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SMS marketing: What it is, how to use it, and best practices

illustration of a customer receiving SMS content from different businesses
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Did you know that there’s an easy way to reach an audience of potentially billions? With SMS marketing, you can engage with your customers on the channel they most want to use. In fact, 89% of people say they want two-way conversations via messaging channels and apps rather than talking on the phone.

Using SMS as a part of your marketing strategy has never been a better idea for businesses of all sizes. 

Yet despite its unmatched potential for customer engagement, a majority of businesses still aren’t using SMS — which gives you a powerful edge. Find out how game-changing SMS can be to your marketing strategy!

What is SMS marketing?

Statistics show why texting works

SMS marketing is the act of sending marketing materials through text messages. With text message marketing, a business can share a variety of marketing and sales materials with customers, including: 

  • Promotions
  • News
  • New product rollouts
  • Shipping information 

Here’s an example of SMS marketing in action: If a customer has opted in, send them a text each week to remind them of your weekly specials. Include a link to your website or app so the customer can explore and order more of your products.

After a customer has placed an order, use SMS to send them product information, shipping updates, and a request to review their purchase.

Why savvy marketers love SMS marketing

SMS marketing benefits

Roughly 60% of marketers aren’t taking advantage of text message marketing, even though it’s a very personal and direct channel. On top of that, text message marketing is very affordable.

Marketers sending text messages love the speed and instant customer attention they provide. Last-minute sale? Send a quick text, and your subscribers know about it in moments. Announcing a new product? Plan an SMS message to go out when the rest of your campaign drops.

It’s easy to think that this kind of marketing costs a lot and takes forever to make it play nice with other systems, but that isn’t the case. SMS integrates into other marketing channels so well that you’ll have a hard time remembering what you did before! And so will your customers. 

Build trust by requiring an opt-in

One big reason that marketing professionals stand behind SMS marketing is that it’s permission-based. That means your customers have to opt in before you can send them messages.  

Why is that good? Because it means that they want to hear from you and that they believe in what you’re offering. It means they trust you! 

More flexibility for your business and customers

With SMS marketing, you’re only limited by your imagination. Along with sales and marketing announcements, you can integrate SMS into other parts of your business, for example, to inform customers about order statuses and tracking information. 

You could also send them a message with a link to their support ticket so they can access it wherever they are. You can even set up a chat bot to respond to the texts customers send to your support number.

Instant customer engagement

If you had to guess how often people check their phones each day, would you say a dozen times? Maybe 30 or 40 times? Try 90+ times per day. And when they do check it, they engage with SMS faster than almost anything else – 95% will read and respond within three minutes!

Easily scalable and cost-effective

Unlike expensive media buys or pay-per-click ads, you aren’t competing with anyone else when you send a text. You don’t have to worry that your text messages will never get sent, let alone seen. SMS messages are affordable and you don’t have to commit to a gigantic amount. 

Scale your text messaging marketing efforts as your subscribers and your business grow, and put your marketing dollars where they can do the most good – using texts as a vital part of your campaigns.

Powerful segmentation

Some forms of marketing are high-tech versions of someone standing on a street corner and shouting about their products. It's possible that the person on the street shouts for so long that 1,000 people hear them and only a handful of them actually need what they’re selling. 

With SMS marketing, it’s the opposite. It’s like people are coming up to you on the street and asking to learn more about your products. You get to know what their needs are and then you tell them how your products meet those needs.

SMS messages can direct your customers to personalized pages and offers based on who they are and how they’ve interacted with your brand in the past.

Supercharged KPIs 

And the kicker on top of these almost-unbelievable benefits? Almost unheard-of KPIs. SMS campaigns do better – they boast an open rate of 98% compared to 20% for emails.

When it comes to click-through rates for other types of marketing, you’re happy if you get 5% in some cases. According to SMS Comparison, text message marketing has an average CTR of 19%

Powerful ways to use text marketing

Ways to use SMS marketing

Now that you’ve seen the benefits of text marketing, let’s take a look at the ways you can make SMS work for your business. There are many simple, effective ways texts can boost engagement while increasing profits.  

Hyper-personalized promotions 

Everyone loves a deal, especially for something they were already interested in. Use SMS as a part of your omnichannel customer engagement strategy to send promotions based on a user’s unique history with your brand.

Discounts and specials

SMS messages are one of the fastest ways to tell your customers about discounts and special offers. The high open rate means that you’re likely to see high engagement with your specials, even if they’re last minute.

Offer incentives to encourage people to sign up. Send them one-time discounts, early access to new products, or other can’t-miss deals if they opt in.


Remarketing is one of the most important, and one of the most difficult parts of digital marketing. Remarketing ads and abandoned cart emails are still crucial, but nothing is as immediate as SMS remarketing messages.

Some examples of effective remarketing texts include:

  • Abandoned cart reminders: Include a special discount code to help the customer decide.
  • Purchase follow-ups: Send order and shipping status updates and find out if a customer is happy with what they bought. 
  • Review requests: Ask your customer for a review to help others find the right products from your company.

Loyalty programs and rewards

Who doesn’t want loyal customers? If you want to show them how much you appreciate them, make texts a part of your loyalty or rewards program. You can send discounts, reminders about special events, or other loyalty program information.

You can even integrate SMS messages into your app to reach out to the most loyal customers. Studies show that 90% of customers already say that they’ve gained value from SMS loyalty programs. There’s no reason not to make it happen!

Customer surveys and reviews 

Getting good feedback about your business is vital for growth and continuous improvement. While review sites let you see what people think of your business, they may not get to the heart of what you want to learn. Because they’re self-directed, you may not find out about a customer’s favorite features or how they learned about your company.

Customer surveys can do just that. You get to ask the questions that are most important to you: Ask about your latest marketing efforts, their purchases, or the support they received — your call! 

When you have your survey ready to go, an SMS message gets it to people fast. And remember: Send personalized surveys so you don’t blast your customers with questions that may not apply to them.

Then you’ll be able to make decisions based on real customer data. Use that data to build new campaigns, enhance customer experience, or otherwise improve your products and services.

Sending secure information

In the past, people shared secure information either in person or through the mail. While those are still viable options, they don’t help your customers right now. With text messaging, you can send secure information instantly and safely.

Use SMS as a part of a 2FA process or to help customers get back into their accounts. Send PINs, security alerts, and even appointment reminders.

How to start a successful text campaign today

SMS marketing examples

 The best way to get started with SMS marketing is with some subscribers and a CPaaS provider with a powerful but easy-to-use API — one that integrates seamlessly with other customer engagement tools. This ensures a smooth experience across all channels. 

Sign up subscribers

Customers have to opt-in for business text messages sent for marketing purposes. The TCPA and CAN-SPAM laws make it very clear how businesses need to request and get permission before messaging customers.

To stay compliant, use multi-step forms. Explain what a customer is signing up for (as well as the process for opting out) clearly. Not only will this spare you fines, but it will also reduce the number of opt-outs. Keep in mind that forms work best when you have versions optimized for mobile and desktop users.

And again, encourage people to sign up with a special discount or coupon code. 

Automate the essentials 

Successful SMS marketing starts with automation. Automating communication saves you time and ensures that your customers get the right messages at the right time. 

The most successful SMS strategies almost always have these automated messages set up:

  • Welcome campaign
  • Abandoned cart message
  • Browse abandonment message
  • Win-back campaign or inventory alerts

You’ll also be able to automate other campaigns based on unique criteria like purchase history, support tickets, and more.

Build out SMS marketing campaigns 

Text message marketing campaigns should complement your other marketing efforts. Here are some tips to get you started:

  • Limit the number of texts you send. Two or three SMS messages per week are usually enough to keep your subscribers in touch with your brand. 
  • Announce sales and specials via SMS. Most subscribers sign up to get access to special offers, so give them what they want! Holiday, birthday, and special occasion reminders are usually a safe bet, too.
  • Use SMS to promote new products. Make rollout announcements via texts and make subscribers feel like they have an inside line on the newest products and services!

Do’s and don’ts of SMS marketing

SMS marketing do's and don'ts

Building and maintaining a brand is all about communication. Text messages are a great way to communicate with customers on a channel that’s familiar and convenient. 

Below are some best practices that are guaranteed to take your SMS marketing efforts to the next level.

Offer relevant and personalized messaging

Personalize the messages you send based on each customer’s unique relationship with your brand. Use that data (demographics, purchasing habits, previous interactions) to make texts more personal.

Send immersive content with rich media

Add images, videos, and links that encourage your subscribers to interact with your texts right away. Rich media is a great choice if:

  • You’re introducing a new product and want to showcase its features visually
  • You want to invite customers to exclusive sales and events with a video and a link to a sign-up form where they can get more information
  • You have an endorsement from someone your customers trust; share the video or an image with the testimonial along with a link to the product.

Continue conversations across channels with an omnichannel strategy

An omnichannel strategy allows for texts to pick up where other methods left off. If a customer has a support ticket in, a text follow-up lets them know that you’re working on it. 

Don’t send messages to people who haven’t opted in

The laws around SMS messaging are tightly controlled, so make sure you only send messages to customers who’ve opted in. Give them a way to easily opt out, too.  And of course, the best way to avoid legal trouble and keep customers happy is to find a partner who makes it easy for you to stay on top of SMS compliance.

Don’t overload your customers with messages

One to three messages a week are enough to keep people engaged without being spammy. If you aren’t sure if you should send an SMS message, put yourself in their shoes.

Don’t forget your call to action

Texts are usually more conversational and informal, which makes it easy to forget your CTA. To see the best returns, make sure you’ve made it clear what you want subscribers to do.

Every text should drive action: 

  • Buying something 
  • Entering a giveaway 
  • Adding an appointment date to their calendar 

What to look for in an SMS marketing API

Text marketing helps improve customer satisfaction and can lead to a great ROI if you have the right platform — one that’s designed to help you succeed. 

Seamless integration

Your SMS API should integrate with your CRM and other marketing channels seamlessly. Without an API that works with your other channels, you may have to cobble together a system that requires a lot of effort to work.

Global compliance

A good SMS API will help you stay compliant with the rules and regulations of the areas where you’re marketing. This allows you to keep sending messages without getting fined.

An expansive network

A large network means a bigger reach. The bigger the reach, the more likely you are to see success. Sinch, for example, has a network of 600+ carriers. That means you can text anyone on the planet.

Customer insights 

Dynamic customer insights are one of the most useful parts of an SMS marketing system. Industry-leading CPaaS partners have solutions for streamlining customer conversations across channels and tracking campaign performance. That means no more guessing or waiting for surveys or for someone to compile data for you! 

Intelligent routing

The best SMS systems will look at all available options across networks and make smart decisions that keep costs low and delivery fast.

Local numbers

People are more likely to respond or engage with a number if it looks familiar to them. The right SMS marketing system provider will be able to set you up with 10-digit numbers (10DLC) or shortcodes of your own.

One- or two-way SMS texts

One- and two-way SMS texts let you connect with customers on their own terms. A good SMS partner will help you send and receive texts effortlessly with an intuitive interface and the support you need — whether you want to send one-way notifications, enable real-time conversations between customers and your live agents, or automate support.

Now that you know how powerful SMS marketing can be, isn’t it time to make texting a part of your strategy? 

If you’re looking for an SMS API that’s simple to integrate and can maximize the value of the channel, make sure to check out Sinch’s SMS API

SMS marketing infographic