An Introduction to SMS Marketing

So… you’re intrigued by the idea of connecting with people directly on their cell phones and are looking to learn more about SMS/text message marketing?

That’s great!

In this article you'll learn the basics of SMS marketing. If you're sold on the opportunity, move on to our “how to” article on how to launch an SMS marketing campaign.

Business people using smartphones

What is an SMS Campaign?

An SMS campaign is one where you send your marketing messages—we’ll provide sms— via simple text messages to your customer’s phones.

While these messages will be much shorter than the messages you may be more familiar in sending in your email newsletter for example, they serve the needs of your busy, time-pressed audience better, and force you to be clear and concise in the defining of your benefits.

Remember, just because you sign on to using some SMS campaign software doesn’t mean you have to stop marketing in other channels. In fact, today the most savvy companies use multi-channel advertising (i.e., social media, email, SMS, print, radio and television and so on).

One of the best SMS marketing ideas I can give you is that you should be looking to integrate SMS into your current marketing mix—to leverage the performance of other channels—and not expect it to replace everything. That way, the folks who love your 1,000-word newsletter can continue to read it, while the folks who just don’t have the time have another option for which to take advantage of your promotions.

SMS Marketing Examples

Text messages are short—160 characters, minus the required “unsubscribe” messaging (i.e., Reply STOP to End).

Yes, your messages can exceed 160 characters, but this will result in you being charged for a second message (for messages 161–320 characters) or a third (321–480 characters). As a result, most businesses try to keep their messaging under 160 characters.

This means, short, benefit-laden calls to actions are the key. Focus on the strongest benefit and highlight it front and center. Forget about the longer descriptions that you’d include in an email newsletter. There’s no time or space for that here.

For example, say you have a retail business that sells jeans and T-shirts. You might want to highlight how your jeans are awesome because of their special cut and unique style or how your t-shirts are manufactured from a special cotton blend that make them softer, more durable, and less likely to fade in the wash.

But you can’t. Instead you’ll say something like this…

“This weekend only; 50% off select jeans and T-shirts. While supplies last. No rain checks! Hurry in now for best selection!” (125 characters).

Short and to the point.

SMS Marketing is Opt-In Marketing

One thing that is important to note before you devote a ton of time to SMS text marketing ideas is that SMS marketing is “opt-in” marketing, at least it is in Canada and the U.S., where we operate.

In this way, it’s much like email.

Your clients have to request to receive messages from you. You cannot legally purchase a list of cell phone numbers and send an unsolicited mass text to these people, nor can you arbitrarily add your clients or customers to your marketing list without first obtaining their permission.

Doing so may expose you to significant risk—fines from regulatory agencies, and class action suits from individuals. In addition, there’s no better way to tarnish your brand then to send spam to your clients’ phones.

Canadian law allows for a little more flexibility here; esssentially an existing relationship may allow you to send SMS messages without an official “opt-in.” I’ve written about this detail in other articles, so I’m not going to rehash it here.

Why Market With SMS?

That’s a good question. And there are a number of reasons why your business or organization must consider building a list of subscribers and undertaking SMS / text campaign as part of its overall promotional strategy if it wants to stay relevant going forward.

1. A Growing Number of People Prefer to Communicate Via SMS

This makes sense. When you consider that the majority of people have their cell phones within arm’s reach 14 hours out of every day (if you’re a teen, that number jumps to 24 hours) and when you consider that text messages are non-intrusive and super-quick, it’s not hard to believe that SMS is fast becoming many people’s preferred communication channel.

Texting is fast for two reasons; the first is that it only takes a few moments to type out and send a message. The second is that brief, “extremely to the point” communication is entirely acceptable in this format. Eg…

“Hey, could you send that project over? Need it ASAP for this project.”

A similarly formatted message delivered in a phone message or an email might be considered “curt” or “rude.” By side stepping the niceties expected in more conventional channels, you streamline your communication, without hurting anyone’s feelings.

2. SMS Messages Are Read

Pretty simple. 95–99% of text messages are opened and read, most within a few minutes. In comparison, on average only 22–27% of email newsletters are opened, and only 2–6% of your fans on Facebook ever see your posts.

And why was it that you weren’t using SMS marketing again?

3. SMS Campaigns Out Perform those Implemented on Other Channels

Depending on whose numbers you look at, SMS campaigns generate 10X the results of those obtained on other channels. That’s right; 1000%! It’s not that hard to believe though. when you consider your SMS list is 100% opt-in, made up entirely of people who have a relationship with you, and are interested in what you are selling!

4. SMS Databases add to the Evaluation of Your Company

Since a well managed SMS campaign can generate “cash on demand” with each and every broadcast, a database of clients’ phone numbers adds value to your business. Ten times as much, some experts say, as the equivalent sized email database.

5. SMS Marketing is Affordable

Let me ask you a question: what other advertising channel allows you to bypass the noise and clutter of the world, and deliver your marketing messages directly into your customer’s hands for a nickel or less per person?


The fact of the matter is that there’s no more affordable and effective marketing channel… that scales affordably as you grow.

Summing Up

At this point in this introductory article, it should be clear that marketing with SMS is a smart move for your business. Check out our blog for more SMS Marketing Ideas for specific niches and industries, so you can have a more precise roadmap to follow moving forward!

Enjoy. Of course, if you have any questions about getting your SMS marketing campaign up to speed in no time flat, by all means let us know.