How to Get Started with SMS Marketing: Building Your First Campaign

SMS marketing is nothing new. It involves sending promotional messages to customers through SMS (short message service) or text messages. They have, however, grown in use as a result of — you guessed it — COVID-19. Just like QR codes for menus or remote work, SMS marketing adoption has increased due to a more digitally connected world. 

As a local business, it can feel overwhelming to try and execute all the marketing tactics that can help your business. SMS marketing isn’t another complicated strategy. It’s one of the easiest, and most affordable, marketing tools you can use. SMS communications are incredibly versatile so no matter what type of business you run — there are probably twenty different ways to text to your advantage. The most common use cases include: 

  • Time-critical alerts and notifications such as reminders for appointments, when a customer may be running low on a product, etc. 
  • Account management and activity such as fraud prevention alerts and new login notifications
  • Customer service activities such as after-hours support 
  • Marketing and sales promotions such as events or new product launches
  • Customer feedback such as surveys and customer satisfaction ratings 

Keep in mind, before you launch your first SMS marketing campaign, you’ll need to build a customer list. 

You may already have customer contact information, but if not you can start collecting phone numbers from customers through your website, in-store, or other means. Just be sure they know they’re opting in to receive text messages from you. Once you have a sizable list you can build your strategy. Like any marketing strategy, there are a series of steps you should take before sending SMS messages to your customers or prospects.

Guide: How to Get More SMS Suscribers

Steps to Build an SMS Marketing Campaign 

  • Define your audience: Before sending any messages, determine who should receive each communication. You can segment them based on demographics, past purchasing behavior, or other factors. The more personalized you can get, though, the more engagement you’re likely to receive.  
  • Set some goals: Determine what you want to achieve with your SMS marketing campaigns. Each time you send a message your objective could differ — from driving sales to increasing website traffic to building brand awareness to getting referrals.
  • Determine frequency and timing: Decide how often you will send messages to your subscribers. Too many messages can lead to opt-outs, while too few may be ineffective. You can also play around to find the right timing and frequency for your texts. Just be cautious of early morning or late-night texts or spamming customers with too many messages. 
  • Craft your message: This is the easy part! But keep in mind, not everything is suited to be sent over a text. And depending on your type of business, certain SMS campaigns will make sense over others. We’ll share more on what to include in your actual text shortly. 
  • Measure the results: Track your SMS marketing metrics, such as open rates, click-through rates, and conversions, to determine the effectiveness of your campaign. Use this data to refine your strategy and improve future campaigns. 

As you can see, SMS marketing doesn’t have to be overly complicated. It’s a simple process to get started with your first campaign. As a business owner, it’s easy to do and quick to implement. This means you can spend more time on other, more important aspects of running your business. Before you send your first message, here are some best practices to make sure you are communicating correctly and getting the most out of your SMS marketing. 

Best Practices for Texting Customers

Include a CTA and contact method

Any text you have should include a call to action, a way to opt-out, and a way to contact you. Even if you’re doing something as simple as reminding them of an appointment, a link for them to review the time and details of their appointment or to call you to reschedule can improve the customer experience — not to mention avoid no-shows and loss of revenue for your business.  

A CTA is also vital for any communications that you want to invoke a sense of urgency with — such as promotions. It can make a difference in conversions to link directly to a product page for customers to complete a purchase versus just your website. You can use a tool like Bitly to shorten the link to save on characters. 

Speak conversationally 

While a lot of marketing communications through email or your website are a time to be grammatically correct and professional — text isn’t one of them. You only have so many characters to communicate with so using short-hand abbreviations or emojis is okay, just make sure they are still easily understood by your customers. Additionally, texting is more personal, so text like you’d text your family or friends! 

Keep texts short and to the point 

A single text is typically 160 characters. However, you could send a message as large as 1600 characters, but after it reaches 160, it’s broken down into chunks. Avoid sending long messages where your customers get multiple texts at once — we all know how annoying that can be. If you find the message getting lengthy — an email may be better. 

Keep it legal

Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), companies may not send messages to consumers without their consent. Don’t contact customers or prospects who haven’t voluntarily provided their contact information or opted into receiving your texts. It’s a sure way to irritate customers and get into trouble. Any message you send should also include a quick way to opt out of receiving communications, such as a line that says “Reply STOP to unsubscribe.” Read more about SMS compliance here

texting best practices graphic

Choosing an SMS Marketing Platform

To get started with your first SMS marketing campaign, in addition to a customer list and campaign strategy, you’ll need a tool to send out text messages. There are tons of options available, just make sure the platform you choose is: 

  • Feature-rich with tools that will help you create, manage, and optimize your SMS campaigns — such as contact management and analytics
  • Able to integrate with your existing marketing and CRM tools
  • Easy to use with clear instructions for how to create and send a text message in just a few clicks — extra points if it uses AI to help craft a text message!
  • Customizable when it comes to who you send messages to and what you say  
  • Compliant with the CAN-SPAM Act and GDPR with opt-in and opt-out options for your subscribers
  • Affordable but can scale with your business as you grow

GatherUp provides all of this while extending the impact of SMS marketing by combining your text marketing strategy with your reputation management. With GatherUp you can gather and listen to customer feedback, then engage with them through strategic SMS campaigns. You can send targeted text campaigns, track performance, and glean valuable insights to drive better customer experiences. Using GatherUp for your SMS marketing needs allows you to: 

  • Create segmented lists of customers for more personalized communications
  • Test and schedule messages to improve engagement rates 
  • Use customer feedback and insights to inform your SMS campaign strategy 
  • Incorporate Net Promoter Score data to identify and win back your detractors, thank your promoters, and influence your neutrals 

Interested in learning more? Schedule time with a product expert. 



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