★ Ultimate guide to sms marketing ★

Text Marketing Basics


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Even though text marketing seems simple—you just send texts!—there’s more to it than meets the eye. In this section, we’ll go through some of the vocabulary, objectives, and campaign types of SMS marketing to familiarize you with the basics.


  • SMS

    short for “Short Message Service.” SMS is the global protocol for sending and receiving text messages. An “SMS message” is just another way of saying a “text.”

  • Keyword

    a word or phrase a user texts in order to interact with a text marketing campaign. Most of the time, the keyword is used to join a campaign, but keywords can have other uses, as we’ll see in this section.

  • Short code

    a 5 or 6 digit phone number that a user sends messages to in order to join or interact with a text marketing campaign. One short code can serve many different purposes, but it’s also possible to reserve a dedicated short code.

  • Call to action

    a short sentence telling potential customers the right keyword and short code combination required in order to subscribe to a text marketing campaign.

    For example, take this call to action: “Text ENTERNOW to 555888 to join our text message list.” In this example, ENTERNOW is the keyword, while 555888 is the short code.

  • Autoresponder

    a feature that allows you to send automated texts based on set periods of time from when a user joined your list.

  • MMS

    short for “Multimedia Messaging Service.” MMS marketing is similar to SMS marketing, but MMS messages have a longer character limit, and you can enhance them with photos, gifs, audio files, and video files as well.

  • Short URL

    a web link containing relatively few characters that redirects to a longer web link. These links are useful for fitting long URLs into SMS messages. Platforms such as SimpleTexting.com allow you to shorten your long URLs at send time.


The most prominent constraint of SMS is also its powerful feature—the 160-character limit. The character set is also limited to the ASCII table, which is composed of all the numbers, upper and lowercase letters, and basic punctuation marks. If you want to send a message containing an image or more than 160 characters, then you need to use a short URL that points to a website with the additional information.

The character constraint of text messages may seem like a limitation, but it actually forces you to make your messages more to the point. Rarely do text messages contain extraneous information, because there is no room to fit it in. When your customers sign up for texts, they know they’ll only ever have to read one or two sentences.


Every SMS marketing campaign should have a stated objective. Most commonly, businesses use SMS marketing to drive sales, but SMS marketing campaigns can serve many purposes, such as to improve brand awareness, educate subscribers, increase website traffic, generate leads, or even remind customers of events and appointments. The different types of SMS marketing campaigns will be discussed in detail in the next section.

Offer types

A majority of businesses use SMS marketing campaigns to drive sales in-store or online. One of the best ways to achieve this goal is by offering a short-term discount or a promotion to customers enticing them to buy. Additionally, discounts add to the value your customers get when they join your text marketing list, encouraging them to stay on the list and recommend it to their friends. Here are a few of the offers typically deployed:

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    Pricing-based offers

    Any price reduction. Take 10% off when you use this coupon code at checkout.

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    Time-sensitive offers

    Applies for a limited amount of time. All items in store are 25% off for the rest of the day.

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    Product-based offers

    Applies only to a specific product. Take 20% off our menswear with this coupon code.

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    Location-based offers

    Applies only at a specific branch or location. Use this coupon code to take 15% off your purchase at our Springfield branch.

Types of SMS marketing campaigns

SMS campaigns can be classified by their purpose and their method of engagement. In the majority of campaigns, communication is one-way, but many campaign types can involve collecting subscriber responses, either in aggregate or at the individual level.

  • Broadcasting

    Broadcasting is the most common type of campaign. It entails sending your customers relevant information about the business or organization, such as announcements, discount offers, or limited time promotions. Alternatively, you can broadcast non-marketing information, such as regular tips, advice, or short pieces of content.

    Keep in mind that when customers interact with broadcast campaigns, they expect to receive ongoing messages. Therefore, you should keep the text blasts at a consistent level, so your customers don’t forget about the campaign or fail to see the value in remaining subscribed.

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  • Appointment reminders

    Instead of a broadcast to everyone, appointment reminders are targeted to specific people at specific times to remind them of their scheduled appointments. You can also prompt clients to confirm, cancel, or reschedule their appointments, in order to cut down on no-shows.

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  • Text-to-collect-info

    With a text-to-collect-information campaign, businesses ask customers to respond with certain information. These campaigns can serve to fill out missing customer information.

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  • Text-for-info

    In text-for-info campaigns, customers can text a keyword to a 5 or 6 digit number (SMS short code) to receive information about a business, such as open hours, a link to the website, or a phone number.

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  • Text-to-vote

    In certain promotions, customers vote to determine a winner. In these campaigns, customers can send in their vote by texting an SMS short code.

    Normally, a customer wouldn’t expect to receive ongoing updates after texting to submit their vote, so if you plan to add them to regular text blasts, you must offer that disclaimer up front.

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  • User poll

    In a user poll, you broadcast a question to your existing subscribers to gauge their opinion on your product. The key difference between a user poll and a text-to-vote campaign is that a user poll is sent to existing subscribers, whereas new users sign up to vote on text-to-vote campaigns.

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  • Text-to-win

    In a text-to-win campaign, customers text an SMS short code to enter a sweepstakes or other contest. Again, customers wouldn’t normally expect to receive ongoing updates after enrolling in a contest, so be sure to include a disclaimer if you plan to contact them again.

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Now that we’ve covered some of the basics of text marketing for small business, let’s look at ways to acquire mobile phone numbers.

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