Your guide to SMS marketing

Phone with message symbols on a green background

Back in the early days of texting, when cell phones hadn’t reached wide adoption and smartphones were still only an idea, it was probably tough to envision an era where companies would be using the platform to actively market goods and services.

Now, in the mid-2020s, almost every adult in the US owns a cell phone, and 90% of those phones are smartphones. Globally, almost seven billion people had smartphones in 2023; that number is expected to rise to 7.86 billion by 2028.

What do those users all have in common? Texting.

In other words, almost 7 billion people carry around a marketing platform that is more effective than e-mail, online advertising, or web push notifications.

Your organization can’t afford to ignore SMS marketing

The use of text as a messaging platform is cross-cultural and cross-generational. Everyone, from Boomers to Zoomers, uses SMS text messaging, even when they also use other messaging platforms.

More and more businesses, charities, schools, and other organizations are taking advantage of texting as a way to communicate and connect with customers and users. All of these texts fall under the broad umbrella of SMS marketing.

But as valuable as SMS marketing can be to your brand and your bottom line, it’s important to understand the basics before diving in. This guide will help you navigate the ins and outs of SMS marketing so you can get started and watch your conversions hit new highs.

What is SMS marketing?

At its simplest, SMS marketing is simply the practice of sending marketing and promotional messages via text. 

SMS marketing is more than just another advertising platform, though. With open rates of 98% and response rates up to 8 times better than e-mail, SMS marketing is a powerful communication tool that allows businesses to personalize customer experiences and improve connections.

Companies can employ an SMS marketing strategy for a wide range of uses. Common examples include:

  • Appointment reminders
  • Targeted promotions and sales
  • Personalized offers
  • Delivery or order updates
  • Customer support
  • … and more!

When certain best practices are followed, SMS Marketing meets customers where they are and brings them into conversation with the companies that want to retain their business.

What are some benefits of SMS marketing?

Text marketing has many benefits over other marketing avenues.

Higher conversion rates

SMS marketing has an average 29% conversion rate as compared to just over 15% for e-mail. Text messages have a 98% open rate, which means they are seen and read. Online ads are often ignored or absorbed by the other “noise” on the Internet, and e-mail campaigns can easily end up in folders that don’t get opened.

Cost-effective lead generation

While the hard costs of sending and receiving text messages vary across carriers and platforms, overall, SMS marketing tends to be more cost-effective than other digital marketing channels.

Considering the high open and conversion rates for text advertising, companies will likely see a higher ROI from SMS marketing than from e-mail or online advertising. Email open rates hover at 20% while text open rates are consistently around 98%. And one study found that SMS marketing produced an ROI of 181%.

Customer engagement

Americans send 2.27 trillion texts every year, and when they receive texts, they open them within 90 seconds. In addition, texts have a 45% response rate. When companies implement two-way texting, engagement goes up even more.

Customer preference

The stats are clear—customers prefer communicating via text. In healthcare, 41% of patients will switch providers if they don’t offer texting, and patient satisfaction increases up to 96% when their providers implement texting.

This preference doesn’t just appear in healthcare. Approximately two-thirds of consumers say they feel more positive toward businesses that offer messaging, and 85% of smartphone users would rather receive mobile messages than e-mails or phone calls.

With so many advantages, the only questions you should ask are:

  1. What kinds of texts should we send?
  2. How quickly can we start sending them?

Let’s look at some of the most common campaigns and examples first.

What are some common types of SMS marketing campaigns?

It doesn’t matter what product or service your organization offers or whether you’re a for-profit business or a non-profit. If you have customers, clients, or users, there’s an SMS campaign for you.

Campaigns typically fall into one of three broad categories:

  • Conversational: These messages are initiated by the customer and require two-way texting.
  • Informational: Informational use cases include messages such as account updates, appointment reminders, or alerts.
  • Promotional: This category includes any advertising or marketing messages, such as flash sales, deals, coupons, etc.

What are some SMS marketing examples?

Some of the most common SMS marketing examples include:

Customer loyalty and retention

SMS marketing isn’t just about gaining new customers or sending promotions; it can also be an excellent way to drive retention and improve customer engagement on a preferred platform.

Retention-marketing platform Yotpo takes customer retention and loyalty to a whole new level. The company offers its customers ways to integrate everything from reviews and user-generated content to rewards and loyalty programs into multiple delivery options, including SMS. With everything in one place, Yotpo customers can turn one-time shoppers into loyal customers.

Two-factor authentication

One of the simplest uses of text is Two-Factor Authentication (2FA). For organizations that maintain highly sensitive, personal information, 2FA is a way to ensure that customer data remains uncompromised. For instance, financial institutions can use 2FA to verify customer identity during log-in attempts, which can help prevent fraud.

Appointment reminders

Over 40% of patients say they would leave their doctors if their doctor’s office doesn’t use text. Sending reminders via text reduces no-shows and improves follow-through. In addition, organizations can send reminders about follow-ups. A doctor’s office could remind a patient of necessary tests, for example.

Two-way conversations

Organizations of all types can allow two-way communication with customers, users, and clients to provide personalized support and improve engagement.

One elementary school in Boston started using DeansList, a platform that automatically translates both sides of two-way text communication into over 100 languages. With improved communication, homework completion rates increase, and teachers and parents no longer need to schedule in-person conferences with translators to discuss a child’s education.

Promotions and sales

Almost 60% of consumers across the globe used their mobile devices to purchase something in 2023. When companies make it easy for customers to take advantage of flash sales and promotions via SMS Marketing, sales increase. Over 80% of ecommerce and retail respondents say that SMS messages result in more sales.

Customer support

Companies can use SMS campaigns to request survey responses, send account alerts, and provide support for customers who have trouble checking out or tracking delayed packages, for instance. Over 85% of customers would like one-on-one communication to help them sort out these issues.


Yes, you can use SMS Marketing for fundraising—if you do it properly! Political campaigns, schools, charitable organizations, and other non-profits can see huge benefits from a good SMS campaign. The average text donation is about $135, and follow-up “thank you” texts improve donor retention by 56% over the first year. 

Inline CTA: SOM report

What are some SMS marketing best practices?

Once you decide to leap into SMS Marketing, the details of how to set up your campaigns and maintain compliance might feel overwhelming.

But SMS Marketing doesn’t have to be stressful. By following some simple best practices, you can stay in compliance and improve engagement with your audience.

Know what your audience wants

All marketing and communication should start with one question: “What does my audience want?” Prioritize what your audience needs or wants to see and start with the most important type of campaign.

Most medical offices probably won’t send a lot of promotional ads, but they will need to send reminders and alerts. Likewise, a school may need to send flash alerts about emergency conditions, reminders about school events, or fundraising e-mails, but not a lot of two-factor authentication texts.

Register the correct use case

Each kind of campaign has a use case associated with it, and once set, must keep messages within the parameters of those use cases. Make sure you’ve carefully defined the purpose of your texts and chosen the right use case for your campaigns.

For example, companies can’t use a 2FA campaign to start sending promotional messages or an alert or reminder campaign to start sending fundraising messages. This kind of alteration is called campaign drift, and it can cause compliance issues and prompt carriers or platforms to block your messages.

Use the right messaging channel for your objectives

From short codes to global two-way messaging, there are several different number types you can use for texting. Each one has different purposes and requirements, and it’s important to use the right format to ensure that your message is delivered properly, meets compliance requirements, and engages the customer in the right way.

You don’t have to be an expert to choose the right one; a carrier or platform provider can help you set up the right channel for your marketing campaigns.

Inline CTA: Choose your channel quiz

Get opt-ins before you hit ‘send’

Whatever use case or format you choose for your campaign, it is absolutely essential to get permission from the customer before sending any form of text advertising or marketing messages. Organizations that don’t get opt-ins risk getting blocked and reported as spam.

Remember, it’s your responsibility to comply with the Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA) Messaging Principles and Best Practices.

Make opting out easy 

People may need to opt out for various reasons—they might move away from your organization, their needs could change, or they may just want to cut back on their phone use. Make sure it’s easy for your recipients to both opt in and opt out of texts. If they reply “STOP,” for instance, make sure that your platform or carrier is set up to remove them from all future texts.

Be polite

It may seem obvious, but your recipients don’t want to hear from you at 2:00 a.m. or multiple times per day, and they probably don’t want to read long, rambling texts. Keep your messages short, don’t overwhelm with volume, and send messages during daytime hours.

Remember your overall strategy

As valuable as SMS Marketing is, you should consider it a part of your overall marketing strategy. You should still use other digital marketing strategies as appropriate, and there’s nothing wrong with more traditional forms of marketing. All marketing means meeting your customers where they are.

Start harnessing the power of SMS marketing

Whether you want to send SMS texts or MMS texts, Bandwidth has the messaging API you need to implement your SMS Marketing strategy right away. Contact an expert to request your free trial, and find out how SMS Marketing can boost your brand and your sales.