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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.  

Consumers spend more and more time on their mobile devices, and they love hearing from businesses by SMS. In fact, 89% of people say they want two-way conversations via messaging channels and apps rather than talking on the phone. 

In this article, we’ll go through what SMS marketing is, its benefits, and how it can be game-changing for your marketing strategy. Let’s dive in! 

What is SMS marketing?

Short Message Service (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 are a few ways you might use SMS text marketing: 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. 

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

Done correctly, SMS marketing can amplify your brand and strengthen your relationships with your customers. 

Types of SMS marketing

There are many different types of SMS marketing campaigns, but here’s a quick breakdown of a few important kinds of messages you might come across as you prepare your SMS marketing strategy.


Promotional text messages

Promotional SMS messages advertise products, services, deals, coupons, or events to a subscriber base. Marketers use promotional messages to drive sales, increase brand awareness, or engage customers. They often include calls-to-action like making a purchase, visiting a website, or taking advantage of a limited-time offer. 

For example, a retailer might send their most engaged subscribers promotional retail messages when they launch a new product or exclusive deal. 


Transactional text messages

Transactional SMS messages are operational in nature and provide a customer with information like order confirmations, shipping notifications, account updates, and payment details. They aren’t necessarily marketing-focused, but will keep customers informed about purchases, accounts, or transactions related to your business. 

An ecommerce site might send a transactional text message about delivery options after a purchase, or maybe a bank will send transactional SMS in times of fraud when they detect suspicious credit card activity.

transactional vs promotional SMS marketing messages

Transactional SMS, considered operational in nature, is for communicating essential information. Meanwhile, promotional SMS contain advertisements, offers, discounts, and other marketing messages. 

Benefits of SMS marketing

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. Here are a few reasons why SMS is a must-have for your mobile marketing program.


1. Instant reach

If you had to guess how often people check their mobile phones each day, would you say a dozen times? Maybe 50 or 60 times? 

Try 140+ times per day. And when SMS is supported by every mobile device in the world (that’s 7.3 billion people!), it’s truly the ultimate way to reach your audience quickly and reliably.


2. Supercharged KPIs

SMS marketing campaigns top the charts in terms of high-result KPIs, with text campaigns having an open rate of 98% compared to 20% for email marketing campaigns. 

Other types of well-performing marketing channels have click-through-rates of about 5%. According to SMS Comparison, text message marketing has an average CTR of 19%. Clearly, when it comes to captivating, connecting, and engaging customers, SMS text marketing reigns supreme!


3. Scalable and cost-effective

SMS empowers marketers to send messages without many barriers. Unlike crowded, pay-per-click or social media ads, SMS ensures visibility and readability of your marketing messages. What's even better? With SMS, you can get your point across to two customers or to your entire SMS subscriber list – feel free to send only as many messages as you need to keep costs in check. 

SMS marketing benefits

SMS marketing has several business benefits: It's scalable, engaging, and offers real-time communication with your customers. 

SMS marketing best practices 

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.  

Before you kickstart any type of mobile marketing campaign, you’ll need to build a list of phone numbers of people who have given you permission to send them SMS messages. You should only be sending messages to people who have given you the green light to contact them. 

Remember that just because a customer subscribes to transactional updates, they haven’t subscribed to promotional marketing messages unless they’ve given you explicit consent.  

Of course, we aren’t lawyers and none of this information constitutes legal advice, so it’s important to consult with your legal team before starting any new SMS marketing program. 

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


1. Make it easy to opt in (and opt out!) 

Like email marketing, SMS marketing requires clear consent. When sending both promotional and transactional messages, it’s important to give subscribers clear opt-in and opt-out instructions. In the U.S., TCPA and CAN-SPAM laws make it very clear how businesses need to request and get permission before messaging customers. 

Crafting an efficient SMS opt-in process that includes a clear explanation of what subscribers are signing up for lays the foundation for a strong, engaged SMS list. Provide easy methods for subscribers to join, like filling out a pop-up form or texting a keyword like “subscribe” or “join” to a short code or phone number. After subscribing, send them a confirmation text to reinforce their interest. This double opt-in approach respects their preferences and maintains the value of your messages. Plus, it allows them to easily unsubscribe if they choose to do so.


2. Offer a relevant, personalized message

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

By tailoring messages to your target audience, you’re not just sending messages – you're forging a genuine connection. Whether you send them a “happy birthday” message, a product recommendation, or an exclusive offer, these personalized messages will show your customers that you’re not just talking at them but talking to them!


3. Timing is everything!

Be wary of time zones, as sending text messages at the right moment ensures you’re not reaching customers with a late-night and possibly intrusive notification. 

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. Think about what would genuinely grab your attention and enhance your experience with the brand. It's all about balance – delivering value without overwhelming their inbox.


4. Automate the essentials

A successful SMS strategy will start with marketing automation so that your customers get the right messages at the right times.  

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

  • Welcome campaign 

  • Cart abandonment 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. 


5. Keep it short

Text messages need to be short and sweet. With just 160 characters to get your point across, brevity is a necessity in SMS marketing – and exceeding this limit to even 161 characters will cost you the price of two text messages rather than one. 

Want to learn more? Check out more on SMS pricing for details.


6. Don't forget your call-to-action

Texts are usually 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  

  • Using a coupon code 

  • Adding an appointment date to their calendar


7. Test, measure, and optimize your campaigns

There are two key elements of your campaign that you should be looking to optimize: delivery and messaging.  

The key to optimizing delivery is to choose the right SMS provider that can deliver outstanding performance and that’s optimized for high deliverability and low latency. They should also be able to meet your compliance and security needs, so they can make sure you can reach customers wherever they are.  

For message optimization, you can try A/B testing to compare different variables (like copy, visuals, or offers), to determine what resonates best with your audience. In case you need some inspiration, here are some SMS templates to help you get started with testing your messaging.

SMS marketing do's and don'ts

SMS marketing dos and don'ts for a successful campaign that drives conversion.

Powerful text marketing strategies to try (with examples!)

Now that you’ve seen the benefits of text marketing and know some of the best practices to get started, let’s take a look at some of the ways top global brands have used SMS to boost engagement while increasing profits. 


1. Customer 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, promos, reminders about special events, or other information. 

This is exactly what Nordic beauty retailer Parfym.se has done to send segmented, personalized SMS campaigns to their customers. They do this for time-sensitive campaigns like flash sales, often seeing 98% or higher open rates with SMS!  

For even more impact, you can even integrate SMS messages into your app to reach out and engage the most loyal customers. There’s no reason not to make it happen!


2. Hyper-personalized promotions

Everyone loves a deal, especially for something they were already interested in. Use SMS to send special offers based on a user’s unique history with your brand. 

Check out how Nissan Europe uses a personalized SMS messaging strategy to re-engage their loyal customers with relevant offers based on their maintenance needs or even based on the weather forecast. 

Nissan SMS marketing campaign example

Nissan Europe uses Rich SMS messaging to send customers hyper-personalized reminders and offers.

These hyper-targeted mobile messages had a conversion rate of nearly 80% and helped the brand quadruple customer engagement. Now those are some fantastic results!


3. Discounts, specials, and seasonal sales

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

Using this strategy across multiple channels is a great way to drive engagement. For example, Vail Resorts, the leading global mountain resort operator, created a targeted opt-in SMS program that runs alongside their email marketing programs.  

The resort sends subscribers interested in snow reports targeted offers on lift tickets. This strategy has had a direct business impact with increased engagement rates and purchase rates as opposed to only using one marketing channel. 

Vail Resorts SMS marketing example

SMS marketing allows Vail Resorts to immediately grab their customers’ attention with messages they know will resonate.

Seasonal sales during Black Friday is a prime opportunity to capture attention and build trust with customers using SMS marketing. You can also offer incentives to encourage people to sign up for your communications, or send them one-time coupons, early access to new products, or other can’t-miss deals if they opt in. 

Looking for more Black Friday inspiration? Check out what we learned from surveying over 2,000 people worldwide about how they want to hear from brands during Black Friday/Cyber Monday, and then take those learnings to help shape your BFCM marketing strategy.


4. Remarketing

Remarketing is one of the most important, and one of the most difficult parts of digital marketing. Remarketing ads and cart abandonment 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.  

Want a real-life example? Delivery services like Budbee use SMS to send order updates and delivery options, keeping their customers exceptionally happy and informed.

“SMS has been a vital part of our service since day one, it’s considered more personal than email or a push notification. By implementing SMS, customers get the full Budbee experience with no extra effort.” - Axel Möller, CTO of Budbee.

This personal touch not only delights customers, but keeps costs in check.


5. 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.


6. Sending secure information

Text messaging helps get important messages to your customers right away, without them having to deal with unnecessary paperwork or delays. For example, you can use SMS as a verification tool to help customers get back into their accounts. You can also use it to send PINs, security alerts, and even appointment reminders. 

Here’s how that works in practice: Banks like Triodos Bank Spain use SMS to send one-time passwords (OTPs) to users’ registered mobile numbers when they detect fraudulent login attempts. With SMS, Triodos Bank has been able to verify customer accounts at scale and keep fraud at bay. 

Triodos Bank SMS marketing example of a transactional text message

Triodos Bank sends approximately 250,000 text messages per month to verify customers’ identities and transactions. 


7. Use SMS marketing as part of your omnichannel strategy

SMS is just one channel that should be a part of your omnichannel marketing strategy. While SMS shines with its quick delivery and broad reach, it’s essential for you to blend it with other channels.  

Channels that allow for rich media, like Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) or Rich Communication Services (RCS) provide you an opportunity to deliver visually engaging content to those who can receive them, while channels like email remains a powerful tool for delivering longer-form, detailed messages.  

Our recommendation? Embrace a holistic approach to your marketing efforts, integrating different channels that help create diverse, impactful messages that resonate with your audience at every touchpoint. This integration will help you maximize engagement and drive the most results for your business.  

Get started with SMS marketing today

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

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. For an in-depth look at what you need to consider to choose the right one, check out our guide on everything you’ve ever wanted to know about an SMS API

And, when you’re ready, contact us to learn about how Sinch’s easy-to-integrate SMS API can help with all your marketing needs.

SMS marketing infographic