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SMS Marketing Basics

SMS Marketing Basics

If you're ready to launch a text-based marketing campaign, it's important to understand the SMS marketing basics that you'll need to succeed. Unlike some more complex initiatives, text message marketing is relatively straight-forward. Take just a little time to learn the basics and you’ll be ready to manage your first successful campaign.

Familiarize yourself with SMS marketing basics such as choosing keywords, understanding short codes, managing opt-in contacts, confirming subscriptions, communicating opt-out instructions, and sending auto-replies.

SMS Marketing Basics (Video)

Choosing a Keyword

The first thing to understand in SMS terminology is the all-important keyword. A keyword is a critical part of text message marketing basics.

First, it is often used as an opt-in word and therefore communicated through complementary marketing channels such as online or TV advertisements, billboards, table signs, posters or printed materials. As such, it should be short, easy to remember, and associated with your product or service. Interested prospects can text your keyword to opt-in to receive future SMS messages from your business.

Second, keywords can be used to sort customers and prospects into lists of interest. For example, if your restaurant wants to offer lunch specials to nearby business professionals, dinner deals to theater goers or catering services to event planners, you may have a different keyword for each target audience. When prospects text a particular keyword, you can easily place them on a specific sublist. This will allow you to share targeted promotions in the future as well as develop more customized campaigns.

Choosing a keyword is a critical part of your SMS text marketing campaign and should be carefully considered early in your planning stages.

What Is a Short Code?

If you’re wondering what is short code SMS, it’s typically a five or six-digit phone number, a short code is used by companies to send and receive SMS messages to mass audiences. Instead of remembering and dialing a conventional 10-digit phone number, customers and prospects can use a short code to send the keyword necessary to opt-in for marketing campaigns. Short codes, in SMS terminology, allow businesses to send large quantities of text communications quickly.

Historically, companies could choose to use a shared short code, which were typically less expensive and shared by multiple organizations. However, as of June 2021, cellular companies will be banning shared short codes to attempt to eliminate or vastly reduce spamming practices.

As a result, all companies will need to obtain a dedicated short code in the future as part of their  text message marketing basics. Dedicated short codes are assigned to only one business, similar to how phone numbers are only assigned to one cell phone or household. This allows more control over ensuring that all regulations are met as well as the keywords used in SMS campaigns.

Most short code numbers, like phone numbers or license plate numbers, are randomly generated. However, you can choose to pay a premium charge to create a vanity short code, which can be a number that is easier to remember. Understanding what is short code SMS can help you master SMS marketing basics.

Opt-In Contacts

Perhaps the most important part of SMS marketing is to remember that you need to have permission to text your customers or prospects. This is not only required by law but also smart marketing etiquette. After all, no one appreciates getting unsolicited phone calls, email messages, or snail mail materials.

When a prospect or customer texts an SMS keyword to your short code or otherwise opts-in to receive marketing communication, you can add those individuals to a growing list of contacts for your business.

Some common opt-in methods include advertising your SMS keyword and short code through other marketing channels. Perhaps you have a poster campaign, a tabletop promotion at restaurants, a billboard advertisement, or an online call-to-action that invites interested individuals to opt-in.

Businesses may also use mobile widgets or click-to-text online buttons to collect numbers of interested customers. Other methods to collect phone numbers may include email campaigns, web forms or social media ads. Remember that choosing your keywords carefully can have the added benefit of automatically sorting your audience into specific subgroups that will be primed for targeted, customized promotions and marketing efforts.

Confirm Subscription

In some cases, you may want to set-up a double opt-in procedure by asking individuals who text a keyword to your business for a confirmation reply. Asking prospects and customers to confirm subscription to your SMS marketing campaign can result in several benefits.

First, you may have a more engaged audience that’s willing to respond to your requests. This can bode well for future invitations to take advantage of specials, discounts, or promotions. Second, individuals who confirm their subscription to your list are much less likely to report your text messages as spam, which can damage a company’s long-term reputation. Third, your organization will probably have a much cleaner prospect and customer list, which will help you better analyze your subscriber base and, in turn, make your campaigns more effective in the future.

Learning to use double opt-in confirmations is one more important part of SMS marketing basics.

Include Opt-Out Instructions

From time to time, you may have subscribers who wish to stop receiving SMS messages from your business. Perhaps they no longer require your products or services or do not want ongoing information from your company. Whatever the reason, it’s critical to include opt-out instructions so they are easy to find and follow.

Many companies will simply offer “STOP” as an SMS keyword that signals an opt-out request when sent to your company’s short code or phone number. When such a keyword is received, your system should automatically remove that individual from future SMS text messages.


Setting up an automatic reply is also a good part of SMS marketing basics as they help keep your subscribers in the communication loop. Typically, these automatic replies are sent after people opt-in to let them know their subscription is activated. They may also include opt-out instructions or a thank-you offer for signing up.

Since auto-replies appear immediately, they can help establish a pattern of engagement between you and your subscriber list early in the process. Ready to put those SMS marketing basics into practice? Sign up for a free DialMyCalls account and start a trial today. DialMyCalls makes creating, executing and following up on an SMS marketing campaign easy and cost effective, resulting in greater customer engagement and bottom-line results.

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