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20 easy ways to collect mobile numbers for SMS marketing

Bulk business or SMS-based messaging is a great way to stay in touch with customers as it’s proven to be eight times more effective than email. It also boasts an average open rate of 98%. For those wanting to tap into the power of SMS, one challenge may preclude you from starting straight away.

How do I get customer mobile numbers?

Whether you want to do some SMS marketing, increase sales, set up appointment reminders, advertise technical support or explore new communication channels, it’s important that you first establish your mobile number customer database.

Don’t worry! It’s easier than you think. We’ve got all you need to get started in this complete how-to guide to collecting customer mobile numbers, with our top tips and lots of examples to boot. Let’s get started!

Before you get started….

Know your audience

They always say this, but there’s a reason for it! We all know the adage: don’t run before you can walk. The same is true when collecting customer numbers. A long list of numbers is worse than useless if it focused on the wrong target audience.

First, understand your customer. Get to know their needs, interests, challenges and wishes. Determine your typical customer as best as possible by considering demographics, firmographics (if relevant) and behavioural characteristics.

If, for example, you sell affordable jewellery online, your customer is not ‘women’. It could be mums, daughters, sisters, colleagues, industry workers, graduates, etc. It could also be for special occasions, engagements, weddings or for women celebrating their own personal achievements. 

You could also determine that your chosen segment only likes to shop on weekends, after hours or in their personal downtime. Further to that, while women may be the wearers of your jewellery, it might be men who are buying them. 

Understanding all of these areas is essential before you start asking for phone numbers. Knowing your customers will help you improve your customer engagement over the long term.

Know the laws

In many jurisdictions, customers must actively consent and provide their mobile numbers to you. This means you may not be allowed to simply collect them from a range of sources.

In any such case, we advise investigating compliance laws in your area. Consult legal counsel as to whether your strategies to collect comply with these laws. Whether you’re a customer or not, you can also always contact our team with any questions. We are well-versed in compliance laws and can answer any further queries.

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How to collect customer mobile numbers

Now, you can get started collecting contact information! There are so many ways you can do this, but we’ve got the top 2 ways you can start getting those digits.

1. Text-in competitions

Whether you’re an e-commerce store, retailer, clinic, hair salon or taxidermist, your business can run a competition. Text-in competitions are one of the simplest and easiest ways to collect consent and customer digits. They simply involve a dedicated mobile number, which customers can text answers or entries to, in order to enter.

Example social post of a text-in competition to win a secret cactus book prize

Offer a reward in exchange for a customer’s mobile number. Make sure it’s irresistible so that customers are encouraged to exchange their details for a chance to win. Remember, mobile details are a prized identifier so make sure your competition prize is worth the exchange!

2. Keyword campaigns

Similar to text-to-win competitions, keyword campaigns are another great way to encourage customers to exchange digits. Instead of a competition, it could be for a specific promotional offer or discount. Further to that, you can use different keywords on the same number or short code (a shortened 5-6 digit version of a long number) for different campaigns, depending on who you’re targeting.

Shopfront window in a retail store to get a discount by texting in

3. Social media

As we saw with text-in competitions, similar social posts or engagements can perform exceptionally well when collecting customer numbers. Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and even newcomers like Tiktok can be a really great way to connect with interested people or businesses.

From competitions, keyword campaigns, to live broadcasts, polls, stories, ads – these channels can be easily utilised to encourage followers to sign up to your contact list. It’s really up to you to come up with the right kind of content that will facilitate this exchange. And make sure to pick your channel wisely!

4. Make the exchange

Always make sure that when you’re asking for something valuable, you make it worth their while. What is it that your business can provide that no one else can? And how can you scale it so that it helps nurture a relationship with a lead or customer?

MessageMedia Reduce no-shows SMS text ebook gated download
This is an example of a MessageMedia ebook. Click through to see what the exchange journey is like.

If, for example, you’re a B2B business, can you offer valuable industry insights that no one else can? Pop this into an e-book behind a gated form. This will help encourage customers to sign up and exchange their mobile numbers in order to access it. We do it with our annual Consumer Attitudes to SMS report and our 10 ways SMS can accelerate your retail and e-commerce business ebook. And guess what? It works!

5. Free trial or demo

We should all know this one! Offer a free trial or demo of your services, particularly if you operate in the business-to-business (B2B) sector, are a SaaS business or rely on subscriptions.

MessageMedia free trial and website sign up form
MessageMedia’s free trial and website sign up form. Click through to see what the process is like.

When customers sign up, collect their mobile number using the online form on your website. If they can sign up elsewhere, like at an event, or through a shop window, use signage such as ‘Send an SMS to +XXXXXX if you’re interested in a free trial or demo of our services’.

Example of MessageMedia's interactive demo on homepage
MessageMedia’s interactive demo on our homepage

6. Email

Example of an email newsletter offering text alert promotions for a business

If you’re already engaging in email marketing (and you should be), you can always use this channel to ALSO collect mobile numbers. Simply use your regular send-outs, whether that’s a monthly newsletter or weekly promotional email, to encourage customers to reply with their mobile phone details, or capture it in a linked form on your website. 

If customers are already accepting email communications, make sure that whatever you are offering with SMS differs. For example, why would I exchange my mobile number to get SMS-driven messages when I am already happy with the occasional email to my inbox? A reason to subscribe, however, might be first dibs on exclusive new lines, or Christmas sales, or a gift on their birthday. It’s up to you to figure out what will get customers over the line!

7. Don’t discount discounts!

The promise of discounts can also entice customers to exchange their mobile numbers. If you’re going out to current customers or fans of your brand, discounts can also help nurture long-term loyalty. But don’t go overboard – discounts can end up as a race to the bottom!

Website pop up to collect customer numbers for SMS campaigns

RELATED: See more on optimising your marketing via discount and VIP offers in our write-up on EOFY SMS marketing.

8. Enter the VIP

For brands who are finding it difficult to get customers over the line with a one-time discount, offer memberships to your brand’s special VIP club instead. You see these all the time, from Sephora’s famous Beauty Pass to Starbucks Rewards, and they work!

Entice members to subscribe to SMS alerts by asking them to text ‘VIP’ to a dedicated mobile number. This is a significant investment to make if you don’t already have a VIP club. 

Make sure that your membership offering really gives a tangible benefit, such as advance notice of sales and promotions, mobile coupons, invites to an exclusive webinar, or one-day-only offers that clearly demonstrate the value of membership. Ensure your customers feel they have exclusive access to perks that are unavailable to other customers.

9. Hey partner!

Make use of your friends and comrade-in-arms. Is there a complementary organisation you can partner with? Perhaps you can add their products or services to a prize bundle, which can effectively double your marketing efforts and expose you to more potential customers.

Example of a social post where you have partnered with another brand to optimise leads and reach

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10. Present at events

Events and conferences can be a terrific opportunity to collect details from an audience that is already interested in what your business can offer. Events can be expensive, so choose carefully, but also look out for smaller events where you can offer sponsorship.

Example of how to collect mobiile numbers at an event by using your Q&A time as a presenter to get people to text in their questions

Utilise some of the techniques above – competitions, eBooks, freebies or discounts – to encourage event visitors to part with their details in exchange for something of value. Following the event, send an SMS with a different offer, or ask for feedback on the discount or freebie they received at the event.

11. Add your number to advertising

Ensure your dedicated number is highly visible on all advertising, whether it’s radio, TV, events or conferences, billboards or the side of your vehicle!

Another example of how to use shop front or wall space to advertise text alerts

Encourage customers to get in touch with memorable keywords. For example, ‘Text THIRSTY to +567411 for a free drink in-store!’

12. Website query capture

Ensure your online form requests a ‘mobile number’ in addition or as opposed to simply requesting a ‘contact number’. Therefore, you will capture the mobile numbers required for continued engagement, instead of office reception numbers on landlines!

Example of a sign up form that captures your mobile number

One of the significant benefits of an online form is tailoring it to cater for customers’ preferences. Offer a checklist of products or services to find out exactly what your customer wants to know more about and tailor your SMS messages accordingly.

13. Check it out

If you are a retailer or ecommerce business, existing customers are a great potential source of new business, as they already shop with you. Ask customers for their mobile number at the checkout with an offer to keep them updated about upcoming special offers or the latest news.

For service-type businesses, such as restaurants, hair or beauty salons, and health spas, a feedback form or customer experience survey can be particularly useful to collect contact details, as well as useful insights

14. Make it app-en

Got an app? Ensure any customers who sign up for accounts give you their mobile number as well. You can even use your opening tutorial or app onboarding to ensure that the customer is guided to give essential information such as a mobile number.

15. In-store campaigns

There are so many creative opportunities to utilise in-store campaigns to drive mobile number collection. A frequently used example is customers dropping their business card in a fishbowl for a special monthly draw to win a prize.

Another example is using in-store pick-ups or discounts to encourage customers to trade in their mobile numbers. K-beauty store Innisfree asks customers if they want extra samples or discounts at the register before they pay. If a customer says yes, they sign them up on the spot, which includes grabbing their number. Other campaigns might include picking up a free gift in-store when you give up your mobile number on another channel.

16. Customer support calls

If you have a business that takes support requests or calls, this can be a fantastic avenue to collect or update customer information. Often when a new or current customer calls, a support agent might take down their information or confirm that this is the right customer by checking off their birth date, home address or mobile number against details the customer has given in a previous instance.

On the other hand, support calls often end with an evaluation or survey. You can train support agents to ask for updated information or additional information (such as their mobile number) if they need to be followed up. In this case, this can be a great avenue to get them to sign up for SMS alerts straight away while positioning it as a benefit to them.

17. Chatbot

When was the last time you were on a website and a little chatbot popped up ready to help? They’re all over the internet these days, easily engaging visitors with quick answers to any queries from a brand’s own website, to their social channels. The best thing about these chatbots is that they allow you to pre-format questions and forms.

Example of collecting mobile phone numbers via your on-site chatbot

Similar to customer feedback, make sure you include an automated form query or question that nudges customers to give you their mobile numbers. This is not that unusual given that customers may expect a reply at a later time or date when they are away from the computer. They may even be more open to receiving an SMS answer as it is less intrusive than sticking around and waiting for an answer in a live chat box.

18. Call-to-actions

Sign up forms, chat bots, social channels and emails aren’t the only places your brand can land a mobile number. Almost everyone forgets about their Contact Us page!

There are so many ways we offer customers to contact us like email, phone, Slack –  why don’t you offer a texting option? Many customers these days are too busy to sit on a phone, and too worried they might miss an email in an already overcrowded inbox. Giving them a texting option may help meet a need for a non-intrusive communication method, and will also help you collect their mobile number straight off the bat.

19. Onboarding

No matter your onboarding process, you can usually grab customer digits one way or another. It can be completely self-service through an automated system, or it can take place in-person or via phone call.

Example of collecting mobile numbers after a customer has been onboarded to your brand and are asked to set up their profile
Example of MessageMedia’s simplified profile with a slot for mobile number. Note: this is not a real customer!

Make sure it’s added to any sign-up forms you have advertised on your website or forms you might keep in-store. Go a step further by adding in customer communication preferences to their onboarding process so that they can choose the types of channels they would like to hear from you, including SMS.

20. Just ask!

Sometimes it just pays to ask. When one of our recent bricks and mortar customers, confectionary specialist Lollyology, wanted to make a quick pivot online, they were faced with the challenge of collecting numbers from scratch in just a few days. How did they do it?

They simply asked. The owner of the shop would ask customers who came up to the till if they were interested in receiving extra discounts and promotions from their shop via text. Most customers were happy to oblige and they were able to get 200 customers onto their database in just 3 – 4 days. 

Always frame your requests as that – a request! Even better, if it’s at the end of a really positive in-store experience. Regardless, it never hurts to ask.

RELATED: Read the full case study on Lollyology and how 8% of their SMS customer database convert to purchases every time they send out a text broadcast.


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But remember!

In return for your customers’ personal details, you need to meet your responsibilities to avoid losing a customer forever when they unsubscribe.

You must always:

  • Include options for customers to opt-out
  • Guarantee privacy of your customers’ details
  • Promise you won’t spam your customers – and don’t!
  • Provide value with your SMS offers

Now you have a great database of prospects and contacts, find out more about maximising your marketing campaigns here!

Final thoughts, further reading

Now that you’ve started building a strong customer database, maybe it’s time to start exploring SMS and how it can enrich your communications. We suggest:

Is there a tip to collecting customer numbers that we missed? Let us know.