The Complete SMS
Marketing Guide for 2021

What Is SMS Marketing?

SMS marketing (Short message service) is the practice of sending targeted promotions and transactional messages via text messages. These text messages help your business communicate alerts, updates and time-sensitive offers to people who have opted in to receive texts from your company.

According to a 2019 study by Asurion, the average American checks their phone 96 times a day that's once every 10 minutes! As people become increasingly attached to their phones, texting is now a direct (and preferred) communication line between businesses and customers.

These SMS mobile marketing statistics further prove the impact of SMS marketing:

  • 90% of leads prefer to be contacted via text rather than be called.
  • SMS messages have a 98% open rate compared to email's 20% open rate.
  • 90% of text messages are read within three seconds.
Would you like to know more about the benefits of SMS marketing, the different types of SMS marketing and SMS marketing best practices?

In our complete SMS marketing guide, we'll walk you through the major components of SMS marketing and reveal the top strategies for maximizing your investment.

Why Use SMS Marketing?

SMS marketing allows your business to instantly text message large audiences with just a few clicks and track performance. It's an appealing alternative to marketing channels like email, which are more expensive and time-consuming to set up.

SMS marketing is a multi-faceted marketing tool that can help your business to:

  • Increase sales with promotions, coupons and special offers.
  • Reward and retain customers with text-based loyalty programs. 
  • Generate buzz with text-to-win contests and sweepstakes.
  • Communicate important information to customers and employees.
  • Nurture leads with multiple touchpoints.
  • Provide customer support with 2-way communication.
Pro tip: SMS marketing messages are typically limited to 160 characters (though companies like Textedly enable you to send SMS texts over 300 characters).

Why Is SMS Marketing Effective?

SMS has a stellar reputation in the marketing industry for a few key reasons:

  • Nearly everyone has a mobile device. 96% of Americans own a cellphone, and 88% of smartphone users primarily use their devices for texting.
  • Text messages have higher response rates. How high? SMS response rates are 209% higher than phone, email, or Facebook.
  • SMS marketing has a high ROI. 29% of SMS recipients click on links in the texts they receive, and 47% of those go on to make a purchase. That's close to a 14% conversion rate.
  • It's versatile and works in virtually any industry. Communicate any message, from promotions and sales to appointment reminders, shipping updates, events and more.

And yet, there are still more opportunities to be explored:

  • 83% of consumers would like to receive appointment reminders via text, but only 20% of businesses send them.
  • 60% of customers want to text businesses about customer support issues.
  • 54% of consumers would like to receive promotions via text message, but only 11% of companies send them.

What Is Permission-Based Marketing?

SMS marketing is a form of permission-based marketing, which means customers need to give their express written consent to receive marketing texts. Permission-based marketing establishes trust between your business and your customers.

Traditional marketing methods like ads, commercials and billboards attempt to interrupt consumers, constantly bombarding them with unwanted messages.

Permission-based marketing breaks through the noise because the audience has expressed specific interest in receiving messages from your company. They're genuinely interested in hearing from you, which means higher engagement, click rates and open rates.

What Are Some SMS Marketing Use Cases?

SMS has countless use cases for businesses that want to reach their customers quickly and effectively.

  • Promotions: Retailers and ecommerce businesses can use SMS to promote limited-time offers and share discount coupons.
  • Tracking & Order Updates: Send real-time order confirmations, shipping updates and delivery notifications via SMS to keep customers informed on the status of their purchases.
  • Appointment Reminders: For businesses that rely on appointments, sending automated reminder texts is a great way to make sure customers show up at the right time.
  • Event Updates: Planning and executing an event involves many moving parts. Use SMS to send reminders, updates and cancellations to keep event attendees in the loop.
  • Internal Alerts: SMS alerts can also help you communicate urgent messages such as office closures and emergency updates to your staff.
  • Giveaways & Contests: Promote exciting giveaways and competitions via text-to-win SMS campaigns to increase brand awareness and real-time engagement.
  • Surveys: SMS surveys have a 10-15% response rate, compared to 7-9% for email surveys, making it an ideal channel for timely customer feedback.

What Types of Businesses Benefit From Using SMS Marketing?

Any business can reap the rewards of SMS marketing. Some industries that are ideal targets for SMS marketing include:

Benefits of SMS Marketing

SMS marketing can enhance your marketing efforts across different channels, reaching customers more effectively and for a fraction of the cost.

Some key benefits of SMS marketing include:

  • Cost-effective: Low financial risk in getting started. 
  • Near-instant delivery: No internet connection required.
  • High open rates: Text messages get opened 78% more than email.
  • Low spam rate: Opt-in process lowers unsubscribe rate.
  • High response rates: People respond to SMS campaigns in 90 seconds on average.
  • Ideal for businesses in every industry: SMS handles a wide range of business needs.
  • Extensive use cases: SMS can be used for internal and external communication.
  • Universal inbox access: No software worries - SMS can be sent to any mobile device.
  • Wide demographic: Most people, young and old, now text. Reach anyone, anywhere.
  • Complements other marketing channels: SMS is the perfect complement to email marketing.
  • Highly trackable: Mobile metrics help you determine response rates.
  • No extensive marketing skills required: Marketing campaigns can be set up quickly and easily.

Benefits of SMS Marketing
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Types of SMS Marketing Campaigns

What can SMS look like for your business? Learning about different types of SMS marketing campaigns will help you plot a course for long-term success.

  • Text promotions: Send your customers discounts or special deals.
  • SMS coupons: Send mobile coupons for online or in-store purchases.
  • Text-to-win competitions: Generate excitement with free products or gift cards.
  • Loyalty programs: Reward repeat customers with discounts or free products at established milestones. 
  • SMS alerts and notifications: Let your customers know about product arrivals, restocks, events or updated store hours. 
  • Personalized text messages: Send customized messages that make customers feel seen and valued.

Types of SMS Marketing Campaigns
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SMS Marketing Basics and Terminology

Before setting up your SMS campaign, it's important to familiarize yourself with some key SMS marketing terminology:

  • Opt-in and opt-out: The process subscribers take to sign up to receive text messages from your business or stop receiving them.
  • Shortcode: A 5- or 6-digit number associated with your business.
  • Keyword: A unique word that users text your business to opt in to your SMS campaign.
  • Disclaimer: A legal notice that subscribers must see at signup, detailing that text message and data rates may apply.

The Basics of SMS Marketing
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Text Marketing Best Practices

Launching an SMS campaign can drive significant sales and customer engagement. However, there are a few best practices you should know to ensure your campaign's success: 

  •  Always get permission. 
  • Specify the type of program or campaign at opt-in. 
  • Give people a compelling reason to subscribe. 
  • Promote your campaign with shortcodes. 
  • Abide by texting regulations to avoid fines. 
  • Give purpose to each message. 
  • Use clear, everyday language. 
  • Easily let subscribers opt out. 
  • Be considerate of timing and frequency. 
  • Enable two-way texting. 
  • Measure and improve your text marketing strategy. 
Text Marketing Best Practices
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 Are you ready to learn more? In the next chapter, we'll take a deeper look at the top benefits of text marketing to understand why SMS marketing is such an impactful business tool.

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Benefits of SMS Marketing