The complete guide to SMS Marketing in 2023
SMS marketing made easy! Increase revenue and build customer loyalty with our complete SMS marketing guide.
Today’s marketing is personalized, multi-channeled, and retargeted. Gone are the days of running billboard and mailbox ads with fingers crossed.
Instead, modern advertisers target customers at every touchpoint. from email marketing, pay-per-click on google, organic (SEO) marketing, newsletters, and even email signature marketing is now a thing. And at the center of this multichannel strategy is SMS marketing—one of the most effective ways of reaching customers.
So in this guide, you’ll learn how to make the most of SMS marketing. You’ll learn what it is, why it’s important, and its best practices.
Plus, we’ll show you the most effective SMS marketing tools available.
What’s on this page
What is SMS marketing?
SMS marketing is the process of sending marketing messages via text.
It’s an opt-in service, meaning contacts need to subscribe to receive messages. Like B2C email, SMS marketing targets people on your contact list (and further down the lead funnel by extension).
SMS offers engagement that no other channel does. One-third of consumers check their phones within a minute of getting texts, which have open rates of up to 98% (with response rates as high as 45%).
Examples of SMS marketing messages include:
When you send a marketing email to your customer, you compete with who-knows-how-many other emails for their attention. Add this to the fact that your message probably won’t even land in the primary inbox, and you understand why the average open rate hovers around 21%.
- Sales and promotions. Ex. “Get free shipping with promo code FREESHIP.”
- Welcome messages. Ex. “Thanks for signing up for SMS messages! Opt out at any time.”
- Booking confirmations. Ex. “Confirmed! Claire will cut your hair on 1/22/23 at 4 PM.”
- Birthday. Ex. “Happy birthday, Jenna! Send wishes your way with 15% off your next order.”
- Back in stock. Ex. “They’re back, Jimmy! Get our velvet ties while they last!”
- Black Friday. Ex. “Our Black Friday deals are on now—get up to 90% off!”
- General promotion. Ex. “It’s been a blowout year. Explore 2022’s best-selling products now.”
Because of anti-spam laws, you can only send SMS messages to subscribers. If you send unsolicited marketing messages to people, you can face thousands of dollars in fines for each message sent.
Why Is SMS Marketing important and is it good for your business?
But the benefits of text marketing don’t stop there. Here’s what else it gives you:
1. It’s Direct
Text message marketing skips to the front of the line, reaching the customer on the device they use 58 times a day.
2. It’s Adaptable
Message marketing can be used for anything. Promotions, welcome messages, flash sales, and feedback surveys are just the beginning.
3. Low Competition
Despite text message marketing’s benefits, only 42% of businesses texted their customers in 2021. It’s much less saturated than email or social media, so you’ll stand out a lot easier.
4. High Customization
SMS marketing tools connect with CRM software to let you tailor your message to each customer. Use names, rewards status, upcoming appointments, and other data points to enhance their experience.
You can even deliver texts based on preference data, like how often they want to get texts and the type of messages they want.
5. Convenient for Customers
SMS marketing is even more convenient for customers as it is for brands. Texts save them from needing to scroll through their emails, and allow fast, easy responses through yes or no text prompts.
6. High Click-Through Rates (CTRs)
When crafted for maximum appeal, texting promotions can get phenomenally high CTRs. One company scores click-throughs were as high as 47%.
Is SMS Marketing Still Effective in 2022\2023, or Does It Annoy Customers?
Not only does SMS marketing not annoy customers, but they actually like it—61% of consumers want the ability to text businesses back. On average, 70% of consumers are subscribed to receive business texts in 2022, up 12% from 2021.
And SMS marketing is highly effective. 69% of businesses get CTRs of over 20%, with the top 12% getting CTRs higher than 50%. And out of an analysis of over 10,000 text campaigns, one study found the SMS CTR benchmark to be as high as 30%.
This isn’t a huge surprise since over half of the consumers check their texts at least 11 times a day (with only 29% checking their emails as often). Text marketing is so effective that 60% of businesses increased their SMS budget in 2022.
What are the main use cases for SMS Marketing?
Message marketing is incredibly versatile, having a massive number of functions. Responding to a survey, here’s what 1,314 business owners and digital marketers said they used SMS marketing for:
1. Special offers & promotions (38.2% of Respondents)
With text marketing’s high open rates and CTRs, there’s no better place for promoting a special offer. Use those high metrics to power sales on blowout deals, as shown below:
2. Billing (37.9%)
Chasing customer invoices can be one of the most frustrating parts of running a business. In the worst-case scenario, non-payments can lead to cash-flow issues.
But non-paying customers aren’t necessarily bad actors. Like other obligations, it’s likely they simply forgot to pay.
Thanks to its direct access to customers, SMS reminders are the best way to nudge customers to pay their invoices. You can use marketing tools to send automated text reminders whenever bills are overdue, massively reducing the hassle of chasing down bills.
SMS marketing lets you automatically:
- Remind customers of due dates
- Ask customers to pay overdue bills
- Inform customers of the penalties of non-payment
- Offer discounts for early payments
For best results, personalize billing messages with the recipient’s information, and frame the message politely—even with overdue payments. It’s a touchy issue for many, and framing your message right can make all the difference.
3. Booking reminders via SMS (31%)
Throughout your life, you’ve likely forgotten several engagements you would’ve held if someone had reminded you. With SMS reminders, your customers will never have that issue.
Messaging lets you send friendly, automated reminders to clients whenever an appointment approaches. This greatly reduces the chance they’ll miss their booking, saving you and the client the trouble of a missed reservation.
Be sure to allow clients to respond to messages, as shown above. Over 50% of consumers want to be able to respond to text appointment reminders—the highest of any SMS type.
4. Contests and sweepstakes (26.3%)
Sweepstakes texting promotions are a fantastic way to grow subscriber lists.
You can get customers to sign up for your email list in exchange for an entry into your sweepstakes. Once the context’s over, those people will still receive your other SMS promotions.
5. Shipping updates (25.6%)
In an era of one-day Amazon deliveries, customers have grown increasingly impatient about when their orders arrive. But text marketing makes the wait easier by giving customers easy access to order updates.
46.5% of consumers want to be able to respond to shipping messages. Letting customers ask about order estimates and tracking information is massively helpful to a positive experience.
6. Customer support (24.4%)
Think of traditional customer support channels like email and phone. Getting a response from these avenues can take a long time, frustrating customers.
However, SMS can turn your customer’s phones into accessible, fast support channels. And when customers know a brand has accessible support, they’re more likely to buy from it.
In fact, 68% of consumers say they’re willing to pay more for products from brands with good customer service.
Best practices and rules for SMS Marketing
Both brands and consumers benefit from text marketing, but those effects only happen when the brand does it right. So next, we’ll review the best practices for making the most of SMS marketing.
1. Give a clear call to action (CTA)
Even though text messages are short, you must clearly communicate what you want. Your CTA should be immediately visible—no need for fancy language or unnecessary jargon.
Most messaging apps display only the first few words of a text message, so the first sentence needs to tell the recipient what the text is about. Otherwise, you risk them swiping away before they’ve even read it.
2. Use A/B testing
In SMS marketing, A/B tests send two versions of a message to a small audience and report the best result. This lets you tweak your messages to get the best results possible, something that’s especially important in large-scale bulk SMS marketing.
Running an SMS A/B is simple:
- Create a new message with a single change
- Test both options against a small sample size
- Record results
- Send out the version with the best metrics
It takes little time and effort but makes a massive difference.
3. Personalize messages
A robotic, impersonal tone can kill the effectiveness of an SMS campaign by making the customer feel like another cog in the wheel. But if you personalize your message, you can make each recipient feel special.
Personalization also makes your messages more functional, enabling you to send specialized campaigns like appointment reminders, birthday discounts, and payment notifications.
4. Stay compliant with marketing laws
Keeping your SMS marketing messages compliant with privacy laws is vital to your business’s future. Authorities have fined companies hundreds of thousands for sending unsolicited messages to a few hundred people.
But don’t freak out—staying compliant isn’t difficult. It’s mostly about following common sense as described below:
5. Get informed consent
All SMS campaigns start with the recipient fully understanding what they’re signing up for. Both parts of the phrase “informed consent” are crucial:
- Informed. The user clearly understands what the SMS campaign entails.
- Consent. The user gives explicit consent to receive messages according to the terms.
Users should know who’s sending the texts, what’s in them, and how often.
6. Keep content appropriate
Keep conscious of the content you include in your marketing messages. You could easily run afoul of content laws and your customers’ sensibilities with some edgy humor you think is innocent.
Avoid these types of content:
- Hateful and disparaging content
- Sexual content
- Content related to regulated goods, such as alcohol, firearms, and tobacco (with possible exceptions for merchants within those industries according to local laws)
7. Send during appropriate times
You should only send texts during certain hours of the day to comply with marketing laws, which usually allows between 8 AM and 9 PM.
It’s best only to send texts during normal business hours since that’s when customers are most accustomed to receiving them. While staying compliant with marketing laws is important, the most crucial concern is not annoying your customers and causing them to unsubscribe.
8. Make opting out easy
Your text messages need to have an opt-out option. Like how marketing emails have “unsubscribe” buttons, your texts should have instructions on how to stop receiving them.
Businesses usually let customers opt out of texts by replying “STOP.” However you do it, let users know before they sign up and remind them regularly.
And whenever users opt out, don’t send them any more texts outside of an unsubscribe confirmation.
9. Let customers text back
61% of consumers across all age groups want the ability to text businesses back. Even 52% of Gen Z want the ability to text businesses back, even though they’re the least likely to do it.
Customers want a two-way conversation, especially for appointment reminders and customer service. This plays into the larger marketing trend of brands becoming more grounded and approachable.
When customers know they can text a business from their phones and get a thoughtful response, your brand image gets a huge boost.
What is SMS blasting and how does it work?
SMS blasting involves sending a large number of SMS messages simultaneously.
Bulk SMS marketing is a quick and effective way to get a message across to a large audience. It’s great for sending emergency notifications, raising brand awareness, or running a flash sale.
Collaborate your digital marketing & brand strategy with text marketing
The pure versatility of text marketing lets you combine your entire brand and digital marketing strategy at once.
For example, you can send birthday discounts to customers, which both improves your brand image and drives sales. Text message marketing lets brands reach customers where they’re guaranteed to see them, and gives them the true omnichannel experience.
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Top five text marketing tools
To be successful with SMS marketing, you’ve got to use the right software. So next, we’ll review the top five text marketing tools and explain the benefits of each.
1. TextMagic (4.4/5 G2 Rating)
TextMagic is a simple yet robust SMS marketing platform. With two-way conversations, Zapier integrations, and text scheduling, it’s more than enough for most businesses.
- Import from spreadsheet
- Virtual mobile numbers
- Email to SMS
- SSO for organizations
- Email and number validation
- SMS surveys
- Two-factor authentication
- Service to over 190 countries
A TextMagic account is free, but you pay a fixed rate for the country you’re messaging. For instance, each message to the United States is $0.04.
Inbound messages are free.
2. Twilio MessagingX (4.4/5 G2 Rating)
Twilio is a broad-scale marketing platform with extensive SMS abilities. Using its visual workflow builder, you can create powerful automated SMS campaigns with no coding.
- Drip texting
- Third-party integrations
- WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Google Business messaging compatibility
- Lower sending prices than other platforms
- Toll-free numbers
- Customizable, developer-friendly APIs
- Send to 180+ countries with 1500 carriers+
Like TextMagic, a Twilio account is free with pay-as-you-go texting. And while sending messages is cheap, Twilio charges for receiving messages too.
Messages sent to a local US number cost $0.0079, and messages received cost $0.0075. It’s even more expensive to send and receive pictures.
3. SlickText (4.8/5 G2 Rating)
SlickText lets brands create and send MMS campaigns with advanced marketing automation. It’s famously easy to use and perfect for small businesses just getting started with MMS marketing.
- Highly personalized messaging and segmentation
- Streamlined automation
- 15+ native integrations
- 4,000+ Zapier integrations
- Advanced analytics
- Excellent customer service
SlickText pricing is slightly confusing, consisting of nine different plans. These plans include:
- Free: 50 texts/month
- Basic ($29/month): 500 texts/month
- Step Up ($49/month): 1,000 texts/month + Basic features
- Lil Bro ($79/month): 2,000 texts/month + Step Up features
- Big Bro ($139/month): 3,600 texts/month + Lil Bro features
- Boss ($189/month): 5,000 texts/month + Big Bro features
- Albatross ($350/month): 10,000 texts/month + Boss features
- Whale ($750/month): 25,000 texts/month + Albatross features
- Monstro ($1250/month): 50,000 texts/month + Whale features
- Enterprise: Custom plans for the largest brands
4. Klaviyo (4.6/5 G2 Rating)
Multichannel marketing platform Klaviyo offers powerful SMS capabilities. With a robust feature set and simple pricing calculators, Klaviyo is the go-to SMS marketing solution for many brands.
- 200+ integrations
- Extensive template library
- 24+ built-in automation
- Automatic optimization
Klaviyo has a free plan with 500 emails and 150 SMS/MMS credits each month. For their paid plans, Klaviyo estimates prices based on the number of contacts you have.
For example, 1501 to 2500 contacts have an estimated cost of $510/month. The exact price depends on your exact messaging needs, which you can adjust manually.
5. Sendinblue (4.5/5 G2 Rating)
Sendinblue’s SMS platform goes beyond basic functionality, offering businesses automation, CRM integration, and more. It’s not just for messaging customers, but for engaging them across every channel.
- In-depth performance analysis
- Message personalization
- Message Scheduling
- Sign-up forms
- A/B testing
Sendinblue’s SMS pricing is included as part of its email plans:
- Free: Unlimited contacts, 300 emails per day
- Lite: No daily sending limits, A/B testing, analytics
- Premium: Lite features, marketing automation, Facebook ads, landing pages, multi-user access, and telephone support
- Enterprise: Premium features SSO, 20+ landing pages, priority sending, dedicated success manager, and priority support
The exact total varies depending on your monthly email volume.
Start SMS Marketing now
As seen above, SMS marketing is an incredibly effective way of reaching customers in their daily lives. It’s also underrated, given that barely half of the businesses use it.
And getting started isn’t hard either. You need to know the rules, find a suitable SMS marketing tool, and start sending your campaigns.