What is SMS marketing? Top SMS marketing tools & SMB tips

SMS marketing or text message marketing is an effective marketing channel. SMS messages have an open rate of 98%. And 75% of consumers are fine with receiving promotional text messages from brands with special offers, promotions, and incentives. 

Despite the potential SMS marketing has for business growth, it still isn’t used widely. Only 39% of brands are sending text messages to their customers. Most businesses don’t know how to tap into SMS marketing for growth. 

This guide gives you the upper hand to leave your competitors behind through SMS marketing. We’ll explain what SMS marketing is, why you need it, and how to design and implement an effective text marketing strategy. 

What is SMS, text messaging, and MMS?

  • SMS (Short Message Service) is a service used to transmit text messages of up to 160 characters. You can use SMS to send messages to any device that’s connected to cellular networks.
  • Text messaging or “Texting” is used interchangeably with SMS, so it’s considered the same thing. But technically speaking, SMS is a form of text messaging using cellular networks. Other forms of sending text messages include texting through internet-based apps called “Over The Top” (OTT) applications, such as Whatsapp, Telegram, iMessage, WeChat, Facebook Messenger, etc. 
  • MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) is a more advanced version of SMS. In SMS, you can’t send multimedia files (videos, images, audio). In MMS, you can send these files. So MMS is a technology that can send both text and multimedia files to cellular devices.

What is SMS marketing? 

SMS marketing or text message marketing is a strategy where businesses send SMS or MMS to potential or current customers for promotional purposes. It involves sharing information about Campaigns, Promotions, Reminders, Surveys, Updates, and Company news.

SMS marketing is often used for time-sensitive offers and updates. The purpose is to get subscribers to take direct action. This might be a 1-1 conversation between an employee and a customer or automated marketing messages triggered by the recipient’s actions.

email vs SMS reply rate

An online seller can use SMS to send order confirmation messages to their customers. Since this is urgent information, email or in-app notifications aren’t enough. 

Marketing text messages pop up on your mobile screen even when you’re not using an app or connected to the internet. That solves the urgency problem, but this isn’t the only reason SMS marketing must be a part of every business’s marketing strategy. 

Why should you use SMS marketing?

As a small business, you must carefully consider which cost-efficient tools and strategies to invest in. And there are several reasons why SMS marketing should be one of them. Here are 3 benefits of SMS marketing. 

1. SMS engagement is high

SMS open rates are as high as 98%, compared to the 20% for email marketing. SMS has a higher response rate (45%) than email marketing (6%), too. 

The difference might result from the sheer number of daily emails people have to go through. But, they receive a smaller number of text marketing messages. 

More consumers are opting-in to SMS marketing messages from businesses

2. It’s fast and reliable

SMS marketing content is very easy to craft. You don’t need visuals or scripts. 
SMS marketing also doesn’t require an action on the recipient’s end. They don’t have to take an extra step and open a social app or log in to their mail account. The message pops up on their screen anyway. It’s faster and more reliable than other communication methods.

3. SMS is there in every corner of the world

People who use smartphones are rising to over 7 billion. And it’s forecast to grow further by several hundred million in the next few years. Pew Research Center found that only a very small part of American adults (3%) don’t have a cell phone.

Mobile phone ownership growth overtime

Mobile phones are the most commonly adopted technology among all connected devices and services. Hootsuite’s Digital Report finds that mobile phones are more widely used than the internet and social media. All this research tells us that SMS marketing offers you a level of reach that no other digital marketing strategy can.

adoption and use of mobile phones globally

Top ways to use SMS marketing for business growth

You can use SMS for almost any marketing objective. You’ll have to think about your short- and long-term business goals. Here are some common ways to use SMS marketing:

Promotional strategies

Promotional SMS marketing involves sharing information that can entice customers to buy. You can use it to get the word out about any development of your products and offers.

1. Product or feature launch

Whether you’re launching a new feature, expanding your product line, or adding new items to your store, customers need to hear about it. Send a simple text message to your customers with the link to your site or store.  

product and feature launch SMS message

2. Campaigns and flash sales

Campaigns and flash sales are time-sensitive events or limited-time offers. If you lower prices without telling anyone, people won’t hear about it on their own. An SMS marketing campaign lets customers know that urgent offers are waiting for them.

3. Personalized offers and recommendations

Accenture found that 91% of consumers prefer brands that remember their interests and preferences. They also expect relevant deals and recommendations. Get insights into your visitors’ shopping behavior with customer intelligence tools. Offer personalized recommendations and deals to your customers via your SMS marketing campaign.

Send personalized offers and recommendation with SMS

Most CRM platforms and all omnichannel communication platforms have automations. This includes sending automated SMS marketing messages. Consider adding Multimedia like video, as it could improve open rates and clicks.  Build automations for repetitive, manual tasks to focus on your strategy.

Retention marketing

Retention marketing prioritizes customer retention over customer acquisition. Recent research shows that this strategy is more profitable in the long run than customer acquisition: “you’re likely to see a payoff in the 12-24 month period.” 

retention marketing payoff in 12-24 months

SMS can help you build solid relationships if you’re focusing on retention. Because your audience chooses to receive SMS marketing messages from you and decide on the nature of the content, they’re less likely to get disturbed when you reach out to them.

1. Abandoned cart recovery

Cart abandonment is an issue for every store owner at any given time. Statista research shows that it’s a relevant problem across industries.

online shopping cart abandonment rate

Luckily, abandoned cart SMS works. Cart abandonment workflows are among the most profitable.
Build automated SMS flows that target cart abandoners. If a simple reminder doesn’t work, offer discounts on items abandoned in their carts.

abandoned cart sms text reminder

2. Loyalty programs

Celebrate your loyal customers’ birthdays, membership anniversaries, and other occasions via SMS. Include a gift card, discount code, and a note that shows your appreciation of their loyalty.

vip sms message for loyal customers

Let your regular customers know about upcoming sales to reinforce the sense of exclusivity. Give them early access to your discounted items. Let them take a sneak peek at next season’s collections.

3. SMS Customer service

Now, you may wonder what is so beneficial about an SMS solution in customer service. It’s a win-win for both you and your clients. For clients, the SMS platform makes it easier to contact you. With call-based customer support, they may face long waiting times or several transfers. SMS-based customer support lowers the time and effort to get the information clients are seeking. 

An SMS tool also makes your work more organized. You’ll improve customer perceived value and save yourself a lot of work. The automated SMS can answer commonly-asked questions. If the automated text messages can’t provide an answer, it can inform customers that a support team will contact them during working hours. 

How to start with SMS marketing: tools and tips

It’s easy to get started with SMS marketing. Here’s how to create SMS campaigns in 3 steps:

1. Choose an SMS marketing platform

Before anything else, pick an SMS marketing software with workflow automations. It’ll help you integrate SMS into your marketing and customer service strategies.

You likely have customer data dispersed over the tools and systems you use. Using SMS marketing software can help you bring together the siloed data. You can send personalized SMS messages to customers via the workflows you build.

2. Ask for consent

Unsolicited attempts of communication are illegal under almost every jurisdiction around the world. Your marketing efforts must comply with GDPR standards (and the corresponding law elsewhere). So you have to ask for consent before reaching out to customers.

To create a list of SMS subscribers, start collecting contact info using click-to-join widgets and CTA buttons. Place those forms across your website.

Also, make sure opting out of your SMS marketing is easy. Consumers shouldn’t go the extra mile to find out how to opt out. The harder you make opting out, the more people will report you. That can result in decreased deliverability and even a ban.

3. Track campaign success and segment your audience

Keep track of your SMS campaign metrics to find out what type of content best appeals to your audience. Focus on improving campaigns that drive results and abandon the ones that don’t work out.

You’ll notice differences in people’s buying behavior as you analyze more customer data.   Group your contacts based on their buying habits. Create well-targeted SMS campaigns that best fit each segment’s needs.

Best SMS marketing software tools

The first step for your SMS marketing strategy is choosing the right text marketing tool. These tools can send bulk text messages and give you basic text marketing features. But some platforms have advanced features. 

Any good SMS platforms should have industry-standard features such as:

  • two-way conversations, 
  • MMS, 
  • opt-out management, 
  • list building, 
  • keywords, 
  • shortcodes, 
  • segmentation, 
  • automation, 
  • integrations, 
  • analytics, 
  • and link tracking. 

We have made a full list of SMS platforms with these features. But here’s a short list of these tools: 

Platform Top FeaturesPrice Rating 
Textmagic1. Personalization
2. Email to SMS 
3. Unlimited free users
4. SMS/email validation
Pay-as-you-go or monthly pricing
starting at $99/month
G2: 4.4 stars
SlickText1. Text surveys 
2. Automatic contact list cleaning
3. Automatic workflows
Pricing starts at $29/mo
G2: 4.9 stars
SimpleTexting1. Multiple keywords
2. Templates
3. Advanced automation
Monthly plans starting at $29/moG2: 4.6 stars
ReCart1. Messenger marketing
2. Abandoned cart recovery 
3. Useful integrations
Innovative, revenue-based pricingG2: 4.2 stars
Omnisend1. Email+SMS
2. Global reach
3. Automation flows
4. SMS channel reports
Pricing starts at $59/moG2: 4.6 stars
EZ Texting1. Text to Landline
2. SafeStop
3. Contact segmentation
Yearly plans from $19/moG2: 4.5 stars

1. Textmagic

Textmagic is an all-in-one SMS marketing platform. You can use Textmagic to engage customers worldwide at a reasonable price.

SMS text message chat conversation Textmagic review

Textmagic’s top features

Global coverage and pricing calculator: It has global coverage and transparent pricing. Textmagic users send SMS messages to customers in every corner of the world. Plus, you can get a quote using their pricing calculator. Once you decide how many messages you’ll send and where the tool gives you the cost of your campaign.

Custom bulk SMS: With Textmagic, you can personalize bulk texts. Create custom text messages with merge tags. Textmagic will replace those tags with data you have about your customer. The Textmagic SMS web app has five default tags (first name, last name, company name, mobile phone numbers, and email address). 

Email to SMS conversion: Textmagic converts your emails into SMS texts. They simply convert your email into a text message and deliver it, with all replies arriving as emails.

Team accounts: You can invite an unlimited number of team members to use your account. The tool also provides SMS history, so you can better manage your team members’ conversations.

Find out more about features, prices, pros, and cons in our complete Textmagic review.

Textmagic pricing

The tool has a free 30-day trial, which is ideal for trying all the features. Once the trial is over, you can go on with a monthly pricing plan or choose pay-as-you-go pricing. If you choose the monthly plan at $99/month, you pay 2.5 to 25% less per text. 

Check out Textmagic’s pricing page to use their pricing calculator.

2. SlickText

SlickText is another all-in-one text messaging platform with advanced features and competitive pricing.

SlickText all-in-one text messaging platform

SlickText top features

Workflow automation and drip campaigns: Slicktext users send drips and personalized messages triggered by customer action.

Surveys: SlickText also serves as a customer service tool. It has survey and questionnaire features that allow you to collect customer feedback. On top of that, you can use its analytics and reports to analyze the survey results.

100% Carrier & CTIA Compliance: SlickText sends messages in compliance with cellular carriers and guarantees CTIA compliance. You don’t have to wonder if your message is transmitted or if it’s breaking the law.

Double opt-in: You can ask your customers for consent using the double opt-in. This will help you avoid sending unsolicited messages and spamming people.

SlickText pricing

The tool has a 14-day free trial with no credit card information required. During the free trial period, you get 50 free SMS credits. The pricing plan is based on the number of messages sent and the number of keywords used. Pricing starts with the Basic plan that includes 500 messages and two keywords, which comes at $29/month. 

Start your free 14-day trial to see if SlickText is the right fit for you. 

3. SimpleTexting

SimpleTexting is an SMS marketing tool with advanced features and fair pricing. This all-in-one platform offers unlimited keywords in all plans. It also offers standard SMS marketing features.

SimpleTexting sms marketing tool

SimpleTexting top features

Unlimited keywords: Many SMS marketing tools lock the ‘unlimited keywords’ feature behind top-tier plans. SimpleTexting offers it in every plan at no extra cost.

Abundant Integrations: SimpleTexting integrates with a variety of marketing and sales tools. They also offer custom integrations. Contact the team to find out more about custom integrations.

Multi-user access: You can invite team members with the multi-user access feature. SimpleTexting allows you to assign phone numbers to them. And assign specific conversations to certain team members based on their skills and knowledge.

Link shortening: SimpleTexting shortens long URLs, which leaves more room for your content.

Analytics module: The tool offers insights into your subscribers’ behavior and the success of your campaigns. You can monitor your subscriber traffic, link clicks, and other metrics that can help you improve your SMS campaign performance.

SimpleTexting pricing

SimpleTexting has a 14-day free trial with 50 text messages included. Pricing plans change based on the number of messages you send. All plans include Zapier integration and API. Custom integrations are only available in the $145/month plan and the upper tiers. 

Sign up to their free plan to start your SMS marketing campaign. 


4. Omnisend

Omnisend is an omnichannel communication platform with an SMS marketing tool. The platform connects all your channels to help you align messaging across channels and campaigns.

Omnisend communication platform with sms marketing tool

Omnisend top features

Integrated SMS & email marketing: The tool integrates SMS with your email marketing workflows. You can run conversations on different channels from a single place. You can monitor every customer touch point and deliver personalized messages with emails or texts.

Global reach: Using Omnisend’s SMS module, you can expand your reach to customers worldwide.

SMS workflows: This easy-to-use tool allows you to build workflows as you want. But it also comes with ready-to-use templates for basic automation needs.

SMS analytics: The analytics module allows you to filter channels to monitor channel-level metrics. You can compare the performance of different campaigns and channels.

Omnisend pricing

Omnisend has three plans: a free plan, a standard plan, and a pro plan. Their pricing is based on the number of contacts in your list. If you’re sending out messages to a list of 500 people, the Standard plan costs $16/month, and the Pro plan costs $59/month.

Free and Standard plans come with 60 SMS credits. For the Pro plan, you get free credits for the same amount as you pay. So if you pay $59/month, you have up to 3933 free SMS credits per month. If you want more credits, you’ll have to pay $0.015 per credit. You can check Omnisend’s pricing page and use the cost calculator to get a better idea.

Get started with Omnisend for free here and align SMS and email marketing.

5. EZ Texting

EZ Texting claims to be the #1 SMS marketing platform in the market. Unlike many SMS tools, they have clear pricing plans.

EZ Texting SMS marketing software

EZ Texting’s top features

Free Shutterstock images: you have free access to premium Shutterstock images in “Essentials” or higher plans. You can use royalty-free images and edit them with EZ Texting’s premium image editor. 

Dedicated short codes and Toll-free numbers: EZ Texting offers dedicated 5-6-digit numbers. These numbers come with unlimited keywords, guaranteed deliverability, and low messaging fees. You can also have a dedicated 10-digit toll-free number exclusive to your brand. 

Text to Landline: You can enable two-way texting for your current phone number. Customers can send texts to your phone number any time of the day and get responses from your team. 

SafeStop: this is a compliant opt-out feature. It makes it easy for your subscribers to opt-out of your list. Customers can also report unwanted messaging and set preferences for future communications.

Contact management and segmentation: you can import contacts via an Excel or CSV doc. You can also add additional fields (such as email addresses or custom fields) and segment them.

EZ Texting pricing

You have 200 credits (each credit is one SMS) each month, but you can purchase additional credits at $0.04/credit. They also offer a free trial (with 20 message credits).  Their Value plan ($19/month) is quite minimal. You can have only 1 textable number, 1 keyword, and you can’t send MMS. 

To access their entire marketing feature set, subscribe to the Premium plan ($49/month).

SMS provides the highest engagement:

SMS has the highest customer engagement among marketing channels. But your SMS marketing strategy should meet some standards: 

  1. Always ask for consent to send SMS marketing messages. Collect phone numbers by providing online opt-in forms or using specific keywords. Never buy lists of phone numbers to start your SMS marketing program. 
  2. Keep an eye on your analytics and campaign performance. SMS marketing tools provide the necessary information about your SMS marketing campaigns. 
  3. Use SMS for customer retention. Aside from powerful advertising features, SMS is a great choice for customer support. For customers, SMS makes it easier to contact you. For your customer support team, it makes it possible to provide canned responses and/or forward the customer request to the right person without keeping customers waiting.  
  4. Use SMS marketing platforms that provide industry-standard features such as two-way conversations, MMS, opt-out management, list building, keywords, shortcodes, segmentation, automation, integrations, analytics, and link tracking. We have made a list of SMS marketing platforms with these features

About Mostafa Dastras

Mostafa Dastras is a writer, editor, and outreach specialist at LiveaBusinessLife.com. He has written for top companies like HubSpot, WordStream, SmartInsights, LeadPages, and MarketingProfs. Over the past 6 years, he tested and reviewed hundreds of SMS marketing tools, rank tracking software, online course platforms, email marketing services, and lead generation apps.

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