CONTENT
What Is SMS Marketing? Should You Use SMS Marketing? How Does SMS Marketing Work? Fitting SMS Into Your Marketing Building an SMS Subscriber List Creating SMS Marketing Messages Creating SMS Marketing Campaigns Measuring SMS Marketing Success Sending SMS Marketing Messages The Best Time to Send Messages Getting SMS Opt-ins SMS Compliance Start Sending Texts!
Insight

SMS Marketing: The Complete Guide

SMS marketing is an easy way to increase revenue while also creating great customer experiences. Here’s everything you need to join the top 1% of SMS marketers.

A great SMS marketing strategy will help you:

  • Get your message in front of your audience

  • Stand out from competitors

  • Drive revenue

  • And even create experiences that customers love 

This complete guide to SMS marketing shows you how to do all of it.

We’ll start with SMS marketing basics and best practices, then help you create an SMS marketing strategy, then walk you through sending successful SMS marketing campaigns. We’ll end with everyone’s favorite—SMS compliance. 

Sound good? Feel free to jump around this page as its most helpful for you.

kevin-doran-ra-marketing-headshot
Some of our clients have seen a 62% increase in response rate with texting!”
Kevin Doran, Co-Owner
R&A Marketing

What Is SMS marketing?

SMS marketing is the practice of sending promotional messages as a business using Short Message Service (SMS) messages, commonly called text messages. SMS marketing also includes Multimedia Message Service (MMS) messages, which are usually called picture messages. Collectively, the term “SMS marketing” is often used to describe any text messages sent from a business to a mass audience, and may also be referred to as text marketing.

Should Your Business Use SMS Marketing?

Almost any business will benefit from SMS marketing, so yes, your business probably should use it. Why?

You’ll be able to get your message in front of a targeted audience quickly, effectively, and inexpensively. You can use that to increase sales, schedule services, or anytime you need to get people’s attention. We’ll cover common uses and strategies below.

How does SMS marketing work?

SMS marketing works by:

  • Getting contacts to opt into receiving messages from you

  • Batch sending those contacts info, updates, or promotions

  • Segmenting contacts into lists to continually improve results

To do this, you’ll need a business phone number to send mass texts, ways for contacts to opt in, and something to offer them for giving you their contact info. Specific steps for each of these are detailed in the How to Build Your SMS Subscriber List section.

text all your contacts at once with mass texts

Common Opportunities to Use SMS Marketing

Common uses for SMS marketing include: 

  • Scheduling services

  • Driving retail or food sales

  • Sharing company updates and newsletters

  • Educating an audience with content marketing

  • Starting conversations around a topic or issue with a larger audience

  • Polling, surveying, and research

  • Urgent updates and alerts

It’s a great tool anytime you need to get a message in front of multiple people quickly, especially if you need them to take an action like purchasing a product or updating their account. 

For more profitable ideas, view our 15 SMS marketing ideas to generate sales.

How to Create Your SMS Marketing Strategy

Your SMS marketing strategy should be a well-defined piece of your larger marketing strategy. Here are three questions to ask to figure out what part text messaging will play in your marketing and create your SMS marketing strategy.

1. What is your marketing team’s #1 priority? 

Hitting a revenue number, gaining a percentage of market share, increasing average customer value, improving acquisition costs—what’s the #1 reason your marketing team shows up to work every day? 

Clarify where you’re going so you can better see how SMS marketing will help you get there.

2. Are you selling, or are you educating?

Almost every text message will fall into one of these two categories:

  • Selling: Are you trying to get people to buy, donate, or register?

  • Educating: Are you trying to share or gather information about your company, your customer, or a particular topic?

For your initial SMS strategy, choose one—either selling or educating. That will make it easier to put a measurable plan in place. After you nail one category, consider adding the other.

3. Does this create, complement, or cannibalize?

Ask yourself (or your team):

Is SMS marketing going to be something completely new to your marketing strategy? E.g. is this your first foray into promotional messages or advertising? 

Is it going to complement work you’re already doing? For example, are you already sending promotions through email and social media, and SMS is a new channel to help you share the same message?

Or, will SMS marketing replace something else? Perhaps social media advertising isn’t working as well as you need for driving sales, and you’re hoping SMS marketing can replace it.

There’s lots of flexibility for fitting SMS marketing into your broader marketing strategy. How it fits is up to you.

How to Build Your SMS Subscriber List

Building an SMS subscriber list, like anything worth doing, takes steady and consistent effort. The more you nurture it, the faster and larger it will grow, and the higher returns you’ll see as a result. 

With that in mind, follow these steps to build your SMS subscriber list.

1. Get a phone number for texting.

It’s usually best to use your existing business phone number. If you’re a Fortune 500 kind of brand, it may make sense for you to get a verified short code (like 55-555) for SMS marketing, but those numbers are prohibitively expensive for most. 

But you already own your existing business number—just add texting to that. It won’t affect your voice services, and subscribers are more trusting of these 10-digit numbers, anyway.

To see if your existing business phone number is eligible for texting, just ask us.

2. Pull already opted-in contacts.

In most cases, you will need to start collecting SMS opt-ins from scratch, but not always. If you already have a list of contacts who have specifically opted into or requested text messages from your brand.

This would only be the case if your existing contact forms and subscribe forms include an SMS opt-in disclaimer like: 

By submitting this form you agree to receive communications from [Brand Name] at the contact info provided.

You’ll be able to upload those contacts to Text Request via .csv or .xlsx file.

3. Create a way—or ways—for people to subscribe.

There are three common ways for contacts to subscribe to your SMS marketing messages:

  • Keywords that they text to opt-in

  • By texting you directly first (about a question or sales inquiry)

  • Submitting a form that includes opt-in language

We cover these more in-depth below and in the How to Get SMS Opt-Ins section towards the bottom, and recommend you enable all three for best results.

SMS keyword feature to grow your contact list

4. Offer something enticing.

If contacts are going to share their contact info with you, what are they going to get in return? It could be information or a discount (see point 3 above). For instance:

  • Text us to schedule services

  • Text DEAL to [our number] for 20% off your first purchase

  • Text our support line with questions about your account

There are lots of options, it just needs to be clear to contacts that it’s not a one-way street—they get something, too.

5. Promote opt-ins wherever you market.

The strongest SMS subscriber lists are built by marketing in multiple places. Once you have an offer and a way for contacts to opt-in, promote that wherever you’d market.

  • On your website

  • In your store or office

  • Across social media

  • In emails

  • Through any commercials or other ads

As with all marketing, remember that repetition and meeting customers where they are will make a big impact.

6. Give subscribers the kind of messages they ask for.

It’s not enough to get someone to subscribe to your SMS marketing list. You also need to keep them subscribed

Do that by sending them the types of messages they opted into, and by sending at a cadence that’s frequent enough for them to remember who you are, but not so often that you’re bothering them with yet another ad.

Frequency and timing are covered more thoroughly below. For more ideas, view our full guide to building a powerful SMS subscriber list.

How to Create Great SMS Marketing Messages

Great SMS marketing messages all do the same things: 

  1. Create excitement and urgency

  2. Clearly and concisely get your point across

  3. Present an offer

  4. Show subscribers how to get it

  5. Tell subscribers who the message is from

A couple of SMS marketing message examples:

Wow, it's hot! Has your AC been checked? We’ll inspect it so you stay cool all summer long. Just reply to this text to schedule. Get 10% off if you book before Friday. - Joe’s Heating and Air

New! [Your favorite product] is now available! Visit ourwebsite.com/promo to get 20% off. Sale ends this weekend! - A Store Near You

For more examples and inspiration, check out our SMS Marketing templates.

How to Create an SMS Marketing Campaign

Creating an SMS marketing campaign is easy, but you’re going to need an SMS marketing platform to do it—you can’t do this with a personal cell phone. 

To create your SMS marketing campaign:

  1. Setup your business texting account for SMS marketing

  2. Create a Keyword for each topic you want to text about

  3. Upload existing opt-in subscribers (if any)

  4. Add them to specific groups (separate contact lists) for easy segmentation

  5. Draft the message you want to send, including an image or other details (as applicable)

  6. Choose which group(s) to send your message to

  7. Review your message to make sure it won’t be seen as spam

  8. And send!

Keep an eye on things after sending to see how your campaign is performing, and to handle any responses you get.

For more insights into SMS marketing best practices—and things to avoid—view our 20 SMS Marketing Dos and Don’ts guide.

How to Create a Keyword for SMS Marketing

Creating a keyword for SMS marketing is easy to do, and all you need is a Text Request account with the Keywords feature active. (Unlimited Keywords can be added to your account as an add-on, and also comes included with Starter plans and above.)

If you don’t have a Text Request account yet, sign up here.

To create a keyword for SMS marketing:

  1. Login to your account

  2. Choose Settings from the left menu

  3. Select Keywords

  4. Click “+ New Keyword”

  5. Type the keyword you want people to text

  6. Add the message you’d like to send as an autoresponse (optional)

  7. Check or uncheck the box to send an opt-in confirmation to the contact (we recommend you do send it)

  8. Click “Add Keyword” to save

And you’re all set! Now you can start promoting your keyword to gather opt-ins wherever you want to market. 

You will also notice a new contact group has been created with the name “Keyword: [Keyword].” Any contact who texts your keyword will be automatically added to this group, so you can send them tailored SMS marketing campaigns.

How to Measure SMS Marketing Success

Everything you spend time and money on should be measured for impact. SMS marketing is no different. However, SMS marketing rarely lives in a silo. You’re probably doing other types of marketing, too—email marketing, Google search ads, blogging and SEO, events, social media marketing, etc. 

To best measure the success of your SMS marketing, you need to pay attention to specific SMS marketing metrics, and also to your overall marketing metrics to see what broader impact SMS may be having. 

For instance, SMS marketing and email marketing together may lead to stronger results than using either alone.

Seven SMS marketing metrics to watch:

  1. Number of opt-ins

  2. Subscriber list growth rate

  3. Number of opt-outs from each campaign

  4. Opt-out rate, as a percentage

  5. Response rate (as applicable)

  6. Link click-through rate (as applicable)

  7. Conversions from SMS marketing (services scheduled or products purchased from those campaigns)

Text Request's Link Sharing feature makes it possible to track link click rates across mass texts.

shorten links and track click rates with Text Request

You also want to pay attention to your overall:

  • Revenue

  • Revenue growth rate

  • Customer engagement by channel

  • Average customer value

  • Average transaction value

How Often Should We Send SMS Marketing Messages?

The best cadence to send SMS marketing messages is whatever works best for both you and your contacts. There’s a lot of variance, but a general rule of thumb is:

  • Retail: 1x a week, or around holiday sales

  • Restaurant: 1-2x a week 

  • Professional services and healthcare: 1x a month

  • Associations and member groups: 2-4x a month

  • Home services: 1x a quarter

Our other rule of thumb is: Send when you have something worth sharing. If you have something, great! If not, don’t force it.

When Is the Best Time to Send SMS Marketing Messages?

The best time to send a text is whenever your audience wants to receive it. We’ll share guidelines below as starting points, but you should make these decisions based on your knowledge of your audience. 

General recommendations for the best time to send a text:

  • Business Services: During standard business hours, 9am to 5pm Monday through Friday

  • Retail: Evenings from 6pm to 8pm, and on weekends from 9am-8pm

  • Appointment Scheduling: Early morning through lunch on weekdays, from 7am to 2pm

  • Media & News: Early morning from 7am to 9am, and evenings from 6pm to 8pm

We strongly recommend not sending SMS marketing messages in late evening or early morning, say 9pm to 6am. You’re more likely to annoy your audience and increase opt-outs. 

Exceptions include urgent or emergency alerts that will directly affect subscribers.

best-time-to-send-a-text-message

Why SMS Opt-Ins Matter and How to Get Them

Why Opt-Ins Matter

Mobile carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile want businesses to only text consumers who’ve expressed an interest in receiving text messages from that business. In other words, they don’t want businesses spamming consumers.

To do this—and to keep bad actors from spamming or scamming anyone and everyone—carriers have put 10DLC regulations in place. Basically, these state that you must:

  • Register your business for texting through their networks

  • Prove that contacts opted-in to receive texts from you

  • Show how they opted into those messages

We’re happy to help you through this process. Just ask, or review our 10DLC regulations guide.

There’s also TCPA—or the Telephone Consumer Protection Act—that you have to consider. It says:

  • Contacts must opt in to receive text messages from a business

  • Contacts must be told how they can opt out of messages at any time

  • Businesses must respect opt-in and opt-out requests

  • You cannot “randomly or sequentially” dial numbers to text

All of these are pretty easy to follow for normal businesses. If you want to dive deeper, view our guide to SMS compliance.

How to Get SMS Opt-Ins

There are three ways to get SMS opt-ins:

  • The contact texts you first

  • You have a prior business relationship with the contact

  • They submit a form that includes consent to receive texts

Here are the situations where each of these could happen.

Contacts Text You First

There are usually three situations where a contact will text you first, and these each count as opting in. By texting you first, the contact has expressed interest in receiving texts from you.

1. “Text or call us”: Wherever you market your phone number—your website, social media, a billboard—you have the call-to-action “Text or call us.” Then people text your number for sales or service (or anything).

2. Keywords: Let’s say you tell people to text DEAL for a discount, or INFO for regular alerts, or anything similar. Them texting that keyword is them opting to receive texts from you.

3. SMS Chat: This is a feature unique to us—a web chat widget for texting, so contacts can text you directly from your website. There’s even opt-in language embedded in the widget telling contacts that by messaging you, they’re opting in to receive texts from you.

sms-chat-widget-text-request

Prior Business Relationship

If a contact has had a previous professional relationship with your business—they purchased a product or service, took a meeting, expressed interest, shared their contact info with you, etc.—then you have permission to communicate with them through the contact info they provided.

You still have to respect their request to opt-out, if they choose to, and you should not send them any recurring automated messages. But you can text them.

Contact Form Submission

You will most commonly see a consent disclaimer included in the fine print on an online form before you hit “Submit,” usually around the privacy policy or terms of service.

If you have a phone number field and a consent disclaimer on your forms, then people who submit those forms are opting into receiving messages through the phone number they provided. Opt-in language can be as simple as:

By submitting this form, you consent to receive communications from [Company Name] through the info given, including SMS. 

SMS Marketing Compliance You Need to Know (and Follow)

There are essentially three SMS marketing compliance rules you need to follow:

  1. Only text contacts who’ve opted in

  2. Tell everyone explicitly how to opt out

  3. Don’t be a jerk—if someone opts out or tells you to stop, stop

Any SMS marketing platform worth its salt like Text Request will handle opt-outs automatically for you. A “stop” message is attached the first time you text any contact, telling them “Text STOP to opt out.” It will automatically remove and prevent you from texting anyone who texts STOP, UNSUBSCRIBE, or CANCEL. 

If someone replies with a phrase that doesn’t quite match the keyword, like “stop texting me,” you will need to manually honor that opt out request. Just click on their contact details and change their status from Active to Archived.

For more details, check out our full guide to SMS compliance

Note: We are not lawyers and this does not constitute legal advice.

Start Sending SMS Marketing Campaigns with Text Request

We’re here to help you move your business forward. Sign up on your own to start sending SMS marketing campaigns, or ask us for help getting started. 

Pretty soon you’ll be seeing increases in both customer engagement and revenue. That’s great for everyone!

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