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Opt-ins are a must: 14 ways to grow your SMS subscribers list

Alia Paavola
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SMS has become an increasingly popular and powerful marketing tool. That's because it allows businesses to reach customers on a personal level. But, to be compliant with the laws that regulate texting, you must get customers to opt-in before you hit send. You should also approach growing your subscriber list delicately.

Below we break down the importance of collecting an opt-in, the benefits of SMS marketing, and 14 ways you can grow your SMS subscribers list.

Why you must collect opt-ins to build a subscriber base

Before starting an SMS marketing campaign, it is important to build and grow your SMS subscriber list. You do this by collecting opt-ins from customers as required by law. Specifically the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.

The TCPA restricts businesses from texting consumers without prior consent. Failure to obtain this opt-in can result in fines of $500 to $1,500 per unsolicited text message.

These opt-ins are how businesses ask for permission to contact their customers via SMS and share why they’ll be texting them. To be compliant, your business must have acquired a customer’s contact information on your own as well.

Additionally, before engaging in SMS marketing companies must register with the Campaign Registry. This is for companies that want to text from a 10-digit long code number, also called a 10DLC.

Mobile network operators like Verizon and T-Mobile created the registry to reduce the number of SPAM text messages sent from 10-digit numbers. It is used by the carriers to ensure that the phone number you use to text your customers and the messages you send from it are real and legitimate. Companies messaging with 10DLC numbers must sign up. If they don't they risk message deliverability issues, fines, and being blocked.

Benefits of SMS marketing

Text marketing can help businesses cut through the noise and get their promotional messages in front of customers. This allows them to drive more sales. In fact, 96 percent of marketers using text messages said the channel helped them drive more revenue.

SMS marketing is also a great channel to use to meet customer preferences. In fact, 81 percent of Americans text regularly. Plus, 64 percent of consumers say that businesses should use SMS more frequently to connect with them.

In addition, here are a few other benefits of using SMS as a marketing channel:

  • The average click-through rate for offer messages sent via SMS is 9.18 percent higher than any other digital channel
  • Texting has a high open rate of 98 percent, which ensures more customers read your messages
  • The average text message is read within three minutes, so brands can share updates with customers quickly
  • Texting has a 45 percent response rate and allows for personal two-way conversations

For the best results, SMS should be used to supplement other marketing efforts. This includes social media advertising, email campaigns, blog creation, event hosting, and more.

14 key ways to grow your SMS subscriber list

1. Make it clear what customers are opting into

To be compliant with SMS marketing laws, you must make it clear from the jump what types of messages customers are subscribing to. Getting proper opt-ins will ensure customers want to get your promotional messages and won’t get angry or unsubscribe when they do.

Another best practice is sharing upfront the terms and conditions for subscribing. You should include how many text messages the business plans to send, why you’re texting them, and any necessary disclosures.

For example, you could put this information in your first text to a customer if they text to opt-in. Say a plumbing company set up a text-to-join campaign that encourages customers to text “REPAIR” to opt into marketing messages.

An example of a text-to-join campaign
An example of a text-to-join campaign.

In this example, Alfred’s clearly introduces itself, states that it will be sending marketing messages, and shares the number of messages customers can expect.

2. Let customers know they can text you to sign up for marketing messages 

Growing your SMS subscriber list can be as simple as letting customers know they can text your business to opt-in to marketing messages.

There are several ways to do this. You could let customers know when they visit your stores that they can text your business to sign up for promotional texts or you could send an email. You could also make it public by posting your number online and in physical locations. 

One of the best ways is to make information public everywhere, including:

  • Your website
  • Social media profiles
  • Review pages
  • Digital advertisements
  • Printed materials

You can post the number, buy a short code, or have a widget that automatically opens up a customer’s texting app to make it easier for them. The easier you make it for customers to opt-in the more likely they will.

Here’s an example of how a click-to-text widget could work, from Textline. By clicking the blue “Text us” widget, a customer’s native texting app automatically opens and inserts the correct number. This makes it easy for customers to just start typing their messages.  


An example of a click-to-text widget
A click-to-text widget from Textline.

Another way to make it easy for customers is by asking them to text simple phrases to a short code opt-in, such as asking customers to text “JOIN” or “HELLO.”

Here’s an example of a text to join SMS campaign from Footlocker. 

A text to join SMS campaign from Footlocker
A text to join campaign from Footlocker.

For an in-depth list of places to add your SMS number, read our blog on “11 ways to let customers know they can text your business.”

3. Add lead capture and opt-in forms to your website 

Part of the struggle when it comes to growing your opt-in list is getting mobile phone numbers in the first place. This is where adding opt-in forms and lead capture forms on your website can help.

This can come in a popup advertisement, an easy-fill contact form, a landing page, and more.

Here’s an example of a pop-up form fill from Lane Bryant. It makes it easy for customers to enter their numbers to begin receiving promotional messages.

Lane Bryant pop-up form fill
A pop-up form fill from Lane Bryant.

Another example comes from Men’s Warehouse. The company gives customers the option to enter their mobile phone number to sign up for texts to get special offers in the footer of their webpage.

Men's Wearhouse's webpage with an easy form fill.
An example of a form fill from Men's Warehouse.

4. Convert your existing email or newsletter subscribers

Don’t be afraid to tap into the lists you’ve already built for email marketing or various newsletters to increase SMS subscribers. Email subscribers and newsletter subscribers may be easier to covert into text subscribers. That's because they already want updates from your company.

You can send an email to existing subscribers encouraging them to sign-up for your SMS marketing program. You could also include a text advertisement in one of your newsletters.

Make sure the language you use in your email or newsletter highlights the benefits existing customers will receive by opting in.

For example:

🚫 We need your phone number to send you personalized offers. 

✅ Join our SMS marketing list to be the first to know about new product drops, receive a 20% off coupon, and get exclusive offers.

The second option gives customers more insight into what types of messages they will receive and gives them more incentive to opt in.

5. Work opt-ins into existing signup flow or at an online checkout

Anywhere your customers are able to sign up for an email or newsletter, also ask if they want to opt into receiving text offers as well. Adding this ease into the signup process will encourage more customers to opt into text message marketing. 

Here’s an example from Domino’s, which allows customers to opt-in to both email and text offers on the same page.

Domino's email and text offer sign-up page.
Domino's email and text sign-up page.

In addition to adding opt-ins into your existing sign-up flow, consider adding SMS signups to your online checkout page to grow your list.

For example, if you have a field where customers can enter their phone numbers, you could include a small check box that says “Send me promotional offers or updates via text message.” This would be a way to encourage more opt-ins.

6. Have your staff ask customers in stores or in the office 

Another way to grow your SMS subscriber list is to get mobile numbers from customers and permission to text in person.

For example, if you are a nail salon, consider asking customers at the checkout if they are interested in signing up for your mobile texting club. Or consider placing printed-out ads promoting the mobile texting club in your salon.

If you are a restaurant, consider putting a popup ad on the table promoting your mobile texting club for guests to look at. To make it easy for customers you could also use a QR code to make it easy for guests to text in.

This may be a particularly useful strategy if you offer an immediate discount for joining.

7. Incentivize opt-ins with discounts or other rewards

Encouraging customers to sign up in exchange for a reward can do wonders for your SMS subscribers list. Research shows that campaigns with incentives get six times as many subscribers as non-incentivized ones. Additionally, 60 percent of people opt-in to SMS marketing to receive discount offers.

There are many incentives you can offer customers such as:

  • Dollar-off discounts 
  • Percentage-off discounts
  • Limited-time offers
  • Free gifts
  • Free shipping
  • Rewards points
  • Access to exclusive content or products
  • Giveaway entry 
  • Text-to-win campaign

According to an industry report, dollar-off discounts are the top incentive for getting SMS subscribers. This is followed by percentage-off discounts and limited-time offers.

Here’s an example of a good percentage-off discount incentive from Payless Shoes:

Payless' 20% off incentive.
Payless' 20% off incentive.

Another best practice when it comes to incentivizing SMS subscribers is to offer immediate rewards. For example, it’s better to offer an immediate discount than a future reward. For example, one study found that people prefer receiving $50 immediately rather than $100 in six months.

8. Treat subscribers like VIPs

Your SMS subscribers are giving you access to their personal mobile phone numbers. This is one of the most intimate communication channels. As a result, be sure to treat your current SMS subscribers as true VIPs to keep them engaged and foster a deeper relationship with them.

To do this, you will want to treat those subscribers like they are part of an exclusive community. You can do this by offering them the biggest discounts or access to products before other non-subscribed customers. Another way is by responding to any of their text messages.

If you use a 10-digit long code number for your SMS marketing campaigns, you can let your subscribers know that you will text them back.

Letting customers know that this SMS marketing channel is also a two-way communication tool may entice more customers. That's because they would be able to quickly ask questions.

Here’s an example of why you’d want to have two-way conversations with your customers.

A two-way text conversation with World Total Wines and a customer.
A two-way text conversation with a customer.

This text example shows why you’d want to be able to quickly respond to customers. It will help them make an informed decision on purchases and show you care about answering them individually and promptly.

The more you treat them like VIPs, the more likely you are to create brand advocates that spread the word about your SMS campaign and continue to purchase from you. Studies show that repeat customers are 33 percent more likely to spend more than new customers.

9. Build a referral program

Referrals are a great way to get more customers to opt-in because people trust recommendations from people they know. A study by Neilson found that 92 percent of consumers trust referrals.

To get more people to refer friends, colleagues or family, consider offering discounts or rewards points. This may help you get more subscribers for your text marketing messages.

Here’s an example of a text message you could send current subscribers to solicit referrals.

Shelly’s Restaurant: Like our VIP mobile club? Invite your friends or family members to join for $20 off your next dine-in or takeout order. Go to this link for more details: http:shortlink.

10. Get customers to sign up for a list or updates about product releases

Another way to boost text marketing subscribers is to ask customers to sign up for text alerts for a product release or to be included on a specific list.

For example, a fancy restaurant that is hard to get reservations at could ask customers to sign up for a list that lets them know when they have openings.

An e-sports gaming company could encourage customers to sign up to receive texts about pre-sale offerings for a game.

As a best practice, you can also encourage them to stay subscribed to receive updates from your company. You should do this after you provide them with information about why they initially subscribed.

11. Invite subscribers using chatbots

Another way to grow your SMS subscriber list is by asking customers to opt in from the chatbot on your website. This will help you turn some website visitors into SMS subscribers.

Before a customer leaves your website, you could automate the chatbot to ask them if they are interested in signing up for the SMS marketing texts. Adding an offer in exchange for the information may also convince more visitors to consider subscribing.

Chatbots are now popular tools many businesses use on their website to help answer questions and boost lead generation. Sixty-seven percent of global consumers had an interaction with a chatbot over the last year, according to Invesp.

12. Use advertisements

Just like you would advertise a product or service, consider using ads to encourage customers to sign up as text subscribers.

There are many types of ads you could run, but here are a few to consider:

  1. Run a print advertisement in a magazine or billboard. 
  2. Use a radio ad to encourage people to text in
  3. Run a TV ad during a show your target audience watches
  4. Post a swipe-up ad on social media to encourage subscribers

13. Segment your subscriber list

In many cases, marketing text messages can feel impersonal. So, a good practice to encourage more sign-ups and keep your subscriber list long is to segment your list. That way messaging can be very relevant, personal, and valuable. 

You could segment your list by location, engaged and not engaged subscribers, or purchase behavior. You could also consider having distinct lists for coupons and promotions, one for a waitlist or product release, and one for VIP customers. This will allow you to create more personalized messages tailored to where a customer is on their buying journey.

Plus, personalizing your offers and messaging is vital to business success. In fact, 63 percent of consumers won’t buy from brands that have poor personalization.

14. Keep messaging simple and on point

To keep customers subscribed to your SMS list, you must prevent them from feeling like they are getting spam or unwelcome messages. One way to do this is to make sure to keep your text marketing messages simple and on point.

There are a few ways to keep messages simple and on point, including:

  • Introduce your business in the message
  • Make the call to action clear 
  • Be concise 
  • Make the message easy to understand

​​According to Harvard Business Review, one of the biggest drivers of a customer’s decision to purchase a product or service is simplicity. As a result, keep your messages simple. 

The bottom line

Growing a healthy subscriber list is the first step in developing an effective SMS marketing program. The more SMS subscribers you have, the more likely you convince them to make a purchase. Consider implementing the tips outlined above to increase your subscriber list. Additionally, if you’re looking for more information about SMS marketing, read our list of “11 marketing campaign ideas.” 

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