what is sms marketing

What Is SMS Marketing & How to Grow a Business with Text Message Marketing

In this article you will learn the basics of SMS marketing, the benefits, and an overview of how it’s done so that you can improve your sales and marketing performance via the unicorn of automated, scalable text messaging with customers.

We’ll cover these SMS marketing essentials:

What is SMS marketing?

Short message service (SMS) marketing is a type of opt-in marketing where businesses send promotions to customers through text messages. Thus, SMS marketing is also called text message marketing or text marketing.

Similar to email marketing, SMS marketing involves growing the business’s SMS subscriber list, sending promotional campaigns to subscribers, and analyzing how SMS campaigns performed to support business objectives, like leads or sales generated .

My crystal ball says that if you’re looking into SMS marketing, you already observed the power of a text message to reach and influence its target audience.

A well-timed text message can remind you of an important appointment, or get you excited about a discount you earned, or a sale happening at your favorite brand.

So no surprise that 54% of customers say that they are interested in receiving text messages from businesses.

What IS surprising is that only 11% of businesses are doing SMS marketing today.

That’s a customer communication gap that marketers can fix in 2022. 

And see their lead generation, customer acquisition and retention goals met as a result.

It’s easier than ever to launch a productive SMS channel with the marketing automation tools available today.

SMS text message marketing is a savvy way to build deeper connections with your customers on a one-on-one basis. 

In practice, businesses use SMS marketing for: 

  • Blog promotions
  • New product announcements
  • Sending discounts or coupons 
  • Operating a loyalty program 
  • Updating customers on orders

If you want to send images, videos, or GIFs in your text messages, you’ll actually use “multimedia message service,” or MMS. The biggest difference between SMS and MMS messages is that MMS requires more data to send messages, so it costs a little more to send an MMS compared to an SMS text-only message. 

Types of SMS marketing

You can think about SMS marketing messages in two categories — the transactional messages that help customers get info about an existing purchase — and promotional messages that support an upcoming purchase. 

Transactional SMS: Generally, brands use transactional SMS as an avenue for delivering customer service. With transactional SMS, you send very short, factual messages to customers, usually about their orders. This includes messages about: 

Promotional SMS: The goal of a promotional SMS message is to market to your subscribers. The point is to build brand or product awareness that triggers a purchase. 

With promotional SMS marketing, you can get in touch with subscribers for: 

  • Product launches 
  • Events 
  • Discounts and coupons
  • Collecting feedback 
  • Abandoned cart follow-ups 
  • Sending valuable content, like tips and how-to guides

The benefits of marketing through SMS

There are so many benefits of marketing through SMS. Here are a few:

  • SMS is an owned channel. When you market yourself on Facebook or Instagram, you don’t have control over your customer data. SMS marketing is an owned channel where you have control over your messaging, information and customer data. 
  • SMS is fast. 60% of shoppers read SMS messages within five minutes. Instead of waiting all day for customers to check their email, SMS marketing gives you an immediate connection with shoppers. 
  • SMS has best-in-class open rates. Only 20% of people who receive your emails will actually read them, while the data shows that 98% of people read their text messages.
  • SMS gets more responses. Need to engage people in a conversation? Consumers reply to 45% of SMS marketing messages. Since SMS marketing is more conversational and casual, people tend to interact with it more than other channels of distribution

How is SMS marketing done

Ready to learn how to do SMS marketing? 

You can start promoting your business with text message marketing in as few as 5 minutes. 

Step 1: Generate SMS subscribers

Some ways to grow your SMS subscriber list are:

  • Existing customer list: Upload phone numbers as a CSV in Customers.ai
  • Instagram, Facebook and web chat convos: Ask fans for their phone number when they are chatting with you in other texting channels
  • Special offer website pop-up: Convert website traffic into SMS subscribers that you can reengage with promotions

Those are just a few ways to add to your SMS audience reach.

To accelerate your SMS audience growth, read How to Get More SMS Subscribers: +15 Irresistible SMS Opt-in Strategies to Grow Your List

Step 2: Set up a nurturing SMS welcome drip sequence

Text message “DRIP” to the U.S. phone number +16174335511 (only works in the U.S. and Canada) and you’ll see an SMS drip campaign in action.

To set up your own, go to Campaigns > Drip Campaigns > Create New Drip Campaign.

Next, name the campaign, select the platform this drip campaign will send through (your options are SMS, Instagram DM and Facebook Messenger), and set the schedule that the messages will send (days of the week and ranges of hours in the day).

Last but not least, indicate the timing of the message (how long after the contact triggers the drip should they receive the message) and add the content (images, text, tags and more) to the text message campaign. You will see a preview of the text message too!

You can add as many time-delayed messages to the drip sequence as you’d like, and test how the messages are engaged with and how longer sequences impact sales and conversions.

Does SMS marketing work?

SMS delivers high engagement and effective sales driving capabilities from SMS marketing automation.

In other words, SMS marketing works. And SMS marketing automation platforms for list growth, campaign sending and tracking makes automation building available to non-coding marketers and revenue stakeholders. Businesses of all sizes taking advantage of SMS marketing today.

A Customers.ai client in the travel and hospitality industry is leveraging Customers.ai’s SMS re-engagement tools to drive bottom-of-funnel sales and has seen 17X ROI from the campaigns, driving over $1 Million resort bookings in just 6 months.


SMS marketing best practices

Here are the SMS marketing best practices to start you on the right path. The FCC has a few rules for SMS marketing, and there are tips and best practices that can generate better results and engagement. 

1. Know the rules

SMS marketers should familiarize themselves with CAN-SPAM and TCPA to comply with U.S. federal regulations. This usually means: 

  • Setting up confirmed opt-in
  • Following the FCC’s rules if you’re running a contest
  • Identifying yourself
  • Allowing people to unsubscribe by responding with “STOP” (most of the phone carriers will already take care of this for businesses)

Using a compliant SMS marketing platform will help you by taking care of some of the rules (like automatic unsubscribe and automatic opt-in confirmation messages.

2. Send an immediate welcome text

As with email marketing, in SMS marketing it’s important to welcome new subscribers to your SMS updates with a short text that makes it clear what to expect. This sets expectations and reduces complaints.

When someone opts in to SMS messaging through Customers.ai, Customers.ai will automatically send the new subscriber a welcome text message, which a marketer can customize.

Best practice is to use the welcome message to llet the subscriber know what type of content they’ll receive, how frequently, and that they can unsubscribe at any time.

3. Watch your timing

How often should you send a promotional text message to your audience?

Send one message a week to start and see how your audience responds. Watch the metrics like unsubscribes and link clicks and other engagement signals to test your optimal messaging frequency.

It’s also important to watch when you’re texting customers. 

Customers.ai will allow you to schedule SMS text message blasts at a certain time of day, either based on your timezone or your recipients’ time zone.

Drip campaigns, or automated SMS message sequences, can be set to send within certain hours of the day and days of the week.

Don’t message your subscribers in the middle of the night!

4. Send something of awesome value

Don’t send SMS messages just for the sake of it: Share something valuable with your subscribers. This is the key to keeping people on your list for the long term. Instead of sending overly promotional or spammy messaging, entice subscribers with:

  • Exclusive, SMS-only deals
  • Surprise coupons
  • Links to how-to videos
  • Influencer collaborations

For more text message blasting best practices, check out the guide How to Send a Text Message Blast.

Start your business’s SMS marketing service

You started the journey asking “What is SMS marketing?” and ended knowing the value that SMS marketing offers to businesses, agencies, influencers to interact with their audiences and deepen relationships.

Of course, SMS marketing is much easier if you use a trusted platform.

Customers.ai helps agencies, influencers, and brands automate their SMS marketing to create relationships at scale.

Apply to let Customers.ai build your first SMS campaign and send it to up to 1,000 of your SMS contacts! Your business will see amazing ROI — we guarantee it!

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