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SMS marketing for small business: A comprehensive guide

Alia Paavola
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Given its impressive results, SMS marketing is quickly becoming a go-to strategy for top brands. But why expressly should small businesses adopt SMS marketing?

This in-depth guide will dive into the must-knows about SMS marketing for small businesses. Get the top benefits, how SMS can help overcome top challenges, and real-life examples to inspire your next campaign.

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<h2 id="Benefits">11 benefits of SMS marketing for small businesses</h2>

There are significant benefits of SMS marketing for small businesses. Let’s take a look at the big ones: 

  • Cost-effective marketing. SMS marketing is an affordable marketing channel. Each text message typically costs just pennies to send, no matter when it’s sent. In comparison, the cost per click for Facebook ads or Google Search can reach several dollars, especially during the peak holiday season. The cost for each SMS marketing message does not fluctuate; it will be the same no matter the time of year. The low cost paired with strong engagement, generates an impressive ROI.

  • Higher engagement with required opt-in. Legal text message marketing is permission-based. This means your contacts must give your business explicit permission to contact them via SMS. This is a huge benefit because the customers who opt in want to get your marketing messages and can become loyal repeat buyers.

  • Instant reach. A text message is delivered and read quickly. Most Americans read texts within five minutes of receiving them. Emails, on the other hand, are typically read within 90 minutes. This near-instantaneous communication is excellent for marketing campaigns because you can ensure the message reaches your intended recipients at the optimal time.

  • High open rate. One significant advantage of SMS is that the average open rate is 98 percent, more than four times the open rate of email. Marketing emails often sit unopened in crowded inboxes or get sorted into a folder that recipients don’t monitor. On the other hand, texts are delivered directly to the recipient’s mobile phone, which makes them hard to ignore.

  • High click-through rate. SMS outshines email marketing on another key marketing metric: click-through rate. For text messages, the click-through rate ranges from 20 percent to 35 percent. In comparison, email sits at 1 percent to 10 percent. This higher click-through rate ensures that more customers are following your intended call-to-action.

  • Less competition. Email and social media are highly saturated marketing channels. You’re more likely to capture a customer’s attention quickly and on the first attempt with a compelling marketing text message. As a result, SMS marketing can help your brand stand out in a crowded landscape. SMS marketing is expected to grow by 18 percent yearly, meaning more brands will add it. Becoming an early adopter can significantly benefit your company.
  • Wide reach. Most Americans (97 percent) own a mobile phone capable of receiving text messages. This makes it exceptionally likely your brand can reach your intended target audience. It also allows you to reach customers who may not be active on social media or have opted out of your email program. Additionally, with mass text messaging, you can reach thousands of customers at once with minimal effort.

  • Diverse use cases. Another significant benefit of SMS marketing is its versatility. There are many types of marketing campaigns brands can send via SMS. This includes abandoned cart reminders, welcome offers, flash sales, product launches, price drop alerts, and more.

  • Easy to integrate. If you pick the right SMS platform, texting can easily be combined with other marketing channels and tools. Connecting SMS to your other channels allows data to sync between platforms so you can create a seamless digital experience for customers and leads. Textline, for example, integrates with Facebook, Instagram, and HubSpot.

  • It’s highly scalable. SMS marketing is a channel that can quickly grow with your business. As you gain more SMS subscribers, your marketing messages will reach all of them. Plus, texting is a familiar channel, so you won’t need extensive team training to execute a text marketing campaign.
  • Campaigns can be personalized and tailored. SMS marketing platforms have features to help businesses personalize and tailor their marketing campaigns at scale. You can easily segment your contact list to provide more targeted messaging and use variables to insert a customer’s first name into each text message.

<h2 id="How">How SMS marketing can help small businesses overcome challenges</h2>

Small businesses face unique challenges. And since SMS marketing can drive conversions and  engagement, it can help small businesses overcome many of them. Let’s take a deeper look at how:

Customer acquisition 

The reality is to grow a business, you need new customers. Texting can help small businesses attract new customers in several ways:

  • Incentivize with exclusive discounts or promotions. Encourage any website or in-store visitors to subscribe to your SMS marketing list by offering them an exclusive discount. This may encourage them to join your SMS list and make a purchase. The reality is that discounts attract customers.

  • Respond to leads quickly. Customers often choose the company that responds to their inquiry first. Use text messaging to quickly respond when customers fill out an online form or help qualify a lead by asking additional questions.

Customer retention

While gaining new customers is important for growth, retaining customers is equally, if not more, important for small businesses. Research shows that over 50 percent of small businesses' revenue typically comes from repeat buyers in a given year. This means keeping customers is essential to the success of a small business.

SMS marketing can help generate repeat business. Since SMS marketing is permission-based; you can get your most interested customers signed up. Keep them subscribed by offering exclusive text-only discounts or loyalty rewards. 

Marketing on a limited budget

Money is tight for many small businesses. As a result, the budget for marketing is often pretty limited. SMS is a low-cost yet effective marketing channel.

It costs just over 1 cent per marketing text. This price per message is way cheaper compared to traditional advertising like print, television, or radio ads. It also is a better price than social media and Google Search advertising, which can be several dollars per click.

Marketing with limited resources

Another key challenge for small businesses is marketing with limited resources and time. The reality is that SMS marketing is a simple marketing tool. Everyone knows how to text, so it’s easy for a staff member to set up text marketing campaigns quickly and with little training.

SMS marketing can also be automated to save time. You can pre-schedule messages, set up automated texts to trigger, and more. 

Creating targeted and personalized marketing campaigns

Personalized marketing helps increase the chance of conversions. Given the resource and time restraints many small businesses face, creating these tailored campaigns can be a challenge. 

SMS marketing can overcome this challenge as it’s a simple tool to create relevant campaigns. SMS marketing software lets you segment your contact lists to help you send more targeted messages to increase sales.

Collecting customer feedback

Online reviews help businesses build trust and bring in new customers. The reality is 64 percent of customers read Google reviews before choosing a business to work with. Help your small business collect more customer reviews and feedback via text message.

SMS review requests and text surveys help brands capture valuable customer feedback in near real-time. With an average 98 percent open rate and 45 percent response rate, text messaging is a great channel to use.

Engaging with customers

Sometimes it’s difficult to engage with customers, especially between purchases. Text message marketing makes it easier for small businesses. Here are a few ways SMS marketing can help:

  • Share timely reminders. Use text messaging to keep customers informed. You can share appointment reminders, order updates, company news, and more.

  • Send special offers. Use SMS marketing to send exclusive text-only discounts. Use a mobile coupon or share a code they can enter at checkout to encourage purchases.

  • Create a loyalty program. Encourage customers to sign up for a loyalty program that grants them sneak peeks at new products or early access to sales.

  • Personalize messages. Texting can be highly personalized. Use SMS to wish customers happy birthday, welcome them to your text program, or check in about a recent purchase.

  • Request feedback. Use SMS to request feedback from customers to engage with them further about your brand or product offering.

Inventory management

Many small businesses struggle with managing inventory. They want to clear out the shelves for new products or simply push more of a product to customers. There are several types of SMS marketing campaigns businesses can run to help with inventory:

  • Flash sale. Use a flash sale text campaign to encourage customers to purchase a particular product by creating a sense of urgency.
  • Offer coupons or discounts. Offer customers coupons or dollar-off discounts on slow-moving or excess inventory.
  • In-store event. Promote an in-store event, like a tasting, class, or in-store sale, to clear move inventory.
  • New product alerts. Send a promotional message when new products arrive. 

Effective communication with customers

Communicating effectively with customers is critical. Businesses that make customers feel heard and valued can boost their reputation and customer loyalty. Text messaging is a great way to communicate better with customers. 

SMS messages are a highly effective way to communicate because:

  • They have high open rates
  • They have high response rates
  • They enable real-time communication
  • They’re short and digestible

Brand awareness 

SMS marketing can help businesses increase awareness. The average customer checks their phone 344 times a day. Sending text marketing campaigns can keep your business top-of-mind for customers and help promote your products or services. 

When customers are loyal and engaged, they’re more likely to recommend your product or even the discounts they receive from your SMS program.

Competing with larger businesses

Small businesses must stand out to win customers' dollars. This is harder as they’re competing for customers’ attention against larger businesses that have more resources, money, and time. SMS marketing allows small businesses to reach their target audience with direct and personal messages, which can give them an edge over larger companies.

The hardest part of SMS marketing is building a subscribed contact list. After that, SMS marketing campaigns can be deployed without significant time, money, or resources. As a result, it’s a great strategy for small businesses to break through the noise.

Tracking results

As a business, you want to understand how your marketing campaigns perform. This lets you understand what’s working and what isn’t. SMS marketing platforms come with pre-built metrics and reporting to streamline this for your business. That way, you can measure results in the platform without the need for a data analyst.

Finding scalable tools

Sometimes as your business grows, the tools you relied on can’t scale without significant costs. As a business, you don’t want to consistently switch tools as these growth changes happen. SMS marketing platforms can accommodate a larger audience and a larger team without significant increases in costs.

<h2 id="Examples">15 examples of SMS marketing for small businesses</h2>

Here are some examples of real-life SMS marketing campaigns that can work for small businesses.

Welcome offer

Online retailer Show Me Your Mumu sends SMS subscribers a welcome text when they subscribe to SMS marketing. In this welcome message, they offer a smaller $10 discount. This is a great way to welcome new subscribers and keep them invested in your SMS marketing program.

A welcome SMS marketing text example

Product launch

In this marketing text, cosmetics brand Crunchi promotes a new product. The company includes a photo of the blush to showcase the product as well as a great call-to-action and SMS link. This is a great SMS marketing campaign to consider as it can help a brand get the word out about new products and services.

New product promotion text from Crunchi

Flash sale

Another example from Crunchi is a flash sale SMS marketing campaign. This marketing text encourages urgency as the sale is a one-day event. Flash sales can help boost sales of a particular product quickly.

A flash sale SMS marketing example from Crunchi.

Limited-time sale

High Brow Boutique, a small esthetician business in Wisconsin, uses SMS marketing to promote a sale on DMK products. This was a reminder that the sale was ending that day. This is a great way to encourage customers to make a purchase and remind them about an ongoing sale.

A limited-time sale from High Brow Boutique.

Review request

Requesting a review from customers can help small businesses thrive. In the following text message example, San Diego’s City Dog asks its customer to leave a review following a pet grooming service. Texting is a great way to get more reviews from loyal customers.

A review request text from City Dog.

Review follow up

In the following example, an in-home dog training business called Canine Dimensions reminds a customer about leaving a review. Sometimes customers just need a quick reminder to leave a review and they will complete it. Don’t forget to follow up with customers.

A small business reminding customers to write a review via SMS.

Last-minute appointment available

Elixr, a small waxing studio in San Diego, uses SMS to communicate with customers in real time. The business texts a customer to let them know that they could come in earlier if it’s convenient for them.

A small business text alerting customers to important information.

Pricing quote

Junk King, a junk removal service in San Diego, uses SMS to provide quotes to customers. In the text message example, you see the sales representative collect necessary information from customers and quickly provide a quote. This can significantly improve the experience and get more services booked. 

A pricing quote SMS example from Junk King.

Pre-appointment reminder

In this example, a Grace Loves Lace stylist texts the day before an appointment. It serves as both an appointment reminder but also encourages customers to ask questions. This is a huge way to improve the customer experience even before someone steps into a store.​​

A small business text appointment reminder.

Menu launch

Azucar, a Cuban bakery in San Diego, uses SMS marketing to promote a new menu launch. This is a great way to get customers excited about your new items. You could use SMS marketing to promote seasonal launches throughout the year.

A new menu launch text from Azucar.

Cross-sell opportunity

In the following example, bridal boutique Miss Ruby uses text messaging to cross-sell to a customer. The bride-to-be already chose a wedding gown from the store, but the stylist asks about other items needed for the big day. This is a great and gentle way to get customers to buy more from your store.

A cross-sell promotional text from Miss Ruby.

Event promotion

Quartyard, a bar and event space in San Diego, uses SMS marketing to promote a recurring event. This particular event is promoting its Summer trivia nights to customers. SMS is a great way to promote and remind customers about events.

A small business event promotion text.

Concierge service

In the following text message, a boutique hotel in Wisconsin welcomes its guests to the premises. It also thanks customers for choosing the hotel, and how to get in touch with them if they’re in need of anything. This is a great way to provide exceptional service to customers.

A concierge text from a boutique hotel.

Black Friday

Many small businesses run sales on Black Friday and Small Business Saturday. Use an SMS marketing text to promote your sale. In the following example, City Dog shares its Black Friday sale with customers.

A Black Friday SMS marketing example from City Dog.

Digital receipt and thank you

Another common use case is sending digital receipts and thank yous post-purchase. This is helpful for customers as they won’t need to keep track of a paper receipt. In the following example, Wild Dove Boutique shares a receipt link via text message and thanks the customer for the purchase.

A digital receipt and thank you SMS message from Wild Dove‍

<h2 id="GetStarted">How to get started with small business SMS marketing</h2>

Don’t stress; there are just a few simple steps to start SMS marketing at your small business. Let’s dive in.

1. Build an SMS marketing strategy. First, you need to create an SMS marketing strategy. This means determining your texting use case, key audience, and goals.

Need help to create a winning SMS marketing strategy? Get Textline’s 12-step guide.

A visual guide for building an SMS marketing strategy

2. Pick an SMS platform. After determining your strategy and use case, you must choose an SMS marketing software provider. You’ll want to select an SMS platform that aligns with your business goals and needs. To determine the best fit, look at an SMS platform’s specific features, pricing, and integrations. You should also research the reputation, scalability, and support offered. SMS platforms like Textline make it easy to send marketing texts with features like bulk texting and automations.

3. Assemble an SMS contact list. SMS marketing is a type of permission-based marketing that requires contacts to opt in first. This means that before you can send any marketing text to a contact, you must get explicit opt-in from them. There are many ways to collect this opt-in to grow your SMS subscriber list, including using text keywords and opt-in forms.

4. Craft marketing messages. The next step is to get creative! Start creating content for your marketing text messages. Make sure you proofread the text message and include a call to action.

5. Hit send. It’s time to send your marketing text to your target audience. You can then measure results and fine-tune your content. 

<h2 id="Best">10 small business SMS marketing best practices and tips</h2>

Here are 10 of the top SMS marketing tips to set your small business up for success.

  • Collect proper opt-ins. To comply with fundamental texting laws like the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, you must get explicit consent to text each customer. You can’t buy a list of phone numbers or text contacts already in your address book who haven’t consented. This opt-in process is critical as it protects customers from unsolicited messages. You must also clarify from the jump that they’re subscribing to recurring marketing messages. Check out these 12 ways to get this consent and increase SMS subscribers.

  • Honor opt-outs. Remember, permission-based marketing is a choice for customers. This means your text marketing programs must include the ability for customers to opt out whenever they want. Not only is this unsubscribe process a best practice, it’s required by law. You must stop texting contacts who unsubscribe. This includes if customers reply with words like STOP or END. Most SMS marketing platforms will automatically unsubscribe contacts for you if they reply with these stop words.

  • Take advantage of automation. Many small businesses have fewer resources. As a result, leveraging text message automation can be a huge benefit for your business. Help give your team back time by setting up SMS automations. You can set up auto-replies for responses to your marketing campaigns, set up drip campaigns, or trigger a welcome text to send each time a new contact gets added.

  • Keep messages concise. SMS was built for quick back-and-forth communication between contacts. In fact, a standard SMS message is limited to 160 characters. This requires brands to use short, digestible messages. Don’t overcomplicate by adding unnecessary details or length to a marketing message.

  • Add a call to action. All marketing materials should contain a clear call to action. It’s no different for SMS marketing texts. Adding this CTA will ensure customers know what steps to take next. Some CTAs that perform well in marketing texts include: Shop now; get the deal, or head to checkout.

  • Keep timing in mind. The success of your marketing campaign hinges on the message timing. You want to be mindful that you’re reaching customers during business hours and at appropriate times in their buying journey. Check out some Textline data on the best time to send a marketing text.

  • Be mindful of message frequency. Frequency also matters when sending text messages. One of the top reasons people unsubscribe from marketing campaigns is because they receive too many messages. You want to strike the right balance of ensuring customers take action without overwhelming them with too many messages.

  • Personalize and segment. The best marketing messages are relevant and personalized. Ensure you segment your SMS audience list to send targeted messaging campaigns. Plus, personalize the message by including a customer’s first name or leverage past purchase history. This will increase the likelihood of conversion.

  • Set and measure goals. Don’t just launch SMS marketing campaigns without setting goals or key performance indicators. You want to tie text marketing goals to your overall business strategy and pick KPIs that help you measure campaign performance. Once you set these goals and KPIs, measure them consistently! This will help you identify what works and what doesn’t.

  • Identify your brand. Chances are customers don’t have your phone number saved in their contact list. To help improve text message deliverability and reduce spam complaints, introduce your brand in each text message. This will ensure the customer knows who is reaching out.

Learn more:
27 SMS marketing best practices to set your business up for success

Better engage customers with Textline’s SMS marketing platform

Equip your small business with SMS, a powerful and scalable marketing channel. Textline’s SMS marketing platform is built to help small businesses grow and scale their text communication. Textline stands out from other marketing platforms as allows businesses to engage in two-way text messaging with their customers, while also having tools like group messaging, mass texting, built-in metrics, and automations. 

Ready to take your marketing efforts to new heights on a minimum budget? Get a demo of Textline today and see firsthand how it works.

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