SHORT CODE UPDATE: Mobile carriers ended shared Short Code service in June of 2021. If your business uses a shared Short Code, you need to switch to a 10-digit-long code (10DLC), Toll-free phone number, or dedicated Short Code (5-6 digit phone number). The good news is that Texting Base provides all three of these options to our customers.
Americans check their phones 96 times every single day on average. That means businesses like yours are missing 96 chances every day to get their messages in front of American consumers if they’re not doing SMS marketing. This is the power of SMS — reaching contacts where they are: on their phones.

But you can’t just put thousands of contact numbers into your phone, send mass messages and hope for the best. You need proven strategies, stellar marketing ideas and tried-and-tested templates that actually engage your contacts. That’s exactly what this guide from Texting Base will provide you.

How A2P messaging shook SMS marketing to its core

SMS marketing didn’t exist in its current form before the advent of application to person (A2P) messaging. With this monumental development, businesses became able to reach hundreds of people in seconds.

The concept of A2P messaging is fairly straightforward. It’s in contrast to person-to-person (P2P) messaging. Instead of receiving messages directly from someone else’s phone, your contacts are getting messages from your business via a platform like Texting Base.

The simple invention of A2P didn’t solve all problems, though. Businesses started using Short Codes to overcome the fact that normal, 10-digit phone numbers aren’t compatible with mass messaging. These Short Codes were often shared. And that created a huge problem. What exactly is a Short Code? You have probably already seen them on your mobile phone as a 5 to 6 digit phone number. If at any time you bought something on Amazon.com and you got a shipping confirmation from this number 262966, that is a dedicated Short Code. The Amazon dedicated Short Code 262966 is provisioned by the mobile carriers and dedicated just to Amazon. This means that only Amazon can send and receive text messages on that specific Short Code.

If you were sharing a Short Code, you were sharing it with potentially thousands of other businesses that the wireless provider has randomly assigned to that code. If even one of the businesses you shared a Short Code with broke the short code rules from the CTIA, everyone using that code had a problem, including you.

To be specific, your account would be suspended.

The major wireless providers quickly understood that this was a problem, so they started banning shared Short Codes. By June of 2021, shared Short Codes were a thing of the past. Now, businesses need to transition to a 10DLC messaging strategy, Toll-free phone numbers (800, 888, 877, 866, 855, 844, 833), or a dedicated Short Code.

A 10DLC 10-digit number is unique to you. It’s your usual phone number such as 212-555-1234. And you have to use it if you want to use A2P SMS marketing. And picture MMS marketing.

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The major wireless providers quickly understood that this was a problem, so they started banning shared Short Codes. By June of 2021, shared Short Codes were a thing of the past. Now, businesses need to transition to a 10DLC messaging strategy, Toll-free phone numbers (800, 888, 877, 866, 855, 844, 833), or a dedicated Short Code.

A 10DLC 10-digit number is unique to you. It’s your usual phone number such as 212-555-1234. And you have to use it if you want to use A2P SMS marketing. And picture MMS marketing.

That’s great, right? Mobile carriers say it is, and there are some benefits, but switching to 10DLC SMS can quickly become complicated and costly.

10DLC pros with Texting Base

Shorter registration time with The Campaign Registry

Almost no filtering by the mobile carriers

Easier campaign tracking

Voice call support

Ability to get local area code

Less expensive than unique dedicated Short Codes

Send more messages faster

Allows for high-volume text messaging

Avoid having shared Short Codes blocked

User experience improved

You can send SMS and MMS picture messages

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10DLC cons

You must register your business

Application approval process before messages can be sent

Application delays due to missing or incorrect information

Limited to sending up to 3,000 bulk text messages a day for starter brands

Additional monthly costs if you want to send more than 3,000 messages a day

Harder to remember than a short code

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Get help: An SMS marketing company like Texting Base can make the 10DLC process much easier for you. The best SMS advertising platform will have a great support team that will walk you through applications, 10DLC number selection and getting the campaign up and running efficiently.

girl with pencil

Toll-free numbers for SMS and MMS marketing

You can make the 10DLC switch to a normal, local phone number, but there’s another option: a Toll-free number from Texting Base. These numbers use a prefix like 800, 833, 844, 855, 866, 877 or 888. If you already have a Toll-free number for your business, you can enable it for Toll-free SMS texting with Texting Base. You can also implement a new one. But keep in mind that there are some pros and cons of Toll-free SMS messaging that you will need to consider.

Pros of Toll-free messaging with Texting Base

Can be customized for branding, such as 800-CALLNOW

No need to register with The Campaign Registry

Easier to remember when branding is used

Voice call support

Can be immediately enabled for Toll-free SMS and MMS

Allows for high-volume text messaging

Best for allowing responses from contacts

You can send SMS and MMS pictures messages

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Cons of Toll-free
messaging

Subject to different regulations than 10DLC

Lower deliverability than 10DLC

Subject to strict carrier filtering

Unsolicited phone calls due to the number being free to call may put pressure on customer support

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SMS marketing basics

With the 10DLC discussion out of the way, let’s jump into the building blocks of SMS marketing and what you need to know to get started.
We’ll begin with the “what” and “why.”

#1: What is SMS? It’s an acronym for “short message service.” Put simply, it’s a text message.
#2: Why use SMS marketing? SMS campaigns connect businesses with customers and potential customers to grow sales, engagement and revenue.

It’s really just like any other marketing channel, but instead of emails, billboards, cold calls or blog posts, SMS marketing gets the message to consumers via text message.

Again, that’s the highly simplified version. You’ll need to consider dozens of other factors, such as the rules for opting into SMS campaigns. This guide will cover everything you need to know.

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The power of SMS marketing

People love getting texts. Those four words are at the heart of why SMS campaigns are so effective.

If you’re wondering exactly how effective SMS marketing is, all you have to do is understand that 98% of text messages get read in under three minutes.

Powerful marketing for powerful benefits

A near-100% open rate is not the only benefit of SMS marketing, but it’s a big part of the reason why these campaigns provide such fantastic results. Here are the key benefits to expect:

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Easy campaign tracking
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Simple setup
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Affordability
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Excellent ROI
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Unbeatable engagement
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High open rates

For many in the communications and advertising fields, these benefits are no longer news. They’re expected — that’s how powerful text marketing has become.

With all that said, these benefits aren’t guaranteed — especially if you’re flying blind. You have to focus on crafting the right message, growing your contact lists, mobile optimization and much more to get the most out of your SMS marketing strategies.

How text marketing works

You can break down the basics of SMS marketing into three simple steps:

I.
II.
III.
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You send a mass text to potential customers via an A2P platform. You include a keyword, code and disclaimer.

Those who are interested in getting more texts from your business respond to the text with the keyword you sent. This is called opting in, and it means you have permission to send that person text messages.

Your platform sends an automatic response to those who subscribe. This response includes a code that allows them to opt out (unsubscribe) at any time.You can send messages to and receive them from those who have opted in. That means you can send updates, reminders, news and much more.

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SMS marketing: From early days to present day

The marketing landscape is now dominated by text marketing, but that wasn’t always the case. SMS marketing comes from humble beginnings.

What really drove SMS campaigns to the top of the marketing food chain was the smartphone. Marketers quickly saw the power of reaching people on these new devices and took action. But a lot led up to that big moment in text marketing.

  • Modern text message developed. GSM Corporation developed the technology that powers the modern text message in 1984.
  • First message sent. Eight years later, the first recorded text message was sent. Neil Papworth sent a simple message to Vodafone’s Richard Jarvis in 1992.
  • Short codes invented. In 1999, five- and six-digit short codes were invented.
  • SMS marketing picks up steam. By 2002, the volume of SMS messages sent around the world ramped up to over 250 billion. Nike, Pontiac, Eurovision and other large brands began to see the value in text marketing and launched huge SMS campaigns.
  • SMS hits the high note. Viewers of “American Idol” sent in their votes for top singers in what would be the first large text campaign of its kind in 2003.
  • SMS eclipses voice calls. A few short years later, in 2007, the number of text messages sent each day surpassed the number of voice calls. This also happens to be the year Apple released its first iPhone.
  • The shift to 10DLC. In 2017, developments in A2P begin to point toward 10DLC for bulk SMS.
  • Verizon goes first. Two years later, Verizon made the shift to 10DLC official, becoming the first mobile carrier of many to do so.

Permission-based marketing 101

Have you ever been watching TV and had an advertiser ask you to press a button on the remote to allow them to show you an ad? Have you ever driven past a billboard that asked you to blink twice to see its ad content?

Of course not. That’s because those marketing channels are not permission-based. But SMS marketing is.

Put simply, this means that your contacts, leads, customers, employees or whoever you want to text has to give consent to allow you to actually send them marketing messages. And they have to be able to opt out of receiving the messages whenever they want.

Admittedly, adding the extra step of getting permission makes SMS marketing a little more complex than some other methods. But the payoff is huge.

By asking for permission, you are building trust with your contacts. You immediately appear to care about the contact. They believe that you won’t:

  • Send tons of spam or unwanted content
  • Keep sending messages if they unsubscribe
  • Send texts that provide no value

Building that kind of relationship is marketing gold. It’s what marketers everywhere are striving for day in and day out. The result is better click rates, open rates and engagement in general.

There’s power in permission. Oh, and it’s no small matter that getting permission is required by law. It’s all laid out in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).

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What does an SMS marketing campaign look like?

SMS marketing is not a one-size-fits-all marketing method. Each industry and application will have its own approaches, and it’s important to think about your approach before you begin sending messages.

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#1: Promotions, coupons, deals and more

With SMS marketing, you can send online or in-store coupon codes directly to existing customers or contacts.

Pick your codes carefully so that you don’t run into people who are sharing or stealing codes to get deals. This allows for better campaign tracking and protects your bottom line.

Anything you can do to make it easy to use the code will be useful. Consider allowing contacts to add your codes to digital wallets or simply show the text in the store.

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#2: Building loyalty

Brand loyalty is worth big bucks. It’s how you turn one-time customers into lifetime supporters of your business, and you can do it with SMS marketing. Build a loyalty program that gives exclusive incentives and rewards to your text contacts.

Smaller and mid-sized businesses can send promo codes to contacts. Larger businesses often see success by asking contacts to text a short code that will automatically trigger a text with an app download link. In the app, contacts can make online purchases and get access to exclusive rewards.

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#3: Personalized, automated messaging

Customized and personalized SMS campaigns lead to higher engagement. They make your contacts feel like your business cares about them.

Instead of going through hundreds of contacts and sending a personalized message to each one, you can automate the entire process and even address your contacts by their first name. Short videos, photos and similar media that display personalized product recommendations can take your text marketing efforts to the next level.

Segmentation helps with personalization. You can segment your contact lists however you like to target your SMS marketing efforts. For instance, if you know certain customers prefer a certain type of product you sell, you can add them to a segment that will only get texts about that type of product.

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#4: Shipping, delivery and tracking updates

Keeping your customers informed as their purchases are shipped to them is key to their satisfaction.

They want to know what’s going on and when to expect their package. Give them what they want by sending automated tracking and order updates via SMS.

#5: Notifications and alerts

SMS marketing isn’t just for businesses. Companies can use it to communicate with employees. Nonprofit organizations can message donors. Sports teams can keep up with each other. It’s all possible with mass texting.

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#6: Sweepstakes, contests and giveaways

Nothing gets people engaged with a brand like the chance to get free stuff. You can coordinate contests, giveaways and similar campaigns through SMS marketing.

Contacts can sign up via text message for the chance to get a giveaway, and you can structure the competition however you like. With SMS, these kinds of promotions are easy and effective.

Don’t forget to use the promotion as a chance to promote the services or products your business deals in.

dialogues

#7: Getting feedback and opinion

There’s a saying about opinions — everyone has them. And they’re more valuable than gold for many businesses. With SMS marketing, you can easily send out surveys and polls and get high response rates. Text polls typically get response rates of 10 to 15%. That’s nearly double the average for emailed polls.

The reason for that higher engagement? It’s easier to respond on your phone because you’re already on it.

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#8: Event coordination

Coordination is notoriously difficult in event planning. Make it easier with mass SMS!

You can quickly and easily send dates, location updates, reminders and instructions to every potential attendee. The result is better attendance and better ROI for you.

Bringing in more of what matters with SMS

#1: Get more contacts

To get results from your text marketing efforts, you have to have contacts. Without contacts, you’re sending your messages into a void and will get no ROI. You have to convince people to opt in.

See below for some examples of how companies can convince customers to opt in:

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How nonprofits can grow their donor bases.

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How food companies can build their SMS contacts.

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How transportation providers can get more text contacts.

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How clothing stores can keep the customers coming.

#2: Email and SMS: A perfect match

SMS and email marketing are not at all the same thing. They each require unique approaches and target customers in different ways. But they sure do work well together. Like SMS marketing, email marketing relies on permission from contacts. You can combine the opt-in instructions to allow for both contact points: email and text messaging.

This is how advanced marketing gurus help their clients bring their revenue to new heights. But you don’t have to rely on a guru — you can do it yourself with a comprehensive SMS platform.

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Communicate more information and send messages more frequently with email marketing.

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Send quick, powerful updates to text contacts to spread the word and get responses and engagement.

#3: If it can be tracked, track it

Running a business, group or organization is all about relationships:

  • Relationships with the community
  • Relationships with customers
  • Relationships with clients
  • Relationships with employees
  • Relationships with donors

It’s inescapable. You have to nurture relationships to find success. Your customer relationship management (CRM) platform is likely at the center of your relationship management efforts. And it should be.

HubSpot is one of the most common CRMs. That’s because it integrates with tons of other platforms, such as the SMS marketing platform you choose. Its functions are complex, but it’s easy to use. Everything is all in one place.

Centralizing your relationship management allows you to see all of your data in the same place. And you manage it through one easy-to-use dashboard.

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Google analytics

Web traffic, engagement and more

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MailChimp

Email marketing campaigns

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Shopify

Revenue and online sales

More information is available inside each application, but using a CRM to centralize the high points makes your marketing easier.

But why should you bother tracking the performance of your text marketing efforts in your CRM? Because the progress you make is important. You need to know what’s working, what’s not working and what you should do differently to get even more engagement with SMS marketing.

SMS campaigns can drive real, impressive results. But this is one marketing channel to be used alongside many. You need a comprehensive tool for analyzing the data you get from your SMS campaigns — one that lets you see the information alongside many other metrics.

Here’s why tracking, data and analytics matter for SMS and many other types of marketing:

  • You get in-depth insight about what motivates your employees and staff members.
  • You grow your company’s network by finding more text contacts.
  • You understand the “why” behind people’s donations and other charitable actions.
  • Your gain perspective on what causes consumers to make purchases.
  • You tweak your business offerings to match what consumer behavior data tells you.
  • You use consumer data to make thoughtful, impactful decisions about your company’s future.

SMS campaign masterclass

The pillars of SMS marketing are where you should start. Once you’ve mastered what we’ve discussed so far, it’s time to move on to the expert tips. Here are five master-level techniques to use in your SMS campaigns:

#1: Prepare for errors

The average consumer isn’t spending too much time editing their text messages. What if they don’t spell your opt-in keyword correctly? To prepare, you need failover keywords.

HERE'S AN EXAMPLE

Keyword:

  • Green Thumb

Failover Keywords:

  • Greenthumb
  • Green Thum
  • Gren Thumb

If someone misspells your opt-in keyword in one of the ways you’ve outlined in your failover keywords, they still opt in.

#2: Dynamically date your promotions

Creating urgency is key in marketing. People need to know an offer has an expiration date. Only then do they become motivated.

You can set these dates to be dynamic in SMS marketing. Instead of setting a bunch of end dates for promotions and hoping people opt in quickly, you can set dates for specific intervals after someone opts in.

That way, everyone who subscribes gets 24 hours (or whatever amount of time you choose) to take advantage of your offer.

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#3: Divide and conquer

Segmentation is an advanced text marketing technique that deserves your attention. All you need is your contact list and a little more information about each contact:

  • Geographic location
  • Age
  • The date they opted in
  • Really, anything that’s relevant

You can separate your contact list into groups based on demographic details like these. From there, you can send targeted messages to individual groups — not all of them at once. This allows you to personalize your SMS marketing and manage more targeted campaigns.

#4: Test everything. Then test it again.

If you’re not A/B testing your SMS marketing campaigns, you’re missing out on a whole lot of opportunities to boost your ROI. Testing is THE way to find out what’s working and what might work better.

SMS A/B testing example:

Your company texts your contact list a promo code every month. Every time, you use the same call to action (CTA).

You suspect that a different CTA might lead to more sales. You want to find out, but you don’t want to risk a bad month with the wrong CTA.

Instead of wholesale changing the CTA, you split your contacts in half. One group gets the brand new CTA, and the other gets the old CTA.

#5: Track your links

Using your SMS marketing platform, enable link tracking. This feature gives you the ability to see how many people are clicking links in your marketing messages across various channels.

With comprehensive data about what kinds of messaging are inspiring contacts to click your links, you can tweak your campaigns for better performance.

Time to put it all together: Getting your first SMS marketing campaign up and running

You’ve done it — you made it through this SMS marketing guide, and now it’s time to get your first campaign going. Here’s how:

SMS marketing inspiration

You came here for knowledge and inspiration. We’ve covered the knowledge bit, so let’s seek some inspiration from those who have gone before us. Below, we outline steps real companies have taken to get real results with SMS marketing.

Step #1: Click to engage

Find the “New Message” button. Click it, and get ready for your marketing to blast off.

Step #2: Pick a keyword

Select a keyword that is short and memorable. It should relate to your promotion in some way if possible, but it’s also possible to use easy-to-remember letter and number combos.

Step #3: Write your welcome message

Write it, or choose one of the pre-built welcome messages from our templates. This is what people will see right after they opt in to your campaign.

Continue to the next step — but save your changes first!

Step #4: Add your numbers

Select the 10DLC number your message should come from. If you only have one, the choice is easy. Next, upload the phone numbers you want to contact or enter them manually.

Step #5: Write it, schedule it

Be clear and concise here. This is the text that will describe your promotion or communication. Make sure to include any need-to-know details about the promotion, as well as relevant photos if applicable. Try to be creative and memorable, but focus on clarity.

With your message written, you’re ready to schedule it. You can choose the time and date you want the message to go out. Also, click “Preview” to see what your message will look like on various devices.

Step #6: Celebrate your impending success

It’s that simple! You’re done, so it’s time to relax and wait for the results to pour in. Once the message has gone out, you can get real-time data in the Texting Base dashboard.

Here are some of the types of data you can see:
  • New contacts
  • Number of opt-outs
  • Number of messages sent
  • Number of messages delivered
  • And a lot more

Every time you analyze performance data, you get actionable insights to apply to your future campaigns. They’ll only get better with time.

Pre-made SMS templates

Who has the time to craft the perfect message for every single mass text campaign? Few people do, but there’s good news: We’ve taken the liberty of providing a ton of SMS marketing templates. Feel free to use them!

dumbbells
Sports, coaches & gyms

Keep your team organized, your clients motivated and your treadmills full with these SMS marketing templates.

Contact sales
arrow
headphones
Customer relationships

Deliver world-class customer service that exceeds all expectations with honest, engaging customer service templates.

Contact sales
arrow
cart
eCommerce and retail

Sell more and grow your revenue — whether it’s online or brick and mortar — with these razor-sharp texts.

Contact sales
arrow
house
Spas and salons

Wax more brows, give more massages and keep the aromatherapy flowing with targeted SMS templates.

Contact sales
arrow
house
Realtors, brokers & investors

(realtors, brokers, & investors)

List more, sell more and rev up your ROI by sending perfectly crafted real estate texts every single time.

Contact sales
arrow
calendar
Reminders

Keep the schedule moving and your clients informed with appointment and meeting reminders that really work.

Contact sales
arrow
dumbbells
Gyms, sports, and coaches

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut the laboredolore magna aliqua.

Contact sales
arrow
headphones
Customer service

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut the laboredolore magna aliqua.

Contact sales
arrow
cart
Retail and eCommerce

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut the laboredolore magna aliqua.

Contact sales
arrow
house
Salons

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut the laboredolore magna aliqua.

Contact sales
arrow
house
Real estate professionals

(realtors, brokers, & investors)

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut the laboredolore magna aliqua.

Contact sales
arrow
calendar
Appointment reminder

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut the laboredolore magna aliqua.

Contact sales
arrow
dumbbells
Gyms, sports, and coaches

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut the laboredolore magna aliqua.

Contact sales
arrow
headphones
Customer service

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut the laboredolore magna aliqua.

Contact sales
arrow
cart
Retail and eCommerce

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut the laboredolore magna aliqua.

Contact sales
arrow
house
Salons

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut the laboredolore magna aliqua.

Contact sales
arrow
house
Real estate professionals

(realtors, brokers, & investors)

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut the laboredolore magna aliqua.

Contact sales
arrow
calendar
Appointment reminder

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut the laboredolore magna aliqua.

Contact sales
arrow
dumbbells
Sports, coaches & gyms

Keep your team organized, your clients motivated and your treadmills full with these SMS marketing templates.

Contact sales
arrow
headphones
Customer relationships

Deliver world-class customer service that exceeds all expectations with honest, engaging customer service templates.

Contact sales
arrow
cart
eCommerce and retail

Sell more and grow your revenue — whether it’s online or brick and mortar — with these razor-sharp texts.

Contact sales
arrow
house
Spas and salons

Wax more brows, give more massages and keep the aromatherapy flowing with targeted SMS templates.

Contact sales
arrow
house
Realtors, brokers & investors

(realtors, brokers, & investors)

List more, sell more and rev up your ROI by sending perfectly crafted real estate texts every single time.

Contact sales
arrow
calendar
Reminders

Keep the schedule moving and your clients informed with appointment and meeting reminders that really work.

Contact sales
arrow

You’re almost there, but you need to review this SMS marketing best practices guide before you launch your campaign.

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