I believe in the effectiveness of SMS marketing, so much so that I coined a new digital marketing term and approach called “emext marketing”. It utilizes text messaging as a foundational cornerstone. More on that later.

In this article, I’m going to answer the question, “What is SMS marketing?” I will also explain how it works and its benefits. Plus, you’ll get a few examples.

What does SMS stand for and where did it come from?

SMS stands for Short Message Service. German and French telecom engineers, Friedhelm Hillebrand and Bernard Ghillebaert developed the concept along with the global SMS standards in 1984.

However, some believe that earlier pioneers set the stage with similar technology, like the telegraph and telex.

Neil Papworth, a test engineer, sent the first mobile phone text message in 1992. It read, “Merry Christmas”.

A year later, the Nokia 2110 became one of the first commercial cell phones capable of sending and receiving texts.

What is SMS marketing good for?

SMS marketing is a fantastic way for you to stay connected with your target audience and generate revenue.

You can send marketing texts for exclusive offers, sales, new product announcements, updates, exclusive events, news, and more.

Example uses for SMS

The types of local businesses and ways in which they can effectively employ SMS marketing are endless. Here are just four examples:

  • Personal service businesses can set up appointment reminders, ensuring that they don’t lose out on any revenue.
  • Specialty, gift, and novelty shops can notify past customers of upcoming sales and promotions to generate more revenue.
  • Entertainment venues and promoters can notify consumers of upcoming events.
  • Restaurants can use SMS to send out digital coupons to build a community of loyal foodies.

On top of that, look at this impressive 98% open rate for SMS messages.

what is sms marketing - 98% open rate for sms messages

There’s no other digital marketing channel that comes close to that percentage. People are addicted to their mobile phones.

So, of course, you want to get as close to your customers as possible.

The use of SMS marketing is growing. But 65% of businesses are still trying to figure out how to incorporate it into their overall marketing strategy.

65% of businesses have not implemented sms

I’ll give you some helpful implementation tips later.

How is SMS marketing done?

The primary data point in SMS marketing text messages is the mobile phone number of your prospects and customers.

To collect the numbers and send messages, you’ll need an SMS service provider and strategy. And if you’re feeling extra ambitious, you could choose a provider that also allows 2-way SMS text messaging.

The 60% positive response rate shown below should help to confirm that it’s a good idea (G2).

60% of consumers want businesses to use 2-way sms messaging

Another reason you should employ an SMS service provider is for their ability to send messages in bulk. You certainly wouldn’t be able to send individual texts directly to your SMS subscribers.

Collecting mobile phone numbers

You’ll need the following three things to begin collecting phone numbers from your target audience:

  1. Short or long code
  2. Subscriber keyword
  3. Advertising

Short codes versus long codes

Short codes and long codes are phone numbers that telecom companies created to manage text messages.

  • Short codes are 5- to 6- digit numbers like 555666. Big brands often use these codes because they are easy for consumers to remember. The telecom companies also designed these codes to send out messages faster than long codes. But you’ll find that they don’t come cheap.
  • Long codes look just like regular 10-digit phone numbers. In addition to texting, you can also use these codes for voice communication. They are inexpensive and will work fine for sending messages.

The SMS marketing platform you choose can help you get set up with either code you prefer.

Subscriber keyword

In addition to a short or long code, you need a unique keyword that customers must send to the code to subscribe to your SMS list.

For example, in the Harbor Freight ad below, they are asking people to text TOOLS1 to short code 34648 to receive special offers on their mobile phones.

TOOLS1 is also the name of the subscriber list on their SMS platform.

So, when a prospect sends the text as instructed, the messaging software will automatically send back the coupon. The software will also capture and store subscriber phone numbers.

Harbor Freight can then send additional offers and messages to subscribers whenever they like.

Advertise anywhere and everywhere

To build a list of SMS subscribers, you need to get the word out. Start by letting your current customers know that you’ve started a mobile VIP Rewards program.

You can do this by hanging posters in your brick-and-mortar store or using table tents. This signage should include instructions to text a keyword to your short or long code.

But don’t stop there. Place digital ads and flyers on social media, advertise on radio and TV, etc.

When customers subscribe, have the SMS software send them a digital coupon.

If you own a physical store, ask walk-in customers to redeem the coupon by showing it to your staff on their phones.

Keep a manual pen-and-paper tally of how many coupons are redeemed or use your computerized POS system for tracking.

What are the benefits of SMS?

Here’s how SMS marketing can benefit businesses and consumers.

Benefits to Businesses

  • You can keep your customers informed and updated on new products, services, sales, and promotions. That’s how 58% of consumers want you to reach them (Zip Whip).
58% of prefer that businesses reach them through text
  • You can send customers personal appointment reminders and updates.
  • You can keep employees updated about company news and events.

Benefits to Consumers

  • Nearly 64% of consumers said they will have peace of mind knowing that their appointments are set and confirmed when receiving text updates (Zip Whip).
64% of consumer love getting text to confirm appointments
  • Over 49% said they would love to hear about sales, promotions, and new products or services before they launch (Simple Texting).
over 49% of consumers are open to opting into text messaging

Overall, they will enjoy receiving any helpful communication that saves them time or enhances their lives.

Is SMS marketing effective?

Check out these impressive statistics that underscore how effective SMS marketing is:

  • 62% of consumers say they have subscribed to receive texts from at least one business in the last year (Simple Texting).
  • 74% of customers think businesses should text them more often (Zip Whip)
  • A large majority of consumers have a positive perception of businesses that use SMS, with 77% giving it a thumbs up (One Reach)

Now that you know how SMS marketing can help grow your business, it’s time to discuss implementation tips and strategies. Let’s start with the legal rules and laws

What are the rules related to business SMS?

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) governs the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). This act ensures the right to privacy through several methods. But here are four key requirements for SMS.

  • SMS messages are limited to 160 characters. You can send larger messages. But the service will split them into smaller messages of no more than 153 characters.
  • You must get written consent from the consumer before you can begin communicating with them through SMS marketing.
  • You must get written consent from the consumer before you can begin communicating with them through SMS marketing.
  • Businesses must identify themselves and their intent.
  • You can only communicate with subscribers between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m.

Obtaining Express Written Consent

The TCPA defines the criteria under which you must get express written consent. Businesses desiring to communicate with their customers through text messages must obtain consent that meets the following criterion:

  • You must disclose to the customer why you’re requesting their contact information.
  • You must give subscribers a reasonable forecast of the type of content and the regularity that you will send them messages.
  • You must provide consumers with the full terms and conditions of the consent, even if this is in the form of a hyperlink.
  • You must allow consumers to terminate their subscription at any time and for any reason by directly replying to a message.
  • You must inform consumers that standard messaging and data rates may apply to your communications.

If the above criterion seems overwhelming, don’t worry. Getting consent is a straightforward process. And the SMS service provider will have default templates to keep you…and them…out of trouble.

What are the best practices for SMS marketing?

Use these tips to enhance the customer experience:

  • Get consent before sending people messages.
  • Ensure that messages include your brand name and the purpose of the text.
  • Send messages during appropriate times of the day. If you annoy your customers, they will unsubscribe.
  • Provide value. Your customers want to hear from you, but they want meaningful and relevant offers and messages.
  • Personalize your messages by including the person’s name.
  • Consider adding multimedia elements like images or video to your text messages. (Note: When you do this, they become MMS text messages that I’ll discuss shortly.)

What causes SMS marketing to fail?

To prevent losing subscribers, be sure to avoid making these all-too-common mistakes:

  • Using a message tone that doesn’t match your audience.
  • Failing to mention your company’s name.
  • Including too many typos.
  • Sending broken or misdirected links.
  • Providing long-winded or irrelevant informational texts.
  • Sending text too often.
most consumers hate receiving too many messages

In addition, 55.9% said that 1 text every other week was most appropriate and 28% said that once per week was about right (Simple Texting).

If you’d like to up your game by adding a bit of creativity to your text messages, then I highly recommend testing MMS text messages.

What is the difference between SMS and MMS text messages?

MMS stands for Multimedia Messaging Service. If you send text messages that contain multimedia like photos, videos, or gifs, those are MMS messages.

This service came on the scene in 2002. Think of it as an upgrade to SMS.

MMS messages also allow you to use up to 1,600 text characters instead of the 160-character limit of SMS.

Use MMS messages when the following situations apply:

  • You want to grab your customers’ attention – multimedia elements can make your offers more enticing. That could be the difference that makes a prospect or customer click a link to learn more.
  • You have much to say – an MMS message can be up to about 250 words. That is a lot for a text. So, if your message is that long, make sure it’s for something important.
  • You want to spotlight a product or service – if you want to add some “wow” to a new product announcement, using multimedia is the way to go.

MMS is a little more expensive than SMS. But it could be a worthwhile investment depending on the goal of the marketing campaign.

What is emext marketing? How is it tied to SMS marketing?

Emext marketing is a new digital marketing term and approach that we’ve coined. You can find the definitive guide posted on our website.

It combines the power of email marketing and text message marketing to reach your prospects and customers wherever they are.

SMS is one of the most important components of this approach.

The goal of emext marketing is to help you amplify your messages across multiple channels and devices.

By doing this, you create multiple opportunities to generate a positive return on investment from your marketing campaigns.

A final word

Since you’re asking the question, “What is SMS marketing?” I hope that means you want to give it a try.

Without a doubt, more businesses will come to see the value of SMS and MMS. These services put you as close as you can get to your prospects and customers.

But it’s a marketing channel that you can’t take lightly. You must add value to people’s lives and not waste their time.

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