What Is Promotional SMS? Everything You Need to Know

Consumer interacting with the promotional SMS campaign of a trusted brand
April 28, 2023
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What Is Promotional SMS? Everything You Need to Know

Promotional SMS continues to gain traction with modern-day consumers—it's one of customers' most preferred communication channels. However, it's also a personal medium, and people safeguard their phone numbers from brands they don't trust.

That’s even more so than they do with email addresses.

If you can get customers to opt in to your SMS marketing campaigns, you have a golden opportunity to engage with them and build the relationship. New to promotional SMS? Not to worry—we have everything you need to get started.

Below, we'll walk you through the basics, starting with what is promotional SMS and how it differs from transactional SMS. Then, we'll get into the advantages (and disadvantages) of promotional SMS and best practices to follow to optimize your campaigns.

What is promotional SMS?

Businesses use promotional SMS (or promotional text messages) to send marketing and advertising messages. You could send marketing SMS messages to let customers know about upcoming events or can't-miss discounts.

SMS is a great channel to use for urgent messages. Your customers will likely check their email at least once during the day, but 90% of text opens happen within 3 minutes of receiving the message. That's fast.

With that immediacy and responsiveness comes responsibility. Abuse your sending, and customers will unsubscribe just as fast as they opened your messages.

Here are a few ways you can use promotional SMS to engage your customers:

  • Welcome messages
  • Timely deals and discounts
  • New product releases
  • Upcoming event registrations
  • Surveys and feedback requests

Promotional SMS vs. transactional SMS: What's the difference?

Promotional SMS usually supports a marketing initiative or goal. Those goals might be any of the following:

  • Generating leads
  • Making sales
  • Building brand awareness
  • Driving traffic
  • Boosting sign-ups

Transactional SMS, on the other hand, doesn't have a marketing goal. Instead, these messages aim to deliver critical information as fast as possible. This could be any of the following:

  • Appointment reminders
  • Password resets
  • Multifactor authentication codes
  • Account security alerts
  • Order confirmations
  • Shipping updates

When a customer gives you their phone number while signing up for an account, that’s not permission to send them promotional SMS messages. Instead, you should respect that number and save it for transactional messages. If you want to send customers SMS marketing messages, you need explicit consent and opt-ins.

Promotional text message advantages and disadvantages

Promotional text messages are a fantastic marketing tactic but not the only one. However, sometimes, these might not be the best channel for the job.

Let's look at a few advantages and disadvantages of promotional SMS.



  • It has short message limits
  • It can be intrusive
  • It’s for a smaller audience (consumers protect phone numbers)
  • It doesn’t allow for messaging as often (too many texts leads to unsubscribes)

Tips for using promotional SMS

Ensure the success of your promotional SMS campaigns by following a few SMS tips and best practices:

  1. Get permission: Remember, SMS is an opt-in channel—you can't message recipients without explicit consent. Get permission through online forms, sign-ups, or text-to-join keywords.
  2. Keep it short: Keep your messages short, sweet, and to the point. Just because you have 160 characters doesn't mean you need to use all of them.
  3. Segment your recipients: Send relevant text messages to your recipients. By segmenting your audience, you ensure they only receive promotional SMS campaigns related to their needs and interests.
  4. Include a call to action (CTA): Use CTAs to tell your recipients what to do with the message. Don't just tell them about your free shipping deal—give them a link to click and motivate them to take action now.
  5. Send on time: Respect your users' time zones. You don't want to wake your customers up with a text message or send them a campaign with an outdated coupon code.
  6. Respect opt-outs: Remove opt-outs from your marketing campaigns immediately. Remember, opt-outs aren't a bad thing—sometimes, a customer just needs a little space. However, if the opt-out doesn't work for them, they might just block your number entirely—and that is a bad thing.

Sign up with Twilio to start sending promotional SMS

Ready to start sending promotional SMS campaigns to your audience? Sign up for a free Twilio account (no credit card required) to explore all our messaging solutions:

  • SMS
  • Voice
  • Chat
  • WhatsApp
  • Email
  • Video
  • And more

Brand new to SMS marketing? Give our SMS Marketing for Beginners guide a quick read through.