Your SMS list is the lifeblood of your text marketing program. It's the frosting on your cake, and the sprinkles on your donut. Without a high-quality homegrown list, it doesn't matter how good your offers are or how clever your copy is—your texts won't convert.
Unfortunately, building an organic SMS marketing list from the ground up takes time and hard work (like most good things in life). Many marketers bypass this process and buy text lists, only to find unengaged (and now disgruntled) recipients. For the record, purchasing a list is a big no-no.
There are no shortcuts to gaining SMS marketing followers.
If you want to grow your SMS list, you'll need to put in the effort. Fortunately for you, we have a few strategies to help accelerate your way to success.
Below, we've outlined 6 tried-and-true tactics for growing an engaged SMS marketing list. Give these a try and watch your subscriber count soar. But first, let's cover why growing a list matters and a few best practices to keep in mind while you're doing it.
Why you should grow your SMS marketing list
SMS is a powerful channel for business-to-consumer (B2C) interactions. Anyone with a phone has texting capabilities, meaning all 15 billion phones in the world are ready to receive this form of communication. That's more than the number of active social media users or people with an email address.
Here are a few other reasons to grow an SMS marketing list:
- It's yours forever: SMS (like email) is an owned channel, not a borrowed channel. Twitter can block your account, and Google can change up its algorithms overnight, effectively destroying your reach or organic traffic. However, once you've built an engaged SMS list, no algorithm change or social media platform can delete your list of subscribers.
- SMS has a high open rate: Text messages have nearly a 98% open rate. If you want to ensure a customer sees your message, SMS is the way to go.
- Sending unsolicited marketing text messages is illegal: The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) prohibits brands from sending marketing text messages to consumers without consent. You can't just willy-nilly send SMS messages to anyone you want—you need permission first.
Best practices for growing your SMS subscribers
Before we get into the list-building tactics, let's cover a few universal best practices:
- Get permission first: You should receive explicit consent from your subscribers before sending them marketing text messages. This consent isn't the same as when you require them to enter a phone number at checkout—just because a customer gives you their phone number doesn't mean you can start sending SMS marketing messages.
- Provide an opt-out: Let your customers know how to stop receiving your messages. For example, you might let them text "STOP" to remove themselves from your list. If a subscriber can't get off your list, they might block your number instead—and that can hurt your SMS deliverability in the long run.
- Offer an incentive: If people are going to give you their phone number, it better be for a good reason. Offer something valuable in exchange for their subscription. That could be timely updates or exclusive discounts.
- Send at the right time: Respect your recipients' time. Don't send marketing messages at 2 a.m.
6 ways to grow your SMS marketing list
More subscribers on your SMS marketing list mean more customers to engage. However, subscribers rarely stumble upon your SMS list and sign up—you're going to have to reach out and find them.
Here are 6 tactics you can use to gain SMS marketing followers:
1. Offer exclusive SMS deals and discounts
Give your SMS subscribers deals they can't find anywhere else. You could use this for a one-off holiday promotion or do it ongoing.
For example, you may run a holiday campaign offering free shipping to all SMS subscribers. However, once the campaign is over (or your customer finishes their purchase), they may unsubscribe.
That's why we recommend offering continued value. Send your SMS subscribers exclusive discounts that they won't find on your website or even your email list. Keep these deals tied to specific channels to encourage your customers to subscribe to all of them.
2. Add a sign-up form to your website
Let all your website visitors know how to join your SMS list. Experiment with embedding a sign-up form in blog posts or even directly on your homepage.
Consider sending your new subscribers free content, such as a brand-related guide or checklist. This might be all your subscribers need to enter their phone number.
You can also try adding an SMS sign-up form to your footer, sidebar, or nonintrusive website pop-ups. Measure each sign-up form's success to see where you're getting the most conversions—remove forms that don't perform well.
3. Convert your existing email subscribers
Let your email subscribers know that they can receive SMS marketing messages, too. Offer a different value proposition to your email list to encourage them to sign up for both.
For example, your email marketing list might receive holiday discounts, while your SMS list receives last-minute surprise deals. This will entice customers who want to purchase your products at the lowest price to sign up for both lists.
4. Provide checkout bonuses
Offer an in-person (or online) checkout bonus for customers who subscribe to your SMS list. Consider offering a 10% discount or gift item in exchange for their phone number.
Doing this at checkout helps your customers see an instant benefit. Yes, 10% off coupon codes can be enticing, too, but not quite as effective as a customer seeing a $20 discount before they swipe their credit card.
5. Require SMS numbers for contest entrance
Build your SMS list at conferences and industry events with a contest. Tell your audience to text a keyword (such as "Join" or "Enter") to a short code to be eligible to win prizes or discounts.
6. Entice your social media following to subscribe
Ask your social media followers to subscribe to your SMS list. These followers have already chosen to like and follow your brand—an SMS channel might be the icing on the cake for them.
You could promote your SMS list on typical feed posts or your stories. If you're really engaged on social media, you could even do it during a live stream. Consider adding your SMS short code (and enticing offer) to your company description or bio to serve as an evergreen promotion.
How to keep your SMS subscribers
Gaining new subscribers is just half of the equation—the other half is keeping them. It doesn't matter if you're gaining hundreds or thousands of new opt-ins if they're just checking out (or not engaging) immediately after.
Part of growing an engaged subscription list is engaging your recipients and giving them a good reason to stick around. Here are a few ways you can keep your SMS subscribers:
- Valuable, relevant content: Deliver SMS messages that offer real value to subscribers. Share exclusive promotions, discounts, early access to sales, or personalized offers that are relevant to their preferences and past purchasing behavior. Tailor your content to meet their needs and interests, ensuring that each message provides something valuable.
- Personalized messages: Segment your SMS subscriber list based on demographics, purchase history, or engagement levels. Personalize every message to deliver content that resonates with specific subscriber segments.
- Optimized frequency: Find the right balance in terms of timing and frequency of your SMS messages. Avoid overwhelming subscribers with excessive messages. Consider factors such as time zones, preferred communication times, and individual preferences to optimize when and how often you send messages.
- Two-way communication: Create opportunities for subscribers to actively engage with your SMS campaigns. Encourage them to respond to messages, ask questions, provide feedback, or participate in surveys or polls. By fostering a two-way communication channel, you make subscribers feel heard and valued.
- Surveys and feedback requests: Regularly seek input from subscribers through surveys or feedback requests sent via SMS. Show that you value their opinions and use their feedback to improve your products, services, or overall customer experience.
- Exclusives: Offer subscribers exclusive access to behind-the-scenes content, sneak peeks of upcoming products or releases, or insider tips and advice. This makes them feel like VIPs and strengthens their connection with your brand.
Put your brand-new SMS marketing list to good use
Ready to start text marketing? Remember, it's not all about conversions—SMS marketing also sparks conversations.
Unlike most other marketing channels, SMS enables (and encourages) a back-and-forth conversation. When your customer sees a promotional message, they can ask follow-up questions.
For example, "Does this apply to your clearance section?" "How long do I have to return the item?" "Does this fit true to size?"
This exchange allows you to market your products and services further and seal the deal.
Launch a campaign to your SMS marketing list with Twilio. It's free to get started—no credit card required. Sign up for your account and start driving better customer engagement.