SMS Campaign How-To’s, Best Practices, & Examples

June 21, 2024 (Updated) | By Sam Pelton
Text message being received marketing flash sale including a bar graph image

There are over 6 billion mobile subscriptions globally.

With those kinds of staggering numbers, the potential reach of sending an SMS campaign is unparalleled.

And "reaching" involves more than just being able to show up in an inbox. Email can do that, but email read rates are only around 38.5% on average at most (many reports, however, put it closer to 21%). SMS, on the other hand, has read rates of up to 55 and "view rates" of up to 100%.

The question is, how can you take full advantage of SMS campaigns? With such powerful potential, you want to get as much out of it as you can.

This guide will walk you through some of the basics, including how to set up an SMS campaign, best practices, examples, and tools.

Before diving into the strategies and techniques for optimizing your SMS campaign, let's first establish a clear understanding of what an SMS campaign entails.

What Is an SMS Campaign?

An SMS campaign, also known as a text message marketing campaign, is a targeted marketing approach that uses SMS (otherwise known as "text messages") to communicate with a specific audience. It involves sending promotional messages, updates, offers, alerts, or any other relevant information directly to individuals' mobile devices.

SMS campaigns give you a direct and immediate way to connect with your audience, as text messages are typically read within minutes of being received.

An SMS campaign contains several components:

Sender ID / Phone Number

Your "sender ID" is what your recipients see as the sender of the message. In the United States, this must be a phone number, but in other countries this can sometimes be an alphanumeric ID (meaning it can contain more than just digits).

As far as phone numbers, there are essentially 3 types of phone numbers you can use to send messages in the current climate:

  1. 10DLCs (10-digit long codes)—these are 10-digit numbers with local area codes that look like "normal" phone numbers. These often cost a fee to set up and use but are fairly reliable for getting your messages delivered. (We've found these types of numbers to be generally the most viable option for most businesses.)
  2. Short codes—these are numbers that are shorter than 10 digits (usually 5 digits). These cost significantly more than 10DLCs and take longer to set up but have the best delivery rates. (These are even better options than 10DLCs if your marketing budget allows.)
  3. Text-enabled toll-free numbers—these are 10-digit numbers that have "800" area codes rather than local area codes. These are inexpensive or free but tend to have more delivery issues than the other phone number types. (We don’t recommend using these numbers for texting in the current climate.)

Opt-In Process

Before you can start sending out an SMS campaign, you need an opt-in process to collect people's phone numbers.

You can use incentives and SMS campaign tools (see "SMS Campaign Tools" below) to generate leads in order to send out your campaigns.

Message Content and Frequency

You’ll need to set up your message content (or series of message content) within a platform that allows you to send out mass texts, or you can use an SMS API.

You can schedule messages individually, set up a workflow to go out automatically, and/or set up automated responses to trigger based on content your audience sends in to you.

Analytics

As with any marketing effort, you need to measure the results of your SMS campaign so that you can optimize your future efforts. (More on analytics later.)

Elements of an sms campaign infographic

How to Set Up an SMS Campaign

There are a few steps to getting an SMS campaign up and running…

1. Get a Clear Vision

It’s best not to just plunge in without any planning.

You want to have a clear vision of what your goals and expectations are before you move forward.

Decide what you want to accomplish with your SMS campaign and how you’ll go about accomplishing those goals. Follow general advice for setting marketing goals to help make sure you have the best outcomes.

2. Use a Reliable SMS Solution to Create Your Messages

You can set up the flow for your SMS campaign within your SMS platform, or by using an SMS API. (In this article, we’ll focus on the platform method.)

If you want to schedule the messages within your campaign individually, you can just type out the message and select the dates/times for the messages to be sent.

If you want to create a workflow of automated messages in your campaign, you can set up the flow as a drip campaign.

If you want to set up automated messages triggered by activity on your audience’s end (for example, if they text in a specific word), you can also type out the content for these messages within the platform, as well as designate the condition that will trigger the automated message.

3. Do a Push to Get People to Opt In to Your Messages

Use any format at your disposal—social media, email, physical marketing materials, personal interactions—to get your target audience to sign up for your SMS campaign.

You’ll have to make it as easy and enticing as possible. (It's typically best to incentivize people to sign up with some kind of free item or discount.)

Once people start adding themselves to your SMS marketing list, your campaign will be ready to send out!

4. See How Your Campaign Performs

Surprisingly, Statista reported that only 37.7% of marketing projects make use of analytics. But without analytics, your marketing efforts may just be a shot in the dark.

When it comes to an SMS campaign, as with any other marketing campaign, it’s best to take advantage of as many analytics as you can. That way, you can measure how your SMS campaign is performing, so that you can make adjustments and optimizations as needed for the most optimal results.

5. Make Tweaks as the Data Leads

Your data analytics will help you be able to determine things like:

  • What kinds of messaging best resonates with your audience

  • How often you should send messages in your campaign

  • What times of day you should send texts

  • What kinds of audiences resonate best with your messaging

All of this can help make your SMS campaigns as effective as possible.

Screenshot of drip campaigns workflow

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How to Do an SMS Campaign: More Specifics

Thus far the discussion has been more high-level.

But, when it comes down to it, how do you actually do an SMS campaign?

There are a few steps you'll need to follow:

1. Add Subscribers Into Your SMS Database

You can use any of the common opt-in methods to get subscribers added into your SMS database.

Some of these opt-in methods include allowing people to text in a specific keyword in order to join, giving them an online sign-up form in which they can enter their information (this form is provided by Mobile Text Alerts), or allowing them to scan a QR code in order to sign up.

You can also manually load in your contacts by importing a list or by using an integration or an API to sync up your contacts with one of your other services (such as your CRM).

Offer some kind of incentive to get people to subscribe, and then start growing your subscriber list.

2. Use One of Several Message Sending Options

Once you have contacts in your SMS campaign database, you can start sending messages right away.

The easiest way is to simply type up the message you'd like to send into the online dashboard and hit "Send."

This involves logging into your online SMS platform and navigating to the section of the platform that allows you to send out an immediate text message.

But as mentioned you can also schedule your messages ahead of time by selecting the date/time you'd like to send it - or set up an automated drip campaign of messages to "drip" out over a period of time whenever someone is added to a particular "group" (or segment) in your online subscriber database.

Setting up a drip campaign entails inputting all of the messages that you'd like to send out over the course of your campaign into an online workflow. You can add in periods of delays between each message in order to control when those messages actually go out.

3. Monitor Results Using Reporting | How to Track Your SMS Campaign

After your messages are set up and sent out, you can monitor the performance by logging into your online SMS platform dashboard and accessing the available reporting.

You can just click into the reporting tab and then click into the message you want to analyze.

You'll be able to see stats both on the individual message basis and on the campaign basis (if you have multiple messages in the same campaign).

Some of the stats you can analyze include:

  • Delivery rate (and status)
  • Response rate
  • Opt-out rate
  • Click rate (if you include a trackable link in your message)
  • Credits used

SMS Campaign: Best Practices

When running an SMS campaign, in a lot of ways you can run it the same way you would any marketing campaign.

But there are a few differences.

Here are a few best practices you'll want to try following.

Ask 'Em Before You Send ‘Em

With an SMS campaign, it’s best not to do the "cold" approach.

Although not necessarily a legal issue any longer (the laws used to be stricter), not obtaining permission before sending could get you in trouble with mobile carriers and providers.

This could result in your messages not actually getting delivered.

Plus, people are less tolerant of cold texts than they are of cold emails. Unlike email inboxes which are often cluttered with more content that people don’t care about than content that they do care about, people don’t like to be interrupted with text messages they didn’t ask for and aren't interested in.

So just ask permission before you send.

Have Good Form

Make sure you fill out the appropriate registration forms.

These are easy forms you can fill out in just a couple of minutes and they’re provided by your SMS platform. Your SMS platform will submit these registration forms to the mobile aggregators and carriers on your behalf.

Why? Because these registrations help the mobile carriers know what SMS traffic is legitimate—that way, they’re less likely to filter out your messages as spam.

A 160 Degree Turn

Unlike emails, which can be as long as your heart desires, SMS technically have a limit of 160 characters per message.

HOWEVER, it’s totally OK to go more than 160 characters (since most phones are able to display longer message in a single unit)—but it uses up more messaging credits in your account.

So if you want to save money, you can try to keep your messages under that 160 character mark.

Again and Again and Again and Again…

Don't inundate your recipients with message after message after message.

It's a privilege to share the SMS inbox with the other messages your audience enjoys receiving. But if you send too many messages, they may start to tune you out or unsubscribe.

With SMS, sometimes less is more.

A good rule of thumb when you're first starting is to not send more than 1 SMS per week at the most. You may end up doing more if you find it’s effective for your audience, but let's not burn them out at the outset.

Where’s the Exit?

By the mobile carriers' standards, you're responsible to make sure your recipients know that they can unsubscribe from your texts at any time by replying STOP to any of your messages.

The good news is that if they do reply STOP to any of your messages, their phone number will be automatically removed and you don't even have to do anything.

Making sure that people are aware of how to opt out could help you get the best message delivery rates for your SMS campaigns.

Watch Yer Mouth

Certain types of content simply aren't allowed by the mobile phone carriers. If they detect this type of content in your messaging, they may block your messages from being delivered—even if the content is actually legitimate.

Specifically, you're not supposed to send anything that directly relates to sexual content, hate speech, alcoholic beverages, firearms, or regulated products like tobacco or cannabis.

You should avoid specific mentions of these topics within your text messages. (You can chat with our SMS experts for advice on how to send an SMS campaign if you sell a product related to some of those regulated topics.)

Some Questions…

Here are a few other "best practice" questions you may be wondering…

How to Create Compelling SMS Messages?

Here are some general guidelines for creating compelling messages within your SMS campaign.

  1. Be brief: SMS are created by design to be brief—it's often best if you can have short and to-the-point messages.
  2. Use a clear CTA with a link: Ending your SMS messages with a clear CTA including a link makes it easy for people to follow through with the action you want them to take.
  3. Emphasize what your audience gets: As with any marketing, you should emphasize your audience and speak to what they get rather than what they must do or what they must give up.

When Is the Best Time to Send an SMS Campaign Message?

As far as we know, there isn’t hard evidence on what times of day are the best times to send SMS.

So your best option is to consider common sense on what times would be best for your specific audience.

If your audience is busy at work most of the day, then it may be best to send a text before work, after work, or during the lunch hour. On the other hand, you may find that sending a text during work hours is effective for your audience for one reason or another.

You could experiment with some different times and see what ends up resonating the most. Early-morning texts, late-morning texts, afternoon texts, evening texts—try all of them and see which yield the best results for you.

(Just don't send texts outside of normal daytime hours.)

How to Incorporate SMS Campaigns with the Rest of Your Marketing?

SMS won't replace your other marketing campaigns, but it can be a major complement and source of marketing success.

For one, you can take advantage of your other marketing channels in order to grow your SMS list—use email, social media, and other channels to help get people to sign up for your texts.

Email in particular goes well alongside SMS. You can send emails concurrently with SMS campaigns, and you can even use your SMS campaigns to drive more opens for particularly important email campaigns. (For example, a text message could say, "Check your email for more details…")

Just keep in mind that your SMS campaign will be read at a much higher rate than your other channels, so use that to your advantage.

Best practices infographic

SMS Campaign Examples & Ideas | Best SMS Campaigns

Here are some examples of SMS campaigns you can run for your business.

Sales

You can create a sense of urgency by sending time-sensitive offers exclusively to your SMS subscribers. Promote flash sales and limited-time discounts, using compelling language and clear CTAs to motivate immediate action.

🚨 Flash Sale Alert! Get 20% off all products for the next 2 hours only. Use code FLASH20 at checkout. Shop now: [link]

Appointment Reminders and Confirmations

If your business relies on appointments, you can use SMS to send reminders or confirmation messages to your clients. This helps reduce no-shows and improves customer experience.

Hi Alex, just a reminder that your appointment is scheduled for tomorrow at 11:10am. Reply 'YES' to confirm or call us at 833-576-9888 if you need to reschedule. We look forward to seeing you!

Abandoned Carts

If a customer abandons their cart without completing the purchase, send them a reminder and offer an incentive to encourage them to come back and complete the transaction.

⏳ Don't miss out! We noticed you left something in your cart. Complete your purchase now and enjoy free shipping on us. Click here to return to your cart: http://mbltxt.com/Gy1

Webinar Reminders

Webinars and demos can be highly effective sales tactics. But not if people don't show up! Send text reminders to help get higher show-up rates.

Don't forget! The 'How to Start a Business with $500' webinar starts in 5 minutes. Join here: http://mbltxt.com/GqZ

Event Reminders and Updates

If you're organizing an event, keep attendees informed and engaged with timely SMS reminders, schedule changes, or important announcements.

📢 Attention all event attendees! The customer appreciation raffle will be held at 12pm noon, so make sure you show up before then. Can't wait to see you here!

Loyalty Notices

Reward your loyal customers by offering exclusive discounts, bonus points, or special rewards through SMS. Encourage repeat purchases and foster customer loyalty.

🎉 Congratulations! You've earned 100 bonus points as a thank you for being a valued member of our loyalty program. Redeem them for 20% off your next purchase! Show this message at checkout.

SMS Campaign Tools

Our SMS platform and mobile app Mobile Text Alerts is a solution that opens up access to the tools below that you can use to help you carry out your SMS campaigns.

Opt-In Tools

Several opt-in tools help you collect phone numbers so you can build your subscriber list.

These include tools like:

  • Keywords that people can text in and be automatically subscribed

  • A customizable web sign-up form

  • QR codes

  • Integrations with other services you use

Messaging Tools

Messaging tools allow you flexibility for how you set up and send your SMS campaigns.

These include tools like:

  • AI outputs to help write message content

  • Picture messaging

  • Messaging scheduling

  • Drip campaigns

  • Triggered auto-responses

  • Message template creation

  • Custom variables

Analytics Tools

As mentioned, you need to be able to measure the results of your messages so that you can evaluate analytics and make good decisions.

Some analytics tools include:

  • Delivery reports

  • Subscriber reports

  • Link tracking reports

  • Message engagement reports

  • Opt-out reports

Contact Management Tools

Lastly, you'll want to be able to effectively manage your subscribers.

Some tools that can help you do that include:

  • Contact grouping

  • Administrator management

  • Custom subscriber attributes

SMS Campaign Software and Platforms(#software)

There are several different SMS campaign platforms you can choose from.

Here's some info to get you started - all of the below are quality SMS services, so you can select the one that works best for your needs and your budget.

Mobile Text Alerts

Mobile Text Alerts gives you a professional online platform at a competitive price, and also gives you access to an SMS API so that you can automate SMS processes in whatever way makes sense for you.

Some unique qualities that set Mobile Text Alerts apart include no carrier fees (all your fees are straightforward so there are no surprises) and message delivery reliability - and if you run into any message delivery issues, we'll personally work with you until your message delivery is as good as it can possibly be.

(Plus, there's a new iMessage sending option that you'll want to check out.)

SlickText

SlickText is another professional online platform giving you what you need in an SMS software and API at an affordable fee.

Twilio

Twilio is an SMS service that offers API-only business text messaging and is known for its enterprise-level offering.

Mailchimp SMS

Mailchimp is primarily known as an email service provider but they recently released an SMS function as well that you can add on to any plan.

Attentive

In contrast to Mailchimp, which is primarily an email service but also offers SMS, Attentive is primarily an SMS service but also offers email.

Get Started with SMS Campaigns

Now you know the in's and out's of SMS campaigns—so you’re ready to plunge into the wonderful world of SMS!

Get started with SMS Campaigns today with a free Mobile Text Alerts trial (no credit card necessary). Try it now!

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Start sending mass text messages to your entire list today!

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