Guide for SMS Marketing
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Text messages are a part of everyday life. We use them throughout our day, every day, to communicate with one another while we’re apart.

And while we all use text messages in our private lives, most of us also receive SMS marketing messages from companies and organizations that we do business with.

What is SMS marketing?

SMS stands for “short message service.” SMS marketing helps your business send text messages to customers or clients who’ve opted in to receive timely communications from your business or nonprofit.

Businesses use SMS to send marketing messages to subscribers about limited-time offers, sign-up confirmations, event announcements, appointment reminders, and more.

Is SMS marketing legal? 

SMS marketing is legal when you obtain consent from your subscribers and your business upholds the following guidelines set forth by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The FCC’s Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) requires that businesses gain consent before sending SMS marketing text messages. The act also requires SMS marketing text messages to include the following:

Description of the program

Shortcode or phone number messages will come from

The phrase “Msg & Data rates apply.”

The number of messages subscribers can expect to receive

Instructions on how to opt-out

A link to your terms and conditions or privacy policy

Contact and support information

The FTC’s CAN-Spam Act helps to protect consumers from misleading information and poor business practices. The CAN-Spam Act instructs businesses to avoid the following bad business practices:

Failing to identify a message as an advertisement

Misleading or false information in subject lines, header content like sender information (To:, From:, Reply to:) and message body content.

Falsifying business location

Failing to inform subscribers how to opt-out

Failing to honor unsubscribes

Comply with the TCPA and CAN-Spam Act to ensure your SMS marketing practices remain legal.

How to use SMS marketing

Use SMS to quickly get in touch with customers, answer questions, and direct them to take action.

To create and send successful SMS text messages for your business, make sure to follow these guidelines:

Character count and tone

While you want to be conversational, make every character count when you begin sending SMS marketing messages for your business. 160 characters (including spaces) is the standard for SMS marketing messages (70 when you include an emoji).

Be friendly and informative with your messaging, reinforcing your brand voice in the process. Have a business geared at younger clientele? You might sacrifice 160 characters for an emoji that says it all.

Respect sending times

No one wants to be bothered by marketing text messages at 2 a.m. Make sure to respect sending times — this means only sending SMS marketing messages between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.


Just like respecting quiet hours, you do not want to bombard your subscribers with too many messages. Send SMS marketing messages when it matters to keep subscribers informed without overwhelming them with updates.


SMS marketing messages should provide your subscribers with value. From promo codes to confirmation information, clarify what subscribers will gain from your business.

Types of SMS marketing

From abandoned cart messages to appointment reminders, SMS text message marketing is no longer just for large retail businesses.

Here are some common types of SMS marketing:

Appointment reminders

Shipping confirmations

Flash sales

Product launches

Discounts and exclusive offers

Abandoned cart reminders

Seasonal reminders and sale promotions

Benefits of SMS marketing for small businesses 

SMS text message marketing helps your business get up close and personal with subscribers — driving your message right into the palm of their hand. Here are some of the major benefits of introducing SMS text messages into your business’s marketing strategy.

Building relationships

As a small business owner, your greatest advantage is the relationships you build with your customers. By combining SMS marketing with your other marketing channels, you can boost your company’s average user lifetime by 76% all while communicating timely information to your audience when and where they want to receive it.


The success of SMS marketing hinges on its ability to get important messages into the hands of your subscribers. It’s direct and immediate. With no spam folder and 80.5% of consumers checking their text notifications within five minutes, your marketing messages always get seen.


SMS marketing allows businesses to reach a wide audience at a low cost, making it an attractive option for businesses with limited marketing budgets. Because of its newness in the digital marketing sphere, you’ll often find digital marketing software platforms offering SMS marketing services as an add-on feature.

Brand awareness

Connect your brand messaging to your subscribers instantly by building a conversation through SMS text messages. Send information about product launches, flash sales, and reminders to give value and reinforce your brand.

High open rates and conversions 

With 91% of consumers interested in signing up for texts and open rates as high as 98%, SMS marketing is an impactful tool to get your message out to subscribers and encourage them to take action.

What a small business should be using SMS for

What can’t you use it for? From abandoned cart messages to appointment reminders, reservation confirmations, donation drives and flash sales, SMS is not just for large retail businesses anymore.

As a small business owner, your greatest advantage is the relationships you can build with your customers.

SMS text message marketing offers an additional way to build those relationships by communicating timely information to your audience when and where they want to receive it.

That’s why every business or nonprofit can benefit from using text message marketing as part of their marketing strategy, no matter how large or small.

Why email, SMS marketing, and social media are better together

Using SMS doesn’t mean you should drop the use of other marketing channels such as email marketing and social media. In fact, customers prefer it when their favorite brands use more than one marketing channel to engage them.

In particular, SMS and email marketing are more effective when combined because they’re both permission-based marketing channels.

When people sign up to receive your messages, they’re not just giving permission for you to send them marketing messages; they’re asking you to send them. They’re showing that they’re interested in your business, and they want to receive more information from you.

Whether it’s the latest news on industry trends or a flash sale on cat toys, it’s up to you to send timely, targeted messages on the channels your subscribers prefer.

Doing so will ensure you get the best results possible. And, because not everyone likes to receive the same messages the same way, it’s important to use your marketing channels both separately (omnichannel marketing) and together (cross-channel marketing).

The trick is to know the unique aspects of each channel and how to use them.

Email marketing gives you ownership of your list and your ability to connect with your audience. It allows you to send personalized, targeted messages on your terms. It’s perfect for regular newsletters and messages with enticing images and intriguing snippets that lead back to your website, blog, or online store. However, you also have to compete for your reader’s attention in the inbox.

Social media allows you to reach new people and share beyond your existing email list. But, algorithms can limit your reach, and the social media channel can control how, when, and if you can communicate with your subscribers. And, because social media success relies on your action and interaction, it can be time-consuming. However, social media is perfect for building brand awareness and growing your list.

SMS marketing is much like email marketing; it also gives you ownership of your list and your ability to connect with your audience, as well as allowing you to send personalized, target messages on your terms. However, these messages are more immediate than email and require clear and succinct messaging. This makes text message marketing perfect for sending exclusive messages that require a timely response.

Just remember, no one wants to have their phone pinging all day long, so be careful not to abuse this connection, or you’ll turn people off.

When planning your marketing strategy, keep in mind that even though you should be using these channels together, you don’t want to repeat the same message on every channel.

While we recommend occasionally mentioning what’s going on in other channels or with your campaign, you’ve got to have a reason to be there, and you must pay attention to how you’re using each channel  —  individually and together.

How to get started with SMS text message marketing

Getting started with SMS marketing is easy as long as you know three key things: your brand, your message, and your audience.

With any marketing effort, knowing your brand and your brand voice is critical to creating on-brand, authentic, and meaningful communications with your customers.

Whether your business aims to be a serious thought leader or a fun and friendly community member, sticking to your brand when starting SMS text campaigns will help the rest fall into place. Stay true to what your customers already know and love about you when you start creating your first text campaign, and you’ll be well on your way to success.

So what to send first? As outlined above, text marketing works best for particular types of messages: ones that are timely, succinct and exclusive to SMS. Sales, event reminders, and product sneak peeks are all good examples of the types of messages that work well over text. Consider what you already know about your customers and what motivates them, and start from there.

This is where knowing your audience comes into play — and can make a significant difference between a text campaign that is “wow!” and one that is “meh.”

Just as you would with an email campaign, customizing your SMS marketing messages to your audience is key. Whether sending a text wishing a customer a happy birthday or reminding them a product they frequently purchase is back in stock, a customized message can show your customers how much you value their support.

Armed with a good grasp of your brand, your message and your audience, you’ll be ready to start growing your SMS list and sending messages in no time. Text message marketing doesn’t have to be hard   —  it’s just one more way to ensure you’re communicating authentically with your customers in the ways and places they prefer the most.
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