Here are the top SMS marketing best practices and tips you need to stand out in your contacts’ text message inboxes.
It’s no longer a question of if your business needs to send text messages, but how. And to send messages that get results, there are some SMS marketing best practices you should know.
In 2022, 70% of consumers opted in to receive texts from businesses. That’s good news for you—well-designed, valuable texts are in demand.
However, 65% of people have unsubscribed from text messages for reasons ranging from volume to content, so thoughtless or spammy texts can seriously impact your customer reach.
So, how do you avoid the opt-outs and see text success? By following these SMS marketing best practices.
There are a few common characteristics that form the foundation of all successful SMS marketing campaigns. Let’s break them down.
SMS marketing best practices:
Just because you have a list of phone numbers doesn’t mean you’re in the clear to start texting messages to them. You’ll need express written consent from contacts before you fire off a message.
This kind of compliance is more than a best practice—it’s a legal requirement.
To comply with industry regulations, you must include the following information:
Consult the CTIA’s Short Code Monitoring Handbook and CTIA’s Messaging Principles and Best Practices for full details. These resources are an excellent way to familiarize yourself with the applicable laws and regulations. However, it’s always best to consult with a legal professional if you’re unsure about the requirements.
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.
Not only that, but we automate a compliance message when contacts join your lists using a web form, keyword, or another opt-in tool to take some of the work off your plate. All you have to do is adjust your message frequency.
One of the biggest mistakes businesses make when using SMS is not sending messages consistently enough.
I get that. They usually just want to avoid spamming their customers (and that’s a good instinct).
But send too few messages, and people forget why they signed up in the first place. When they do hear from you, it’ll seem out of the blue and potentially unwelcome.
Consumers respond well to consistent messaging. Just like a good social media strategy, successful text campaigns maintain a consistent and regular schedule.
That schedule will vary according to the type of business you run. If you’re a retailer, you likely only send a few texts a month when a sale pops up or a customer needs a shipping notification.
Churches or life coaches, on the other hand, could opt for daily encouragement or devotional texts without annoying their contacts.
With a typical SMS message, you have around 160 characters per text message. You might feel the need to shorten some words or throw in a little “textese” to save space.
While you might save space, you’ll also sacrifice clarity and professionalism.
Let’s compare these two text messages:
Which one got the point across best? More importantly, which one would you be tempted to open and read?
Character limits may seem frustrating at times, but they’re a helpful tool for sharpening your message. And if push comes to shove, MMS will allow you to use up to 1,600 characters!
Too-frequent texting isn’t the only thing that can come off as spammy or intrusive. You should also pay attention to the language and style you use in your messages.
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 a link in 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.
Words and phrases that can look like spam (and should therefore be avoided) include:
And so on. If you wouldn’t open it, don’t send it.
💡Learn more about how spammy texts can lead to carrier filtering.
Even if someone gives you permission to text them, they may forget they signed up.
For example, if you’re a real estate agent and you’ve collected phone numbers at an open house, those prospective buyers you talked to may not remember that they filled out your sign-in sheet.
Make your brand or organization name clear from the beginning so contacts don’t delete your messages or report them as spam.
As a bonus, introducing yourself and your brand will also help contacts trust you and your messages because they’ll be able to identify the person behind the texts.
Here are a couple of examples:
“Hi Jenna! This is Cassidy Welch from the open house on 443 Mulberry St. Do you have any questions about the property that I can answer for you?”
“Thanks for signing up to receive updates and deals from Tea Palace! Here’s your exclusive discount code: TEXTCLUB10”
SMS marketing is unique because it has the ease of a mass marketing campaign with the feel of personal, one-on-one communication.
As texting gets more popular, personalization is moving out of “nice to have” and into “must have.” The data says that 72% of consumers will only interact with personalized messaging.
Whether you send mass texts, hold one-on-one conversations, or both, people will intuitively think they can reply to your messages. (Don’t worry, incoming SMS messages on SimpleTexting are completely free.)
You’ll need to be on top of those replies to keep your customers happy. 90% of consumers say an instant response is either crucial or very important when they have a customer service question or concern, and 60% of those define “instant” as 10 minutes or less.
Make it a habit to log in frequently to your account and reply to any questions contacts may have sent. 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.
Picture this: It’s 9 p.m. You’re in your sweats, curled up with an ice cream cone and a bingeable Netflix series all queued up.
The last thing you want is your phone lighting up with a text about a promotion on car insurance premiums.
With very few exceptions, it’s best practice to keep your texts within reasonable business hours to avoid annoying anyone.
Plus, it doesn’t make sense to text your customers when they can’t (or won’t) immediately take action or respond to you and your offer. So, out of common sense and courtesy, schedule your marketing messages during sensible hours.
Have you ever listened to the same song so much that you get sick of it? The same can happen with your texts. Keep things interesting with a variety of offers and content.
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. Consider layering in some rich media, like photos or videos, to diversify and engage your audience.
Texts are no longer limited to 160 characters. With MMS, you can include up to 1,600 characters of text and even attach images.
As you design your campaigns, focus on “SMART” marketing. With each offer or announcement, ask yourself if it’s SMART (Specific, Measurable, Actionable, Relevant, and Timely).
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.
When deciding what kind of texts to send, it’s worth reflecting on what it means when someone signs up to receive your messages.
Here’s a hint–they’re giving you access to the most direct and personal way to reach them. So, successful campaigns offer contacts something they can’t get anywhere else.
If you send the same promotions in your emails, Instagram posts, and SMS blasts, you’re giving people less reason to sign up for texts specifically.
Avoid recycled content or offers from social media or other channels. Everything you text should be relevant and exclusive to your SMS list.
Data from our older 2020 Text Marketing Report shows that SMS contacts want first dibs on flash sales or promotions. Even though that data was gathered a few years ago, we still see our customers having a lot of success by offering early access to sales promotions.
The more consumers know about your text marketing program, the more likely they are to take action.
This means you should be advertising your keyword and your short code, registered local number, or toll-free number (once it’s verified) wherever your audience might see it. Website, social media, email campaigns, posters…you get the idea.
Give people multiple avenues to learn about your new marketing channel.
Here’s a full rundown of all the ways you can invite people to subscribe to your texts.
SMS has emerged as one of the best and most reliable ways for small businesses to connect with their audience in a more intimate, direct way.
And while text marketing campaigns are unique to each company’s goals and objectives, keep these guidelines in mind to stay set up for success.
This piece was originally published December 18, 2018. It was most recently refreshed and repurposed May 30, 2023. Dani Henion contributed to this piece.