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What is SMS Marketing? The Definitive Guide

Today's consumer is inundated with marketing messages. They arrive from all angles – online ads, email campaigns, social media, print advertising – so it's a never-ending challenge for marketers to find a way to cut through the noise.

SMS marketing is one channel that's not yet overused. It has an incredibly wide reach and the power to grab attention in ways that other channels can't. Read on to discover the benefits of SMS marketing, along with examples of how it can be used for small businesses and large enterprises alike.

What is SMS marketing?

SMS marketing is where a business or brand uses text messages to send promotional information to customers and prospects who've opted in to receive text message marketing campaigns. Once opted in, these contacts are also known as SMS subscribers.

SMS stands for Short Message Service. Texts are indeed short – around 160 characters, to be precise. But this short-form type of communication is most certainly powerful – it can take your marketing efforts to another level.

Why consider marketing text messages?

SMS marketing is well worth factoring into your digital marketing strategy because it offers several advantages that are just too important to ignore.

1. SMS messaging is accessible, fast and direct

Everyone who owns a mobile phone (even a basic cellphone) can receive text messages. It's a channel that literally puts your message straight into your subscribers' hands. Texts are sent and received almost instantly in most cases – making them the best option for conveying urgent or time-sensitive information.

2. SMS messages get noticed

In terms of open and response rates, SMS campaigns lead the way, especially compared to email marketing. 98% of texts are opened, compared to just 21.33% for email.

Related: Read 28 Important (and Fascinating) Facts About Texting

3. SMS marketing messages are cost-effective

Compared to some marketing channels, SMS marketing is relatively inexpensive to carry out. You'll be using SMS marketing software to administer a very direct form of marketing that yields great results. Some platforms charge set-up or subscription fees, however, with Messente's solution, you only pay for the texts you send.

Types of SMS marketing strategies

There are two main types of SMS marketing campaigns: promotional and transactional. Promotional text campaigns are heavily focused on marketing – where you might be trying to get more sales, engage customers, win customer loyalty and raise brand awareness.

Transactional messages are where you're sending out essential information that your customers need. Account security PIN codes, appointment reminders, order progress updates and SMS customer service messages are some examples.

The key difference is that a promotional message isn't critical to the customer experience like transactional messages are. However, you can still use transactional SMS messages to build brand awareness and increase customer satisfaction.

Example transactional text containing marketing information

SMS marketing examples

There are many different types of SMS marketing campaigns to promote products and services. Here are five use cases for inspiration.

1. Flash sale SMS campaign

Use SMS marketing to notify leads and customers when running a sale. For maximum impact, send a series of messages: one before the sale, one as it starts and one towards the end.


Hi [Name]! Our Black Friday sale has now begun! There are discounts galore – don't miss out – these prices can't last forever! Browse the sale here: [URL]

2. New product launch SMS

Get sales for a new product (or service) off to a great start by using SMS to announce the launch.


The time has arrived [Name]! The new John Grisham thriller is available to order from 31/05/22! Pre-order now and be among the first to read it! [URL].

3. Cross-sell SMS campaign

Extract more value from existing customers by promoting products that build upon their previous order history.


Hey [Name]! Hope you're enjoying your new MacBook Pro. Did you know we're currently offering laptop insurance with 2 months free? Learn more: [URL]

4. Abandoned cart SMS alerts

Almost 70% of online shoppers abandon their purchase before reaching the checkout. A well-timed SMS could tempt them back to finish what they started.


Uh oh! We've noticed you've left an item behind in your basket [Name]! Click here to finish your purchase while stocks last! [URL]

5. Feedback request

Evaluation is a crucial part of marketing. Without knowing what customers think, how can you improve? Encourage each customer to leave a review with a text message request a week after they've spent money with your business.


Hi [Name]! Hope you enjoyed your stay at Paradise Place. Please leave us a short review so we can improve our service: [URL]

How to build an SMS marketing campaign

There are two things you need to start sending SMS marketing campaigns. The first is a list of phone numbers for existing customers and/or potential customers. (Note, you must have permission from each person on your list before sending them SMS marketing messages.) The second is an SMS sending service.

To give you an idea of how easy it is to get going with SMS marketing, here's how to build an SMS campaign with Messente's platform:

  1. Create your Messente account (free) and get your API key.

  2. Verify yourself as a sender.

  3. Upload your database of phone numbers (you can also upload different groups of contacts if you want to segment your audience).

  4. Compose your first text message in our user-friendly dashboard.

  5. Select your list of contacts.

  6. Hit send (or schedule).

Take a look at our Getting Started guide for more details.

Text message marketing laws and best practices

There are various rules and regulations in place to protect consumers from unsolicited or unwanted text messages. It's essential to check your SMS marketing strategy complies with the relevant legislation for the countries in which your subscribers reside.

As a starting point, familiarise yourself with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the CAN-SPAM Act, the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations and CTIA's Messaging Principles and Best Practices.

Ensure that:

  • Your SMS contacts opt-in and provide their explicit consent to receive text marketing messages from your business.

  • You include an unsubscribe link in each of your text messages. Alternatively, you can have instructions to prompt the subscriber to text a short code number with a keyword like 'STOP' as a way of opting out.

  • Campaign messages are sent only at appropriate times (not early in the morning or late at night). Some countries have very specific rules about this. In the U.S., for instance, you're not allowed to send commercial texts before 8 am or after 9 pm, according to the subscriber's local timezone.

SMS marketing tips and tricks

To get the most out of your text message marketing campaigns, consider these tried and tested approaches:

  • Personalise your SMS message – include the subscriber's name to capture their attention. You can do this even with bulk SMS by using an SMS marketing program that pulls through your subscribers' details from a database.

  • Send highly targeted SMS campaigns – tailored to your customers' interests.

  • Use Verified SMS – which allows you to include branding and increases trust.

  • Set up SMS marketing automation – save time and hassle with automated campaigns triggered by certain actions. For instance, it should be possible to automate 'Welcome' messages, abandoned cart alerts and 'back in stock' notifications providing you can integrate SMS into your CRM system.

  • Use SMS marketing alongside other channels – many businesses are now waking up to omnichannel marketing – integrating various channels to interact with customers and deliver a consistent brand experience. SMS perfectly complements email marketing. Why not use email for longer-form marketing and follow up with short and punchy texts to really hammer home a particularly persuasive offer?

Close up shot of person holding mobile phone

Start sending marketing SMS messages today

Want to know more about SMS marketing and how it can be used across a range of industries? Our blog is packed full of helpful articles – browse all posts here.

Ready to take the plunge? It's easy to get started with SMS marketing with Messente. Register for your free account today and follow the prompts on-screen to compose and send your first text.

Taavi Rebane
2022-05-17 00:00:00 UTC