SMS Marketing: Ultimate Guide to Sending Promotional Texts

Do you want to use SMS marketing to get more traffic, win more sales, and encourage customer loyalty?

A strong SMS marketing strategy lets you send your best offers right to customers’ cell phone screens, where they’re likely to click, engage, and buy.

However, if you handle your text messages poorly, you risk annoying your subscribers. And you may lose them as customers forever.

How can you thread that needle? In this ultimate guide to SMS marketing, you’ll learn everything you need to know to start an effective text message marketing campaign. Along the way, we’ll share tips and examples to help you optimize your texts to get great conversion rates and more sales.

What is SMS Marketing?

SMS marketing is a strategy that allows businesses to send promotional messages to customers via text message. As a form of direct marketing, an SMS strategy fits in seamlessly with a business’s email marketing and direct mail efforts.

SMS stands for “short message service” and refers to the text messages we send and receive on our mobile devices. Text message marketing is a powerful tool for notifying customers of special offers and announcements.

The Top 3 Benefits of SMS Marketing

So, is SMS marketing effective? Let’s take a closer look at some of the benefits:

1. Lightning Fast Delivery

SMS marketing is lightning fast. When you send out a text message, it gets delivered immediately. This allows you to send real-time notifications.

Because of this, you can send time-sensitive messages like flash sales and event-related promotions. For instance, eCommerce businesses could send users a message on Cyber Monday to maximize sales for that single day.

So, once you press that “send” button, hundreds or thousands of users will instantly get your message.

Plus, most people always have their phones with them, increasing the chances that your message will get seen as soon as it’s delivered.

In fact, 90% of SMS messages are read in the first 3 minutes.

2. Much Higher Open Rates

When you send out an email marketing campaign, subscribers have to check their email before they even see your subject line. Users have to see a notification, open up their email app or log in on desktop, and scan through the messages in their inbox. Only then do you have a chance of them opening your email.

With so many email and social media notifications on a daily basis, users are more likely to ignore them.

But, with SMS marketing, users will be instantly made aware of a new message with a text notification. Since people usually get texts from their friends and family, those notifications are less likely to be ignored.

Plus, most phones display a snippet of text messages right on the lock screen. SMS marketing is more personal and stands out from other notifications, causing SMS message marketing to have high open rates.

What are SMS open rates?

Sources around the web cite the average SMS marketing open rate as 98%.

Just like with email open rates, which can range from 20.77% to 45.49%, there are likely to be a lot of variables depending on industry and other factors.

A survey by Shift, a communications agency, sought to determine SMS open rates by asking users a simple question: “Do you read every SMS text message sent to you?”

Out of 1030 responses, 82% said that they read every single text message they receive.

A chart from showing that 82% of survey respondents said they read every text message they receive.

The takeaway here? SMS marketing has a lower barrier to being seen than other direct marketing messages.

After all, people throw away junk mail and ignore promotional emails every day. But they usually read all of their texts.

3. More Engagement, Clicks, and Sales

Of course, open rates aren’t the final goal of SMS marketing. You need those text messages to convert into website traffic, in-store visits, and sales.

Insider Intelligence and eMarketer conducted a series of surveys in 2023 related to SMS marketing.

2 charts from eMarketer about SMS text message marketing.

Here are the key points from these surveys:

  • 60.5% of US marketers cited higher customer engagement as their leading reason to use text message marketing.
  • 53.5% of US marketers cited higher open and clickthrough rates (CTR) as a leading reason
  • 37.5% of US adults prefer native SMS/text for their mobile messages from businesses. They’re more likely to prefer text over messages through social media apps or a brand’s own app.

Essentially, customers prefer to get mobile marketing via SMS, so they engage more with those messages. That means they’re more likely to click your links, view your coupons and discounts, browse your website, and buy.

The result? 75% of consumers make purchases as a result of SMS marketing.

SMS Marketing Best Practices

Now you have an idea of how SMS marketing can help your business. Next, let’s explore some best practices that will help you succeed in your text messaging strategy.

1. Get Permission

Just because you have a contact’s phone number doesn’t mean you can go ahead and use it. Texting people without permission isn’t just rude. It’s actually illegal.

Companies must get explicit permission from users before texting them. You can do this in 2 ways:

Create an optin campaign. OptinMonster is the world’s best lead-generation software. We help you use your own website to grow your email list and your SMS marketing list.

How? With optin campaigns like lightbox popups, floating bars, and inline forms.

You can use OptinMonster to create a killer SMS campaign just like this!


With our pre-made templates, it only takes a few minutes to have a campaign like this up and running on your site.

Require customers to check an optin box, similar to how users sign up to your email list.

When a user makes a purchase on your website, your checkout page can include a checkbox to sign up for text messages.

It’s also important to tell users what type of text messages they can expect to receive from your business and how often. For instance, signing up for SMS order confirmations and shipping updates is different than agreeing to receive marketing texts.

Be clear about what messages you’ll be sending, and keep your promise to users.

2. Use SMS Marketing Tools

Don’t bust out your personal cell phone and start texting customers. Instead, use SMS marketing tools.

SMS marketing software handles the task of processing texts to large subscriber lists. It also lets you automate your SMS marketing. For instance, you can set up automated texts to go out when a user signs up for your SMS list, makes a purchase, or shows interest in certain products.

Learn more about marketing automation workflows.

SMS marketing software also makes it easy for you to track your results. You can see how many people opened your message, how many times the link was clicked, and so on.

We’ll cover the best SMS marketing tools a little later in this article.

3. Make it Valuable

When users optin to receive text messages from you, they expect those messages to be worth their while. So, don’t send text messages just because. Instead, you’ve got to make them valuable.

One of the easiest ways to make your text messages valuable is by offering up something amazing, like a special deal or a coupon that’s exclusive to your SMS marketing list.

Exclusive offers will make your customers feel like VIPs.

Take a look at this example from Avenue. They include the phrase “Just for you” to create a feeling of exclusivity.

Even if your deals aren’t as exclusive as they may seem, if the user feels special, they’ll be more likely to appreciate the offer and take action.

4. Always  Include a Call-to-Action

A strong call-to-action (CTA) is important in any type of marketing campaign. A CTA encourages users to take the next step, moving them along in the buyer’s journey.

Your customers aren’t mind readers, so if you want them to do something, you have to ask them.

Including a call-to-action in your SMS marketing campaigns is as simple as adding phrases like:

  • Sign up for free!
  • Click the link to see what’s on sale!
  • Use this code at checkout for 20% off!
  • Complete this survey for a chance to win!

In this SMS marketing example from BoxLunch, they let users know that they have a sale on bags. Before the link, the CTA text reads “Shop Now!” This CTA lets subscribers know that the link will take them to a webpage to shop their bag sale.

Text message from BoxLunch that says: "BoxLunch: Need a new bag? Get up to 50% off select bags from now until 7pm PT/10pm ET during our Deal Dash! Shop now." Then there's a link

5. Include Personalization

When customers get messages that are tailored specifically to them, they’re more likely to pay attention and take action. In fact, personalized CTAs convert 202% better than basic CTAs.

So, be sure to include personalization tags in your SMS marketing. Some eCommerce personalization examples include

For instance, I received this personalized text from Instacart, asking me to rate and review a recent order:

Text message from Instacart that says "Thanks for using Instacart, Jennifer! If you've got a minute, we "d love to know how your order was." Then there's a link

6. Keep it Short

A text message is not the appropriate format to send users an entire novel. In fact, you only have about 160 characters to work with. So, keep your text messages short and simple.

Start off with something attention-grabbing, like the amazing offer you have to share. Adding a phrase like “SPECIAL OFFER” near the beginning of your message will pique the interest of users, encourage them to keep reading, and drive them to take action.

7. Consider Timing

Imagine this: it’s the middle of the night, you’re sound asleep in your cozy bed, and you’re suddenly awoken by a text message from a business. Can you think of anything more annoying?

It’s also not fun to get texts from businesses early in the morning, on a holiday, or during dinner with your family.

To avoid this type of situation, which could cause you to lose even your most loyal customers, you need to consider timing with your SMS marketing.

Pay attention to the time zones your customers are located in and send messages during appropriate times.

According to SMSGlobal, the best time of the day to send general marketing messages is between 10:31 am–11:29 am or 2:34 pm–3:27 pm.

8. Identify Yourself Right Away

Have you ever gotten an anonymous mystery text message? Did you answer it? Probably not.

Remember that when sending text messages to customers.

If a customer receives a text message without knowing who it’s from, they’ll likely consider it spam or suspect it’s been sent to the wrong number.

Just as you would when you meet someone in person, introduce yourself. When customers know that it’s your business that’s communicating with them, they’ll be more likely to respond. Plus, repeating your company name helps improve brand recognition.

For example, look at the text below from Starbucks. They introduce themselves right away.

9. Don’t  Send Too Many Texts

People get bombarded with an overwhelming number of marketing messages day in and day out, whether by text, email, direct mail, social media ads, and so on.

It’s important that your business doesn’t add to that stress by sending too many texts. If you don’t have anything important to say or offer, it’s best not to send a text at all.

In fact, 71% of US consumers say that too many texts will make them no longer want to hear from a brand.

By sending out only your most exciting texts, you’ll avoid annoying customers. Plus, when they do see that they’ve gotten a text from you, they’ll know it’s something good.

10. Give Instructions for Opting Out

As we mentioned earlier, it’s illegal to text your customers without their permission. It’s also illegal to not give users a way to opt out of receiving your messages.

You should always give users a way to unsubscribe. At the very least, your first text message must include your opt-out instructions. Some brands even include it at the end of each message. This gives any user the chance to opt out easily if they subscribed accidentally or no longer want texts.

For example, Dominos instructs customers to text “STOP” to unsubscribe, and they also include the standard “text messaging rates may apply” disclaimer.

Reminding users that they can unsubscribe at any time will help you avoid annoying them. It will also ensure that your SMS marketing list is filled with people who are actually interested in getting your messages.

SMS Marketing Examples for Inspiration

Let’s look at a few examples of SMS marketing messages from different brands. We’ll discuss what you can learn from each of these text campaigns.

1. Offer a Coupon or Reward Like Buff City Soap

SMS marketing text message from Buff City Soap. It has a graphic for a bonus  reward, and the text says: "Buff City Soap: Get a BONUS  in Buff Rewards for EVERY  you spend in store during our Member Appreciation weekend NOW through Sunday! Your  Rewards will arrive in your Buff Rewards account on Monday Feb 5 & can be applied towards in-store purchases through Mar 5. See for full offer details."
Buff City Soap sends texts as part of their marketing efforts to drive traffic into their physical stores. Here, they offer a $10 rewards bonus with any $50 purchase made in-store.

Notice that Buff City Soap includes a graphic with this text message. This is a strategy you shouldn’t overuse due to factors like data usage. However, an occasional photo, graphic, or GIF can catch subscribers’ attention. Note that these inclusions can cost more than text-only messages.

2. Promote a Sale (With a Deadline) like Abercrombie & Fitch

abercrombie & fitch sales promotion text

Text messages are a great way to notify your SMS list subscribers about a sale event. Abercrombie & Fitch also creates a sense of urgency by saying the sale is “Tonight only.” Other phrases to use include “Last Chance,” “Limited-Time,” and “Ends Soon.”

Subscribers can click the links to visit the Men’s or Women’s clearance pages, as seen on the right.

3. Announce a New Product like Local Eclectic

SMS marketing example from Local Eclectic. It says "Local Eclectic: NEW! Luxe Jewelry Boxes have arrived, because pretty jewels deserve a pretty home. Discover all 3 boxes:" Then there's a link

Local Eclectic, an online jewelry store, sends regular promotional texts about sales and special offers. In this SMS marketing example, they notify subscribers about a new line of jewelry boxes.

What better way to announce a new product than to send an announcement directly to your customers’ mobile phones?

4. Feature Enticing Content like Food52

SMS marketing example from Food52. It says, "Food52: Hi friend. We have 50,000+ recipes on our site- -just *think* of how many are cake." Then there's a link.
Is content creation a big part of your business? If so, you can include that content in your text message marketing.

I received the above text from Food52 after I signed up for their SMS list. Most of their marketing texts promote the products they sell, but this one focuses instead on their huge library of recipes.

5. Offer Free Shipping like Alex and Ani

SMS marketing example from Alex and Ani that says "ALEX AND ANI: TODAY ONLY! *FREE Ground Shipping on ALL Orders* Get your VDAY gifts on time, order by 2/7 at 11AM ET. SHOP NOW:" Then there's a link

Shipping costs can often be a barrier to making a purchase. And so can shipping times, especially before a holiday. This text message from Alex and Ani tackles both of these objections. It offers free shipping and tells subscribers the last day they can order to receive Valentine’s Day gifts in time.

SMS Marketing Software & Tools

In order to send promotional SMS messages like the ones above, you’ll need the right tools.  Let’s take a look at a few different options for SMS marketing software.

1. OptinMonster: Build Your SMS List

OptinMonster homepage

OptinMonster is one of the best lead-generation tools available. It allows you to create eye-catching website popups using stunning, ready-to-use templates and our visual drag-and-drop builder.

What’s more, OptinMonster offers seamless integration with SMS marketing platforms.

Plus, you’ll get to choose from multiple campaign types, like popup, fullscreen mat, and floating bar.

Our customers use these campaigns to grow their email and SMS subscriber lists. Then, they can boost sales with exclusive deals for SMS subscribers.

Here’s an example of an SMS marketing optin built with OptinMonster:

Add Phone Number Popup

For more, check out this article: How to Collect Phone Numbers on Your Website Using Popups

Pricing: $9-$49 per month

Get Started With SMS Popups Today!

2. Brevo (formerly Sendinblue): Email & SMS Marketing in One

Marketing Automation Tools - Brevo

Brevo (formerly Sendinblue) is one of the best email and SMS marketing service providers. Brevo lets you segment your target audience and send personalized texts in bulk.

With Brevo’s SMS marketing features, you can easily promote time-sensitive discounts and special events. It comes with built-in analytics, so you can see which messages perform the best.

Pricing: Brevo’s free plan offers limited SMS marketing. Paid plans range from $25-$65 per month. However, you have to buy SMS credits separately for all plans.

3. ActiveCampaign: An Omnichannel Marketing Platform


ActiveCampaign is an omnichannel marketing platform. That means it seeks to offer a single platform for all marketing channels, including email, social media, and SMS marketing.

Like Brevo (formerly Sendinblue), ActiveCampaign lets you automate your SMS marketing campaigns.

ActiveCampaign’s SMS marketing features let you automatically send flash sale notifications or appointment reminders. It comes with form-building tools so you can collect phone numbers on your website.  Plus, if anyone wants to leave your list, they simply need to reply with “STOP” or “UNSUBSCRIBE.” This helps you keep your list filled only with your most engaged subscribers.

Pricing: The SMS add-on is available in the Plus plan and above, with plans ranging from $49-$259 per month. Like Brevo, SMS credits cost extra. Monthly SMS plans range from $21 for 1,000 credits to $1,221 for 101,000 credits.

4. EZ Texting: SMS Marketing for Beginners

EZ Texting SMS marketing tool

EZ Texting is a simple, standalone SMS marketing tool that lets you send bulk texts.

Within EZ Texting, you can organize your contact list and track your SMS marketing analytics. You can use this service to send SMS updates about contests, coupons, and online promo codes. It also comes with marketing attribution tools to see your conversion sources.

This platform takes the “EZ” label seriously. It has thorough onboarding and easy-to-understand documentation.

Pricing: $20-$3,000 per month.


1. Is SMS marketing illegal?

No, SMS marketing is not illegal as long as you follow the laws of your country and/or state. There are 2 main rules for legal compliance:

  1. Subscribers must have explicitly signed up to receive text messages from you. Just because you have someone’s mobile number doesn’t mean that you can send them promotional texts.
  2. You must always offer an easy way to unsubscribe. Usually, the subscriber can just reply “stop” or “unsubscribe” to be removed from your SMS list. You have to include opt-out instructions in your first text.

Most SMS marketing platforms will help you maintain legal compliance by offering 2-step optins and easy opt-outs.

2. Is SMS marketing effective?

Yes. If done well, text messages can be a vital part of your digital marketing strategy. According to 2023 data from Klaviyo, their clients’ SMS campaigns saw a click rate of 10.14% across all industries. Compare that to their email marketing data, which shows a click rate of 1.44% for email campaigns.

And those clicks translate to sales. The mattress company GhostBed generated over $77,000 in revenue from an SMS welcome series for new subscribers.

3. How much does SMS marketing cost?

You’ll need to purchase 2 types of tools to get started with SMS marketing:

  • An optin tool to build an SMS subscriber list
  • A platform to send and manage your marketing texts

To build your list, OptinMonster starts at just $9 a month. If you already have an email marketing service, check to see if your plan already includes SMS or if it’s available as an add-on. If not, a small business can start with a service like EZ Texting for as little as $20 a month to send 500 monthly texts.

As you build your SMS marketing list, you can expect each text to cost between 1 and 5.5 cents. With most platforms, your per-text cost will go down as your volume increases.

4. How can I collect phone numbers for SMS marketing?

To build your SMS list, you can use several strategies:

  1. Include a phone number field and an optin checkbox on the checkout page of your eCommerce site. It should be very clear that by clicking the checkbox, customers are signing up to receive marketing texts.
  2. If you have physical stores, allow customers to sign up for texts at your point of sale (POS).
  3. Use popups, floating bars, and other on-site campaigns to encourage website visitors to sign up for your SMS list. OptinMonster makes it easy to offer visitors irresistible offers in exchange for an SMS signup.

Get Started With SMS Popups Today!

More SMS Marketing Resources

If you want to learn even more about SMS message marketing, check out these articles:

I'm writer and digital marketer with over 15 years of experience. As a former marketing director for small nonprofits, I understand what it's like to be a one-person marketing department. I'm here to help you generate more leads in less time.

Disclosure: Our content is reader-supported. This means if you click on some of our links, then we may earn a commission. We only recommend products that we believe will add value to our readers.


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  2. Great Article! SMS Marketing is a must nowadays. 🙂

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