTRAPORT supplied SMS number to initiate SMS usage.

    If the SMS number is entered with a properly formatted country code the number is saved in that format. If the number is entered without a country code, ONTRAPORT will format it based on the following criteria:

    • The contact record's Country field, as shown in the image above.
    • If there is no Country set in the contact record, the Contact Owner's country setting takes effect. This allows you to automatically format the SMS numbers of contacts assigned to a regional salesperson or business division. See Set the Contact Owner's Country Field below for more information.
    • If no country is specified in either the contact record or the Contact Owner's information the number will be formatted in the US / Canada format with a +1 country code.

    Set the Contact Owner's Country Field

    The Contact Owner relates to the ONTRAPORT Users you've created in your account. To edit the User information, click on the profile icon at the top right of the screen, then select Manage Users.

    Click each User and click Business Country to edit the country field.

    Manually entering or importing the SMS number without a country code will trigger the addition of the country code under these rules. Numbers already formatted with a country code will be added or imported as is, and will not be changed. Contacts who opt in via SMS, by sending a text message to your ONTRAPORT SMS number, will have the country code associated with their opt-in number.

    Bulk SMS Status

    ONTRAPORT allows you to send bulk SMS messages to people who have opted-in to receive messages from you. and allows contacts to opt-out of your list at any time by replying to an SMS message with one of the unsubscribe words listed below.


    This is the default Bulk SMS Status. Contacts must opt in to receive SMS messages. A Contact can opt in by sending a SMS to your number, or by filling out a Smart Form and entering their SMS number into the SMS Number field (note: only the SMS Number field is used for SMS). After a Contact opts-in, ONTRAPORT will reset the contact’s Bulk SMS Status to Unsubscribed if the contact replies to an SMS message with any of the following words by itself:

    • STOP
    • CANCEL
    • QUIT

    The contact can can change their status back to Opt-In by replying to an old SMS message or sending your number a new SMS message. No keywords are required to opt in; any received message will opt them back in. Unlike the initial opt in (see below), ONTRAPORT will keep track of their SMS number and knows which Contact Record it belongs to.


    A Contact can opt in by sending a text to your number, or by filling out a Smart Form and entering their SMS number into the SMS Number field (note: only the SMS Number field is used for SMS).

    SMS Opt In Format

    You can have prospects send an SMS to your ONTRAPORT SMS number to opt in to your Contacts database. The SMS message must have all the data on one line with elements separated by a space (and not on a separate line). The accepted formats are:

    • Email address. Example:
    • Firstname Email. Example: Bob
    • Firstname Lastname Email. Example: Bob Smith

    Note: The data elements must be in the proper order and cannot contain more than three total words, including the email address. All of the data must appear on a single line. Malformed SMS opt in messages will add a contact record without a name or email address. The text of the SMS will appear in the Contact History tab. This allows manual editing of the new contact record. To find the SMS message in the contact record, click on the Date Added field and view the details in the Contact History tab:

    Contacts who have set their Bulk SMS Status to “Unsubscribed” can change their status back to Opt-In by replying to an old SMS message or texting your account's SMS number. Any received text will toggle the Bulk SMS Status back to Opt-in.

    Hard Bounced

    ONTRAPORT will set the Bulk SMS Status to Hard Bounced if a message was sent and it bounced. Reasons could include an invalid phone number or an unsupported carrier. Because there was a message sent, hard bounced messages will incur the regular message cost.



    SMS numbers are available in many countries including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, the UK and the US. The first SMS number you set up is free of charge. The second and subsequent numbers incur a monthly charge of $5 each, except in Estonia ($7 per month) and Australia ($10 a month).

    Usage Fees

    Usage fees are charged for both sending and receiving messages. In the US, pricing is $0.02 each. For all other countries the rate depends on the carrier the message is sent to, but should average about $0.06. For your specific country, visit our Approximate SMS Pricing table. Note that your credit card will be charged a minimum of $10 USD when a charge is incurred, and the balance used for future charges. The declining balance can be seen in the Account Details screen:


    Note: Messages over the carrier's limit, usually 160 characters, are split into multiple messages and the charges below are assessed per message segment.

    If you use an emoji in the message, the message is sent using a different character set and the limit is reduced from 160 characters per message segment to 62 characters. Split messages are usually reassembled by the receiving device, so the impact of this limitation is usually seen only in the cost of the message. The SMS editor will show the character count and message count required to send the message in the lower right. Each message segment will incur the approximate cost shown in this pricing table.

    Using an emoji reduces the character count per message to 62 characters


    The monthly fee for additional SMS numbers is billed on your ONTRAPORT billing date. Usage fees are billed to the card on file the day after the messages are sent or received.

    Service Restrictions

    We are not able to send SMS messages to the following countries:

    SM SAN MARINO ST São Tomé and Príncipe SY SYRIA TL TIMOR

    Conventional SMS Numbers

    ONTRAPORT allows you to set up a conventional telephone number for use in sending and receiving SMS messages within the application. You can select SMS numbers from many countries, including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Estonia, Finland, Norway, Poland, Switzerland, the UK and the US. You can select a number from the area code of your choice (except for Australia; all mobile numbers use area code 4 in Australia).

    The first number is free of charge. The second and subsequent numbers cost $5.00 per month except in Estonia ($7 per month) and Australia ($10 per month), and are billed in addition to other ONTRAPORT account fees on your normal billing date. Usage fees are charged per SMS sent or received at $0.02 per SMS in the US, and $0.06 per SMS in most other countries. Usage fees are billed to the credit card on file the day after they are incurred.

    How to set up a conventional SMS number

    1. Go to Administration > Data > SMS
    2. Click the Buy Number button
    3. Select a Country from the dropdown menu
    4. Type in your Area Code
    5. Click Search
    6. Select a number from the list of options in the dropdown menu
    7. Click Buy Number in the upper right hand corner

    Short Codes

    Ever sent a message to a number that wasn’t a phone number? You can get one of your very own to use in your business.

    Contact Support if you’re interested in exploring the option of getting a short code for use with your ONTRAPORT account. The lead time for provisioning is a minimum of 8-12 weeks, and the cost is $3,000.00 every 3 months for a random number and $4,500 for a vanity shortcode. The first fee must be paid before the approval process begins.

    If you already have a shortcode and want to use their shortcode on our system, you can pay a monthly fee of $500.00.

    Sending SMS Messages


    • Contact has to have a valid SMS Number in the SMS Number field
    • Contact has to have Bulk SMS Status of Opt-In
    • SMS number is in a country you are allowed to send to (see Allowed Countries)

    Creating SMS Messages

    SMS Messages are stored in the Messages Collection, along with all of your other messages! To create an SMS message, open Contacts > Messages > New Message and then select SMS as your message type. As with other message types, SMS messages can also be created while editing a sequence or wehn adding an SMS element in a Campaign.

    Formatting SMS Messages

    • Merge fields are OK in SMS. Watch out for total message length!
    • SMS messages support formatting with line breaks. However, not all carriers will render the line breaks when delivering to individual handsets. SMS formatting with line breaks is supported but not guaranteed to work to all recipients.
    • If the message length is greater than 160 characters, ONTRAPORT will send as many 160 character messages as it takes to send your message, up to 1600 characters. For US based messages, charged at $0.02 each, a 200 character SMS split into two messages will cost $0.04 to send. In other countries, charged at $0.06 per SMS, the message would cost $0.12 to send.
    • The receiving carrier may deliver split SMS in reverse or random order. Unfortunately, we cannot control the sorting used at the receiving carrier.
    • Any characters over 1600 will be dropped without any notification. Note that the total number of characters available in multi-part SMS messages is lower because of the use of “(1/x)” in the message area.

    Sending SMS Messages

    Broadcasts from the Contacts Collection (use with caution)

    You can send a one-off SMS message to a single contact, a group of contacts, or all of your contacts in the Contacts Collection. SMS messages sent to a single contact are sent immediately, while broadcasts are sent via the broadcast queue.

    Note: Many telecomunnications companies have strict spam filters and may detect if you are sending more than one of their subscribers a message at the same time. If your message trips a filter they will simply discard your message without any feedback, and may block your sending number. If you must broadcast SMS messages we recommend you use multiple sending SMS numbers or purchase a short code SMS number. It is safer to send SMS messages through a Campaign or other automation rather than a broadcast.

    Campaign Elements

    You can send SMS messages to your contacts who are subscribed to a Campaign by adding an SMS action element to the Campaign map. This does not usually trigger the spam filters and is a more robust delivery method.

    Legacy: Sequence Steps

    You can send SMS messages to your contacts who are subscribed to a sequence by adding an SMS step to the sequence.

    Legacy: Rules

    You can send SMS messages in response to receiving an SMS message or some other behavior that’s monitored by rules.

    Note: Rules act on incoming SMS only if the Contact already has a Bulk SMS Status of Opt-In. For example, Rules will not fire against the initial SMS used to opt-in. For live conferences, ask attendees to first opt in by sending a SMS to your number with just a keyword such as "SLIDES" or their first name, last name, and email address (all on the same line). Rules will fire against the content of each subsequent SMS, so they can text you "Free eBook" and a Rule can act, add them to a Campaign or Sequence, and send them the eBook.

    SMS notification Rule

    Allowed Countries for Your SMS Number

    The location of the number you are sending from determines the countries you are allowed to send to. You can purchase additional SMS numbers in other areas if you need to reach a country out of your home region. An account in Australia (Oceania region) can purchase a North American based SMS number to send SMS to the 34 countries in the North America region.

    North America

    You can send SMS to 34 Countries:

    • Anguilla
    • Antigua and Barbuda
    • Aruba
    • Bahamas
    • Barbados
    • Belize
    • Bermuda
    • Canada
    • Cayman Islands
    • Costa Rica
    • Cuba
    • Dominica
    • Dominican Republic
    • El Salvador
    • Grenada
    • Guadeloupe
    • Guatemala
    • Haiti
    • Honduras
    • Jamaica
    • Martinique
    • Mexico
    • Montserrat
    • Nicaragua
    • Panama
    • Puerto Rico
    • St Kitts and Nevis
    • St Lucia
    • St Vincent Grenadines
    • Trinidad and Tobago
    • Turks and Caicos Islands
    • United States
    • Virgin Islands, British
    • Virgin Islands, U.S.

    South America:

    You can send SMS to 14 Countries

    • Argentina
    • Bolivia
    • Brazil
    • Chile
    • Colombia
    • Ecuador
    • Falkland Islands
    • French Guiana
    • Guyana
    • Paraguay
    • Peru
    • Suriname
    • Uruguay
    • Venezuela


    You can send SMS to 48 Countries

    • Albania
    • Andorra
    • Armenia
    • Austria
    • Belarus
    • Belgium
    • Bosnia and Herzegovina
    • Bulgaria
    • Croatia
    • Cyprus
    • Czech Republic
    • Denmark
    • Estonia
    • Faroe Islands
    • Finland
    • France
    • Germany
    • Gibraltar
    • Greece
    • Greenland
    • Hungary
    • Iceland
    • Ireland
    • Italy
    • Latvia
    • Liechtenstein
    • Lithuania
    • Luxembourg
    • Macedonia
    • Malta
    • Moldova
    • Monaco
    • Montenegro
    • Netherlands
    • Netherlands Antilles
    • Norway
    • Poland
    • Portugal
    • Romania
    • San Marino
    • Serbia
    • Slovakia
    • Slovenia
    • Spain
    • Sweden
    • Switzerland
    • Ukraine
    • United Kingdom


    You can send SMS to 34 Countries

    • Afghanistan
    • Azerbaijan
    • Bangladesh
    • Bhutan
    • Brunei
    • Cambodia
    • China
    • East Timor
    • Georgia
    • Hong Kong
    • India
    • Indonesia
    • Japan
    • Kazakhstan
    • Korea Republic of
    • Kyrgyzstan
    • Laos PDR
    • Macau
    • Malaysia
    • Maldives
    • Mongolia
    • Myanmar
    • Nepal
    • Pakistan
    • Philippines
    • Russia
    • Singapore
    • Sri Lanka
    • Taiwan
    • Tajikistan
    • Thailand
    • Turkmenistan
    • Uzbekistan
    • Vietnam


    You can send SMS to 11 Countries

    • Australia
    • Cook Islands
    • Fiji
    • French Polynesia
    • Guam
    • Marshall Islands
    • New Caledonia
    • New Zealand
    • Papua New Guinea
    • Samoa
    • Tonga

    Africa and Middle East

    You can send SMS to 68 Countries

    • Algeria
    • Angola
    • Bahrain
    • Benin
    • Botswana
    • Burkina Faso
    • Burundi
    • Cameroon
    • Cape Verde
    • Central Africa
    • Chad
    • Comoros
    • Congo
    • Djibouti
    • DR Congo
    • Egypt
    • Equatorial Guinea
    • Ethiopia
    • Gabon
    • Gambia
    • Ghana
    • Guinea
    • Guinea-Bissau
    • Iran
    • Iraq
    • Israel
    • Ivory Coast
    • Jordan
    • Kenya
    • Kuwait
    • Lebanon
    • Lesotho
    • Liberia
    • Libya
    • Madagascar
    • Malawi
    • Mali
    • Mauritania
    • Mauritius
    • Morocco
    • Mozambique
    • Namibia
    • Niger
    • Nigeria
    • Oman
    • Palestinian Territory
    • Qatar
    • Reunion/Mayotte
    • Rwanda
    • Sao Tome and Principe
    • Saudi Arabia
    • Senegal
    • Seychelles
    • Somalia
    • South Africa
    • South Sudan
    • Sudan
    • Swaziland
    • Syria
    • Tanzania
    • Togo
    • Tunisia
    • Turkey
    • Uganda
    • United Arab Emirates
    • Yemen
    • Zambia
    • Zimbabwe
    Stop an SMS Broadcast

    If you chose to send an SMS immediately from the Contact Record remember there is a 5 minute delay on all messages. This is the time to queue the message in our system, and allows you to delete a pending broadcast if sent in error. To see and delete a pending broadcast:

    1. Go to Contacts > Settings

    2. Select Scheduled Broadcasts

    3. Place a checkmark next to the broadcast(s) you wish to cancel

    4. Select the Cancel button in the Actions drawer.

    5. Click OK.

    SMS Message Queuing

    With a standard SMS number, messages may be sent at the rate of 1 message per second per SMS number.

    With a short code SMS number, messages may be sent at the rate of 30 messages per second.

    There can be at most 14,000 SMS messages queued per number at one time, which is 3.8 hours of messages at 1 message per second. If the number of messages queued exceeds 14,000, the newest messages will be dropped from the queue without any notification. Provision an SMS shortcode or spread your messages across several standard SMS numbers if you expect to exceed 14,000 SMS messages.

    Receiving SMS Messages

    Reply Messages

    All automatic actions, including reply SMS messages, are handled by Triggers, Goals and Conditions in your Campaign Maps. There are Triggers, Goals and Conditions called SMS Received from contact. You can choose the SMS number to which you’d like to have the element attached.

    Return SMS messages that are sent as a result of receiving an SMS message on one of your numbers are sent immediately without going through the broadcast queue as long as the message is sent on the same number.

    Notification Messages

    To receive notification of any incoming SMS, create a Trigger, Goal or Condition and select SMS Received from Contact.

    To receive notifications via email, add an Notify with an Email action element.

    To receive notifications via SMS, add a Notify with SMS.

    The message you create for these notifications can use standard merge fields and they will be populated with the Contact's information. Example merge fields to include:

    • [First Name], [Last Name] and [Email] - to identify the contact
    • [SMS Number] - to provide you with their SMS number without logging into ONTRAPORT
    • [Last Inbound SMS] - to see the text of the SMS they sent to ONTRAPORT

    You can also see the content of the received SMS by opening their Contact Record and view the Contact Log on the Contact History tab. This example includes these merge fields:

    SMS Notification message

    When an SMS is received ONTRAPORT will send this email as specified, and the merge fields will contain the contact's data (even though the Notify with SMS/Email element is sending the message to you).

    Parsing and Merging

    Contacts can update their preferred email address automatically. If an existing Contact has opted in for SMS messages, they can send an SMS that starts with their new email address. The contact record will update with the new email address.

    Prospects can opt in to your Contact database by sending an SMS to your number. The format must follow one of these three examples:

    • Bob
    • Bob Smith

    The three data elements must be on the same line, separated by a space. If the Contact already exists the SMS number will be added to their Contact Record and their Bulk SMS Status field will be set to Opt In. If they are not already in the Contact Record a new record will be added for them. Note that if the email address is listed first, only the email address will be used (all data past the email address is ignored for new contacts).

    Note: any other format will fail to fill out the contact record. If the contact has three names before his email address ("Jean Jacques Rousseau") no record is created. If the contact inserts a hard return between their name and email address, submitting the information on two lines, ONTRAPORT discards the information and does not create a contact record. This is to prevent "SMS Spam" from creating empty contact records.

    Message Storage

    Both sent and received messages are stored in the Contact’s Contact Log. You can view the content of messages that have been sent and received.



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