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Text message advertising: Strategies and tips for success

Find out how to use text message advertising to grow your sales with best practices and examples from our SMS experts.

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You’ve set up the sale or event of the century, and now it’s time to bring in the customers. How do you break through the background noise and catch your audience’s attention?

Text message advertising is the answer.

It’s an excellent way for businesses to connect with consumers about deals, promotions, upcoming events, and other offers and opportunities.

Just to be clear, you may have heard of text message advertising referred to as SMS advertising. They’re the same thing. SMS stands for “Short Message Service,” which is an industry term for a text message.

No matter what you call it, text advertisements have a massive impact:

Let’s look more closely at text message advertising and how to capitalize on its potential.

What is text message advertising?

Text message advertising is a way of sharing promotions, sales, or news updates with your customers through text messages. 

You can either send out mass texts to tens, hundreds, or thousands of customers at once or communicate one-on-one with customers with two-way messaging

Here’s what text message advertising looks like in action:

Image for sending MMS
Visit Woodstock Pizza tonight between 5-8pm and get a 25% discount on any pizza. Just show this message.

What are the benefits of text message advertising?

We can’t say enough about the benefits of texting.

Its speed, reach, and ability to cut through the noise of endless social posts and emails make it a popular platform for marketers across all industries.

Some of the best aspects of SMS advertising include:

  • High demand, given that 78% of people wish they could have a text conversation with a business.
  • Excellent customer experience, with 65% of consumers reporting that they feel more positively about businesses that use messaging than those that don’t.
  • High engagement — the majority of businesses report SMS click-through rates between 20 and 35%.

For these reasons and many more, text message advertising is the best tool to help businesses:

  • Increase their response and interaction rates
  • Convert views into sales
  • Schedule and confirm appointments
  • Collect valuable customer feedback
  • Share time-sensitive information

How does text message advertising work?

To get started with text message advertising, you’ll need to:

1. Choose an SMS platform

Research and compare the pros and cons, pricing, and customer reviews of each app, like we did in this guide on the nine best SMS marketing software.

2. Pick a business texting number

There are four types of business texting numbers from which you can choose:

  • A 10-digit local number with the same area code as your business. Your local number will need to be registered, but our team will help you through the process.
  • A toll-free number that can send messages to large groups or individuals. Just don’t forget to have it verified to avoid traffic disruptions from carriers.
  • An easy-to-remember dedicated short code.
  • Your existing landline, VoIP, or toll-free number, that’s text-enabled by your SMS provider.

3. Decide which opt-in methods to use

Opt-in methods are the ways you invite people to sign up for your promotional messages.

As part of SMS compliance regulations, you have to get their express written consent (digitally or on paper) that they agree to join your texting list.

4. Write and send your first text advertising campaign

This short video explains how easy SimpleTexting makes sending your first SMS campaign:

4 text message advertising examples

If you decide to go the text message advertising route, the examples below will give you an idea of the impact it can have on your business:

  1. Drive more online sales
  2. Increase foot traffic
  3. Sell tickets to events
  4. Use a text-to-join keyword

1. Drive more online sales

Text message advertising can help increase your website traffic, which can lead to more online sales.

Use tools like our built-in link shortener to make it easy for customers to interact with the links in your texts.

Case in point: E-commerce retailer Aubrey’s Bead Closet used promotions through text and saw a 400% increase in mobile web traffic.

Necklace Holders have hit the website for the very first time and we’re SO excited! Go grab yours now at our low introductory preorder price: [LINK]

2. Increase foot traffic

Text promotions can also help you generate more appointment bookings or in-store visits. 

Encourage customers to visit the store by including a coupon in your texts that they can show at checkout.

Our friends at Year-Round Brown used text message advertising to boost in-store revenue by 20% from their biggest sale of the year.

Year Round Brown’s BIGGEST SALE OF THE YEAR! 50% OFF tanning, 40% OFF lotion, and 100 FREE minutes!

3. Sell tickets to events

If you run an event business, text message marketing is an ideal tool for quickly and easily promoting tickets to customers where they already are: on their phones.

Your customers will be excited to hear about their favorite artist or show the moment tickets go on sale, making them more likely to engage with your messages.

When the organizers of Austin’s Euphoria Fest used text advertisements to promote an upcoming show, they saw a conversion rate that was 10 times higher than their email advertisements.

Don’t miss out on Euphoria Fest this weekend! For today only, get 25% off with code FOMO 25: [LINK]

4. Use a text-to-join keyword

Text-to-join keywords are a simple but super effective way to collect new phone numbers and grow your contact lists. 

You’ll create a short, memorable keyword that relates to your business that customers can text to your number to sign up for your texts.

Your new contact will then get an auto-reply text message that you wrote while creating your keyword. This is a great opportunity to send your contacts a coupon or promotion to thank them for subscribing to your texts.

Thanks for signing up to receive promotions and updates on our San Diego fun runs! Get 10% off April’s Pacific Beach Fun Run with code FUNRUN10.

3 text message advertising best practices

Now that you know a little more about what text message advertising is and how to use it, here are three tips our SMS experts recommend:

  1. Keep your text message ads short.
  2. Pay attention to your texting frequency.
  3. Send texts at appropriate times of the day.

1. Keep your text message ads concise.

Text message advertising has a 160-character limit for regular SMS messages. 

This puts businesses in a position to be creative and send a strong message in a small amount of space. Use our link shortener to include URLs while saving space.

Of course, you can go up to 1,600 characters (and add media like videos, photos, and GIFs) if you use MMS messaging. Regardless of the character count, though, it’s best to be concise and send your contacts something valuable.

2. Pay attention to your text advertising frequency.

Your contacts agreed to let you text them because they trust you. The best way to protect that trust is not to bombard users with too many text messages.

In our 2023 SMS Marketing survey, 89% of respondents said they would prefer to receive a text from a business one time a week or less. 

Your contacts can text STOP to unsubscribe from your texts anytime, so send them only intentional, valuable content that’ll keep them engaged.

3. Send text ads at appropriate hours.

No one wants to wake up to a text from a business at 3 a.m., especially if it’s letting them know that there’s a two-for-one promotion on vacuum cleaners.

SMS marketing compliance regulations like the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) says you can’t send promotional text messages during “quiet hours” — the time before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. (local time for the recipient).

So stick to sending text message ads during business hours (or whenever your audience is most likely to read and respond to them). 

📚 Check out our findings on the best times to send SMS marketing campaigns

5 best text message advertising platforms

Text marketing and advertising is a fast-growing industry, and that means you have a lot of options when it comes to choosing an SMS marketing platform

Let’s take a look at four of the best SMS advertising providers on the market.

1. SimpleTexting

Call us biased, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t tell you all about the tools we offer to help make your text message advertising a success.

SimpleTexting's home page for its text message ads service

Through SimpleTexting, you can set up unlimited text-to-join keywords to fill out your contact lists and import existing contacts if you have them. That’s just the beginning.

With our Campaigns, you can send your advertising messages to your entire contact list(s) at once and schedule them to send in advance. 

You can also use contact segments (groups of contacts with something in common) to make sure every person you text gets only the information and offers they want.

And with our platform, you can do all of this for less than the cost of the average phone plan. Plans start at $29/month for 500 messages, and they can be tailored to your business and its needs.

2. EZ Texting

EZ Texting is another industry favorite with a full suite of helpful tools to get your text message advertising up and running.

home page of text message ad software EZ Texting

This platform offers both one-on-one and mass texts, too, with options for forwarding your incoming texts to your phone or email so you never miss a message and response times stay speedy.

If you’re a fan of MMS, EZ Texting also offers a huge media library where you can choose, create and edit professional-looking media for your text advertisements.

Besides keywords, QR codes are another easy way to get contacts signed up for your messages. EZ Texting has you covered there, too, with a built-in QR code creator.

It’s another affordable option with plans starting from $20/month for 200 messages.

3. Attentive

Attentive is another standout in the SMS field for those looking to send fast, effective advertisement texts.

home page of text message ad software Attentive

Because it’s crucial to know how your texts are performing in order to make each campaign better than the last, Attentive offers a comprehensive reporting tool so you always have the data you need. 

We’ve also talked about a number of different ways to bring contacts onto your text lists.

Attentive’s platform features a tool for creating sign-up units that can be customized to your brand and placed on your website, emails, social media, or e-commerce checkout page.

Along with signup and reporting options, you can find options for tracking your contacts’ activity as they browse your products and shop so you can send them targeted messages based on what they liked.

The platform stores all this information in user profiles so you can access it anytime.

4. Textedly

Brands with their eye on a solid text advertising strategy might want to take a look at Textedly.

home page of text message ad software Textedly

One of the best strategies for brands that use text advertising is to help their contacts feel like they’re talking to a real person. 

To that end, Textedly offers Conversation Triggers, a feature that replies to your contacts automatically so they’re never left hanging. 

Not to mention, Textedly’s tools include a “Just Once” setting on your keywords, so that if a contact texts it in, opts out, and then comes back, they won’t receive your auto-confirmation message again—just a friendly “Welcome back.”

Pricing is accessible at Textedly, with plans starting at $26/month for 600 messages and 1 custom keyword.

5. TextMagic

​​TextMagic is a useful SMS marketing platform that allows you to start quickly and easily. What makes it special is its ability to offer international service, enabling you to connect with customers beyond the United States and Canada.

TextMagic's homepage for its text message ad service

Although TextMagic can be used by anyone, it's particularly beneficial for small businesses due to its user-friendly experience and pay-as-you-go pricing structure. Unlike its competitors, TextMagic doesn't require you to commit to monthly or annual plans. Instead, you pay for the messages you send.

When sending MMS attachments like photos and videos, though, they appear as links rather than being embedded in the text, which can be a less engaging experience for your contacts.

TextMagic's pricing begins at $0.04 per text to U.S. numbers, and they offer custom pricing for those sending 10,000 messages per month or more.

The 3 rules of text message advertising

Whichever platform you choose, you’ll need a solid understanding of the rules of text message advertising. 

This helpful compliance guide is your go-to resource for those rules, but these are the highlights.

  1. Get contacts’ permission.
  2. Include compliance information in your calls-to-action (CTAs).
  3. Send a compliance message to new contacts.

1. Get your contacts' permission to text them

Your contacts will need to provide explicit consent to receive your texts, even if you import existing contacts who have never given their consent.

2. Include compliance information in your calls to action

When you promote your text advertising program (like on a flyer or social media), make sure all of your CTAs include your company’s name, contact info, what kind of texts contacts can expect to receive, and how they can unsubscribe.

illustration of a car wash's text message ad campaign
This text-to-join sign example includes compliance information.

3. Send a compliance message to new contacts

Along with your first text message (that’s your auto-confirmation message), you need a compliance message that confirms all the information in your CTA.

Here’s an example:

You’ll now receive the best deals and promotions from Simply Java Cafe! To celebrate here’s 10% off your next order. Just show this text.
Reply STOP to unsubscribe or HELP for help. 4 msgs per month, Msg&Data rates may apply.

At SimpleTexting, we’ve made this step easy by automating your compliance message and making it free to send. Every time someone signs up to receive your texts, we automatically send out the required info after you send them the first message.

Text message ads FAQs

Can you advertise through a text message?

Yes, you can advertise through text messages. It's a way to reach customers directly and promote your products or services. Contacts must opt in to receive text message ads.
One drawback of advertising via text messages is that it can be intrusive for recipients. Some people may find unsolicited advertising texts annoying or invasive.
The cost of text advertising varies depending on the service provider and the number of messages you send. For example, SimpleTexting costs $29 per month to send 500 text messages. Some providers offer pay-as-you-go pricing, where you pay per text, while others offer monthly or annual plans. It's important to compare pricing options and choose what works best for your advertising needs.

Try text message advertising

If you’re ready to try text message advertising for yourself, we’ve got a free 14-day trial with your name on it. 

Just sign up, give it a spin, and you’ll see just how effective it is.

This article was written on May 4, 2018, by Drew Wilkinson and was updated on July 31, 2023, by Dani Henion. Nathan Ellering contributed to this piece.

Dani Henion
Dani Henion

Dani Henion is the content team lead at SimpleTexting and is continuously looking for ways to make text messaging strategies and tips more accessible to SMBs. When she's not writing or planning new SMS content, you'll find her decorating elaborate sugar cookies or thrifting in Atlanta.

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