SMS Marketing: Next
Level SMS Ads

SMS marketing, also known as SMS advertising, is the practice of sending targeted promotions, alerts, and transactional messages in bulk via text message.
Update June 2021: Mobile carriers have decided to end service for shared short codes. Any business with a shared short code has to switch to a 10-digit long code (10DLC) or dedicated short code.

If you’re an average American, you check your phone about 160 times a day. That’s once every 7 minutes.

And whether you own a business or you are using SMS for internal communication, this means your audience is doing the exact same thing. This is a huge reason why SMS marketing has a much higher open rate compared to traditional email. The convenience is there and overall studies say your recipients prefer it as a communication channel.

The stats themselves though are pretty useless without ideas, strategies, and templates to put together a high return SMS marketing campaign. That’s why we dug up several noteworthy brand’s SMS examples and the essential how-tos for you to refer to here. This is a tableside resource with several quick-starting downloads for both beginners and advanced SMS marketers. Let’s dive in.

The Biggest Update in SMS
Marketing in Years

Text messages have a much higher response rate than emails, traditional mail, and phone calls. And businesses take advantage of this with A2P messaging - or “application to person” texting. 

A2P messaging is an affordable and easy way for businesses to send hundreds of texts per minute to customers, leads, or employees that announce sales, updates, promotions, and so on.

Because normal phone numbers (10 digits including an area code) aren’t built for mass A2P messaging, many businesses use shared short codes to save time. 

But the word “shared” has a risky downside. 

Basically, wireless providers assign the same short code to hundreds or even thousands of businesses. And if one of those businesses breaks the CTIA short code rules (for example, with phishing or spam attempts), everyone gets in trouble. 

All accounts associated with that shared short code are suspended - and that’s a huge problem. 

So wireless carriers like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T have adopted a new SMS marketing strategy: ban short codes and make businesses transition to 10DLC (10-digit long code) messaging. 

Now businesses have to use a 10-digit local phone number that’s specific to them. In other words, if you own a brand and you want to send A2P marketing texts, you have to have your own “normal” phone number. If you’re subscribed to an SMS campaign, you should have recently received something like this:

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Bearaby: We're getting a new number! Look out for our new text from 1-833-240-1822, and if you have questions email us at, Reply STOP to stop
Carriers promise that 10DLC SMS will save businesses money and liability headaches in the long run, but making the switch can be expensive and complicated.


  • Better User Experience
  • Carriers will eventually block the shared short codes
  • Higher Message Volume
  • Cheaper than dedicated short codes
  • Can obtain local area code
  • Supports voice calls
  • More clear cut campaign tracking than shared short codes
  • Dedicated short codes have longer registration time


  • Shorter numbers are easier to remember
  • Registration process for each 10DLC number (takes about 24-48 hours to complete)
  • Approval is subject to the mobile carriers approving the application
  • If any info provided during application process is missing or wrong, application may be delayed significantly
  • 10DLC application process is required before sending out text messages
  • New $10 10DLC monthly fee per campaign that businesses must pay to the
Tip: Working with an SMS advertising software company with a strong support team should make this process less painful. They should be able to guide you through the application for your trust score, select your 10DLC local number, and help you get started using it in an actual campaign.

What is SMS Marketing? Fully Explained

SMS marketing stands for short message service marketing and is commonly used by businesses and organizations to increase engagement or sales.

Let’s start with two quick basics.

#1: SMS means "short message service" - it's what most of us call a text message.

#2: Businesses launch marketing campaigns to connect with leads and customers, increase engagement, pump up sales, and so on.

SMS marketing combines the two. All of the marketing goals are the same, but instead of emails and phone calls, SMS marketing does it with texts.

There are some rules you have to follow when you launch an SMS marketing campaign like opt-in permissions but don't worry, we'll get to this in a minute.

Why SMS Marketing Works So Well


If you send out an SMS blast, 90% of those texts are opened and read within three minutes.

Our brains light up like the Fourth of July when we get a text and triggers encourage the release of dopamine we get from it. That’s just the science behind it.

Benefits of SMS Marketing

At this stage in the game, most communication executives and advertising managers are already convinced that SMS marketing provides:
High Engagement Rates
High Open Rates
High ROI
Ease of Set-up
Sophisticated Tracking

The proof of concept stage that text marketing was in is no longer and its benefits are turning into common knowledge.

But there’s more to it than just texting everyone in your company contacts. There are different types of SMS marketing, ways to mobile-optimize your message, and strategies to maximize your investment. Let’s start with the basics. Or skip here if you’re looking to get more advanced.

How Does SMS Marketing Work?

SMS marketing has three major components:

  1. First, you mass text a list of potential customers, or members of a group, with an A2P messaging service. SMS marketing texts usually include a keyword, a code, and a disclaimer.
  2. Second, anyone who is interested in your promotion texts the keyword to the code you’ve provided. When they respond, this counts as an “opt-in”-they’ve given you their permission to send them marketing texts.
  3. Third, your A2P messaging service automatically responds to opted-in subscribers with an “opt-out” code. Opt-out codes let people unsubscribe if they want to at any point. Now you can message back and forth with opted-in subscribers to announce new products, send shipping updates, and so on.

The History of SMS Marketing

SMS marketing is one of today’s most popular channels, but it’s a relatively new fixture in the marketing world.

Its success is largely attributed to the growth of smartphone usage and the marketers who’ve learned how to mobile-optimize messages effectively. But how did SMS marketing come to be the channel we know and love today?

  • 1984: The Franco-German GSM corporation develops the modern text message but the first text message recorded isn’t sent until...
  • 1992: Neil Papworth sends Richard Jarvis at Vodafone a text (the very first SMS). 
  • 1999: Short codes (5- and 6-digits) are invented for bulk SMS. 
  • 2002: More than 250B SMS messages have been sent across the globe at this point. Major brands like Pontiac and Nike launch massive SMS marketing campaigns. And Eurovision introduces the first ever song contest in which viewers can vote — and this brings us to...
  • 2003: American Idol uses the first large scale text campaign which allows viewers to text in their votes. 
  • 2007: The first Apple iPhone is released and the number of text messages surpasses the number of phone calls. 
  • 2017: A2P updates announce a shift towards 10-digit long codes (10DLC) for bulk texts. 
  • 2019: Verizon is the first wireless provider to implement 10DLC.

The Rules of Permission-Based Marketing

Traditional marketing methods like advertisements, commercials, and billboards interrupt customers with messages and there is no real way to opt-out. 

When you drive down the highway and notice a billboard, you can not exactly close your eyes.. 

On the other hand, SMS marketing is permission-based. This means customers (or leads, employees, and so on) have to express written consent to receive marketing texts and they can opt-out at any time. 

Why does this extra step matter? Wha is the point of permission? 

When you give someone your consent, you build trust with them. So when someone entrusts your business with SMS marketing, they implicitly trust that you:

  • Will not bombard them with tons of spammy or unwanted messages
  • Will stop sending messages if they opt-out
  • Will only send messages that provide real value

And if you nurture this trust, you will yield higher engagement, higher open rates, and higher click rates compared to other marketing channels. 

Ladies and gents, the power of permission is real. Head over to our TCPA Compliance Guide to learn more about the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and what rules need to be followed when launching an SMS marketing campaign.

(855) 397-6679

Types of SMS Marketing Campaigns

Explore the different types of SMS marketing campaigns so you can plot a course for long-term success.

Think about what you want your campaign to accomplish, and use these ideas to get started.

#1: SMS coupons, deals, and promotions

Text coupon codes straight to your customers (or potential customers) that they can use online or in-store.

Remember to use codes that aren’t easy to guess. This prevents non-subscribers from stealing codes (which can muddy your campaign data or deter subscription). 

And you need to make it as easy as possible for subscribers to use your SMS coupon codes. For example, you can give subscribers the option to add codes to their digital wallets.

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Little Knots: Hi Little Knot babes! Today only our Little Knot Footies are Buy One Get One 50% off! Use code LKFOOTIES at checkout to apply the deal!

#2: Loyalty programs

Want to keep your subscribers coming back week after week? Build out a loyalty program that’s exclusive to your subscribers with rewards and incentives. What large companies tend to do, is promote a shortcode you text “APP” and it will send you a link to download their app, containing in-app purchases and a rewards dashboard.
With small to medium size businesses, they text promo codes directly to the user. This rewards repeat customers with discounts and free products at established milestones.
(855) 397-6679

#3 Automated custom messages

Send personalized messages that make each subscriber feel seen and valued. If your SMS list is built out with first names, try starting your message with a custom greeting. 

You can also include short videos and photos to preview exclusive products based on customer data. 

For example, if you offer two products and your customer base is split evenly down the middle (50% of customers prefer Product A, and the other half prefers Product B), you can segment your SMS list. Then, you can send two different SMS messages to two different groups for a customized feel.

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#4: Tracking and order updates

SMS makes it easy to send real-time order confirmations, shipping updates, and delivery notifications. 

This keeps your customers informed on their order status at every step of the fulfillment process.

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#5: Alerts and notifications

SMS isn’t just for customers, it’s for group members and staff too. Cancel a soccer tournament or a meeting. For HR, you can notify office staff of a building closure, a fire drill, and other emergency updates with a couple of clicks.

#6: Giveaways, contests, and sweepstakes

Text-to-win SMS campaigns increase brand awareness and real-time engagement - it’s a no-brainer.

Subscribers can sign up for a contest or sweepstakes to win a prize. You can give everyone who signs up a small prize, or run a lottery to choose a few winners for larger prizes. 

Plus, this is a great way to cross-promote with other products you offer or companies you partner with.

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#7: Surveys and polls

People want to share their opinions. And when you text a subscriber with a poll or survey, you'll likely get a 10% - 15% response rate - that's higher than the average 7% - 9% for email surveys. SMS is the ideal channel for subscriber feedback. All you have to do is make it as easy as possible for someone to answer your questions.
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#8: Event updates

That means fewer event no-shows, higher attendance rates, and a better event for everyone. 

If you’re in the event industry, you know how hard it is to get updates out. 

But with SMS, you can send mass reminders, tour dates, and cancellations to keep every single event attendee in the loop.

(855) 397-6679
Brooks & Dunn: Reboot 2020 tour with special guests Travis Tritt and Tucker Beathard.

Phoenix: 4/3:
Long Beach: 5/:15:
Pensacola: 5/23:
Dallas: 6/5:

Leveraging SMS For Revenue (Or Really, Anything Else)

#1: Get Subscribers

Your campaign’s success hinges on your subscribers - no subscribers, no campaign. This is why the first step to leveraging SMS for increased revenue is enticing people to opt in. 

Take a look at how companies encourage individuals to sign up and notice that each one is mobile-friendly.

How Bloomingdale's connects with fashionistas.
How American Airlines keeps passengers updated.
How the Olive Garden gets new diners.
How the Red Cross inspires subscribers to donate.

#2: Combine Email With SMS Marketing

There are different ways to use SMS vs. email, but advanced marketers should all know by now the best way to use them is together. Email marketing and SMS marketing are permission-based - your subscribers give you consent to message them with alerts, announcements, sales, coupons, and more. 

At your fingertips, there are many master marketers out there like John Lincoln who share how to boost conversions with SMS and email. Let’s break it down here for a visual.

SMS allows you to send succinct, quick bites of information and invites immediate responses.

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Emails are great for longer form messaging, often more frequent touch points.
Your calendar should have your SMS advertising supporting your marketing initiatives on the email side. Here’s a free SMS & Email calendar template to get you going.

#3 Track EVERYTHING: In Your SMS Marketing Software, in Google Analytics, in Your CRM

Relationships are critical for success:

  • Customer relationships
  • Employee relationships
  • Client relationships
  • Nonprofit relationships
  • Community relationships

You get the idea. No matter what your marketing or communication goals are, relationships are at the center of it all - and CRM (customer relationship management) platforms help you nurture those relationships.

Let's use HubSpot as an example. It's a sophisticated platform that pulls together hundreds of integrations for all your marketing needs - including your favorite SMS and email marketing providers - into a single spot.

This means you can analyze data across campaigns and channels in one location, and on one dashboard.

Google Analytics

Monitor website traffic and metrics


Keep an eye on email marketing performance


Review sales and revenue data

If you need more insight or want to dig into the details, you can always log in to each individual application.

Why does integrating SMS with other data points matter?

Because you have to track campaign progress.

If you don't track progress and metrics like open rates, engagement rates, and so on, you won't know what works for your brand.

SMS marketing is a great resource and it complements other marketing channels. And with powerful data analysis and reporting alongside other platform metrics, your brand will become unstoppable:

  • Consumer data helps you make informed decisions about the future of your brand
  • Data analysis lubricates the marketing funnel and makes it easier to transition leads into customers
  • Fine-tune your products and services with data on consumer behavior
  • Better understand what informs customer purchasing decisions
  • Identify why individuals and groups donate to nonprofit organizations
  • Find subscribers you haven't reached yet
  • Gain powerful insight into what motivates employees, volunteers, and other staff

Advanced Techniques for Data Centric SMS Campaigns

Now that we’ve got a tight grip on SMS foundations, let’s explore five advanced techniques you can use in your next campaign.

#1: Set Up Failover Keywords

What happens if a subscriber misspells your opt-in keyword? This is where failover keywords come in — they’re words that are common misspellings or iterations of your original keyword.

Here’s an example:



Failover Keywords:


If any of your subscribers texts back with a failover keyword, they’re still opted in to the campaign.

#2: Use Dynamic Expiration Dates

Clever marketers know how to create a sense of urgency, and we can find examples of this across nearly every marketing channel.

With SMS marketing, it’s no different. And you have a special tool in your kit, a dynamic expiration date. Dynamic expiration dates are specific to the time a subscriber opts in. 

So instead of all promo codes expiring at the same date and time (for example, midnight on July 4th), each subscriber’s code expires a certain number of hours or days after they opt-in.

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In 72 hours, I'm closing down my Memorial Day sale.

If you've been on the fence, your time's almost up!

#3: Segment For Better Experiences

Another advanced SMS marketing technique is list segmentation. To do this, you’ll need a list of subscribers and some extra information about each person like:

  • Age
  • Location
  • Opt-in Date
  • And so On
Then, segment your list by one of those factors and mass message each group, instead of every subscriber at once. This provides a personalized experience for your subscribers and increases your overall rate of redemption.

#4: Take advantage of link tracking software

To up your SMS marketing game, make sure you have link tracking enabled. This lets you track subscribers across different marketing channels and figure out metrics like click-through rate. 

Once you have detailed information about campaign performance, you can use that data to inform future campaigns.

#5: A/B Test Like There’s No Tomorrow

Test, test, test. Testing is one of the most effective ways to try out new techniques (like switching up a call-to-action) and compare results against a control group. What does this look like? 


Company XYZ uses SMS marketing to send out promo codes each week. Every message has the same call-to-action. 

Company XYZ wants to change the call-to-action (CTA) and find out if it will result in more code redemptions. 

Company XYZ halves their subscriber list and sends a message out with their original CTA to the first half. Then they send out the same message to the second half, but they’ve switched up the CTA. 

The updated CTA message yields 3.5% more code redemptions compared to the original CTA. In this example, A/B testing confirms that Company XYZ’s new strategy was a success.

Real Life SMS Examples

Businesses Using SMS Marketing (and Mistakes You Can Learn From)

The real reason there are entire feeds of SMS marketing connoisseurs is to get inspired, so let’s get inspired. Here are ways actual companies have applied SMS marketing, the goals, their texts, and their results.

Jersey Mike’s Subs increases sales with promotions, coupons, and special offers.

The problem:

  • Jersey Mike’s Subs used email marketing to send coupons and promotions to customers
  • The goal was to drive sales on slower days (like Mondays or rainy days)
  • Emails yielded about $1,500 in sales
SMS campaign details:

  • Jersey Mike’s Subs decided to invest in SMS marketing
  • Mass message thousands of subscribers with deals and coupons
  • Launch a “Sub Club” (customers subscribe to mobile messaging in exchange for coupon codes)
SMS campaign results:

  • Jersey Mike’s Subs earned over 6,000 Sub Club subscribers shortly after launching the SMS campaign
  • Sales on slower days jumped to over $3,000
  • Jersey Mike’s Subs now only invests in SMS marketing and has completely done away with emails
  • They now send thousands upon thousands of SMS marketing messages each month
  • Their subscriber list continues to grow each month and they consistently see high deliverability rates

Chick-fil-A rewards and retains customers with text-based loyalty programs.

The problem:

  • Chick-fil-A wasn’t seeing strong results with email coupons and discount codes
Chick-fil-A wasn’t seeing strong results with email coupons and discount codes

  • Chick-fil-A decided to build a loyalty program
  • Mass message opted-in subscribers with exclusive coupon codes and free items
  • Discount codes in exchange for app downloads or purchases
SMS campaign results:

  • Chick-fil-A yielded rapid results
  • The majority of opted-in customers read marketing text messages in three minutes of delivery
  • Chick-fil-A had more success with SMS coupons compared to email coupons

CottageCare creates trust amongst clients by sending personalized texts.

The problem:

  • CottageCare needed to increase sales and customer retention rates
  • The goal was to connect with customers in a meaningful way and cut through other marketing noise
SMS marketing campaign details:

  • Send customized SMS messages to over 50,000 customers on a weekly basis
  • Complete with personalized messages and photos
  • Two-way text and auto-respond capabilities
SMS campaign results:

  • Sales increased by 25% - 30%
  • Retention rates increased by 20%
  • SMS marketing is now a major component of CottageCare’s marketing arsenal

Walmart communicates important info to applicants regarding job openings.

The problem:

  • Email notifications to job seekers weren’t working
  • Not enough replies and slow responses
  • The goal was to optimize Walmart’s hiring process for thousands of open positions
SMS marketing campaign details:

  • Mass text potential applicants with job openings
  • Push job seekers to Walmart’s website
  • Make sure Walmart’s job posts shine through email inbox pollution
  • Let job applicants search and apply for jobs from their phone
  • Remind applicants about forms, interviews, and paperwork
SMS campaign results:

  • Text blasts drive job applicants to the Walmart Hiring Center website
  • Fewer interview cancellations
  • More accurate paperwork and forms
  • Jobs are filled faster and employees are paid faster

Parklife fined over distressing text messages.

The problem:

  • Parklife wanted to increase engagement with festival-goers and ticket sales for events
SMS marketing campaign details:

  • Send festival-goers text messages in mass
  • Messages are passed off as though they’re from the festival-goer’s mother
SMS campaign results:

  • The marketing text messages caused festival-goers with deceased mothers distress
  • Parklife is fined $82k+ by the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) for breaching privacy regulations

Your turn.
How to Actually Start an SMS Marketing Campaign (Without Any Regrets)

Ready to hop off the sidelines? Use these steps to set up your first SMS marketing campaign and get the ball rolling.

Automate SMS marketing

Before you begin, you’ll need an SMS marketing account (and an idea of what you want your campaign to accomplish). If you don’t already have one, you can sign up for a free trial with Textedly - it comes with your very own 10DLC and a keyword to start.

Step #1: Create your first campaign

Click the blue ‘New Message’ button and get ready to enter some details about your campaign.

Step #2: Choose a keyword

Pick something short and sweet. Try and tie it back to the theme of your campaign, but you can also use random letters and numbers if you wish.

Step #3: Create a welcome message

Compose a welcome message from scratch or choose a template. This is your opt-in message for new subscribers.
Remember to save your changes to continue to the next step.

Step #4: Choose phone numbers

If you have more than one 10DLC number, choose which account your message should send from. 

Then, manually add or upload the phone numbers you want to message.

Step #5: Compose and schedule your message

This is the campaign message subscribers see after they’ve opted-in. 

Include promotional details, upload photos, and more. Feel free to get creative and provide value to your subscribers.

After you’ve crafted your message, select the day and time you want it to send. You can also preview your SMS campaign before you launch to see how it looks on different mobile devices.

Step #6: Sit back and relax

That’s it! You can send your message immediately or schedule it in the future. After it’s launched, you can check on progress with Textedly’s report dashboard.
You can view data like:

  • Messages sent
  • Messages delivered
  • Subscribers
  • Unsubscribe counts
  • And more
Use your campaign performance data to develop another strategy and inform your next SMS marketing campaign.

SMS Marketing Templates

You’re probably already familiar with the many types of businesses that use SMS marketing. You can check templates for most of them here or to keep handy, get our master SMS templates download.