SMS Marketing: The Ultimate Guide for 2024

As many as 85% of Americans own a smartphone. It’s estimated that 15 million texts get sent every minute of every day, and mobile devices are the source of over half (54%) of today’s web traffic

With so many people comfortable with using smartphones to search, shop, and text, SMS marketing is a smart, effective way to reach and engage with customers exactly where they are: on the go and on their phones.

Here’s a deep dive on what SMS marketing is and how it can work for you.

What is SMS marketing?

SMS (short message service) marketing — also known as text marketing — enables you to share promotions, discount codes, event announcements, surveys, appointment confirmations and reminders, and much more with your customers — all via text message. 

It’s an easy-to-use, personalized, real-time marketing method that’s increasingly popular in our digitally connected world. And because text messages are usually concise, informative, and action-oriented, they’re a great way to motivate and engage customers and drive conversions.

Why SMS marketing works

Even though SMS marketing has been around since at least the mid-2000s, many businesses got on board with it during the pandemic when they began to realize the benefits of it — mainly its immediacy, relevancy, and reach. 

As SMS opt-in rates continue to rise, 67% of business owners and marketing managers have now increased their SMS marketing budgets. And researchers predict that by 2025 the SMS marketing industry could be worth over $12.6 billion

So, why does SMS marketing work so well?

1. Texting is popular, immediate, and easy

Today’s lifestyles are all about speed and ease, and texting is a perfect reflection of this. Getting in front of people with a text message is a great way to grab their attention in real time. When customers see a text from your brand or business, they can take immediate action — right there on their device, with very little effort. There are no extra steps required to read your message, such as sitting down at a desktop computer or opening up email or a social media app.

Plus, advancements in technology have made SMS marketing services even easier and more appealing for businesses and customers alike. For example:

  • Many texting platforms now support multimedia messaging (MMS) — a step up from text only — which allows you to get more creative and engaging with the messages you send, such as sharing images or short videos.
  • Geo-targeting technology makes it possible to find nearby SMS subscribers and target them with messages. 
  • 5G wireless technology, now widely deployed across the country, makes SMS faster than ever — whether you’re sending a text or receiving one.

2. Texting helps build a human connection

A text message feels more personal, friendly, and casual — and less like mass-produced spam — than other forms of marketing and advertising. Texting is also an effective way to check in and follow up with customers after a sale or in-person interaction. A quick, personalized text shows you care about the customer and are anticipating what they might want or need next.

It’s those little human touches and connecting points that help build positive customer relationships and can win you fans for life.   

3. Texting gets great response rates

Our collective shorter attention spans makes texting a better option than email, since fewer people are willing to take the extra time to open up and read marketing emails. Many people may feel like they’re inundated with email and can’t keep up, or they just assume that most marketing emails are spam. 

That’s why text open rates are as high as 98%, whereas email open rates are only around 20%. Furthermore, 98% of people read a text message within a few minutes of getting it, but only 22% of people do the same with an email. Though email campaigns still have their usefulness, text messages outperform email when it comes to the responsiveness of the audience.

4. Texting is expected

Consumers are used to the convenience factor of searching, shopping, and interacting with brands and businesses on their phones. Today, almost half (48%) of customers prefer to get texts from businesses — vs. calls, emails, or other types of communication. Add to this the fact that 94% of people won’t answer a call from an unidentified number anyway. 

To communicate with customers in the convenient ways they’ve come to expect and to take full advantage of the effectiveness of text marketing, now is the time to look into SMS marketing services and incorporate them into your business.

Benefits of SMS marketing

Consumers aren’t the only ones who get something out of texting. Businesses of all sizes in a variety of industries benefit from it too. With an SMS marketing strategy and tools, you can:

  • Reach more people faster: Text marketing allows you to proactively reach out to your entire subscribed audience — not just the people who walked into your store that day or happened to notice your social media post — and send them a message they can receive and interact with in real time.
  • Increase customer engagement: Every text interaction is an opportunity for your customers to think about you in the moment and then take the next step, such as click over to your website, call with a question, or book an appointment. And because your customers see your texts quickly, your messages don’t get lost or ignored for hours or days, as they might in an email inbox. 
  • Bump up sales: Texting subscribers with an offer they can’t refuse — such as a product promotion, private sale event, or discount code — increases the likelihood of a sale. To illustrate the point, a recent study found that 68% of consumers find it helpful when a favorite brand alerts them when items go on sale, and that timely offers are the top reason consumers decide to make a purchase.
  • Improve the customer experience: Texting is especially useful when you share relevant, highly personalized content with your customers. It shows them that you’re paying attention to their specific needs and preferences and want them to have a great experience with your business.
  • Boost customer loyalty: The personal, authentic nature of texting helps build an emotional connection to your customers, which, in turn, builds trust. Trust and emotion are key to building and maintaining customer loyalty.
  • Get started quickly: Unlike with traditional marketing methods, you don’t need a graphic designer or dedicated writer, or have to commit tons of time yourself to creating content. You can just choose one of the many user-friendly texting platforms available and fire it up relatively easily, with only minimal onboarding and learning. Or you can partner with a digital agency that offers SMS marketing services and let them manage it for you.
  • Earn a better ROI: The results you get with SMS marketing can net you a better return on investment — both in time and money spent — than what you would get with many traditional marketing and advertising tools and campaigns. 

How to get started with SMS marketing

As mentioned above, you don’t need to hire more people or set aside a lot of time to incorporate SMS marketing into your business. Here’s how you can hit the ground running:

1. Build an opted-in subscriber list

If you already have a customer list with names and contact info, this is a great foundation upon which to build. If you don’t have a list yet, start by collecting phone numbers from anyone who visits your website, walks into your store, or makes a purchase. 

You’ll need to properly disclose upfront to everyone — people who are new to your contact list and those who have been on it for a while — that you’re collecting phone numbers to subscribe them to SMS. Don’t add anyone who doesn’t explicitly opt in — a.k.a. voluntarily give consent to get texts from you. 

2. Adopt a texting platform

There are a lot of SMS marketing software options available on the market with basic features to get you up and running quickly, including tools to help you create, write, customize, and schedule text campaigns, as well as analyze how your campaigns performed.

Some platforms also easily integrate with your customer relationship management (CRM) system so you can pull in updated customer information and use it to segment and target your audiences for specific messages. Choose the SMS marketing software that has what you need, depending on how you plan to use text marketing.

3. Start texting

Once you have a fully opted-in subscriber list and SMS marketing software, now you’re ready to start sending messages. We’ll cover the different types of messages and campaigns you can create below, along with texting best practices.

But to begin with, you can test the waters by creating a brief, simple message, such as announcing a one-day-only sale or offering a discount code to all SMS subscribers — something that you’re comfortable offering and that works for your business. Then see what kind of response you get.

4. Provide an opt-out option

Equally as important as ensuring opt in is providing an opt-out option with every message you send — such as “Reply STOP to end” or something similar. This allows anyone to remove themselves from your SMS subscriber list at any time.

Opt in and opt out are key tenets of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which protects consumers from unwanted text messages and governs how businesses can use texting. The law mandates that you only text the people who want to be texted and not bother them if they don’t want texts from you.

Best practices for SMS marketing

As you get started with SMS marketing, it’s important to understand and follow best practices so you can be as effective as possible. Here’s how to get the most out of texting your customers:

  • Keep your messages brief and conversational: Think about texting your customers like you would your friends and family. Short, informal, conversational messages work best. No one wants to read a paragraph of information when a line or two will do. If you’re not able to keep your message brief, consider using a different channel for it — such as email or a newsletter.
  • Don’t go over 160 characters: On that note, if you do try to send a long message, it’ll likely get broken up and sent in multiple parts, which can easily annoy your audience. To avoid that happening, make sure your messages are no longer than 160 characters. And if you’re including a URL in your text, use a URL shortener such as Bitly (or similar) to ensure you stay within the 160-character limit.
  • Stay compliant with all laws: At minimum, you need to make sure your subscribers have opted in and can opt out at any time per the TCPA mentioned above. Additionally, there are other rules and regulations to be aware of, including the CAN-SPAM Act, which deals specifically with commercial email or texts, and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which deals with collecting and processing personal information.
  • Offer double opt-in: Collecting phone numbers from people who have consented to be added to a subscriber list does meet opt-in requirements. But to really cover your bases, consider offering double opt-in, which means that the first text you send to a new subscriber reiterates consent by asking the subscriber to reply with “Yes” or “Y” to continue to get texts from you, or “No” or “N” to stop getting texts from you.
  • Include a call to action: Texting is a great opportunity to get your audience to act, so whenever possible, include a call to action in your messages. It can be anything from asking them to call for more information to booking an appointment to clicking a link that takes them to your website, a sale page, or a place to leave a review.
  • Segment and target your audience(s): Sending a text that has widespread appeal is a great use of SMS marketing, but an ever better use of it is when you can segment your audience for targeted, personalized messages. You can use information like past purchase history, length of time they’ve been a customer, and other personal data to send them messages that are specific to their behaviors and preferences and therefore most likely to resonate with them.
  • Be strategic about timing: Sending messages that coincide with holidays, special events, or even the changing seasons is a great way to make your brand or business top of mind with your audience when they’re already thinking about those holiday- or season-specific purchases they want to make.
  • Use a consistent, balanced approach: Successful text marketing is all about consistency and balance. You don’t want to send too many texts and irritate your customers, nor do you want to send too few and miss out on the results you want. Come up with a cadence that works for you and then stick to it, but also know that it’s okay to evolve it as your SMS strategies and subscriber list changes.

Types of SMS marketing campaigns 

SMS marketing campaigns typically fall into three buckets: promotional, transactional, and conversational. Here’s a high-level summary of each.

Promotional text marketing

Promotional texts are useful for sparking interest in a product or service, and can include everything from special offers, coupons, and discount codes to offering extra points in a loyalty program or a free gift with a product purchase or appointment booking. 

Transactional text marketing

Transactional texts notify customers about something time-sensitive — such as information about a recent order, a shipping or delivery update, a product update, or some kind of action the customer needs to take. 

Conversational text marketing

Conversational texts provide an opportunity for the customer to respond, creating a back-and-forth that flows like a real human interaction. Most conversational texting by businesses is done with a combination of humans and automated responses. 

Ready to get started?

SMS marketing is one of the best ways to engage your customers today and help them feel connected to your brand or business. And now that texting is easier than ever, with a variety of texting platforms on the market as well as agencies that offer SMS marketing services, you can choose whatever makes the most sense for your business and start reaping the benefits.



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