Looking for new ways to engage new and existing customers for your small business? Whether you're running a beauty salon, e-commerce store, restaurant or consultancy company, text message marketing can work wonders. It's a tried and tested method – used wisely, it can yield fantastic results and snag you more sales, increased customer retention and better engagement levels.

Keep reading to learn why Short Message Service (SMS) marketing is one of the best business ideas for small firms, along with seven creative SMS marketing campaigns to help get you started. You'll also pick up plenty of text message marketing tips and tricks to boot.

Why SMS marketing is ideal for small businesses

Many small businesses don't have a big marketing budget. So it's essential to get the best ROI from any marketing activity being carried out.

Some promotional strategies can eat away at your funds without much return. For example, printed ads in industry publications are costly and not that well-targeted, and although you can drill down into demographics with social media online ads, these are also expensive. In both cases, these channels are better for reaching new customers than current ones.

SMS marketing is useful for attracting new customers and retaining current customers too. Better still, it's cost-effective, as you only pay for the texts you send. To give you an idea of pricing, it costs just 56 € per month to send 1,000 one-way texts to Estonian phone numbers with Messente. (Check pricing for other countries here.)

Email campaigns are also cost-effective, but SMS generally performs better. It's well-known that text messages have incredible open rates (as high as 98%), meaning that most texts you send will get opened and read. Texts also have impressive response rates – one retail study reports that text messaging achieves eight times the response rate compared to email.

That said, if you want to grab attention and increase engagement, SMS is a crucial tool to have in your digital marketing mix.

Woman holding mobile phone

Creative SMS business ideas

Marketing text messages shouldn't be overused, of course, as receiving too many texts will soon get annoying for subscribers. But for well-timed, specific communications, SMS makes sense. Here are some SMS marketing campaign ideas that work well.

1. Repeat ordering text reminders

Suppose your business sells consumables that run out (or wear out) and need regular replacement. In that case, your customers will appreciate a text that lets them know it might be time to re-order, especially if you include a link to where they can buy the product.

2. Cross-sell promotional messages

Cross-selling is a brilliant tactic for increasing customer lifetime value. First, you need to carry out a data-mining exercise to identify the last purchase made by customers. Then you'll need to select one or two products that complement what the customer has ordered before, and create an SMS campaign to promote those. This strategy can work for product or service-based businesses.

3. SMS geofencing for localised marketing

Does your small business rely on local, passing trade? SMS geofencing enables you to send a text message to potential customers entering a geographic radius that you've set up around your business premises.

SMS geofencing campaigns are ideal for restaurants, coffee shops and fast food outlets – a well-timed text with an incentive on food and beverages could entice passersby needing refreshment into your establishment.

Example of an SMS geofencing campaign

4. Early-bird sale notifications

What's better than receiving a flash sale SMS notification with exclusive discounts from your favourite e-commerce store? Receiving a text message informing you that you have priority access to the sales 24 hours before they're opened up to the public!

The way to do this is to start building a text club for VIP access to sales. Then whenever you run flash sales, send a message to your text club 24 hours before. (Once the sale opens up fully, you can then send a bulk SMS to the rest of your customer base to encourage more sales.)

5. Loyalty program SMS campaigns

Whether you offer a points-based, tiered or premium loyalty program, you can use SMS to administer it. For instance, why not send a monthly text campaign showing the number of points acquired or the types of rewards the customer is entitled to based on their monthly spend?

6. Happy Birthday text message

Wishing customers a Happy Birthday and offering them a decent gift or incentive once a year works brilliantly to keep your brand front of mind.

The cosmetics company, The Body Shop, offers a £5 birthday reward to everyone who has joined their 'Love Your Body' club and provided their birthdate. It can be used to spend on anything in-store or online within one month of the issue date.

7. Valuable product/service tips

Another great way to engage customers and convert prospects is to offer an SMS tips series for the product or service that you offer.

Let's say you sell a particular type of hair curler. You could set up a text marketing campaign to send once per day for three days, starting on the same day the customer purchases the product. The text message could include a link to a blog post containing step by step instructions on how to create a different range of curls.

This content marketing strategy enables you to offer a fantastic after-sales service while pushing traffic through to your website.

Example of an SMS content marketing campaign

Text message marketing tips

To get the best out of your SMS marketing campaigns and to ensure they're legally compliant, follow these tips and best practices:

  • Get opt-ins – it's illegal in most countries to send marketing SMS text messages if you haven't got your subscriber's permission to do so. It's straightforward enough to collect consent at the point where the customer submits their mobile phone number to you – this blog explains how.

  • Send personalised messages – include the customer's name for maximum impact and ensure the content of the text is highly relevant.

  • Send timely text messages – avoid sending too early in the morning or late at night. Think about when your customers are most likely to want to hear from you.

  • Add a call-to-action – tell your SMS subscribers what you want them to do after reading your SMS message, e.g. visit your website, call a number, book an appointment, etc.

  • Allow opt-outs – another legal requirement is to include details of how to opt-out of future messages within your message content. A common approach is to encourage customers to click a link to unsubscribe or text the word 'STOP' to a shortcode number.

Other ways to utilise SMS messages for business

SMS marketing is ideal for engaging your target market. You can also use transactional text messages to improve service, build better customer relationships and increase brand awareness.

For instance, sending alerts like SMS appointment reminders help keep your business front of mind while helping to avoid missed appointments. Order progress updates sent by text keeps customers informed and reduces post-purchase anxiety. And using two-way SMS texts for support queries enables customers to chat with an agent virtually instantly, speeding up resolution time.

Want more SMS business ideas? Browse our blog for more articles designed to help small businesses implement SMS and take sales and engagement to new heights. If you're not yet using SMS messaging for business, it’s easy to get going with Messente. Sign up for your free account today.