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The ultimate guide to SMS marketing: Definition, benefits, best practices, and examples

Fatima Puri
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SMS marketing has grown in popularity over the past few years. Consumers are more comfortable with businesses contacting them via text message, giving marketers a new way to reach them. 

Business texting is now a must-have tool for marketers who want to engage customers on many communication channels. Our guide will cover the key things a beginner SMS marketer needs to know. From the definition, benefits, and best practices of SMS marketing to quality examples.

What is SMS marketing?

SMS marketing is the practice of a business sending transactional or promotional text messages to customers who opt-in to receive them. 

Often these marketing messages include time-sensitive offers, like flash sales, updates, or alerts to subscribers. As a note, appointment confirmations or customer support do not fall under the mobile marketing umbrella.

When to use SMS marketing for your business

Businesses that want to use SMS marketing should first consider if SMS is a good channel for their needs. Typically, companies that offer frequent deals or service appointments, like e-commerce stores, travel agencies, or hair salons, benefit the most from SMS marketing.

But businesses outside these industries should consider SMS marketing strategy, especially if:

  1. You need or want to offer customers time-sensitive messages, promotions, or remind customers of important information.
  2. Your customers prefer texting as a communication method
  3. You have the proper tools to send marketing messages. Consider using an SMS marketing automation software like Textline.

Why is SMS marketing effective?

There are numerous reasons SMS is an effective marketing channel to add, but some of the main benefits include:

3 examples of SMS marketing

1. A promotional offer

Text message example for a promotional offer
Text message example for a promotional offer.

Thanks for signing up to receive promotional texts from Pretty in Pink! Use promo code WELCOME20 for 20% off your first order. Terms & conditions apply Reply STOP to unsubscribe.

2. An important update

Text message example for an important update.
Text message example for an important update.

TRAVELODGE: Our phones are currently down. 😢 We can help you book via SMS or email at We’re sorry for the inconvenience and will follow up when our lines work. Reply STOP to unsubscribe.

3. Abandoned cart reminder

Text message example for abandoned cart reminder
Text message example for abandoned cart reminder.

Claire, the items in your cart miss you! Text us if you need help with anything, or finish checking out before your items are gone: Reply STOP to unsubscribe.

5 best practices of SMS marketing

1. Collect opt-ins and provide opt-outs 

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA, requires businesses to collect an opt-in from their contacts before sending messages to them. Failure to obtain an opt-in can result in fines of up to $500 per violation. Similarly, businesses must also provide a way for customers to opt-out of receiving text messages. 

There are numerous ways to collect phone numbers. Businesses can ask customers for one in person, over the phone, or through the initial text to a customer. For opt-outs, you should let customers know that they can opt-out by replying STOP or UNSUBSCRIBE to any text you send them.

While it may seem difficult to obtain opt-ins, research shows that many customers will opt into texts from companies they like. For example, 46 percent of customers say they would opt in for texts from e-commerce or retail businesses.

2. Introduce your company in each message

Customers likely will not have your contact information saved on their phones, so you should introduce yourself in every text interaction you have with them. You can send a virtual contact file, or VCF, to make it easier for customers to save your information on their phones. See the following example from Umbra, a curtain rod company.

An example of a company introduction text from Umbra.

3. Be mindful of the character limit 

Brands are limited to 160 characters or less when sending text messages to customers. You want to make the most of each word, which is why less is more when crafting messages to your contacts. 

One way to work around the character limit is to use links. Companies can link to a landing page or other information where customers can learn more about your message.

Alternatively, companies can also use MMS to send images or PDFs to customers. For example, a company could send a  coupon with a barcode that works in stores to make applying the discount easy.

4. Share exclusive SMS offers

Customers sign up for SMS marketing messages primarily to receive offers and discounts. One study suggests that a whopping 75 percent of customers want to be sent discounts via text. 

Offering a discount for signing up for SMS marketing can help you entice customers to opt in. You can advertise a welcome offer on your website, social media pages, or in-stores near the checkout register to encourage more sign-ups.

You can take your SMS offers further by personalizing them for each customer. For example, if your customer has an abandoned cart, you can send them a coupon to encourage them to finish the purchase. 

SMS offers can boost traffic to drive sales for your business.

5. Respond to text message replies

Remember, business texting is a two-way communication platform. If you send bulk messages to customers, make sure you respond to their texts. 

Suppose you don’t have the staff available to reply to messages promptly. In that case, you can automate a text asking customers to call or email your business any time you receive a reply to mass texting. 

For more best practices, read our article “10 SMS marketing best practices to grow your subscriber base.”

The bottom line

We hope this guide helps you learn the basics of SMS marketing or gives you a better idea of executing future text marketing campaigns. SMS marketing done successfully can drive traffic and revenue.

A crucial next step is setting analytical goals and learning to track them to improve your text marketing campaigns. Check out our article “Everything you need to know about SMS analytics” to learn more.

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