How Text Message Marketing Works and Should Your Business Try It?

Are you ready to start text marketing?Recently we, at SMBME, had the chance to work with a couple of entrepreneurs who are using text message marketing to create solutions for small to large organizations. I had heard of text marketing for a while but never really sat down, researched it, and thought about it in detail until now. You probably have heard of it too, at least to some extent, but if you are interested in finding out a little bit more about how text marketing works and how to use it for your organization, then keep reading.

How It Works:

The preliminary step to text marketing is finding the right provider. Text message marketing providers can range from local agencies, to large national companies, to completely DIY online services. It is important to remember to think to the future and choose a provider that your organization will not out grow. It is also crucial that you choose a provider that is ethical and responsible. The Mobile Marketing Association is arguably the leading authority on SMS practices and they have published a Code of Conduct for Mobile Marketing that is a must read for mobile marketers.

Once you choose and sign-up with your provider, the simplified process of how text message marketing works is as follows:

  1. Choose a keyword. Your keyword is the word that users will text to “opt-in” to your text message promotions/announcements. This should be something that people will associate with your brand or the specific mobile marketing campaign you are promoting.
  2. Get a short code number. The short code number is the number that users will text the keyword to. It is called “short code” simply because it is shorter than a normal phone number. These are provided by the service provider you are working with. Many times they have one number that they use for all clients.
  3. Promote your SMS campaign. Only potential customers who see opting in as a way to get timely value will be interested (see the following sections for much more on this). Remember this in how and to whom you spend time and money promoting.
  4. As you promote the SMS campaign, people will begin to “opt-in.” This occurs when they simply text your keyword to your short code number. They then are required to get an automated response alerting them that they have signed up, a few short terms and conditions, and directions for “opting-out.”
  5. Once you have a group of subscribers that have opted-in, you can send out your strategic promotions and communications. SMS messages are limited to 160 characters (many providers offer less). Most providers offer you the option to either send the message yourself or have them send it for you.

Our friends at TXT Wave have more useful information on their website to further help you understand how text marketing works.


Always ask why – don’t jump in to text message marketing simply because it is a new shiny marketing tool. Think strategically – can the same message be just as effective with another communication medium? Many times yes, especially with the increase of smart phones and tablets. Many times an email can serve the purpose. However, I think the competitive advantage of text marketing occurs when timely value meets interested customers.

Text marketing allows your followers to get instant notification with extremely high visibility rates. Even though my smart phone now allows me the option to get my email, facebook, or surf the web anytime, anyplace, I personally am still much more likely to instantly engage with a text message. I find text messages much harder to ignore.

Hard to Ignore – Easy to Annoy

Don’t be fooled though, the fact that text messages are hard to ignore is a double edged sword. It also means that people will get that much more annoyed by them. This has a few implications on your strategy. One, this will mean that only people who are very interested in your offerings will sign up for your SMS. Thinking about it right now, out of the handful of companies that I get email newsletters from, I would only sign up for maybe one of the companies’ SMS communications. This thins out your text audience a bit. However it also means that the people who actually subscribe to receive your text messages are that much more interested and engaged with your product and brand, and are more likely to convert.

Another implication of the SMS double edged sword is that you must be very thoughtful and strategic with the content that you promote through your text marketing campaign. As mentioned above, your communications must add value to your subscribers and it is also vital that they not be overdone. If you can’t add real value for potential customers with the texts that you send out, then it’s not worth it to them and they will opt-out of your messages. This added value would be something like a generous discount or information/updates that truly matter to your audience at the time they are sent. Sending text marketing messages at just the right time can be a perfect use of the technology.

Think about a pizza joint sending a promotion at the time of day when people are just getting out of work – when most people are tired, hungry, have hungry spouses or kids waiting at home, and don’t feel like cooking dinner. Or a movie theater sending a promotion and movie listings to their teen subscribers on a Friday night just when the teens are trying to decide what to do. Both these examples show timely value meeting an interested customer.

Further examples of how SMS communications can be effective for your business look less like promotions and advertising, and more like informational communications. You can use SMS for appointment reminders, school/event alerts and updates, and other useful communications when time is a crucial factor. There is also a lot of opportunity to get creative with SMS marketing.

Text message marketing may not be for every business, but it surely can benefit those that can find effective ways to create timely value for customers through their SMS communications.

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