SMS Marketing: What It Is and How To Use It

Updated July 21, 2022

SMS (short message service) marketing has grown in use along with other digital marketing methods. SMS marketing can be a low-cost approach to reaching and engaging a target audience. Additionally, when SMS marketing is combined with other strategies, it can help increase reach, sales and customer loyalty. In this article, you will learn what SMS marketing is, how you can implement it and how it can benefit your overall approach to marketing.

What is SMS marketing?

SMS marketing is a marketing strategy that uses text messaging to send out promotions or ads to leads that opt-in to receive these types of messages. Customers typically opt-in through an automated messaging system by texting a code that they received upon sign-up. SMS marketing can be used to send product updates, coupons or special deals. SMS marketing can be a highly effective strategy, depending on how a business uses it.

Read more: 15 Marketing Jobs That Pay Well

The benefits of SMS marketing

Since SMS marketing requires that customers express their interest and give permission, it can yield a number of benefits. The most compelling advantages of implementing SMS marketing for business include:

  • The ability to retain loyal customers

  • Easy, effective promotion through word-of-mouth

  • Quick and effective communication with customers

  • The ability to set methods for opting in and opting out

  • Cost-effective tool

The ability to retain loyal customers

SMS marketing allows businesses to make offers, special discounts and loyalty rewards that their target markets choose to receive through signing up for a business's text message alerts. This gives companies the opportunity to develop products and services and make them available only to those customers who choose to opt-in. This can make a brand, product or service especially attractive to use because customers who continue to purchase from a brand are awarded advantages through the SMS notifications that new or one-time customers may not receive.

Easy, effective promotion through word-of-mouth

SMS marketing can also be an advantage for businesses because of the customer's ability to share information and updates about a brand's products through word-of-mouth. Customers who are satisfied with the quality of support, service or products they receive from a brand are likely to talk about their experiences with their friends and family. Through word-of-mouth, the brand can increase its customer base.

Quick and effective communication with customers

SMS marketing also allows businesses and brands to send communications to their customers quickly and effectively. For instance, if a brand launches a new product, it can send an SMS alert to its customers updating them on the event. Additionally, opt-in for SMS alerts is quick, typically requiring customers to text a shortcode to the brand's SMS system within seconds.

The ability to set methods for opting in and opting out

SMS marketing also enables businesses to set parameters for customers opting in and ways for customers to opt-out, should they wish to stop SMS communications. This can make it even easier for customers to sign up for special offers and deals, and companies who implement SMS marketing are also able to add and remove customer numbers from their system easily.

Cost-effective tool

SMS can also be quite cost effective. Depending on the SMS texting system a company uses, the costs for SMS marketing can be relatively low when compared with other digital marketing approaches. For instance, a company that uses SMS marketing may implement a low-cost option anywhere from five to 20 dollars per month. Additionally, some SMS marketing options may offer specific keyword allowances, which sometimes cost no more than a few cents per keyword that are used within the marketing period a company selects.

Related: 7 Ways To Market a Small Business

Parts of an SMS marketing campaign

The following are components of a successful SMS marketing campaign:

  • Offers and promotions

  • Exclusivity and expiration dates

  • Call to action

  • Messaging schedule

  • Brand identity

Offers and promotions

Successful SMS campaigns implement special offers and promotions for customers who opt-in for a brand's SMS notifications. These offers can be promotional events, seasonal coupons or other lucrative offerings that customers who have opted in receive.

Exclusivity and expiration dates

In addition to creating special offers for customers, a business may also create expiration dates around some of the special offers it sends to its customers. This creates a sense of exclusivity as well as urgency, which can influence the buying decisions of many customers. Expiration dates also increase the chances that a customer will make a purchase the moment they receive the offer rather than at a later time.

Call to action

All successful marketing strategies create some kind of call to action surrounding a product or service offer. SMS marketing campaigns should also develop an effective call to action. A successful call to action gives customers the motivation to click a link, give their permission to receive updates or otherwise make a purchase from a brand through their SMS messages.

Messaging schedule

Since SMS is text-based and personal, it is important for SMS marketing campaigns to set schedule messaging times. For instance, a brand may implement SMS marketing only during business hours when customers are likely to have their cell phones with them. Likewise, it can be best practice to avoid sending SMS alerts during evening or late hours when customers may be sleeping or occupied with family.

Brand identity

In all SMS messages sent during a marketing campaign, there should be a distinct brand identity. Whether it's a logo, signature or other brand identifier, successful SMS marketing campaigns include branding so customers know who they are receiving updates from. Additionally, including branding in every SMS notification can allow customers to develop trust and familiarity with a business.

Read more: 4 Steps To Building a Brand

How to develop an SMS marketing campaign

When creating an SMS marketing campaign, it's important to include each component as it relates to the message your business or brand is promoting. Additionally, you might consider the following steps as you develop your SMS marketing strategy.

  1. Establish your marketing objectives.

  2. Create your message.

  3. Create your call to action.

  4. Schedule your messages.

  5. Set your key performance indicators (KPIs).

1. Establish your marketing objectives

Set the objectives you want to reach. For instance, you can set an objective to increase sales, expand your market or acquire 100 new customers within the marketing period. Whatever your objective is, you will want to establish it first so that you can develop your marketing plan based on what you are trying to achieve.

2. Create your message

Next, create the message you want to send to get you to your objective. You might create a special offer, a discount on certain seasonal items or a first-come, first-serve event to help increase sales. Additionally, you might consider how your message will affect your customers, what problem it will solve or other ways that your message impacts your customers.

3. Create your call to action

After creating the promotional message, your SMS campaign should have a clear call to action that motivates your customers to buy from you. For instance, you might create a call to action to claim a discount before it expires, refer a friend to receive a free service or other compelling action that customers can take to find out more about what your brand is offering.

4. Schedule your messages

Your SMS campaign should have strict time parameters regarding when your business's messages are sent out. This will allow you to plan out each promotional message as well as maintain a level of courtesy between your business and customers' personal needs.

5. Set your key performance indicators (KPIs)

After creating the rest of the components for your SMS marketing campaign, you can establish the key performance indicators (KPIs) that you will use to evaluate how effective your SMS marketing approaches are. KPIs—such as the open and reply rates for specific text messages—are metrics that you can use to determine the performance of each SMS strategy you implement.

Related: Using Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) to Achieve Goals

Tips for implementing SMS marketing

Here are some additional tips for implementing SMS marketing:

  • Create clear messages that your customers will understand right away, including limitations, expirations and other pertinent details about your offers.

  • Personalize ads and promotional messages by performing some basic market research including characteristics of your customers, their spending habits and what your ideal buyer's persona looks like.

  • Avoid sending SMS alerts and promotional messages during times when customers are likely to avoid opening and responding to texts.

  • Create ways for your SMS market to interact with you online by connecting your SMS opt-ins and promotions to your social media profiles and business website.

SMS marketing can be a highly effective approach to reaching your target audiences. By developing clear messages and creating relationships with your customers, SMS marketing can help you increase your reach, sales and achieve your business goals.

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