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What is SMS Marketing? The Ultimate SMS Marketing Guide

As customers become harder than ever to reach, SMS marketing is making a comeback. Brands love the 98% open rates, customers and love the convenience. In this guide, we break down best practices and how to get started.

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What Is SMS Marketing?

SMS marketing is sending promotional text messages for marketing purposes.

Businesses use SMS marketing to communicate information about products and services,  share alerts and time-sensitive updates, and build deeper relationships with customers. 

Like email marketing, SMS marketing may involve sending one message to many contacts or having a one-on-one conversation. The difference is that while email has an average open rate of 18%, SMS has a whopping average open rate of 98%.  

Some of the most common types of SMS marketing include:

  • Administering surveys
  • Announcing special offers and sales announcements
  • Sending personalized promotions
  • Re-engaging customers you haven’t heard from in a while
  • Remarketing to existing customers

🔔 The number one thing you need to remember about SMS marketing is that you have to get your contacts’ explicit written permission, also known as their opt in, before texting them. 

Wireless carriers and industry regulators want to protect consumers from receiving text message spam, so they enforce this rule with all businesses engaging in SMS marketing. Learn more in our SMS compliance guide.

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 campaigns can 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!

Get free shipping on our new t-shirts when you order before midnight!
Thanks for reaching out about our tri-blend t-shirts! Here’s the link: Let me know if you have any other questions.
Have you seen our latest video where we interview our CEO? Give it a watch here:
Help vote on our next shirt color! Reply with A for Red, B for Blue, C for Yellow or D for Green
Thanks for inquiring about our wholesale prices on shirts! Reply back with your email address and I’ll send you more details.
Hi Alfredo, are you still interested in ordering shirts for your team? Feel free to text me or call me with any questions you may have.

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!

SMS Marketing vs SMS Customer Service

One of the best things about SMS is that it’s versatile. You can use it for a range of marketing tasks and communications, a lot of which we’ve covered here. 

It can put (and keep) you in touch with your customers to make sales, boost retention, and gather valuable feedback.

That said, you can also use SMS marketing for common customer service tasks. Build one-on-one 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.

Here’s a real-world example: 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.

The main difference between marketing SMS and customer service SMS is that the former helps increase your brand awareness and encourage your customers to buy from you, and the latter helps solve any issues or questions they may have as they do so.

The best news is that you don’t have to choose between SMS for marketing or customer service. You can have it both ways. 

Using texts for both marketing and customer service means you can keep more of your communications centralized in your SMS inbox. You can also keep one main line of contact open with your customers, rather than sifting through piles of software. 

Last but not least, using SMS for both of these important functions means you can take the speed and efficiency of texting through every touchpoint of your customer experience, from first look to final sale.

Why Are Businesses Turning to SMS Marketing?

In our latest SMS marketing report, we surveyed over 1,300 U.S. consumers, business owners, and marketers to determine their preferences and primary motivations pertaining to texting and SMS marketing. 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.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the benefits.

Smartphones are Everywhere

There’s no denying that smartphones are everywhere these days. In fact, over 83% of people worldwide now own a smartphone. What does this mean for businesses? It means that they need to get in front of their customers where they are. And one of the best ways to do this is through SMS marketing.

Texting Offers the Best Engagement Rate 

When it comes to engagement, texting trumps all other forms of communication. Texts have an open rate of nearly 98%. Compare that to email, which has an open rate of around 21%, and it’s easy to see why SMS marketing is so effective.

Automating SMS Marketing

One of the best things about SMS marketing is that it can be automated. This means that you can set up your texts in advance and have them go out automatically without having to lift a finger. Automation can save you a lot of time and hassle, and it can also help you to stay on top of your marketing.

Progress is Trackable

With SMS marketing, you can track your progress and see how your campaigns are performing. This is valuable information that can help you to adjust your campaigns and ensure that they are as effective as possible.

Users Can Leverage Interactive Content

SMS marketing is not just about sending out texts. You can also use it to send out interactive content, such as polls, surveys, and coupons. This can help you to engage your customers and get them involved in your marketing.

Messages Can Be Personalized

Text messages can be personalized to include the recipient’s name, which helps to create a more personal connection. You can also include other information, such as their location or interests. This helps to make your texts more relevant and engaging.

SMS marketing is a powerful tool that can help you to reach your customers where they are. It’s affordable, efficient, and easy to use, and it offers a high engagement rate. If you’re not using SMS marketing, you’re missing out on a great opportunity to connect with your customers.

How Does SMS Marketing Work?

When you sign up for an SMS marketing platform, you can port your existing landline number into the software, register a new local number, verify a new toll-free number, or provision a dedicated short code.

After choosing your number, you need to enable your customers or supporters to opt in to receive promotional messages via SMS.

You can do this using an SMS marketing platform with a keyword feature. 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, and they would be added to your contact list.

Then, as long as you have express consent (an industry term meaning you have the customer’s written permission to text them with marketing messages), you can send messages to your contacts. You can also use SMS 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.

6 SMS Marketing Best Practices

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:

1. Get Express Written Consent to Text Your Customers

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.

It might sound complicated, but we have an SMS compliance guide to walk you through it and a team of customer support team members who are here to help seven days a week.

2. Check and Answer Your Text Message Replies

Many SMS marketing platforms only offer one-way texting. SimpleTexting is one of the platforms that lets you have two-way conversations with your contacts as well.

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. You can even send and receive messages on the go with our mobile app.

Take a look at how 1-800-Contacts uses texting. They send shipping notifications and allow customers to text in their prescriptions. Agents are ready to reply if there are any issues:

Example of checking text message replies for useful information

3. Get Creative With Your Campaigns to Keep Engagement High

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.

Take, for example, the traveling dinosaur exhibit Jurassic Quest. They don’t just send announcements. They also let people text in their dinosaur questions, which are answered by an expert.

4. Don’t Send Text Messages 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.

5. Don’t Forget to Provide Value With Your SMS Marketing

To get, you have to give. Customers will be thrilled to provide their phone numbers 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.

Example of providing a prize for customer texts

6. 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.

4 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:

Example of offering discounts for SMS marketing

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:

Example of providing customers	with tips and advice for SMS marketing

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.

Example of SMS marketing through providing exclusive discounts for customers

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.

Collect Reviews

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, like beauty brand Matykos. A representative for the company told us:

“Most of our customers get to our funnel from a product survey, which means they already bought the product. But following the survey, we also find lots of other interesting facts about our products. Over time, this has helped our production to get better and better.”

The Top 5 SMS Marketing Software Services

With so many SMS marketing platforms and tools to choose from, how do you know which is right for your business?

Here are the top five most popular SMS platforms for small- and medium-sized businesses:

1. SimpleTexting

We’re biased — we know. But we believe in our product and have the third-party reviews to prove our value.

We’re known best for our user-friendly platform that comes with a full suite of features no matter which pricing plan you’re on. You’ll have access to features like mass texting, two-way messaging, scheduled and recurring texts, autoresponders, and segmentation capabilities. 

Our customers also love the fact that they can access the platform by desktop and mobile app. Make your life a little easier by integrating SimpleTexting with your favorite tools and platforms, or have SimpleTexting’s team build and maintain custom integrations for you.

2. EZ Texting

If you’re new to SMS marketing, you’ll love EZ Texting’s intuitive platform and valuable features. It’s also the only SMS marketing service that offers a native integration with Shutterstock for stock photos, and it has a vast library of text message templates.

Thanks to its comprehensive guide and resources for beginners, you can get your campaigns up and running quickly.

3. Podium

Looking for a user-friendly SMS marketing service that’s made specifically for local businesses? Podium is the tool you need. It offers the ability to send mass text messages, request reviews, chat with customers, send text blasts, and collect payments. 

You can even manage your customer reviews across several platforms, all from Podium’s dashboard. Their website chat feature is particularly if you have a high volume of questions coming through and want to free up your phone lines.

4. SlickText

Because of its free onboarding session for the $139/month plan or higher, SlickText is a great option for business owners who are looking for a personalized onboarding experience.

They also offer landing page and QR code creators to grow your contact list. With the mobile app, you can message customers on the go without missing a question or update.

Another useful feature is SlickText’s workflow builder. You can use it to visualize automated messaging sequences by dragging and dropping triggers and actions.

5. Textedly

As one of the least expensive SMS marketing tool options, Textedly is an excellent choice for small businesses on a budget. 

While its platform may not have as many advanced features or personalization options as the others in this list, it’s intuitive and effective for business owners looking for a no-frills option.

SMS Frequently Asked Questions

You can always ask our team questions about SMS marketing or advertising by using the chat box or by texting us at (888) 663-6856. But here are a few questions we hear the most:

Can I send files to customers via text message?
Sure can. Send rich multimedia content like images, PDFs, videos, audio and GIFs via MMS messages. You can also include up to 1,600 characters of text.
Yes. We can’t speak for every SMS platform, but ours comes with analytics on where your contacts are coming from, the number of responses each message receives, opt-outs, click-through rates, billing stats, and more.
Essentially, express written consent means that you have explicit consent from your contacts that you can send them marketing messages.
No, it doesn’t have to be. You can customize your plan based on your budget to make SMS an affordable and effective option.
When used in an effective and valuable way, SMS should be a great way to provide your customers with helpful information, not annoy them.
This will depend on what you are using SMS for. Appointment reminders may be sent more often, while sales and special offers may be less frequent. 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

Take the Next Step with 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.