Types of SMS Marketing

Before you dive straight into your first text marketing campaign, it's helpful to know a few basics. Understanding what you can do with SMS marketing and the correct terminology to describe its components will help set you up for success.

An SMS marketing campaign allows your organization to send text marketing messages or other communications to subscribers who have opted in to hear from you.

Unlike texting a contact from your personal device, SMS marketing campaigns are set up and managed using an online SMS marketing. You can schedule and plan a series of messages to communicate exclusive offers, events, sales or important notifications to customers.

In this article, we'll cover the main types of SMS marketing to help you understand the best tools and strategies for texting your customers.

Types of SMS Marketing Campaigns

1. Text Promotions

One of the most common types of SMS marketing, promotions involve sending customers special deals or discounts on your product or service. SMS promos are usually time-sensitive to create a sense of urgency.

2. SMS Coupons

Similar to a promo, SMS coupons offer a discount on a product or service for customers. Coupons may have a longer expiry date and are often sent in MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) form.

Make SMS coupons visually appealing, leveraging custom graphics or QR codes to boost in-store traffic or online purchases.

3. Text-to-Win Competitions

Text-to-win SMS campaigns allow customers to enter a contest by simply responding to your text. A random generator will choose the winners after the contest entry date expires.

You can give away anything from a gift card or free product to a complimentary dental cleaning or hair cut. It’s a simple and effective way to get customers engaging with your business.

4. Loyalty Programs

Did you know 75% of consumers would actively engage with loyalty programs if rewards were accessible on mobile devices?

Loyalty programs work by encouraging customers to make a purchase or referral and rewarding them with free products or discounts at certain milestones.

Loyalty programs build long-term relationships with your customers and make them feel special, resulting in higher customer lifetime value.

5. SMS Alerts & Notifications

You can use SMS alerts to send all sorts of marketing messages to your customers, such as:

Because SMS messages are typically restricted to 160 characters, you can insert a shortened URL into your message to direct customers to your website for more information.

6. Personalized Text Messages

Promotional text messages can come across as impersonal and cold. Personalized SMS campaigns enable you to send text messages that change based on each contact’s name, purchase history, birthday and more.

Many SMS marketing platforms allow you to segment your audience into lists, so you can send personalized content and offers to people with different interests.

SMS Marketing Basics & Terminology

Before you jump into SMS marketing, you should be familiar with these terms and features:

Opt-In and Opt-Out

Customers can use opt-in and opt-out keywords to subscribe and unsubscribe from your text message list.

Example: “Text PIZZA to 28913 to opt in. Text STOP to opt out.”


A shortcode is a 5 or 6-digit phone number made specifically for your SMS marketing.

Shortcodes are regulated and held to a much higher standard than "long codes," which are traditional 10-digit phone numbers. These numbers are purposely short, so they're easy to remember and type. All SMS marketing programs require you to use shortcodes to streamline the opt-in process and protect you from legal implications.

Example: “Text ICECREAM to 39258 for our weekly flavors!”

Pro Tip: Many countries, including the US, don’t allow sender information to be changed. Your shortcode, not your business, will always appear as the sender. Include your company name in the body of every message, so recipients remember who’s texting them.


A keyword is a unique word that is relevant to your business. Users can text the keyword to your shortcode to opt in to your SMS list.

Each marketing list should have its own keyword. For example, if you own a dessert shop, you might reserve the keyword “ICECREAM” so customers can sign up to receive text alerts when you get new flavors.

SMS Keyword Example


An auto-reply is an automated text message that gets sent to a subscriber after they've texted your keyword to a particular shortcode. Auto-replies confirm the subscription and let customers know that they successfully joined an SMS marketing list. Each keyword typically has one auto-reply associated with it.

Good auto-replies contain four key elements:

  • Subscription confirmation
  • Value-add or perk for joining the list
  • Expected message frequency
  • Opt-out instructions

Example: “Thanks for joining Joe’s Ice Cream Shop text club! Get weekly updates on new flavors. Up to 4 msgs/month. Txt STOP to unsubscribe.”

Promotional Message

A promotional message is a marketing text message sent to increase sales or raise awareness about your product or business. You must obtain express written consent to send promotional texts to your customers.

Transactional Message

A transactional message is a non-marketing automated SMS message that businesses send to their customers. Transactional messages contain details that are necessary for customers to use your product or service, such as order confirmations, appointment reminders and delivery updates.


A disclaimer is a legal notice that notifies consumers that text message and data rates may apply when they subscribe to your SMS campaign. It informs subscribers that their mobile carrier may charge them for receiving your text message.

SMS Disclaimer Example Message

Putting SMS Marketing Basics to the Test

Anyone can whip up a quick text message campaign and hit ‘Send.’ But if you want to maximize your success, you’ll want to be familiar with some good practices specific to the type of text marketing that suits your audience.

Now that you know the most popular types of SMS marketing campaigns, it’s time to read up on some tried-and-tested best practices for creating SMS marketing campaigns that customers love.

Next Chapter:

Text Marketing Best Practices