SMS Marketing: Uses, Examples, & Best Practices

SMS Marketing

Thinking about adding SMS marketing to your mix? You’re in the right place.

SMS or text message marketing is a powerful tool that can be a great addition to your funnel, but you need to be careful with how you use it. Bombarding people with messages on their personal devices is a sure way to sour your customer relationships.

We’re going to give you an overview of what SMS marketing is, talk about some of the best ways to start using SMS marketing and give you a few recommendations on how to get started.

By the end of this blog, you’ll have everything you need to know to add SMS marketing to your marketing mix.

Onward and upward.

What Is SMS Marketing?

SMS or text message marketing is when companies and brands use phone numbers supplied by customers to reach out with product, sales, and content messages.

Anytime a customer offers a phone number and “opts-in” to receive text messages, they and the brand are participating in SMS marketing. SMS marketing is a popular way to deliver appointment-based messages, run contest giveaways, and offer automatic transactional messages.

Is SMS Marketing Effective?

Like most marketing tools, oftentimes it’s not the medium or channel that is or isn’t effective, it’s how good you are at matching your product and message to your customer’s needs or desires. SMS marketing can be incredibly effective, but it can also turn off your customers — the same way a good TV ad can make or break your business.

What SMS marketing is known for is its open rate — almost everyone reads every text that comes to their phone, with some reports estimating that 98% of all texts get read.

That’s what makes this such a powerful tool, but that power can swing both ways. People have less patience for ads in such a personal space, so you have to be timely and relevant or risk being blocked or unsubscribed from.

When to Use SMS Marketing

The way a restaurant chain uses SMS marketing will be different compared to how a SaaS company or entertainment company uses SMS marketing. Its capabilities and uses are broad, but here are a few common ways people use SMS marketing to get the ball rolling:

  • Contests or giveaways. SMS marketing is a great way to drop links and pull customers into exciting contests.
  • Flash sales. It’s awesome for limited or rotating inventory businesses, both offline and online.
  • Booking confirmations. Any appointment or consultation-based businesses can benefit from auto-confirmations and reminders.
  • Customer order/delivery updates. Most of us are familiar with Amazon’s SMS marketing letting us know when our order has arrived or if it’s delayed. How can you emulate this information-based tactic in your own business?
  • Internal messaging at large companies. SMS marketing isn’t only about external communication. When a company is large enough, sometimes email isn’t fast or thorough enough. If the office is closed or a big announcement needs to be made, texting everyone can be the best route to ensure they see it.
  • Content updates. This works best for companies who make their money through content, but you could announce a new video, podcast, or blog through text if the audience is devoted enough and is looking forward to hearing from you, e.g. a podcast that releases every two weeks and lets listeners know that a new episode is up.
  • For meet-and-greets. A clever SMS marketing tactic is to use texting for meet-ups or VIP events. This allows you to capture the phone number for future marketing and offers a simple experience for customers. For example, if you were playing a show or hosting a conference, you could have a “text this number” to a free meet and greet giveaway after the show. You could also use this functionality to message details to VIP purchasers and follow up with them with photos or extra content after the event.

Benefits of SMS Marketing

The benefits you can get from SMS marketing will depend entirely on your industry and how you choose to build it into your funnel, but here are some of the ways businesses benefit from implementing SMS marketing.

1. Can Decrease Appointment No-Shows

Appointment confirmations and reminders via text will increase the number of people who show up on time to your appointments.

2. Can Increase Local Foot Traffic to Businesses

SMS marketing works really well with localized and timely discounts. An easy example of this is a holiday announcement. Say you were a local donut shop and had a limited release donut for Father’s Day. Let’s say it’s a yellow and pink Simpsons donut called the Homer. You could send a text out to everyone who lives nearby with something that says:

Happy Father’s Day from What’s Up Dough! We are celebrating with a ONE DAY limited Homer Simpson Donut — key-lime pink icing with sweet cream. YUM. Drop by now! We usually sell out by 12! Much love.

A marketing move like that is bound to increase foot traffic in your business, and data backs up that assumption: Dynmark quoted that 29 percent of SMS marketing recipients click on links in SMS messages they receive, and 47 percent of those go on to make a purchase. That’s a conversion rate worth paying attention to.

3. Gives Incentives to Loyal Customers

Similarly, you could segment your customers by loyalty, customer longevity, etc., and reward those customers. You can make this fun by saying something like:

Don’t let anyone say you aren’t consistent — did you know that you are part of an elite group of coffee lovers who have ordered the exact same drink: cold brew with oat milk for the last 2 years? Wow. To reward that dedication, we’re giving you a free one — on the house! Just drop by and show this text!

This is a great example of how to make these texts more personal and interesting.

4. Gives an Outlet to Send Critical Information

You need to be careful not to overuse texting, but if your hours have changed significantly or if you’ve had another substantial update like a new product, service, or location, then SMS text messages are a perfect channel to deliver that information.

5. Provides Direct Service to Customers

If you set up your phone line to be two-way, you can also use texting as a direct support line and enable your customer service professionals to be even more hands-on.

How to Start Using SMS or Text Message Marketing

There is no shortage of SMS marketing software, and SMS marketing generally falls into two camps: text message marketing campaigns and transactional auto-responders.

Most official SMS marketing services give you the option to do both, but some shopping SaaS companies allow you to send auto-text confirmations, etc. but don’t allow you to be more granular. Look at your existing stack and see if a service you’re already using allows you to do SMS marketing.

If not, then consider the following options.

1. Twilio

Twilio has been at the top of the pack for multi-channel messaging for years, and their integrations, developer community, and customization features are the real deal.

Key Features

  • Interest-based texting and communication
  • Works hand-in-hand with other messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger
  • Serves as an all-in-one solution for customer communication

Ideal for

Enterprise or established businesses with complex interest messaging and channel needs.

Pricing

They bill entirely off of messaging — whether that’s phone calls, texts, video chats, etc. The rates change for each, and they also offer bulk pricing.

2. EZ Texting

EZ Texting has been a power player in SMS marketing since 2004. Their partnerships, integrations, and resources make it worth looking over.

Key Features

  • Keyword-based texting lists
  • Drip campaigns
  • Recurring messages
  • Sign-up forms
  • Reminders
  • Picture capabilities
  • 1-on-1 chat functionality
  • Link shorteners
  • Personalization

Ideal for

Companies that already have a CRM, customer database, etc., and are solely looking to add text messaging marketing to their business.

Pricing

Starts at $19/month but scales up according to reach and frequency of messages. Rates average out to around $0.04 per message after you exceed your plan’s message ceiling.

3. ActiveCampaign

ActiveCampaign is one of my favorite CRMs and is always releasing new features around email marketing, SMS marketing, and contact database management.

Key Features

  • Text-based automation
  • Appointment Reminders
  • Builds seamlessly into the CRM and email marketing platforms
  • Can easily combine SMS automation with email automation and trigger based on behavior
  • Fantastic service and onboarding

Ideal for

Companies that haven’t settled on a CRM and want to centralize all of their marketing software. Or, for companies who want to have a lot of freedom over how they build their automation across multiple channels.

Pricing

SMS Marketing starts at a base of $49/month and scales up with the number of contacts and messages you send out.

4. Sendinblue

Sendinblue is another complete marketing SaaS service with email marketing at its heart. If you’re looking for an email marketing service and want text capabilities included, then they could be for you. If you’re already happy with your email marketing system, then I’d go elsewhere.

Key Features

  • Interacts directly with their CRM
  • Time and behavior-based text messaging
  • Personalization
  • Reporting and Analytics
  • Transactional Emails

Ideal for

Similar to ActiveCampaign, Sendinblue is an all-in-one marketing software aimed at consolidating your contact management and marketing automation. It’s not nearly as complex as something like Twilio and is a better fit for smaller businesses. Take a look at each platform’s integrations to see what the best fit is for you.

Pricing

Their automation features start at around $65/month and scale up according to email and text volume.

Most of these companies have a litany of integrations that your existing marketing stack can plug into, so make sure that whatever company you choose will play nicely with your stack, otherwise, you will have a harder time using it to its full potential.

It’s also worth noting that most of these companies offer free trials, so it’s a good idea to hop in and see which one you like working in.

Best Practices for SMS Marketing

While SMS marketing is fairly broad, there are definitely ways to do it poorly and even illegally. Here are few best practices to make sure you start off on the right foot.

1. Never send a text to someone who hasn’t explicitly opted in.

Collecting and texting people without their permission is against the law. For the safest and best practice, always have the texting system be opt-in and confirm their subscription in the first text. More on this in the next point.

2. Be aware of text opt-in laws.

According to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, you have to follow anti-spam policies when conducting SMS marketing. This includes guidelines that say you should:

  • Always make it permission-based
  • Always provide information on how to opt-out in each exchange
  • Always mention your company name
  • Disclose any carrier costs
  • Never message about sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, or tobacco

3. Only use it in highly specific situations.

Again, texting people is a tool that should not be considered lightly. There is no quicker way to annoy someone than by overloading them with texts. Be smart, timely, and always think about your customer’s perception and experience when using text message marketing.

4. Use personalization and be human.

This is especially important for small businesses. Call your customers by their names, write as if they were coming from someone they know, and try to be as relevant as possible. Relevancy can be related to time (e.g., not sending a coupon about caffeine after 5 PM), being aware of where they are in their customer lifecycle with you, what they purchased last, holidays, etc.

In short, always try to tie each text to as much data as possible.

5. Remember time zones and don’t send during weird hours.

A classic SMS marketing mistake is to send out a slew of texts at 8 AM EST… which would be 5 AM PST. Always make sure you are sending at the appropriate time across time zones.

6. Use geography and event-based thinking.

SMS is really great when you use location and timing to your advantage. For example, if you’re a hot dog stand company with dozens of stands around a football stadium, you could time a text to all of the tipsy fans on your list leaving the stadium and give them a $1 off coupon for a dog.

7. Plug it into your existing funnel.

Look at SMS marketing as another piece of your marketing machine. I like to sketch out my entire funnels from the top down using software like Funnelytics to get the big picture. You want to make sure that each channel you’re using is working with each other, otherwise, you risk annoying your customers with too many messages or with repeat messages and causing damage to your customer experience and reputation.

8. Make each text actionable.

People don’t like to be interrupted for no reason. Make sure there is a clear and obvious benefit to be found within the text you send, and tie that directly to your call-to-action.

The Bottom Line on SMS Text Message Marketing

With the right strategy and preparation, SMS marketing can be a great tool for your business. My advice is to analyze your existing marketing funnel and identify some specific places where you could add SMS marketing in. Once you’ve identified those places, sign up for a service that is most friendly toward your existing and/or ideal tech stack and begin building out your initial campaigns.

Remember. Strategy first — always.

Good luck.

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About the Author
Nathan Phelps is a Content Marketing Specialist for Permission.io. He is the founder of Crafted Copy, a boutique content company, and specializes in writing for SaaS, cryptocurrency, marketing, and general tech. His writing is released and seen by thousands every week, and he is currently building a music productivity startup out of his home office in Nashville, TN.
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