SMS Marketing: The Ultimate Guide to Best Practices, Benefits & More
As customers become harder than ever to reach, SMS marketing is making a comeback. Brands love the 98% open rates, customers love the convenience. In this guide, we break down best practices and how to get started.
What Is SMS Marketing?
SMS marketing refers to the sending of promotional text messages (SMS) by a business to communicate information about products and services or share alerts and time-sensitive updates. This digital marketing strategy is also commonly referred to as mass texting. SMS marketing works similarly to email marketing but is significantly more effective.
What Can SMS Marketing Be Used For?
SMS marketing has evolved into a critical component of any digital marketing strategy and can be used by businesses to accomplish several marketing goals. Marketing via SMS van be used to:
- Boost sales: Use SMS marketing to share promotions, discounts, and limited-time offers to grow revenue.
- Build relationships: Provide SMS customer service and support with 2-way conversations
- Engage your audience: Quickly share important updates and new content via mass texting
- Generate excitement: Host SMS text-to-win sweepstakes or text-to-vote polls
- Collect leads: Allow potential customers to sign-up for texts or send in one-off questions
- Nurture leads: Use SMS to follow-up with leads and keep them engaged with the occasional text message
Now that you’re familiar with all the things a business can do with SMS marketing, let’s take a look at some examples below!
It’s worth noting that the above examples are under 160 characters, but you can now send much longer SMS messages. More on that later!
Does SMS Marketing Really Work?
Yes. On average, 98% of all text messages are read. And 90% of those messages are read within just three minutes.
With digital marketing channels like social media, you could have the greatest marketing messaging in the world—but the algorithms only show your content to a fraction of your followers. And with email, you can spend a lot of time on design and copy that ends up in a spam folder or is just plain ignored.
That’s why texts are the ultimate marketing medium. They’re easy to send and are almost always read by your audience.
Benefits of SMS Marketing
In our 2020 SMS marketing report, we surveyed hundreds of U.S. consumers, business owners, and marketers. According to the data, 60% of businesses reported that they plan to increase their text marketing budget over the next year.
Case study after case study backs up the effectiveness of SMS.
From higher customer satisfaction to increased conversion rates, businesses that use mass text messaging are reaping the benefits.
What Industries Can Benefit From SMS Marketing?
SMS marketing is ideal for anyone who wants to reach a large group of people at the same time. But different industries approach it in different ways.
Restaurants use text message marketing to take reservations, send coupons, and inform customers about weekly specials.
Real Estate Agents
We mostly see real estate agents use SMS for lead generation. For example, they create a keyword and place it on their riders. Interested buyers then text in this keyword to request more information.
Retailers and E-Commerce Stores
Retailers who need to drive more sales rely on texts to engage customers and increase sales. They often do this through customer loyalty programs and offering exclusive discounts by SMS.
Gyms use SMS marketing to improve their member retention rate through better communication. We see them send class information or other announcements or easily answer questions from leads, parents, and members.
Home Service Businesses
Everyone from HVAC repair companies to lawn care service providers use SMS to get back to leads faster than their competitors with automated text messages.
These are just a few of the industries that use text messaging. Read our in-depth industry guides and handbooks to find out how you can.
Measuring the Results of Text Message Marketing
A common misconception is that marketing via SMS can’t be measured. The truth is, just like email, you can easily see if it’s driving ROI.
Common SMS marketing benchmarks include:
Click-through rate (CTR)
The average email open rate is just over 21%. The CTR is under 3%. With texts, 98% of messages are opened and links receive an average CTR of 17%.
This is how many people took an action—such as making a purchase—after clicking your link. You can use Google Analytics and UTM parameters to determine the conversion rate of your texts, for free. The average SMS conversion rate is about 45%. Much higher than other marketing tactics.
Why is it so high? Well, consider the fact that people who sign up for your texts are your most engaged fans. They want to hear from you. This is the last group of people who you’d want to miss out on by relying on email alone.
On top of this, people spend close to three hours a day on their phones–making it less likely they’ll miss your message.
Without a list of phone numbers, you have no one to message. Steady, consistent list growth is a good indicator of success. Later in the guide, we cover how to grow your list.
Unsubscribes happens. People will inevitably reply STOP to your message. Once they do, they will no longer receive messages. Unsubscribe rates vary by industry, but as a rule of thumb, it should be less than 3% per campaign.
Return on Investment (ROI)
ROI lets you answer whether SMS is making you money or not. Just take a look at the purchases made or influenced by SMS, subtract how much you spent sending the messages, then divide by the total amount spent on SMS marketing.
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How Does SMS Marketing Software Work?
SMS marketing software is the platform that enables you to send texts to many contacts at once (and some, like SimpleTexting, also allow you to send two-way messages to one contact at a time). You can port your existing landline number into the software, or you can set up a brand new number or dedicated short code.
Should your business use a dedicated short code, toll-free number or a 10-digit long code? In this article, we'll walk you through how to make a decision. READ MORE
After you choose your number, you need to enable your customers or supporters to opt in to receive promotional messages via SMS or MMS.
You can do this using an SMS marketing platform with keyword capabilities. Contacts can text a keyword to your phone number to opt in to your marketing messages. For example, you could encourage your audience to text “GIVEME10” for 10% off their next order.
Then, as long as you have express consent (which we’ll cover in the next section), you can send messages to your contacts. You can also use text message marketing for two-way communication to enable features like digital customer service, which is a popular feature of many business texting services.
Depending on the service provider you chose, you may be able to also set up drip campaigns and automated away messages, segment your contacts into lists, and track the results of your campaigns.
SMS Marketing Best Practices: Do’s and Don’ts
Text marketing is easy, especially when you know what pitfalls to avoid. We have an entire guide dedicated to SMS marketing best practices.
Here’s what you absolutely need to know:
Do Get Express Written Consent
Just because you have a list of phone numbers, doesn’t mean you’re in the clear to start texting messages to them.
If you are using SMS marketing, you must adhere to the rules set out by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). That means obtaining express written consent before a single message goes out the door.
To understand the TCPA, express written consent, and disclosure rules, please see our SMS compliance guide.
Do Check Your Replies
Many SMS marketing platforms only offer one-way texting. With SimpleTexting, you can also manage replies.
Even if you only want to send bulk SMS, people will intuitively think they can reply to your messages. (Incoming SMS messages on SimpleTexting are completely free.)
Make it a habit to log in to your account and reply to any questions that may have been sent in.
Take a look at how 1-800-Contacts uses texting. They send shipping notifications, and allow customers to text in their prescription. Agents are ready to reply if there are any issues:
Do Get Creative
Have you ever listened to a song so much that you get sick of it? The same can happen with your texts. Keep things interesting with a variety of offers.
Send a discount one week, a tip the next, and then a fun piece of content the following. Don’t be afraid to get creative. Texts are no longer limited to 160 characters. With MMS, you can include up to 1,600 characters of text and even attach images too!
Here’s an example from Jurassic Quest, a traveling dinosaur exhibit. They don’t just send announcements, they also let people text in their dinosaur questions which are answered by an expert!
Jurassic Quest Sees 98% Click-Through Rates on Its Texts
Don’t Send Too Often
Use your texts wisely. People ignore or filter their emails, so they may not mind getting several per week. On the other hand, one text per week is likely enough for most brands.
This isn’t a hard and fast rule. For example, professional organizer Tanisha Porter sends daily tips to her contacts. Actually, they pay for these daily tips.
The key is to set expectations. When someone signs up for your texts, they should be aware of how many times per month they can expect to hear from you.
Don’t Forget to Provide Value
To get, you have to give. Customers will be thrilled to provide their phone number if you’ll give them something valuable in return.
When you promote your SMS marketing program, take the time to craft a great offer that will get people excited. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Delta Sonic offered a free slushie to customers and went from zero contacts to tens of thousands.
Don’t Be Spammy
Before you send a text, ask yourself whether it sounds like there’s a real human on the other end of the line. If the answer is yes, your customers are much more likely to reply or click on your message.
However, if your message says something like “Do U want HUGE savings? Shop now!!!” then it’s more than likely that customers will unsubscribe.
Examples of SMS Marketing Campaigns
Follow the advice above, and you’re sure to build your list quickly. So now comes the million-dollar question: what should you send? Here are our favorite ideas.
Send a Discount
The text message inbox is normally reserved for family and friends. It’s a good idea to thank your contacts for signing up by sharing a discount. This can be as simple as 10% off one of your products, like this message from Outer Aisle:
Provide Advice or Tips
What are you an expert at? If you have a cosmetics brand, it may be on how to develop the ultimate nighttime skincare routine. If you sell cookware, maybe you have useful cooking tips.
Leverage your knowledge to provide value to your audience in a unique way. Consider sharing weekly tips with your audience.
The brand Equal Parts takes things a step further by encouraging customers to text in their questions to a professional chef:
Share Your Content
Creating content is hard. Distributing it doesn’t have to be. Just send a text. Consider this example:
The Twenty is a QVC-style show that’s hosted on Instagram live. They partner with brands to offer exclusive discounts.
Leading up to an episode, they send out a text announcement revealing which brand will be featured that week. On the day of the show, they send a link to the livestream.
You can use this tactic for any piece of content. Our customers have seen their mobile traffic increase by 400% after sending an SMS.
Customer reviews can seriously boost conversion rates. Texts are a convenient way to collect them. After a customer makes a purchase, you can send a text message with a link to Google Reviews, Trustpilot, or even your website’s review page.
Reviews are especially important for brands trying to sell on Amazon. Matykos beauty used SMS marketing to increase their rankings:
Can You Automate SMS Marketing?
The idea of texting thousands of people can sound time consuming, but it’s not. It only takes a few minutes to write a text and click send. You can even automate your texts using the steps below:
Connect Your Apps
With Zapier, you can create if/then statements to automate your work. For example, if a customer fills out a Google form, then send them a text.
This list goes on. You can send an automated text when:
- A new lead is entered into your CRM
- A customer schedules an appointment
- A purchase is completed on your website
Also, you can make text messages the trigger of other actions. You may want to do the following:
- Add new SMS contacts to your email service (We have a native integration with Mailchimp!)
- Forward incoming text messages to Slack
- Add new SMS contacts to a Google sheet
These are the tip of the iceberg. There are many ways to connect the apps you use most to SimpleTexting.
Create a Drip Campaign
Campaigns are a great way to send your latest announcements, but they have one problem: new contacts don’t see the campaigns you previously sent. That’s where drip campaigns come in.
With a drip campaign, you can create a series of messages that go out on a schedule. This schedule is triggered after someone signs up for your list.
For example, you could have one SMS go out immediately then another two days later, and once more the following week. You can even set delivery windows to ensure no messages go out at night or on weekends.
The point is, text messages drip campaigns are an easy way to keep your contacts engaged automatically.
Turn On Your Away Message
In our section on the do’s and don’ts of SMS marketing campaigns, we mentioned how important it is to check your replies. If you have a small team, you may not be able to do this frequently. Luckily, you can set up an automated away message that replies for you.
You can even set your office hours so the auto reply will send outside of them:
This is also your chance to set expectations around when and how often you check your texts:
So, Is Email Dead?
With all of this said, should you stop sending emails? No. We’re text marketing evangelists, but even we don’t think you should forego all other marketing channels.
That’s because text messages can easily fit into or complement your other marketing channels. This is especially true for email marketing.
A lot of business owners and marketers worry that these two channels will compete with each other, diluting their individual value.
The opposite happens, and we’ve seen brands like the multi-location restaurant Blue Baker use SMS and email together to drive a 162% increase in its coupon redemptions.
This is because it requires communication across multiple channels to drive someone to take action.
Using SMS for Customer Service
You can also use SMS marketing for common customer service tasks. Build 1-1 relationships with customers and efficiently solve problems by:
- Scheduling and managing appointments to reduce no-shows
- Informing them of potential issues with their order, such as delayed delivery
- Answering their top questions about your products or services
Text messaging also helps free up your team’s time by allowing them to have ongoing conversations with more than one person at a time—unlike with calls. A-1 Self Storage’s team was able to collect payments more quickly and close more deals after switching to SMS for its customer service tasks.
Ultimately, time is money. A phone call costs your business an average of $15.50, while SMS costs run between $1 to $5. That means savings you could put toward other areas of your business.
When Should You Use SMS Marketing For Your Brand?
Earlier in this guide, we shared which industries benefit most from SMS marketing. But how do you know if it’s right for your specific brand?
There are a few scenarios when text message marketing makes the most sense:
- You need to message a lot of customers or prospects at once but also want it to feel personal
Choose a platform that doesn’t limit the number of contacts you can mass message at once. It also helps to have segmenting features so you can make sure your messages are going to the right people.
For example, in SimpleTexting’s platform you can send messages to customers based on their opt-in date, birthday month, click behavior, and more.
- You want more eyes on your messages
If your audience isn’t engaging with your marketing or customer service messages through other channels like email and social, it may be time to try texting.
- You want to connect with customers 1-1 in a scalable way
While most companies use phone calls to communicate with customers, it’s not practical as your customer base grows.
Look for an SMS marketing platform that, in addition to mass texting, lets you send two-way text messages with customers.
It’s a much more efficient way to answer questions and communicate changes, unlike phone calls that go unanswered or emails that get lost in spam folders.
In any scenario, you don’t need to replace all of your current marketing efforts for SMS. Still, adding it to your strategy can help enhance what’s already working for you and make up for what’s not.
SMS Frequently Asked Questions
You can always ask our team questions about text message marketing using the chat box or by texting us at (888) 663-6856. But here are a few questions we hear the most:
So, you can’t upload a list of purchased contacts into a text messaging platform and start blasting them with messages. You can read exactly how to obtain this consent in the second chapter of our compliance guide.
So, you can’t upload a list of purchased contacts into a text messaging platform and start blasting them with messages. You can read exactly how to obtain this consent in the second chapter of our compliance guide."}}
The Wrap on SMS Marketing
Thousands of businesses are realizing the powerful advantages of SMS marketing. It’s being used by top-selling real estate agents, growing churches, successful e-commerce brands and everyone in between.
Despite its popularity, SMS continues to be one of the most underutilized marketing channels. This presents huge upsides for companies who are willing to try it. There’s never been a better time to get started than now.
We encourage you to sign-up for a 14-day free trial of SimpleTexting and see what all the hype is about.