Whether you run a small business or a large enterprise, SMS marketing can firmly cement your brand, products or services in the minds of potential and existing customers. The first step to successful SMS marketing is to create a text subscription service, which you can then use to message your subscribers.

This article explains what a text message subscription service is, why you need one, and the range of text marketing messages you could send. You'll also learn how to get people to opt-in to receive texts from your business, how to set up a text message service and some of the best practices to be aware of as you send messages.

What is a text subscription service?

Subscribe written on a piece of paper

A text subscription service is where people interested in your products or services sign up to receive text messages from your business. Effectively, it's a way of building a marketing list for potential leads and customers, so you can directly communicate with them. Once you have your list of phone numbers, you can send out text messages to your contacts in bulk, in targeted groups, or individually.

Some businesses charge subscribers a fee to deliver premium text message content. This is known as premium rate text messaging or reverse billing texts, where the cost is added to the subscriber's monthly mobile bill. One example is sendcatfacts.com, where you can sign yourself (or someone else) up for 30 hilarious cat facts texts sent every one to two days for $8. Other examples are competition entry texts, lottery texts or a chat text service.

Typically, when you set up a text message service, you can send two types of texts: marketing texts and transactional texts. Marketing texts are what you'll use to promote your business brand, products or services. Transactional texts are those that are critical to your business operations – like order confirmations, delivery updates and account security PIN codes. Transactional text messaging often falls into the scope of marketing and can indirectly help to improve customer satisfaction.

For this article, we'll be focusing on building a text subscription service with SMS marketing campaigns in mind (consisting of non-premium texts). Certain rules apply to promotional text messages that you'll need to know about, starting from the point your contacts opt-in to receive SMS messages. We'll be explaining this in more detail later – so keep reading!

Why set up a text message subscription service?

SMS marketing is a powerful way to reach potential and existing customers. Think about it: text messages are familiar to everyone with a cell phone – that's 97% of Americans and 7.10 billion people worldwide.

Then there's the fact that texts are opened nearly 99% of the time. The same can't be said for email marketing, which can often go ignored or disappear into the junk folder. SMS messages also have high engagement rates; people are more likely to interact and respond to them than other channels.

From a cost point of view, text marketing is something that even small businesses can afford to do. For instance, Messente only charges you for the texts you send. We don't have a basic plan per se, the cost merely depends on the destinations you want to send SMS messages to and the volume you want to send. We have no hidden fees (unlike some providers).

A text subscription service is an excellent addition to your suite of marketing tools. By getting people to opt-in to text messages, you're creating a bank of 'warm leads' – contacts that are aware of your business and genuinely want to hear from you. 

Once you've got a list of subscribers, you're halfway towards making more sales, as you've initiated a relationship with your target audience, and they're already interested in your offering. You then just need to close the deal – by providing them with compelling SMS marketing campaigns that entice them to buy.

Ways to use a text subscription service

If you can get prospective and current customers to subscribe to text messages, there is no shortage of ways to leverage your SMS subscriber list. When you collect phone numbers from your lead generation efforts, you can craft custom marketing messages that will resonate with your SMS subscriber list.

So, once you have your text message marketing list ready to go, you can create several different types of SMS marketing campaigns. Here are some examples below.

Flash sales and discounts

Sell products or services? Let potential customers and existing customers know when you're running a flash sale or have a special discount code in force. You could even set up drip campaigns and send recurring messages to remind customers to make a purchase before your sale ends.

A discount is a great way to thank new customers after they've made their first purchase – it's a strong first message that could turn them into loyal customers that will buy from your business again and again.


Good news [Name]! Save BIG in our Black Friday sale! Huge discounts on all sportswear and fitness essentials. Shop online now: [URL]

Hi [Name] we value your custom! As a thank you for your order, we're offering you 15% off your next purchase. Enter code WELCOME at checkout: [URL]

Text subscription example

Loyalty Club offers

Starting a loyalty programme is a great way to reward customers (and it's what modern consumers expect). Depending on your business, you could use text message marketing to offer free gifts (or points), a VIP discount, free loyalty points, or to build engagement.


Hey there foodie friend! Claim your free Christmas cookbook with 100+ recipes to help you create a festive feast like never before! [URL]

Company information and news

If increasing brand awareness is your goal, why not use text message marketing to share your latest company blog, details of upcoming events or your shareholder newsletter? You could drive subscribers to your website to increase your online presence. Check out the following message...


Even though we're a small business, we've reduced our carbon footprint by 25% this year! Read our blog to learn how: [URL]

Appointment confirmations and SMS reminders

SMS is brilliant for quick and punchy appointment confirmations and text reminders. What's more, they're very effective and can make a real difference in reducing no-shows. Did you know that 75% of millennials think a text is a helpful way to receive appointment reminders?


Hi [Name] thanks for booking a haircut and colour on [Date] at [Time]. We're looking forward to seeing you! Need to cancel? Call us on [Number].

Hi [Name] we can't wait to see you tomorrow at [Time] for your haircut and colour. Your hairdresser is Lucy. Please arrive promptly as we have a full schedule!

SMS surveys

Running SMS surveys from time to time is essential, no matter your business type. It's the best way to get insights on how your company is performing, what improvements you could make and what other services you might need to offer.


Hey [Name] we hope you enjoyed your visit to our little vegan cafe. What did you think about our menu? Please spare 2 mins and tell us here: [URL]

Setting up a subscription service for text messages

To get started with text messaging for your business, you first need to choose a provider that offers all the SMS marketing tools your business requires. For example, mass texting, automation features, personalisation, an intuitive interface and the ability to integrate with third-party apps (in case you want to integrate SMS with your existing systems).

Aside from application features, check out the provider's message delivery rate, the global regions they cover and the expected level of service from their support team. This is a major consideration because if something goes wrong, you'll want the problem sorted out immediately. Unlike some other providers, Messente offers users the same comprehensive level of support (the option to talk to a real human) to all clients, whether they run a major corporation or a small business.

Messente also offers a very quick setup process. You can get started right away using our intuitive dashboard online. There, you can add unlimited contacts and send or schedule messages directly within the application.

The most straightforward way to integrate Messente is to sign up for a Zapier account. This will enable you to connect Messente to more than 4,000 third-party apps. Alternatively, a developer will be able to add Messente's SMS marketing tools to your existing systems in less than a day, by following our Quickstart guide.

How to get text message subscribers

Once you're set up with an SMS provider, you'll need to start getting subscribers to opt-in to your text message marketing. A popular way to do this is to encourage your target audience to text a short code number to sign up. You could advertise this number in flyers, adverts, on your website, at your business premises, etc. Here's an example of how this might look:

Want to receive special offers and reminders about our fitness classes? Text YES to 12345 to opt-in to our text message marketing. You can opt out at any time.

Another way to get text messaging subscribers is to set up a web form, or pop up form on your website to capture phone numbers. Messente offers a Subscription API to help you do this easily.

When you capture email addresses through your go-to email marketing platform, you can encourage prospective and current customers to subscribe to your SMS marketing list. You can even set up a "text to subscribe" workflow to streamline the entire process.

Classic style pen used for marking a check mark

Text subscription service best practices

Before you carry out text message marketing, be sure that you comply with SMS marketing regulations, such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the Messaging Principles and Best Practices, as set out by CTIA, and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). The TCPA and CTIA cover consumers based in the United States, while GDPR legislation covers those in Europe and the UK.

These regulations and best practices are in place to protect consumers from text message marketing spam. They set out rules such as:

  • Getting explicit opt-in permissions – such as the subscriber selecting an online checkbox or sending a text to a short code number to indicate they're happy to receive text message marketing.

  • Only sending text messages to opted-in subscribers – if you send them to people who haven't given permission, you could be heavily penalised, which isn't good news for small businesses that may be strapped for cash.

  • Making opt-in and opt-out simple –subscribers should be easily able to opt-in, then change their mind and opt-out. Adding an unsubscribe link within all the messages you send is the best way to do this.

  • Only texting during certain hours – the TCPA restricts telemarketing (which includes texts) before 8 am or after 9 pm, according to the recipient's local time. If you have subscribers across different time zones, this could be a challenge.

Start SMS marketing today with a text subscription service

The benefits of text message marketing are clear. It's a highly effective, affordable way to reach customers directly – even for small businesses with a low marketing budget. Once you've collected subscribers, there are a multitude of ways you can promote your business and inform and engage your audience.

See how easy it is to build a text message subscription service with Messente. Sign up for a free account and explore our intuitive dashboard.