SMS Marketing Guide

The Essential Guidebook for Growing Sales with SMS Marketing

woman reading an sms markteing text message

1. What is SMS Marketing?

The hardest problem for marketers in 2020 is simple: No one actually hears what you’re saying.

Why is that?

We have ad blockers that prevent us from seeing undesired ads.

When most businesses post on Facebook their posts are seen by… no one. (Unless you buy ads, that is.)

Email isn’t a solution—a highly successful email marketing message will be opened by about 25% of the people that receive it. Average open rates are even lower according to email marketing firm MailChimp. Marketing and advertising open rates hover at around 17%!

Streaming services have allowed people to skip ads altogether and have broken apart television audiences, making TV ads less attractive—and people can always skip ads or buy ad-free subscriptions anyway.

And on top of all that: ad blindness continues to be a problem for marketers. The respected NN Group, experts in web usability, have published extensively on the problem of consumers being blind to ads. According to marketing tech giants Hubspot, the overall average click-through rate on banner ads is .06%. You’re actually more likely to win the lottery than you are to click a banner ad.

So that is the problem. You’re a business. You, understandably, want to get the word out about your product. And all the technology we have to help you do that… mostly fails at doing that.

Well, that isn’t quite accurate.

Text messaging is an intriguing exception to the rule.

According to CrazyEgg, a company specializing in analytics software, open rates for text messages from marketers are as high as 98%! This is why SMS marketing is such a promising channel for marketers.

What is SMS marketing?

SMS marketing is using text messages to market your products to potential and past customers. The reason why it is so valuable is likely apparent by now: Unlike virtually every other advertising channel, which is either highly inefficient or simply a straight-up waste of money, text messaging still reaches most of the people you care about reaching.

sms marketing text about a pizza deal

Why does SMS marketing work?

One thing that makes SMS marketing uniquely effective is that it reaches a highly defined audience that has already opted in to receive your messages. This is sometimes called “inbound marketing,” because you are contacting people that have already come to you and said they are interested in learning more about your business. Inbound marketing is generally far more effective than what many call “interruption marketing” or “outbound marketing” in which you send out a general marketing message to a broad, undefined audience.

If you create banner ads or even a text-based Google Ad, your audience is ‘anyone that uses Google.’ Narrowing that down to reach your ideal buyer, is difficult. The same problem applies to Facebook ads and TV ads. Email marketing and SMS marketing are unique because the only people who receive messages from you are people who, at some point, asked to receive messages from you. So you know you’re reaching warm, engaged people with both. That said, whereas consumers often have cluttered inboxes and thus do not read your email, they almost certainly will read your text.

Significantly, this is likely to continue to be the case in the future as well: Text messages are subject to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which strictly regulates text message spam. If companies ever started spamming their customer base, they would be vulnerable to a major lawsuit. As long as TCPA is enforced, as it has been up to this date, a person’s text message inbox is likely to look much cleaner than their email inbox. And a cleaner inbox, translates to higher open rates and engagements.

How does SMS marketing work?

As with email marketing, you will need to build a list of contacts to receive your text messages. You need two things to build your SMS marketing list:

  • 📱 Shortcode
  • 🔑 Keyword

“Shortcodes” are the five- or six-digit numbers that users will send a text message to in order to subscribe themselves to your list. “Keywords” are the words that users text to the shortcode in order to subscribe. These are the most common methods, but Mobile Text Alerts users can add subscribers through other methods as well, including an online landing page and a manual option inside the MTA control panel. Learn more about how to add SMS subscribers here.

How do you use SMS marketing?

Let’s look at a couple examples of how you can use shortcodes and keywords to grow your business. If you run a small clothing boutique, you can invite people to sign up for your list by asking them to, “Text ‘clothes’ (keyword) to 55566 (shortcode) to receive updates on when we have sales.”

By using keywords and shortcodes, you can build your text messaging list for your business.

For example, Camille, a clothing boutique owner in Utah, uses this feature to collect leads for her business. She regularly sends out discounts after a lead opts in. She says,

“I love how easy it is for people to opt in and how fast I can send a text alert out!”

Camille

You can also use multiple keywords to add people to different lists. For example, if you own a mechanic’s shop, you might have one SMS marketing list to remind people when it’s time for an oil change. You might have another to remind people when it is time to do less routine maintenance like checking the brakes or steering and suspension. Learn more about keywords here.

How effective is SMS marketing?

Often what happens when marketers find a new channel to promote their products is fairly predictable: The channel gets flooded, it starts getting abused, and becomes less effective. Once upon a time Facebook was a great marketing channel. Once upon a time SEO was a great marketing channel. Then they got popular, they got flooded with marketers, and your returns dropped dramatically.

There are two things we can say about SMS marketing as it relates to this problem.

1. Higher Targeting 🎯

First, the most important point is that SMS marketing messages only go to people that have opted in to receive messages from you. So, unlike Google or Facebook, your list will never get flooded as it did on those platforms. Additionally, because you’re sending it to people who already came to you (instead of interrupting people as they are doing something else) engagement rates are always likely to be higher.

2. Higher Intent 🙋‍♂️

Second, it is harder to accidentally end up on an SMS marketing list. Emails get sold all the time. You end up on lists you never meant to. Plus you use your email to sign up for various services all the time and whenever you do that you’re probably getting added to a list. In contrast, laws regarding phone numbers and unsolicited messages to phones tend to be much stricter. For these reasons, it is unlikely that a person’s text message inbox will ever become as flooded and overwhelming as their email inbox.

Conclusion

Text messaging is a fantastic opportunity for businesses of all kinds to more effectively let prospects and customers know about their products. If you would like to learn more about how SMS marketing can help your business grow, sign up for a free trial to try Mobile Text Alerts for yourself.


woman reading an sms markteing text message

2. What are the Benefits of SMS Marketing?

We have already said that the defining challenge for many businesses today, especially small businesses, is how to make sure their message stands out in a very loud and crowded marketing space.

For one reason or another, many marketing channels offer relatively limited engagement:

  • 💾 Traditional media is ineffective in a digital world.
  • 💲 Google Ads are complex and can be very expensive.
  • 😏 The same applies to SEO.
  • 😕 Social media is unpredictable and can be quite expensive.
  • ✉️ Email marketing can work for some, but even with email the open rates on any one marketing email likely will hover between 15 and 25%, which when you stop to think about it is not great.

Once you understand this problem, the benefits of SMS marketing become more apparent.

Let’s begin with the obvious.

SMS Marketing Boosts Engagement

Text message open rates hover between 95% and 98% on average. To fully capture how big a difference this makes, let’s put it this way.

Suppose you want 50 people to see your message about an upcoming sale.

  • 🔍 SEO isn’t a great strategy because that’s a long-term investment and it’s not the kind of marketing channel designed for event-based marketing. So you can’t use SEO.
  • 👎 On Facebook, your brand page reaches around 5% of your fans with each post. This means that if you want to reach 50 people via Facebook, you would want to have around 1000 likes on your business page. Or you can, of course, run ads—which simply becomes another marketing expense. Of course, if you don’t have 1000 fans to broadcast a message to on Facebook, you aren’t going to reach 50 people without advertising.
  • 💸 On Google Ads, 3% of people who see your ad will click on it. So your ad will need to be seen by around 1,650 people to get those 50 clicks. At an average cost of $2.69 per click, those 50 clicks will cost you $134.50. But if you’re a tech company, the average cost-per-click is $3.40, which would make those 50 clicks cost $170. As with Facebook, this ad expense is on top of all your normal marketing costs and is only the cost to promote one sale or discount one time. So the costs will add up quickly.
  • 📧 With email, assuming a 20% open rate, you would need a list of 250 email addresses to hit your goal of reaching 50 people. The good news is if you’ve been building your email list all along, then this won’t incur any additional expenses. But you still need 250 people to hit your goal of reaching an audience of 50. Learn more about email vs. SMS here.
  • 📱 With SMS, assuming a 95% open rate (the low-end estimate), you need a contact list of… 53 people.

In chart form, it looks like this:

shows that you don't need a large audience size to reach people with sms marketing

If you care more about actually reaching your audience then you do about broadcasting to a huge audience of completely unengaged people who will never buy from you, then SMS is for you.

SMS Offers Greater Personalization

In addition to offering stronger engagement numbers, SMS allows for more customization of your messages to suit your particular audience members.

This is often called ‘segmentation’ and it means breaking up your contact list into smaller segments of similar people. By segmenting your list, you can send more relevant, valuable messages to your followers.

For example, if you are running a sale on one particular product, you may not want to push that announcement to your entire list. Depending on your business, the product you have on sale may not be of interest to a large number of your followers.

Suppose you own a shoe store. You probably don’t need to inform your entire list about a sale on women’s athletic shoes.

But if you can identify women on your list or even people who have purchased women’s athletic shoes from you in the past, then you can send out a message about the sale that only goes to those people.

In addition, if you are segmenting your list correctly, you are likely to see increased engagement from your followers over time. Why is that? Because we live in a saturated media environment, people naturally tend to skip or block most messages that come their way.

You don’t begin with people’s trust and then lose it.

text message about a shoe sale

Rather, you start without trust and you must earn trust over time by actually providing real value to your followers.

Once you gain trust, then your followers start opening your messages more consistently because your messages stand out. You’re not just spamming them with content; you’re sending them messages that are actually relevant to their daily life. So effectively segmenting your list in order to send more relevant messages will actually help you reach your entire list more effectively.

SMS Allows for Greater Versatility

Your audience is made up of different people with different challenges and needs.

Likewise, your business is made up of different products with different appeal to different buyers. So you need a method of marketing that not only does justice to the diversity of your audience, but also does justice to the diversity of your business.

What does that mean?

Well, if you are a local retailer, there will be times when you want to let people know that you have new products in-stock. In other cases, you’ll want to send along a discount code or special deal, and in still others you will want to ask them if they are happy with their purchase. Because it can be so customized and is, inherently, so personal, SMS messaging is a great way to do all of these things.

sms marketing text about a survey

As we have already noted, most marketing channels are more limited in terms of what they do well. SEO is not going to work for time-sensitive messages or event updates. Email can do just about anything, but has sub-optimal open rates. Social media is going to struggle with personalization and segmentation. But SMS does all of these things well without compromising on user engagement. Indeed, if you are targeting your messages effectively, your engagement rates will go up as people learn that you are a trustworthy brand.

Conclusion

Effective marketing is efficient marketing. The biggest problem with most traditional and early-digital marketing strategies is that they ultimately become volume games. Because engagement on those channels, Google Ads, Facebook, even email, tend to be lower, you need very large audiences to reach even a small portion of your potential customers. With SMS, that problem is solved. You don’t need 2000 people on your list in order to actually reach 50 prospects. You can, instead, be confident that the people actually on your list actually see your message. And that kind of efficiency can make a huge difference for your bottom line and for your business.

Start for Free


woman reading an sms markteing text message

3. How to Get Started with Bulk SMS Marketing

So far we have argued that the defining problem for most marketers today is simply how to stand out amidst all the noise of the 21st century marketplace. We live in a world of content shock and this puts enormous stresses on every marketer.

We have also argued that SMS marketing is a unique marketing channel in that, despite all the challenges facing marketers, it still has very high engagement numbers. To demonstrate this, we compared the engagement rates across various marketing channels. Then, using those rates, we asked, “How many people would you need to broadcast your message to in order for 50 people to actually see your message?”

This is the result:

shows that you don't need a large audience size to reach people with sms marketing

The difficulty, now, is how to begin your SMS marketing campaign.

Obstacles to Implementing an SMS Marketing System

The primary challenge many companies run into when attempting to launch an SMS marketing strategy is two-fold.

SMS Marketing Technology ⚙️

First, many marketing software platforms do not have robust texting capabilities built into them. This means businesses interested in using SMS marketing must begin working with SMS-specific marketing partners. That in turn requires becoming acquainted with new product offerings and new marketing tech partners. If this describes your situation, we want to help. We have created a chart that compares the main companies in the SMS marketing space (click here to view the comparison chart). By using this chart, we hope you can identify the company that is the best fit for your business’s needs.

There are any number of common features you might want from an SMS partner. Amongst those include:

  • 🌐 Do they allow you to add contacts via an online form?
  • 📱 Do they offer a mobile app?
  • 💧 Do they offer marketing features, such as list segmentation and drip campaigns?

Building an SMS Marketing List 📋

Once you have your SMS marketing software figured out, you must address the second difficulty: collecting phone numbers and launching your SMS marketing strategy.

Let’s begin by talking about building your list.

The first thing to say is that sending text messages to people who have not consented to receiving texts is against the law. If you do this, you will potentially end up paying heavy fines. Don’t do it. You can view the full statement on texting compliance with anti-spam laws here:

That said, there are a variety of ways of building a list of people who have consented to receive text messages from you.

Texting In 📲

The simplest way is via texting itself: Through the use of a shortcode (a five- or six-digit number that users send texts to) and a keyword (a short word that triggers a response when sent to the shortcode) your customers can add themselves to your SMS marketing list. Learn more about texting in.

Sign-Up Page 🌐

There are other methods as well. You can use a form on your website to allow users to opt in to receive texts while on your business’s website. Learn more about editing the sign-up page.

API Automation 🤖

Third, you could theoretically add their phone number to a list upon purchase of a product just as you do with an email address, provided you include a checkbox that customers use to opt in to receive text messages from you. Learn more about API access.

Import Spreadsheet 📥

Finally, if you have a spreadsheet with phone numbers of past customers who have consented to receive texts, you can simply upload the spreadsheet to most SMS marketing platforms and import phone numbers that way. Learn more about importing subscribers.

So that is the technical problem of how to build a list.

There is a background question as well, obviously: Why would people opt in to receive texts in the first place?

Incentivizing SMS Signups 🧁

Ultimately, prospects and customers will only opt in to receive messages from you if they think you are offering something they value.

So you will need a high-quality product that genuinely helps your customers solve a problem they face on a regular basis. If you do that, then they will have reason to be interested in you and may want to receive communications from you about other product offerings, sales, and so on.

What this means for your SMS strategy is that you want there to be a fairly close connection between the moment a person is benefitting from your product and the moment you are asking them to opt in to receive texts from you.

For example, if you are a restaurant, then you might text receipts to customers and include a note with the receipt inviting them to sign up to receive texts from you by texting a shortcode. If the customer enjoyed the meal (or is currently enjoying their meal) when they get a message from you, they are more likely to sign up.

receipt showing text in feature

Conclusion

In the next chapter, we will share with you some examples of how other businesses have used SMS marketing to improve their sales, grow revenue, and build loyalty with their customers. If you wish to continue reading, you can continue on to chapter 4.


woman reads text at cafe

4. Best SMS Marketing Use Cases

SMS marketing is multi-faceted, which means there are many plausible use cases.

When planning your own campaigns, the best way to proceed is to begin by laying out the ideal way a person would move from first learning about your business to becoming a loyal, repeat customer. When you have figured out how that process would happen, ideally, then you can plan what marketing channels you intend to use and at what points in the process you will use them.

Of course, sometimes the easiest way to make these kinds of decisions is to see examples of how other people have used SMS to promote their business. So in this chapter of our SMS guide, we’re going to share examples of how our customers have used SMS.

Appointment Reminders 📅

text alert about math class

You might not think of a service like this as being part of marketing’s work.

But marketing exists to help build your company’s brand and to guide people from the time they first discover your business through to the final sale—and the sale isn’t complete until the appointment has been completed.

A reminder alert like this, especially in B2C business, is an easy marketing feature to add that can make a huge difference for your bottom line.

There are many types of businesses that can use these reminder alerts. Tutors, as in the example above, are one use case. But salons, barbers, mechanics, counselors, other healthcare practitioners (dentists, doctors, chiropractors, etc.), or even restaurants that accept reservations could all use SMS marketing to send out reminders to people who have scheduled a time for receiving some form of good or service.

Remarketing to Past Customers ↪️

sms marketing to a past customer

Technically, ‘remarketing’ refers to advertising to people (via Google Ads or Facebook Ads) that have already visited your website. That said, the basic goal of remarketing—to get back in front of people who have interacted with you before—can be accomplished via texting as well.

For example, if you have a past customer you haven’t seen in a while who you’d like to try and win back, texting is likely to be a far more effective means of reaching them than an email campaign or some kind of broad advertising campaign. Why? Because texting’s engagement rates are so much higher, as we have already discussed.

What should you say in your message? The above is one example: Offer some kind of special deal or discount to incentivize people to come back.

Seasonal Announcements ⛳

sms marketing about golfing

Many businesses will have a certain degree of seasonality baked into their operations and sales. Golf courses, as in the example above, are only open certain times of year. In other cases, there may be certain seasons when particular services are highly in demand.

For example, a pharmacy might be especially busy in the fall when they are offering more flu shots. Or perhaps a sporting goods store sees a sales spike in the weeks leading up to hunting season. Or a multifamily housing property might see a spike in leasing activity during the summer months.

In all these cases, texting can be a great, simple way to get in front of your prospects and customers with valuable information. It could be a reminder to renew their lease or to schedule an appointment to get their flu shot.

In any of these cases, the simplicity of the information to communicate combined with the effectiveness of texting makes for a fantastic marketing combination.

You can also use SMS to send out alerts about birthday specials you may offer someone on their birthday every year. This could be especially useful for restaurants, but other businesses may also find uses for it.

Follow-Up 🤝

sms marketing about a bridal expo

For many B2B businesses as well as some B2C, simple sales follow-up can be one of the best ways to improve sales performance. If you’re in an industry with certain sales models built around conferences or lots of travel and sales meetings, then texting can be an excellent tool for following up with people after the event.

In the case of conferences, especially, it can be easy for a person to lose track of who they spoke to and forget to follow up with someone, even if they were genuinely excited about the conversation at the time. In those situations, what you need is some way to get back to the front of that person’s mind. You and everyone else will be emailing them. They’ll be getting hit by ads on Facebook. Texting, however, may be a way to both stand out from the crowd (depending on how common SMS marketing is in your field) and to immediately return to front of mind with the prospect.

Event Announcements 🏁

sms marketing after a tradeshow event

Finally, just as you can use texting for follow-up after an event, you can also use it in the days leading up to the event to let people know what’s happening.

If you are going to be attending a conference or trade show, you can use texting to tell people what booth number you’ll be at or even to include a link that they could use to schedule a time to talk to one of your sales reps.

If you’re offering a major sale, you can send out a text to let people know about the sale and include a link that will take them to a webpage where they can learn more about what is going to be on sale, what the discounts will be, and so on.

Conclusion

Again, don’t overthink things with your SMS campaigns. SMS excels at simple messaging.

So this is not the place to build out some huge educational marketing campaign to train people on your newest product.

Rather, SMS is where you should be informing people about valuable information that can be quickly and easily conveyed in the format of a text message. The use cases above are just some of the possible examples of how you could use texting to promote your work.


man using sms marketing in restaraunt

5. Best SMS Marketing Tools and Pricing

So far we have covered the following things:

  • 🤔 Why marketing is so hard these days and how texting can help
  • 👍 What kinds of benefits SMS marketing can offer your business
  • ✅ How to get started with SMS marketing
  • 📋 Examples of successful SMS marketing

Now let’s talk about some of the practical tools at your disposal once you begin using SMS marketing software to promote your business.

List Segmentation

The people your SMS marketing list are already deluged with marketing messages. How can you know that? Because basically everyone is. And because we’re so slammed with content, many people do not need much of an excuse to unsubscribe from a list they’re on.

Sending too many messages that are irrelevant to them would certainly qualify as a good excuse to cancel.

So one of the most basic things you can do to improve your marketing and simply treat your prospects and customers more kindly is segment your lists.

List segmentation means breaking your list of message recipients into smaller segments.

manage sms marketing groups

So, for example, if you are a clothing store, you could segment your list based on past purchases or various demographic factors (age, sex, etc.). By doing this, you can send more targeted, relevant messages to the people on your SMS marketing list. If you are running a sale on one particular item, for example, you could text an alert to people who have bought that item in the past or bought a similar item.

What is great about list segmentation is not simply that it makes your messages more relevant to customers, but that it actually is more likely to contribute to sales as well.

Without segmentation, you go one of two ways—you can send out messages to everyone on your list about every sale, discount, etc. that you run. This will lead to unsubscribes as the messages will not be relevant to most people. Or you can never send out messages for fear of burning out your list.

Segmentation allows you to have a more precise, sophisticated strategy built around messaging people with content they actually care about, that they actually want to see. And, unsurprisingly, when you give people that kind of content, you get better results.

Mobile Text Alerts allows you to easily send and schedule messages to your segments with our Manage Groups feature.

Mobile Text Alerts tutorial - Manage Groups.

Drip Campaigns

Drip campaigns are another valuable SMS marketing tool you can use.

Drip campaigns are any kind of multi-message campaign in which you slowly release a series of messages over a period of time—dripping them out like water dripping from a faucet, thus the name.

The idea of drip campaigns is simple: Sometimes persuasion takes a long time. For one reason or another, the prospect or past customer is not ready to buy. In that situation, the answer is not to pressure them into a sale; if anything that will just alienate them.

Rather, the solution is to be patient. Then you need to take the time to understand the person’s objections and to think about how best to counter them as part of your marketing message. By breaking this task out into multiple marketing messages, you can make the task a bit easier. You don’t need to overcome every objection in one message, after all. You can take your time and slowly walk the prospect to where you want them to go.

Drip campaigns allow you to do this.

This makes them best suited for selling someone on a more complex or risky product, of course. But there are also ways to use them for other products. You could pair drip campaigns with a reminder alert and set up a series of reminder messages to go out when a customer has an appointment coming up with you, for example.

The big idea, though, is that drip campaigns allow you to slowly persuade people by breaking your message out into smaller, more digestible chunks that are easier for readers to understand and follow.

Mobile Text Alerts tutorial - Drip Campaigns.

Mobile Surveys

Mobile surveys, or polls, are one of the most flexible and most powerful ways to use SMS marketing.

The use cases for surveys are many, too many to list out in this guide. But here are a few examples to get started. You can use surveys to:

  • 🗳️ solicit feedback on a webinar or group coaching session.
  • 🎄 invite customers to give input on what kinds of deals you offer for a certain holiday or occasion
  • 📅 give customers options for scheduling regular appointments or necessary maintenance

Mobile surveys excel in two important areas.

First, they encourage prospects and customers to interact with you. Consumer research suggests that shoppers are 80% more likely to make a purchase when brands personalize their service. By making it easy to interact with a person on an individual basis, you make it easier for that consumer to trust you and be willing to buy from you in the future.

Second, they make it easy for consumers to respond. You are not asking for their “thoughts” on an issue, which would require them to sit down, think about the issue, and type out a response. Rather, you’re asking them to simply send a one-character response in which they select their preferred choice from a field of predefined options. This is both less intimidating and less mentally demanding than many other ways a business might invite a customer to respond to them.

Between their versatility and their unique ability to provoke responses from customers, mobile surveys are a fantastic tool for any SMS marketer.

Mobile Text Alerts tutorial - Mobile Surveys.

Reminder Messages

Reminder messages are a very particular feature and use case, but that doesn’t make them any less valuable.

If you have a business where customers make appointments for services, like a mechanic's shop or dental office, think about how often you get no-shows and the time and money that costs you.

text alert reminder

Or if you do a lot of webinars as part of your business’s marketing, how many people sign up to attend and then don’t show up? On average the answer is “over half.”

Reminder messages are a fantastic way to try to bring that no-show rate down.

Reminder messages are also one of the primary situations where texting is far superior to email. Because texting excels at simple messages and because everyone reads their text messages, your reminder alerts sent out via text are dramatically more likely to be seen than similar messages sent via email or social media.

So while reminder messages may be simple, they have the potential to solve a major problem facing many businesses.

Mobile Text Alerts tutorial - Reminder Messages.

MMS

The biggest limitation with SMS marketing is that text messaging is very limited in terms of both message length and design elements. There’s no coding to do to make the message look nicer. You can’t create templates on which your messages will be seen. You’re at the mercy of text messaging apps and their very limited design features.

That being said, there is one thing you can do to help with this problem: Use MMS messages. MMS messages include photos. If you’re trying to create a sense of desire or perhaps intrigue, including a photo with your message can be a great way to further incentivize the recipient to buy.

Obviously even MMS is relatively limited in terms of design capabilities. But it is important to keep in mind that ultimately you care about sales, not winning beauty contests with your marketing materials. The bottom line is that texting works, if by ‘works’ we means ‘conveys the information you want to convey.’ What MMS does is it allows you to retain the strengths of texting while also incorporating some limited visual elements in your message. Given that, it’s a highly valuable tool to use as you are marketing to prospects and past customers.

Mobile Text Alerts tutorial - MMS.

text message about a shoe sale

Pricing

How much will you pay for software that allows you to do all these things? Typically the answer is going to be anywhere from $250-$300 annually to as much as $1000 annually. If you want to get a better handle on who the options are in SMS marketing and what kind of prices they charge, we have created this chart to help you:

(Click on the thumbnail below to view the full chart)

comparing the top 8 sms marketing platforms


woman decides between email marketing and sms marketing

6. SMS Marketing vs. Email Marketing

Though there are many marketing channels a business can use to promote their brand and products, two in particular are unique: 📧 email and 📱 SMS.

What makes email and SMS distinctive?

All forms of marketing are about conveying a message to an audience. But most forms are built around broadcast audiences rather than targeted audiences.

What is the difference?

Broadcast Marketing 📢 & Targeted Marketing 🎯

Broadcast messages can be valuable. If your goal is raising awareness, then you want to broadcast.

But broadcast messages are also wasteful. You’re paying to reach a large number of people, many of whom have no interest in your brand and will never be a customer. In some situations, the waste is the cost of doing business. Building awareness of a brand inherently means reaching a large number of people who will never buy.

In other cases, though, broadcast-based marketing is the wrong approach.

This is particularly true for companies who sell a more high-risk product. If you sell something that is expensive or has a major impact on a person’s quality of life, then awareness alone isn’t going to move products for you because people do not buy those kind of products based only on awareness.

They buy burritos based on awareness. They buy a bottle of wine based on awareness. They might buy some cheap clothing item based only on awareness.

But if it is a more expensive B2C product or almost any kind of B2B product, you need more than awareness to make the sale. You need trust.

How do you build trust?

The Value of Targeted Marketing

Trust is built over time. It’s built by patiently overcoming objections and demonstrating your competence, honesty, and value.

You can’t do that kind of work over broadcast-based marketing channels. You need opt in channels in which you only send messages to people who have opted-in to receive marketing content from you.

When you focus on talking to the people who have already opted-in for marketing content, via both email and SMS, you’re able to think more expansively about your marketing. You don’t have to simply chase after attention; you get to think about how to keep your audience’s attention.

And if you do that the right way, then you can build trust with your prospects, generate sales, and create loyal, long-term customers.

woman decides between email marketing and sms marketing

What targeted messaging channel is best?

Both email and SMS can help you educate, inform, and build trust with your prospects. It’s too simplistic to suggest that one is “better” than the other.

Email does a number of things well: Emails allow for longer-form content, which allows you to say more. They also allow for design elements, which can be great for branding, and including things like videos, photos, and so on.

Where email struggles is where most messaging channels struggle: engagement. According to email marketing software provider MailChimp, marketing emails only average a 17% open rate. So you can write fantastic content to promote your business. Only 17% of the people you send that content to will actually see it.

SMS, in many ways, mirrors email: Where email struggles with engagement, SMS does not. 95% of SMS messages are read. If you send a text to your prospects, they’re going to see it.

chart showing open rates of email and sms

Where SMS struggles is where email is strong—because texting is a very simple messaging format, you do not have as many possibilities with SMS as with email. You cannot write a large amount of text. You cannot include most design elements. You cannot include videos. If you use MMS messaging, you can include some limited design elements, though not video.

NOTE: If you need to send a video via text, the best method is to share a link to the video and, using MMS. Fortunately, most phones will show a preview image of your video.

What this means is that the best approach is to utilize both marketing channels. For longer form messages that are needed to explain the value of the product or how it works, email is still an excellent choice.

SMS can and should be used to provide support for the long-form email content and to provide shorter forms of content as well.

Thus it is not really a question of saying which of these two media channels is “better.” Rather, the issue is what your particular needs are as a business and what marketing channel will be most effective at meeting that need.

In most cases, the answer will be to use a combination of marketing channels to do different things within your overall marketing strategy.

SMS marketing is usually not going to be about replacing email, social media, or SEO. Instead, it’s about adding another tool to your marketing toolbox, another option to help you solve the various marketing problems that confront your team.

Interested in reaching your customers through SMS marketing? Click here to sign up for a free trial. Send 50 messages free and get access to full account features.

To compare SMS vs. email in other ways, we invite you to check out these additional topics.

[More Articles] Email Marketing vs SMS Marketing:

  1. 🎁 Which is best to reward loyal customers?
  2. 💸 Which is best to drive more repeat purchases?
  3. 📈 Which is best to grow revenue and sales?
  4. 🤝 Which is best to generate more leads?
  5. 💻Which is best to drive webinar success?

man reading bulk sms marketing text message

7. Bulk SMS Marketing Tips

Once you have your SMS software set up, you’ve begun building out lists, planning messages, and figuring out how you can use SMS to support your email marketing and other marketing efforts, it’s time to start refining your approach and making improvements.

So far much of what we have discussed concerns why SMS marketing is effective as well as what kind of broad strategies should inform your approach to SMS marketing. Now we need to zoom in a bit more and talk about specific tips to help improve the performance of your campaigns.

Event-based messages produce higher engagement.

We recently completed a study analyzing over 2.6 million SMS marketing messages sent by thousands of different businesses. One thing that stood out to us was how messages that were reminding recipients of upcoming events consistently produced the highest click-through rates of all messages studied.

New Study Reveals the Top 5 Words Sent By SMS Marketers

New Study Reveals the Top 5 Words Sent By SMS Marketers

By Jake Meador | 24 Aug 2020

Read the article

In fact, 93% of text messages including the word “update” were clicked. While that number is uniquely high, it’s consistent with the data more broadly. Messages that included the word “hour” were the second most clicked. The words “details,” “time,” and “happening” also produced consistently high click-through rates.

This shouldn’t be too surprising when you think about it. While smart marketing messaging can produce small changes to how a campaign performs, the most reliable way to attract high engagement from your marketing list is to send them highly relevant messages.

If you have a list of people who signed up for an event of some kind, you can be fairly confident that those people will be interested in texts giving them information about the event they already signed up for.

Broad, open requests produce lower engagement.

We can see the mirror effect of the above tip when we look at messages that produced fewer clicks. Only 15% of messages including the word “hey,” received a click. Likewise, messages that included the word “sale” were only clicked 21% of the time.

Why the lower engagement?

In both cases, we’re dealing with messages likely to be less targeted to specific segments of a business’s marketing list and more likely to be relaying some broader message that the user is less likely to be interested in.

What this means is that the closer your message is to the already-defined interests of your recipient, the more likely they are to respond. In other words, your goal with SMS marketing is not necessarily to change someone’s mind - that’s hard to do anytime and especially over a medium like texting--but rather to help them connect something they already value with what you are offering.

Get to the point quickly.

Texts generally are only 160 characters or fewer. Additionally, the preview text that people can view in most text messaging apps is only around 40 characters.

example of the sms preview text on a phone

What that means is you need to get to your point quickly. Someone should be able to have a good idea of the message’s topic based only on the preview text.

By keeping messages short, you can be sure that recipients understand whatever it is you’re communicating and you lower the chance that the message will be ignored or forgotten.

Keep messages specific.

Recall: We already know that messages offering a more defined benefit or specific information perform better than generic, broad messages that are simply promoting a brand or product. What can this tell us about SMS messages more generally?

It tells us that people expect a text message to be about something specific. What this means is that when you plan an SMS marketing campaign you need to ask yourself “what do we want to tell people with this message?” and you should be able to answer that question in one or, at most, two sentences. If you cannot concisely answer the question, you’re not ready to write your SMS marketing campaign.

Get a free Mobile Text Alerts trial account by clicking the button below and start sending SMS marketing messages to your customers today.

Start for Free


woman replying to an sms marketing text

8. What is SMS marketing best for?

All marketing channels have the same basic purpose: They help close the gap between a prospective customer and the company marketing to them.

This means that different marketing channels can have different uses across different companies.

Why?

Because that gap existing between the customer and the business can take a lot of different shapes.

If you are a fast casual restaurant chain, the gap is relatively simple to cross. If you have a good location and a reasonably decent reputation, that’s all you probably need to move someone from prospect to customer.

On the other hand, if you’re a drug company, the gap is much more complex.

In between those two extremes, you’ll find a thousand variations too.

So the first step to knowing how to use a specific marketing channel is understanding what, in your unique situation, prevents a prospect from becoming a customer.

In most cases, it will be a combination of factors—timing, cost, how strongly they feel the need or problem that your product solves, etc. Without knowing your particular situation, we cannot get too specific in making recommendations as to how you ought to use SMS marketing in your business.

That being said, there are some general principles that usually apply to how a given marketing channel is used.

The Top 3 Marketing Channels

Email Marketing 📧

Email, for example, does long-form communication well. It does trust-building well. It builds confidence with the consumer. So in businesses, when the primary obstacle to conversion is a prospect’s uncertainty, email can be a fantastic channel.

Social, SEO, PPC 🎯

Social media, SEO, and paid search, in contrast, all excel at the same basic thing: audience reach. If brand exposure is a high value for your company, these are all good channels to consider using.

SMS Marketing 📱

SMS marketing is distinct from both of these types of channels. The things it does well are things that no other channel does at nearly the same level.

To begin, SMS excels at quick, immediate communication with prospects. Social media, SEO, and paid search fail here because they cannot reliably communicate to single, specific prospects. Email, likewise, fails because email boxes are hopelessly cluttered, open rates aren’t that reliable, and people don’t check their email constantly anyway. If you need to get information to someone quickly and be confident that they’ll see it, texting is the only way to go.

That brings up the other unique strength of texting. Because everyone reads their texts, you can be confident that prospects will actually see the marketing messages you sent them.

Recall the chart we shared earlier that shows average open or engagement rates across distinct marketing channels:

shows that you don't need a large audience size to reach people with sms marketing

How does this kind of strength fit into your business’s broader marketing program?

Well, again, much depends on your particular case. But here are some potential instances where an SMS message is the best possible way to promote your business:

  • 🛒 Ecommerce stores may use SMS in cases of cart abandonment by shoppers on their site.
  • 📅 Appointment-based businesses, anything from a counseling service to pet groomer, could use SMS to remind people of their appointments.
  • 💻 Any company that uses webinars as part of their marketing strategy can use texting to send out reminders about the webinar or send out a replay of the webinar after it is complete.
  • 🥡 Restaurants and bars can use texting to alert customers to special deals or discounts.

View a more comprehensive list of industry-examples here.

SMS Marketing Use Cases

In short, when you have a relatively simple, straightforward message to communicate and you need the person to see it promptly or to at least be sure that they will see the message, then texting is the way to go.

If you think SMS marketing is right for you, we invite you to sign up for a free trial account. It takes about 60 seconds, just click below!

Start for Free