Share article:

A complete guide to SMS marketing

Image for A complete guide to SMS marketing
Advanced SMS guides 11 min read | Marinela Potor wrote in blog on April 2, 2024

SMS marketing should be a central part of every business’ marketing strategy. In this guide, we’ll explain why SMS marketing is so successful and how to best use it.

How do a 98% open rate and a 64% click-through rate sound? Incredible? Like every marketer’s dream? Well, that’s exactly the type of results that SMS marketing can deliver!

What is SMS marketing?

SMS stands for short messaging service, and is also known as “texting” or “sending text messages”. SMS marketing is therefore exactly what it sounds like: sending marketing messages like promotions, updates, and special deals via SMS.

Since you’re limited to 160 characters or less, SMS marketing has to be short and to the point. However, you can include interactive elements like links and multimedia elements like images (MMS) or mobile landing pages to make your messages more engaging.

There are two types of SMS marketing: direct marketing and conversational marketing.

In direct marketing, businesses send out alerts, updates, or bulk messages directly to customers. These one-to-many marketing messages typically contain an offer or a service that a business wants to promote and a call to action (CTA) that people can follow if they’re interested in making a purchase. Direct marketing is typically one-sided in the sense that businesses send out messages, but users usually don’t respond (or at least aren’t expected to).

Conversational marketing is looking at marketing texts as a conversation starter between businesses and (potential) customers. This marketing strategy focuses on the interaction between customers and companies and sees marketing as a two-way conversation.

There’s definitely a shift in marketing towards conversational strategies because it’s essentially what customers want. Studies show that nine out of ten consumers want to be able to have two-way conversations with businesses via messaging channels.

5 business messaging trends that cut through the noise

Know what customers want, when they want it, and why.

Image for 5 business messaging trends that cut through the noise

Does SMS marketing really work?

The short answer is: you bet!

First off, literally everyone in the US owns a cell phone. In fact, there are more cell phone connections in the country than there are people! And Americans also love texting. 65% of cell phone owners will read a text message within five minutes of receiving it. That’s why SMS marketing is really a no-brainer. It also offers several advantages for businesses.

It’s immediate

SMS marketing cuts through the clutter. Text messages end up front and center on a locked screen. They also don’t have to bypass any algorithms, and they rarely end up in SPAM folders. This means that your messages reach consumers in real-time and get their full attention.

It’s far-reaching

SMS gives you access to anybody who uses a cell phone. As all cell phones come with a pre-installed text messaging app, you don’t have to worry about messages not getting through: nobody has to install a separate app and SMS also works for all operating systems. In other words, you can literally reach anybody and everybody.

It’s engaging

Text messages have a whooping open rate of 98% and some of the highest click-through rates. If you want to get your customers’ attention, send them a text!

It’s cost-effective

Compared to many other channels, SMS is fairly inexpensive. And once a customer interacts with you, all it takes is another SMS to re-engage them, which lowers your re-targeting costs as well. If you add to that their high engagement rates, SMS offers a great ROI for marketing.

How to use SMS marketing

The greatest part about using SMS for marketing is that you can get really creative with it. Here are some ideas for how to get the most out of it.

Send welcome messages

Customers already know welcome emails, so why not say “hello” via SMS as well? It’s a very personal way to welcome new customers, and you can even add a discount code as an incentive for users to join your mailing list.

SMS marketing welcome message
Use SMS to welcome new customers.

Promote new arrivals

Customers love to be the first to know about new products coming in. By sending them a text message about a new arrival, you can update them much faster. Given the high SMS click-through rates, it’ll also help you create more buzz around new arrivals and ultimately push sales.

SMS promoting a new arrival
Text messages let you push new arrivals faster.

Push back-in-stock notifications

For existing customers, you should also integrate back-in-stock notifications into your SMS marketing strategy. If customers can buy a product they loved again by just following a link in a text message, they’re a lot more likely to make a repeat purchase. We recommend integrating your existing CRM system into your SMS marketing for more targeted and personalized campaigns.

back-in-stock SMS
Back in stock SMS for leggings

Invite users to a flash sale

With flash sales or limited offers, every minute counts. Because text messages reach customers immediately and no time is wasted, SMS campaigns are perfect for flash sales.

For the sporting goods retailer network SportsPower, sending out SMS for a limited offer really made a difference. They messaged 2,000 customers to invite them to their VIP sales nights prior to SportsPower’s twice-yearly sales. 40% of their database followed the invite link, which boosted their website visits by 40%! And the best part is, with the Sinch MessageMedia platform, it took the team only ten minutes to send out the SMS campaign.

Engage customers with exclusive deals

You can also use SMS marketing to send exclusive deals to selected customers. That’s a great way to say “thank you” to loyal customers and boost engagement. It’ll also help you set your brand apart.

Case in point: the Australian wine seller Vinomofo.

As an ecommerce company, Vinomofo has built a brand around “uniting a tribe with their love of wine, food, and adventure.” Being close to their “mofos” (aka, customers) and offering highly personalized experiences is at the heart of Vinomofo’s business. Vinomofo had recognized the power of SMS marketing, and once they found a solution they could easily integrate into their HubSpot workflow, they started experimenting with personalized and exclusive SMS re-engagement campaigns.

SMS reengagement message
Vinomofo uses SMS marketing for re-engagement campaigns.

With incredible results! They saw:

  • 50% re-engaged customers 
  • 120x return on investment 
  • 21% increase in sales conversion 
  • 0.05% low unsubscribe rate 

Ready to try out SMS marketing?

Take Sinch MessageMedia for a spin to see how it can benefit your marketing strategy.

Image for Ready to try out SMS marketing?

Offer seasonal sales

From restaurants to online fashion brands to local bakeries: literally everybody will have a special sales event for special occasions like Black Friday, Valentine’s Day, or Mother’s Day. During these highly competitive seasonal sales, SMS campaigns will help you cut through the noise!

That’s why the online florist “Petals” decided to set up a special SMS Christmas campaign. In order to really stand out, they not only used SMS to send a special discount code, they also set up an interactive and engaging mobile landing page.

SMS for Florists

This approach resulted in impressively high engagement rates.

Send out surveys

SMS marketing goes beyond sending customers deals. It can also be a valuable channel for gathering insights. For instance, you can send out surveys to your most satisfied customers. You can also add a special incentive like entering a raffle to get more filled out forms.

Keep customers updated with newsletters

You can also use SMS to keep your customers in the know with regular newsletters. SMS newsletters are a great tool to keep your brand in the mind of customers and to let them know about important updates, new product launches, events, and much more. With professional SMS marketing tools, you can even personalize your newsletters to send subscribers the content they’re really interested in.

Gather feedback

Gathering feedback on a product or service can be a difficult task as it takes extra effort on the customers’ end. If, aside from just leaving feedback, customers have to set up a profile on a review site or download a new app, it becomes even more difficult.

That’s why the restaurant group Wilson Group decided to gather feedback directly by text message. Together with Sinch MessageMedia, the Wilson Group set up an automated flow that made it easy for customers to rate their experience. Customers that left a high rating were led to leave a review, customers with lower ratings were guided to the support team.

Graphic showing a request for a review

This enabled the Wilson Group to gather more positive reviews while using poor feedback to improve their service. This strategy delivered up to a 33% ROI on some of their restaurants.

Use SMS marketing for loyalty programs

The personal touch of a text message makes SMS marketing particularly efficient in engaging with customers. That’s not only true for new customers, but especially for loyal ones. Interacting with existing customers via SMS adds an extra layer of exclusivity, which results in greater and more frequent contact, higher engagement, and greater loyalty.

That’s also the experience the American Doughnut Kitchen had. Once they started sending out text messages to push their loyalty programs, they saw higher click-through rates and a rate of almost 9% completed purchases from these specific SMS campaigns.

SMS campaigns improve customer loyalty.

Best practices for successful SMS marketing

The success of SMS marketing also depends on how well you set up and run your campaigns. Here are some tips to get more out of your SMS marketing.

Build an audience

The first step to successful marketing is to build an engaged audience for your messaging list. You can invite existing customers to join your SMS list, promote your SMS channel on social media, or send special incentives like discounts for anyone who joins your broadcasting list.

Ask for permission and follow the rules

Always gather opt-ins first and brush up on SMS business regulations. Prior consent is not only required by law, it’ll also ensure that you only message people that are truly interested in hearing from you.

Send valuable content

SMS marketing can only be successful if your content is valuable for users. Of course, what’s valuable to customers varies depending on the customers, your business, and your specific industry. If you’re addressing a deal-hunting audience, you can send them the hottest new deals. If your audience is all about engaging with your brand on a personal level, your content should cater to that.

Create target groups

Creating specific target groups will render a better ROI for your SMS campaigns. The clearer the customer segmentation is, the easier it’ll be to create the most engaging SMS experience.

Personalize messages

The chances that customer open a message or click on a link double if you personalize the text message. With an SMS tool that you can easily link to your CRM system, you can create highly personalized campaigns that’ll cut through.

Include multimedia

Including multimedia in your text will make your message more engaging. You can enrich the SMS experience by adding images (MMS) or including mobile landing pages.

Optimize frequency, length, and timing

SMS marketing is the most successful when you get the right content in the right form to the right people at the right time. We suggest experimenting with frequency, length, and times to see what works best for your audience.

Track your campaigns

Make sure to set up some key SMS analytics you want to track. This could be open rates, click-through rates, or engagement rates, depending on your campaign goals. It’s important to monitor your results in order to see if you meet your goals and where you still have room for improvement.

Use automation

Automation is a key factor in scaling your SMS marketing, as it frees up resources and improves your ROI. For instance, you can send customers automated re-engagement messages after a set period of time or have a whole series of timed messages as part of a larger campaign flow.

Example of staggered promotional SMS

Work with a professional SMS tool

Getting the most out of SMS marketing also requires a professional SMS tool. After all, if your team has to manually send 2,000 text messages or go back and forth between different CRM systems, it’s neither productive nor effective.

When choosing a fitting SMS tool for marketing, you should look for:

  • bulk SMS capabilities
  • two-way SMS option
  • integrations with other systems you’re already using like Zoho, HubSpot, and Shopify
  • automation
  • multimedia capabilities for adding images or creating mobile landing pages
  • easy user interface
  • 2FA feature for an added layer of security
  • toll-free numbers
  • great customer support

With the right tool, you can take your SMS marketing to the next level.

Ready to roll?

Image for Ready to roll?