What Is SMS Marketing? How to Start Text Marketing for Beginners

Businesses of all sizes love SMS marketing for its 98% open rates, and customers love the convenience. In this guide, we break down best practices and how to get started.

What is SMS marketing?

SMS marketing definition: SMS marketing is sending promotional text messages for marketing purposes. SMS marketing may involve sending one message to many contacts or having a one-on-one conversation.

Businesses use SMS marketing to:

  • Communicate information about products and services
  • Share alerts and time-sensitive updates
  • Build deeper relationships with customers

SMS stands for short message service. While SMS is specific to a type of text message, common synonyms for SMS marketing include:

  • Text message marketing
  • Text marketing
  • SMS text marketing
  • Promotional texting

Some of the most common use cases 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

What are the best SMS marketing software services?

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

The top SMS marketing platforms for small- and medium-sized businesses:

  1. SimpleTexting
  2. EZ Texting
  3. Podium
  4. SlickText
  5. Textedly

Let’s dive in!

1. SimpleTexting

Screenshot of SimpleTexting's home page with headline of "The only all-in-one text messaging service" and subheading "We make it easy, fast, and affordable to send SMS marketing campaigns or engage in 1-on-1 conversations with customers."

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 easy-to-use SMS platform that comes with a full suite of features no matter which pricing plan you choose. You’ll have access to features like:

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

Screenshot of EZ Texting's homepage with headline "The all-in-one text marketing solution"

EZ Texting offers an 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

Screenshot of Podium's homepage with headline "The text marketing tool to grow your local business"

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

Screenshot of SlickText's homepage with headline "The trusted leader in SMS marketing"

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

Screenshot of Textedly's homepage with headline "Text message marketing"

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.

How Does SMS Marketing Work?

SMS marketing involves sending three types of text messages:

  1. Promotional messages: Send sales alerts, product launch notifications, reward program incentives, and review requests. 
  2. Transactional messages: Send appointment reminders, shipping notifications, and payment requests.
  3. Conversational SMS: Encourage customers to reply to your texts to help solve issues and keep them engaged with your brand.

Here’s our four-step framework to start SMS marketing today.

The four steps of starting SMS marketing:

  1. Choose your number
  2. Gather opt-in customer phone numbers
  3. Send text messages
  4. Reply to customer responses as needed

1. Choose Your Business Text Number

First, you’ll choose a business phone number through which you’ll send text marketing messages. When you sign up for an SMS marketing platform, you can:

2. Build Your Opt-In Text Subscriber List

After choosing your number, you’ll 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” to your number for 10% off their next order, and they would be added to your contact list.

3. Send Text Marketing Messages

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.

Depending on the text 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.

4. Reply With Two-Way Communication

You can also use SMS marketing for two-way communication to enable strategies like digital customer service, which is a popular feature of many business texting services.

⚙️ Read this if you’re curious about how SMS messaging and texting work technically behind the scenes.

What Are The Benefits of SMS Marketing?

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 marketing are reaping the benefits.

Benefits of SMS marketing:

  1. 83% of people across the world own smartphones, so you’ll reach your customers.
  2. 98% of text messages get opened, so your customers will see your SMS marketing.
  3. Automating text marketing makes reaching your audience easy.
  4. You can track your progress and results easily.
  5. You can engage your contacts (and make it fun!) with interactive polls, surveys, coupons, and more.
  6. You can personalize your contacts’ experiences by using their name and responding to their follow-up questions.

Let’s dive a little deeper into the benefits of SMS marketing.

1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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 adjust your campaigns and ensure that they are as effective as possible.

5. 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.

6. 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.

Recommended Reading: What Are the Pros and Cons of SMS Marketing?

What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of SMS Marketing?

Like all business growth tactics, there are pros and cons of SMS marketing.

SMS marketing advantages include:

  1. People want to receive text marketing from businesses. 71% of consumers have already subscribed to receive texts from brands.
  2. People want to text back and forth with businesses. 53% of consumers want to participate in two-way conversations with brands via text messages.
  3. People check their text messages more frequently than other forms of communication like email. Nearly half of Gen Z (47%) check text messages once every 10-30 minutes.

SMS marketing disadvantages include:

  1. You’ll have to set up a new (to you) marketing channel. This includes choosing and registering your phone number, establishing how often you’ll text, and setting up initial automations like welcome text messages.
  2. You’ll need a plan to collect subscriber phone numbers. This includes advertising why someone should give you their phone number and setting up ways to actually gather those phone numbers.
  3. You’ll need to manage your texting program regularly. This includes ideating promotions, actually writing the text messages, and managing those sales campaigns as they go out.

Again, I’m biased, but the disadvantages are trivial compared to the outcomes businesses get from embracing SMS marketing. For example, Lattice Hudson attributes increasing her average order values by 3-4x to her SMS marketing strategy.

Why Use SMS Marketing?

In our 2023 State of SMS Marketing report, 67% of 1,400 responding business owners have already increased their SMS marketing budget. Here are some additional key reasons why businesses are investing in SMS marketing:

  • Reach and engagement: Texts have open rates of 98%. Business owners who text their customers get attention.
  • Competitive advantage: 71% of consumers are signed up to receive texts from businesses in 2023. Staying competitive and in front of customers is important for business growth.
  • Success rates: 74% of business owners say their integrated marketing campaigns that incorporate texting have stronger conversion rates.

Here’s a breakdown of more data that suggests consumers want more brands to reach them through text messaging:

According to proprietary platform data from SimpleTexting, SMS marketing has a whopping average open rate of 98%. Compared to email marketing with an average open rate of 18%, SMS marketing is extremely effective.

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 two-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.

What Are Some SMS Marketing Examples?

Now that you’re familiar with all the things a business can do with promotional texting, let’s take a look at some SMS marketing examples.

All of the following examples are less than 160 characters, which is a typical definition for SMS messages. But don’t worry—you can send much longer messages, too!

1. Boost Sales

“Get free shipping on our new t-shirts when you order before midnight! txt.st/dmfg4”

2. Build Relationships

“Thanks for reaching out about our tri-blend t-shirts! Here’s the link: txt.st/dmfg4. Let me know if you have any other questions.”

3. Engage Your Audience

“Have you seen our latest video where we interview our CEO? Give it a watch here: txt.st/dasfm”

4. Generate Excitement

“Help vote on our next shirt color! Reply with A for Red, B for Blue, C for Yellow or D for Green.”

5. Collect Leads

“Thanks for inquiring about our wholesale prices on shirts! Reply back with your email address and I’ll send you more details.”

6. Nurture Leads

“Hi Dani, are you still interested in ordering shirts for your team? Feel free to text me or call me with any questions you may have.”

Recommended Reading: 25 Big Companies That Use SMS Marketing

What Are Some SMS Marketing Campaign Ideas?

Now comes the million-dollar question: What should you send? Here are our favorite text marketing ideas.

SMS marketing campaign text ideas:

  1. Send a discount
  2. Provide advice or tips
  3. Share your content
  4. Collect reviews

1. 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:

A screenshot of a text marketing campaign from Outer Aisle that says, "Outer Aisle: Welcome to Outer Aisle, the best thing since sliced bread. Your 10% off code automatically generates and sends in 5 minutes unless it is after 6pm PT in which case it will send at 8am PT. Thanks for joining!"
Outer Aisle’s welcome text marketing campaign example that sets expectation of a discount text to follow

2. 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:

A screenshot of a text marketing campaign from Equal Parts that says, "Hi! I'm Fancesca Chaney, chef and founder of the vegan cafe, Sol Sips. I'm online tonight until 10PM EST to answer any of your questions about easy and affordable plant-based cooking - from how to make an interesting recipe with non-perishables, to the best way to season vegetables. Feel free to introduce yourself and tell me a bit about what you're in the mood to cook tonight."
Equal Parts’ engagement text marketing example

3. 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.

Two screenshots that show how The Twenty collects phone numbers from Instagram and sends text announcements for upcoming events.
The Twenty gathers phone numbers to text via Instagram and welcomes them with invitations for exclusive discounts and events

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. SimpleTexting’s customers have seen their mobile traffic increase by 400% after sending an SMS campaign.

4. 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.”

Recommended Reading: 9 Creative SMS Marketing Campaign Examples to Inspire You

What Are Some Additional SMS Marketing Use Cases?

Need some more inspiration? SimpleTexting is a text marketing platform that helps businesses of all sizes drive revenue through SMS marketing.

From my own experience, I’ve seen our customers use text marketing in the following ways.

SMS marketing use cases:

  • Welcome and introductions
  • Coming soon messages
  • Product launches
  • Promotional campaign messages
  • Discount and coupon messages
  • Order confirmations
  • Happy and open hour invitations
  • Appointment confirmations
  • Appointment/event reminders
  • Happy birthday messages
  • Contactless check-in and -out messages
  • Customer appreciation messages
  • Thank you messages
  • Outage communications
  • Daily inspirationals
  • Out of office responses

Which Industry Is Best for SMS Marketing?

I’ve interviewed business owners, listened in on sales calls, and creeped through our customer service messages to answer this question. In short: Any industry may benefit from SMS marketing.

To provide more detail for your specific industry, I’ve worked with a number of teammates to publish these industry-specific SMS marketing guides.

Best industries for SMS marketing:

What Are the SMS Marketing Best Practices?

SMS marketing is effective because it’s protected, contacts willingly opt in to receive text messages, and the channel itself effectively reaches and engages prospective buyers.

To get the most out of SMS marketing and ensure these benefits continue for the long-term, here are some high-level SMS marketing best practices to follow:

  1. Get express written permission before you text contacts. If you don’t know what that is, don’t fret! It simply means you need a contact’s written approval before you send them text messages. While we won’t go in the weeds here, you can check out our complete SMS compliance guide to know you’re doing SMS marketing 100% legally.
  2. Set expectations for the value you’ll provide via your SMS marketing strategy. When you market your SMS program, we recommend communicating what type of campaigns you’ll send (e.g. promotions, discounts, business updates, etc.), how often you’ll text (e.g. four texts per month), how to unsubscribe (e.g. reply stop to stop), and that buying something is not necessary to receive texts.
  3. Introduce your business in each campaign: Begin SMS campaigns with your business name and a colon, then write your text message. This makes it easy for your fans to understand who is sending them texts without room for misunderstandings.
  4. Send what you promise. Now it’s just sticking to your game plan or communicating as your strategy evolves.

💡 Of course, there are more SMS marketing best practices. Check out the complete guide to know you’re getting off to a great start

SMS Marketing FAQs

Is SMS marketing worth it?

Yes. Text marketing is an effective way to reach your target audience. SMS marketing boasts a 98% open rate, meaning what you send will get attention. Nearly three-quarters of business owners say that marketing that uses text messaging has stronger conversion rates.
For many independent businesses with 50 employees or fewer, we see the business owner or director is often the person responsible for SMS marketing. In slightly larger organizations, administration folks or marketers may be responsible for text marketing.
🔔 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.
SMS marketing encompasses all sending of text messages for promotional purposes. Transactional marketing focuses on point of sale transactions that encourage customers to buy in the moment. In this regard, SMS marketing may leverage transactional marketing tactics such as a buy-one-get-one (BOGO) offer with a link to purchase immediately. Transactional marketing may use many channels such as SMS, TV advertising, or email marketing to influence the purchase.
SMS marketing requires a contact’s express written consent before you may send text messages to them. SMS is legal when you follow this rule, among others.
Essentially, express written consent means that you have explicit consent from your contacts that you can send them marketing messages.
Three popular ways to collect phone numbers for SMS marketing include website popups and web forms, emails asking subscribers to sign up, and opt-in keywords which subscribers text your business’ SMS phone number.
The three types of SMS marketing are SMS, extended SMS, and MMS. SMS stands for short messaging service with a standard 160 characters. Extended SMS texts expand the character count to 306. MMS is a multimedia messaging service that may include up to 1,600 characters and engaging content like pictures, videos, and animations.
Mobile marketing encompasses all marketing activities meant to influence profitable customer action via mobile devices. In this sense, text marketing is part of an overarching mobile marketing strategy.
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 SimpleTexting 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.
No, it doesn’t have to be. You can customize your plan based on your budget to make SMS an affordable and effective option for your business. SimpleTexting starts as low as $29/month.
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. A general guideline starts as little as one promotional text marketing message per week.

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.

This piece was originally published January 3, 2023. It was refreshed and repurposed May 30, 2023. It was updated July 11 and 12, 2023. Alfredo Salked and Nathan Ellering contributed to this piece.