What Is an SMS Subscriber List? Benefits of an SMS Subscriber List Creating an SMS Subscriber List Getting SMS Opt-ins Keeping SMS Subscribers

How to Build a Powerful SMS Subscriber List

Building a subscriber list is essential to any SMS marketing strategy.

SMS subscribers convert at a higher rate and stay subscribers longer than email. So how do you build your list?

SMS subscriber growth happens by itself if you’re doing the right things. We’ll show you what those right things look like for business texting.

What Is an SMS Subscriber List?

An SMS subscriber list is a group of contacts who’ve opted into SMS (text message) updates about a certain topic, such as promotions or company updates.

There are numerous ways to leverage an SMS subscriber list to hit business goals, including:

  • SMS newsletter

  • Leads and sales

  • Events

  • Upsells

  • Promotions

  • VIP perks

  • Fundraising 

The messages you send to subscribers can be used as one-way messages driving people to a web page, or prompt subscribers to reply to keep the convo going. But the point is that you use your subscriber list to engage contacts and encourage them to take a certain action.

What Are the Benefits of Having an SMS Subscriber List?

Building an opt-in list means higher delivery rates from carriers, ensuring you stay compliant, and create healthier customer engagement.

Email’s great, but engagement tends to be low. SMS works as a standalone, or in conjunction with email. If someone gives you their phone number, you know they’re going to see your text messages because of their reliable open rate—about 99%. The same can’t be said for email.

Plus, people don’t hand out their phone numbers as willingly as their email address. The customers you add to your SMS subscriber list are ones you’ll keep. They’re giving you their number because they want to engage with you, and they’re way less likely to unsubscribe because of that. 

People opt in to texts because they want something specific from you, and as long as you give them that thing without bombarding them, they’ll stick around for a long time.

Texting works better than emailing or calling. Not everyone reads an email or answers the phone, but they do look at texts.”
Donna VanNess, President
Housing Channel

What All Do You Need to Create an SMS Subscriber List?

1. A number.

Knowing how and when to choose between number types will help you get the most bang for your buck. 

You most likely already use a 10 digit long code number, or 10DLC, to message customers—because your business landline, or VOIP, is a 10DLC. They’re cheaper and feel more personal, but they also can’t send as many texts at once without being flagged as spam. Here’s an example:


Short code, on the other hand, can send 1,000 texts per second—but it’s incredibly expensive and tricky compared to long code. You rent short codes, so the digits connect to your business, instead of to another business that may have previously used the code.

Text Request can make your current 10DLC business number textable, so you can get started immediately with what you already have. 

2. A reason for customers to opt in.

What are you going to message your subscribers about? What value will those messages bring them? These are things people want and need to know if you’re going to entice them to join. 

A small incentive also can’t hurt, as long as you follow up on your promise. Exclusive or VIP offers will have the strongest impact on customers considering joining your SMS subscriber list. Zapier can connect forms to your SMS list, so discount codes automatically send to customers who sign up. 

3. A way for customers to opt in.

Keywords are words customers can text to join your SMS subscriber list, or opt-in for information and promotions. They’re simple to advertise and intuitive for customers to use:

“Text SALES to get updates on our newest discounts!”

Customers who text keywords will receive an autoresponse—which you can customize to reflect your subscriber list’s specific goals. For example:

“Thanks for texting SALES to Blue Skies Retail. Every Tuesday we’ll text you a list of our newest deals.” 


“Thanks for texting HOUSE to Burke Real Estate. Which address did you want more information on?”

Autoresponses like these let the subscriber know their opt in was successful, plus they reaffirm what content the subscriber can expect to start receiving. 

Online form submissions can also be automated to send a welcome text to customers who join your SMS subscriber list. These forms to sign up for your SMS subscriber list can be displayed alongside your registration for other things like your online checkout, event registrations, and your email subscriber list.

The more options you give customers to opt-in, the more you’ll see come your way.


4. A way to structure and segment your contacts.

Customers who text a keyword are added to a Group, or a saved list of contacts, named after the corresponding keyword. 

This is great if you have multiple keyword campaigns going on at the same time. You may have a keyword for NEWS and a keyword for COUPONS, so you can text those respective lists about those specific topics.

If you want to go even more in depth, Contact Tags give you the ability to label customers by things like the rep who is individually helping them, or by where the contact is in your sales funnel.

All of this helps you target SMS subscribers with content that keeps them engaged. 

5. A prompt (or several) telling people to opt in.

There are four primary places where we recommend you prompt customers to join your subscriber list:

  • Social media

  • Your website and digital ads

  • Physical and digital check out

  • Email newsletter

Below we’ll cover in detail how to best utilize each of those channels ongoing to tell customers about your SMS subscriber list.


How to Get More SMS Subscribers?

1. Invite people to join on social media. 

Customers who follow your social media accounts are there because they want to engage with you. They’ll most likely be interested in texting with you, too. 

Create a post that shows them how to join, then sit back and let your new subscribers come to you. Advertising a keyword in the post will be the simplest route to help them subscribe, like:

“Text DEALS to get exclusive updates on new products.”

Showcase the kinds of offers or messages customers can expect to receive when they opt-in, as well as why those messages will benefit them. 

2. Include an invite in your digital marketing and pop-up ads. 

Consumers interested in your brand want to know what all you have to offer—and the exclusive content they can receive as part of your SMS subscriber list is one of them. Advertise your SMS subscriber list and how customers can go about joining. 

These digital ads can appear anywhere, including:

  • Pop-ups on your homepage

  • Banner ads

  • Sidebar ads

These ads can either include a keyword consumers can text to join, or direct people to a webform they can enter their number in (which you may use to get their email address and other info as well).

3. Ask customers to join at checkout.

If you’ve got someone at checkout, you might as well ask if they’d like to join your SMS subscriber list, right? Their purchase is fresh on their mind, and they’ll most likely be interested in what else you have to offer. 

Keep the ask simple. It could come in the form of an option for the customer to include their number at the ecommerce checkout, or your rep directly asking the customer for the number at a brick-and-mortar checkout.

4. Cross pollinate from your email list.

Take the customers in your existing email list and drop them a line about your new SMS newsletter. The engaged contacts who read your mail will most likely also be interested in receiving updates via text message. 

Email and SMS marketing should feed into each other to make the most impact. Especially when you use our integrations to collect phone number from customer who list them inside:

It’s a low effort way to gather contacts for an SMS subscriber list, plus you can follow up email announcements with SMS alerts (and vice versa) to make sure your offers are never missed. Just make sure you offer exclusive content in your SMS newsletter, so email subscribers have a reason to pay attention to both. 


How Do You Keep SMS Subscribers Once You Get ‘Em?

Here’s our big three golden rules:

  1. Give them what they ask for

  2. Don’t send messages too frequently

  3. Encourage two-way conversations

Two-way conversations in particular are huge for adding a personal touch to keep subscribers engaged. 

Customers opt-in for SMS because they like the idea of being able to reach a human instantly on the other side of the phone. If you aren’t invested in handling responses, customers won’t be invested in engaging with you. 

You’ll get as much out of your SMS subscriber list as you put into it. Actively encouraging and managing responses from customers needs to be a part of your goals by offering to answer questions, sharing questionnaires, and asking for feedback. 

Let’s Start Building Your List!

Increasing engagement drives revenue, and your SMS subscriber list can do just that. 

Building and maintaining your SMS subscriber list will require ongoing SMS marketing strategies to keep subscribers engaged. This can be low effort and high reward. Check out our full list of SMS marketing ideas to help you along the way.

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