The last decade or so has seen rapid growth in e-commerce, increasingly efficient logistics, and technological advances in communication, meaning businesses no longer need to be satisfied with local audiences. International markets now have much lower geographical barriers to entry, making it feasible to serve clients and customers anywhere in the world.

One challenge that remains when operating in international markets is spreading awareness about your products or services. Another is ensuring your business competes with on-the-ground brands and authentically connects with your target audience despite being distanced by potentially thousands of miles.

SMS marketing is one of the best ways to reach customers on a personal level, quickly and directly. In this article, you’ll learn why SMS is an excellent choice for international marketing, plus our top tips for campaign success.

Why opt for international SMS messaging?

Text messages offer many advantages for international communication. Firstly, it enables you to reach anyone in the world in minutes, even if they live in remote regions with little or no internet connection. SMS is also:

  • Attention-grabbing – text messages are sent straight to a person’s mobile device, typically arriving with a ping and pop-up notification.

  • Personal – SMS is often reserved for friends and family, so texting can help you build an emotional connection.

  • Cost-effective – it can be cheaper (and more effective) than other marketing channels such as online ads, phone calls and printed advertising.

  • Fast – texts are usually delivered within a few minutes, even if the recipient lives halfway around the world.

  • Convenient – you’ll get your message across in just 160 characters, which is easy for customers to digest. There are no long-winded conversations or heavy copywriting sessions involved.

Five tips to remember when texting internationally

Now you know why you should consider SMS an integral part of your international marketing strategy, follow our tips and best practices to get the most out of your campaigns.

1. Choose the right SMS service partner

To send SMS marketing internationally, you’ll need to use a professional SMS sending service. Not all platforms are equal – some can’t reach every destination, others charge hidden fees, and the features offered vary. Use these pointers to help you choose the best SMS API provider for your needs:

  • Features – do you need two-way messaging, or will one-way texts suffice? The latter is ideal for blanket campaigns, but two-way texts are vital if you want to hear back from international subscribers to maximise engagement and collect feedback (e.g. surveys, polls or competition responses). The ability to send mass texts is a must for promotions, as are analytics and reporting. Also consider whether you need message preview and scheduling, contact management and audience segmentation (for tailored campaigns).

  • Coverage – does the provider offer global coverage and service in all the countries or regions you want to reach?

  • Pricing – are you happy with a monthly subscription, or would you prefer to pay for each international text message campaign as you go? Are there any add-ons or hidden fees to note?

  • Delivery rate – how many of your messages are guaranteed to be delivered? (No provider will offer a 100% delivery rate - this is impossible for many reasons, including carrier or network issues, incorrect numbers and faults with recipients' handsets.)

  • Reputation – check reviews and case studies for your preferred provider to get a good idea of the service you can expect.

2. Research and understand your audience

The most successful marketing campaigns resonate with their audience. So knowing who your SMS subscribers are is paramount. Collect as much information as possible about your subscribers to identify where they are in their customer journey, their demographic, location, preferences and more. (Always explain what data you’re collecting at the point of capture.)

Once you understand who your subscribers are, you can carry out market segmentation and personalise your SMS campaigns to make them highly relevant (more on this next). After all, you can’t send the same mass marketing message to a global subscriber base and expect them to hit the mark with everyone. That would be ineffective, not to mention costly.

When growing your subscriber list, keep in mind your ideal customer and the types of subscribers you want to attract in terms of age, income, education level, marital status, etc. Market research helps with understanding your audience and your competition. It’s important to evaluate whether regional competitors are already fulfilling the local population’s needs or whether your business can fill a gap. Through this process, you could discover a higher demand for your offering in specific destinations.

3. Personalise your SMS campaign content

It’s essential to personalise text message content to make a connection with recipients. There are several ways to do this using an SMS provider that can pull information from your customer database into your campaigns. Consider:

  • Addressing your subscribers by name (if you need to be formal, you might want to include their title too).

  • Using location-based marketing where appropriate.

  • Cross-selling products that are relevant to a customer’s previous order.

  • Celebrating local or international events and holidays (happy birthday messages work very well if you know subscribers’ date of birth details).

  • Offering promotions based on the customer journey stage, e.g., a welcome discount for new subscribers, early access to sales for regular customers or a special incentive to encourage repeat custom.

  • Just sending a friendly message to let subscribers know you care about them.
Happy birthday text message example

Whatever your message content, use the correct language for your audience. You may need to translate international texts into local languages unless your SMS provider can do this automatically. A nice touch is to greet subscribers in their native language, e.g. Hola!, for a Spanish audience.

Do send messages in a tone and style acceptable for your targeted region, and be aware of cultural and religious customs and traditions. The last thing you’ll want is to send messages that could be deemed rude or disrespectful to your international audience.

4. Get the delivery times right

Timing is critical when sending SMS messages. Send texts at various times of the day for testing purposes and study your subscribers’ behaviours to learn when they’re most likely to be available and ready to engage. (Through analytics, you’ll see open and response rates and know which campaigns perform better than others).

Optimise future campaigns by sending them when engagement is at its highest. Be careful, however, not to send texts at odd times, like late at night or early in the morning (during 'do not disturb' hours). Otherwise, you’ll run the risk of your audience unsubscribing and taking their business elsewhere. Discover the best times and days to send texts.

5. Follow text marketing laws

You must follow certain text marketing laws to ensure your campaigns are SMS-compliant. Some of these apply globally, and others are region-specific – it’s where your recipients are based that matters, not the location you’re sending texts from.

For example, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) governs SMS marketing to consumers in the US, as does the CAN-SPAM Act. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 covers text message marketing in the UK, while the GDPR applies to European recipients. So if you have a worldwide subscriber base, your SMS campaigns will need to comply with multiple text marketing regulations and laws.

How much does it cost to send international SMS messages?

The cost of sending international SMS marketing campaigns depends on the following:

  • SMS platform fees (if applicable).

  • Message volume.

  • Content length (a single text is 160 characters, so any longer than this will count as multiple texts).

  • Whether you’re attaching media (images, graphics, videos, or certain special characters), as this will turn your SMS into an MMS.

  • The country code (the region where subscribers are based).

  • Any outsourcing costs, for example, if you decide to hire SMS marketing experts.

Messente’s pricing structure is based on message volume. You’ll only pay for the texts you send; there are no hidden fees. For example, it costs just €37 to send 1,000 one-way monthly text messages to India. Calculate pricing here.

How can I send international SMS?

To start sending international text messaging campaigns, you must first choose an SMS provider, like Messente. Our solution allows you to send various campaigns, including marketing and transactional messages (2FA PIN codes, order confirmations, appointment reminders, support messages, etc.).

Via our user-friendly dashboard, you can create, preview and schedule campaigns, manage contacts and view detailed analytics.

Messente’s setup process is simple:

1. Sign up for a Messente account (and get free credits to try out the platform).

2. Receive your API keys.

3. Verify your phone number or apply for a sender ID.

4. Start creating campaigns in our dashboard or install our API into your existing business systems. If you need help with the latter, a developer can do this in just a few hours using our Quickstart guide.

Woman in an orange sweater looking at a phone

Market to a global audience with international SMS

Advances in technology and communications make it possible to reach a global audience easily these days. International text messages are a great way to make authentic and personal connections with existing and potential customers.

SMS is wide-reaching, affordable, fast and convenient. Providing you know your audience, tailor your content, send texts at the right times, follow SMS marketing laws and choose a reputable provider, your campaigns should perform superbly and give you an excellent ROI.