SMS marketing 101: 5 questions to answer before you start

Businesses that text their customers are 217% more likely to report marketing success than those that don’t. It's not just for big business, either.

I’ll cut to the chase: 90% of the articles on SMS marketing basically copy/paste the same content over and over again, which isn’t necessarily helpful.

We’re not going to share any of that fluff on this page. (Check out the sub-pages of this guide for the basics.)

Read on for a framework we recommend to new SimpleTexting customers as they start their SMS marketing programs. (Yes, you guessed it — SimpleTexting is business texting software).

Here we go.

SimpleTexting is SMS marketing software

Businesses that text customers are 217% more likely to report success. Take advantage of SMS marketing. Meaningful connections are just a text away with SimpleTexting.

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
  • SMS text marketing
  • Promotional texting

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

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 are reaping the benefits.

Benefits of SMS marketing:

  1. 83% of people across the world own smartphones.
  2. 98% of text messages get opened.
  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 SMS marketing 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.

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

The 5 Ws of SMS Marketing

There’s an ancient fable about the fox and the cat.

The fox brags that he knows lots of ways to escape from a hunter’s dog. The cat admits she knows only one way to escape.

Just then, the fox and the cat jump at the blare of a hunter’s horn.

The cat immediately climbs up a tree to safety. The fox — on the other hand — thinks through hundreds of ways to escape. But before he’s able to choose a route to safety, the hunter’s dog finds him.

Here’s the lesson: It’s easy to overthink our options. And — like the fox — that analysis paralysis can prevent us from starting.

So if you want to start SMS marketing — and keep it simple — begin by asking yourself these five questions:

  1. Why are you texting?
  2. Who are you texting?
  3. What are you offering?
  4. When are you texting?
  5. Where are you sending subscribers?

Think of these questions as brainstorming exercises that will help you plan an effective text marketing strategy.

Why are you texting?

First, there are the facts. Text marketing is as close to a sure bet as trees are to a forest.

  • 71% of consumers already receive text messages from businesses. It’s possible that 7 of 10 of your customers will sign up for your texts, too.
  • 90% of businesses that text their clients say their marketing is successful. That means 9 of 10 businesses that text are successful. Of all the marketing channels you could implement at your business, wouldn’t you choose one with a 90% success rate?
  • Businesses that text are 217% more successful than those that don’t. Well, that stat probably speaks for itself. Right?

Next, there are your own reasons to text.

  • Do you want to improve customer loyalty with repeat business?
  • Do you want to get more Google reviews to attract new customers?
  • Do you want customers to refer you to their friends and family?
  • Do you want near-immediate customer feedback to help you improve your products?
  • Do you want to save your team time by no longer making calls to customers?

Text marketing can help in all of these areas. But only you know what you want to accomplish with your SMS marketing strategy.

The point here is to think through your options — and let those reasons direct your decisions for who and what you’ll text.

Who are you texting?

The simplest way to start SMS marketing is to simply collect a single list of contacts. The most popular texts to send are often promotional: Flash sales, coupons, deals, discounts, buy one get one — you get the picture.

You can send these texts to existing customers as well as folks who haven’t bought from you yet.

That said, you might have a handful of audiences to consider. Knowing who you want to text will help you…

  • collect SMS subscribers,
  • set up your contact lists,
  • and define segmentation criteria.

This way, you’ll send each person exactly what you want them to receive.

So let’s check out a simple marketing funnel framework. Use this to brainstorm how you’ll get the right messages to the right audiences.


First, there are prospects. These folks are SMS subscribers who haven’t purchased from you yet.

Prospects are toward the top of the marketing funnel. Texting them deals like buy one get one or discounts like 20% off any purchase are popular ways to get prospects to become customers.


Next, there are leads.

Leads are the folks who have shown extreme interest in your products but haven’t bought them yet. Think of leads as in the middle of the marketing funnel.

These people may have filled out a demo request form, a request for information, or did some other action that’s a little deeper in the funnel than a prospect. For example, if a person reaches out to a real estate agent about a specific property, that’s a good definition of a lead.

Texting your leads deals and discounts like prospects can influence them to become customers.

But leads are also good candidates for proactive one-on-one texts. Could you text an individual to help them make a purchase decision?


Finally, there are customers.

Customers have purchased from you in the past. This is the primary audience most businesses text.

Popular texts to customers include deals and discounts. But you can also ask them…

  • for Google Reviews,
  • to refer you to friends and family,
  • and to provide feedback through surveys or polls.

What are you offering?

There’s an old — yet extremely current — marketing adage: What’s in it for me?

In fact, it’s so popular, it’s got an initialism: WIIFM. And that initialism comes with another quip:

Your audience will always tune in to W-I-I-F-M.

I know it’s cheesy. But it’s a solid framework to help you plan promotions and create text messages that will help you achieve your goals.

Take a look at this real-life text message offer. (Don’t worry, we modified it just enough to be a learning example for you.)

It’s fall! We have the clothes you need for every activity. Find yours here: [link]

How could you make offers like this more effective to influence sales?

Here are the 8 qualities of effective text message campaigns:

  1. Branding
  2. Personalization
  3. Specificity
  4. Compelling
  5. Exclusivity
  6. Time-sensitivity
  7. Call to action
  8. Compliance

1. Brand

First, use your brand name somewhere in the text message. This helps the receiver understand who sent the message — which is helpful if they don’t have you saved in their phone’s contact list.

A popular option is to include your brand name at the beginning of your text, followed by a colon.

SimpleBrand: It’s fall! We have the clothes you need for every activity. Find yours here: [link]

2. Personalize

Second, tailor the message for the individual. An easy way to do this is to include the first name. Alternatively, you personalize promotions based on a contact’s interests or location.

SimpleBrand: It’s fall, Alfredo! We have the clothes you need for every activity. Find yours here: [link]

3. Specify

Third, provide clarity in the message. Be specific as to what the promotion is. In this example, the word “clothes” feels really broad. Let’s make that more specific.

SimpleBrand: Winter is coming, Alfredo! We have the running shoes, grips, and gators you need for snowy sidewalks. Find yours here: [link]

4. Compel

Fourth, your SMS offer should be compelling. This could mean a deal or discount, which is what we commonly see.

Focus on what your audience wants and avoid first-person language. Your contacts only care about themselves and what’s in it for me.

SimpleBrand: Winter is coming, Alfredo! You ready? Get the running shoes, grips, and gators you need for snowy sidewalks. Save 20% off all footwear gear: [link]

5. Exclude

Fifth, provide exclusive offers if at all possible. People like feeling special, like an offer is only for them.

This can be as simple as writing “for text subscribers only” in your message. Just make sure this offer truly is for text subscribers only.

SimpleBrand: Winter is coming, Alfredo! You ready? Get the running shoes, grips, and gators you need for snowy sidewalks. Save 20% off all footwear gear (text subscribers only): [link]

6. Urge

Sixth, induce urgency. This will help your subscribers know the timeframe in which they should act to take advantage of the promotion.

It also clearly communicates when the sale is over to avoid confusion.

SimpleBrand: Winter is coming, Alfredo! You ready? Get the running shoes, grips, and gators you need for snowy sidewalks. Save 20% off all footwear gear until 11/25 (text subscribers only): [link]

7. Direct

Seventh, create a clear call to action. Be clear about what you want them to do next.

Should they click a link? Is there an exclusive promo code to enter at ecommerce checkout? Should they show the text message to a cashier when they visit?

SimpleBrand: Winter is coming, Alfredo! You ready? Get the running shoes, grips, and gators you need for snowy sidewalks. Save 20% off all footwear gear until 11/25 w/ promo code SNOW20 (text subscribers only): [link]

8. Comply

Lastly, your messages must be compliant to make sure they get delivered and you avoid potential fines. While there’s a lot to be aware of with compliance, it’s a best practice to include opt out and help instructions.

SimpleBrand: Winter is coming, Alfredo! You ready? Get the running shoes, grips, and gators you need for snowy sidewalks. Save 20% off all footwear gear until 11/25 w/ promo code SNOW20 (text subscribers only): [link] Reply STOP to opt out; HELP for more info.

Now, this example message is longer than 160 characters. That’s important to note because the definition of SMS — or short message service — is 160 characters or fewer. Messages with more than 160 characters are defined as MMS — or multimedia message service.

So this example is an MMS message.

MMS messages can contain up to 1,600 characters. But you can also add rich media to them like an image or animated GIF. So that’s what I’d do with this example message to make it stand out.

Image for sending MMS
SimpleBrand: Winter is coming, Alfredo! You ready? Get the running shoes, grips, and gators you need for snowy sidewalks. Save 20% off all footwear gear until 11/25 w/ promo code SNOW20 (text subscribers only): [link] Reply STOP to opt out; HELP for more info.

When are you texting?

Imagine waking up to your phone lighting up at 3 a.m. If you’re like me, I’d immediately think it’s a family emergency. So you roll over, look at your phone, and find a brand texted you.

That’s not a fun experience.

Defining when and how often you’ll text are important for your success. Knowing these will also make sure you’re compliant with national and regional regulations.

Let’s start with when to send marketing texts.

We reviewed 10 studies on the best times to send SMS blasts and published them in a report.

The results suggest the best times to text are:

  • Noon
  • 2 p.m.
  • Between 6-8 p.m your contacts’ local time

In general, think of when folks may be taking breaks or purposefully looking for distractions:

  • Lunch breaks at noon
  • That 2 p.m. feeling after lunch
  • After the commute home from work

Remember, text marketing is so powerful it’s protected. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act — or TCPA — doesn’t allow promotional texts during quiet hours from 9 p.m. and 8 a.m.

Your local state may also have timing restrictions. Oklahoma, for example, specifically prohibits promotional texts between 8 p.m. and 8 a.m.

It might sound scary. But in general, if you send promotional texts between 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. in your audience’s time zone, your send times should be compliant.*

In addition to knowing when you’ll send texts, we recommend defining how many texts you’ll send.

Data suggests that 53% of consumers want to receive texts from businesses once every other week. 36% want texts once a week.

We suggest keeping it simple by texting no more than once a week.

Like regulations with send times, there are also rules about how often you can text. For example, Oklahoma allows no more than three texts per day.

So error on the side of fewer yet more impactful texts.

Where are you sending subscribers?

Before you hire a new employee, you’ve probably defined the job they’ll do. You know the outcomes you expect their work to produce.

For example, if you hire an accountant to help you with the books, you expect accurate numbers. Knowing those numbers helps you hire more talent, expand locations, build more products, add more services, and plan ahead for taxes.

Well, every text you send has a job to do, too.

What are you hiring a text message to do?

At the most basic level, the jobs a text message can do include…

  • delivering information,
  • getting clicks,
  • and encouraging replies.

So where you direct your subscribers requires your attention.

  • If you’re delivering information, make sure it’s accurate. Make sure it’s timely. Verify the text looks as you intend by sending a test to your own phone number.
  • If you’re providing a link to click, ensure the webpage where subscribers go is mobile optimized. Make sure forms work. Make sure your checkout process works.
  • If you’re encouraging people to reply, make sure to monitor the Inbox and reply back. If you’re requesting replies for Data Collection, test it yourself to make sure it works as desired.

To summarize: Trust but verify. Make sure what you text offers a great experience for your subscribers.

Don’t be afraid to be the cat

There are a lot of “what-ifs” with starting anything new. We suggest the best way to start SMS marketing is to:

  1. understand compliance,
  2. build a list,
  3. send some texts,
  4. analyze how things go,
  5. and repeat.

*Please note that this advice is for informational purposes only and is neither intended as nor should be substituted for consultation with appropriate legal counsel and/or your organization’s regulatory compliance team.

By Nathan Ellering | Published November 27, 2023