When it comes to growing and engaging your SMS subscriber list, you should do what works. But how do you know what works? Look at what other successful SMS marketers and businesses are doing. 

To that end, we’ve conducted a study that surveyed B2C and B2B businesses. Some are using SMS marketing successfully already. Others are in various stages of developing it. 

Among those who are SMS users, the research found several commonalities that we’re going to share with you so you can benefit from what others have already found that works.  

After reading this article, you’ll walk away with a pretty specific idea for how to grow your SMS subscriber list and how to keep those subscribers engaged and active. Succeed in this and your SMS marketing could soon become one of your best performing channels. 

Three Best Ways to Grow Your SMS Subscriber List

You can grow your SMS list using a number of methods. But experienced SMS marketers have found that just a few of them work best. 

1. Send email invitations

This is your lowest hanging fruit. Your email subscribers are already happy to receive communication from you. So it’s a safe bet that many people on your list will opt in to SMS just because you ask them to. 

This first attempt to grow your SMS list is simple. Just send out an email invitation that offers nothing more than staying in touch and receiving occasional texts from your company. Tell them they’ll get text updates about orders they place. Tell them they’ll get access to special deals and more. In your first ask for opt-ins, don’t offer discounts or hold giveaways.  

Just ask.  

Some of them will opt in and need no more motivation than that.  

This was the top strategy to grow subscriber lists, implemented by 47% of SMS users who participated in the research. 

2. Incentivize the SMS offer

Next up, sweeten the offer to join your SMS list by giving new subscribers a special discount or other one-time offer. To defray the costs, retail brands could use an offer that promises customers something like a $20 discount on their next order over $100.  

Or maybe you can invite people to a special event, depending on your business. Or give new subscribers the first crack at a new release, perhaps also at a discount.  

You can come up with an offer that makes sense for your industry, but use this in your next email invitation for anyone who didn’t sign up after the first one.  

Providing incentives and offers was the second most popular strategy used by participants in the study. 44% of companies using SMS for marketing reported incentives and offers as an effective strategy for growing subscribers.  

3. Use social media

This is the third most effective strategy for growing your SMS list. Why? The same reason as email. If you send out invitations to your social media followers, you’re also reaching people who’ve already chosen to engage with your company at some level. Therefore, they’re more likely to respond favorably when asked to take it a step further. 

Just be sure to plan a series of posts because it’s too easy to miss them otherwise, given the brief lifespan of just about everything on social media. 

42% of marketers who use SMS reported social media invitations as an effective channel for growing subscribers.  

Other Ways, Backed by Research, to Grow Your SMS List  

Here are a few other SMS growth strategies that may be effective for you: 

  • Website invitations (like pop-ups, opt-in forms, checkout page offers, etc) 
  • Paid advertising (print and online) 
  • Contests 
  • Giveaways 
  • Prompts as part of an in-store checkout process 

All of these are worth pursuing, and if used effectively, they’ll work. But the top three work best in part because they’re probably the easiest to implement, and because they target people who have already connected with your company in other ways. 

The Three Best Ways to Engage Your SMS Subscriber List

Now you know how to grow your list. But what do you do once someone signs up? After sending a welcome text and engaging them with whatever offer or incentive you may have promised, what next? 

Over the following months, you want to send occasional texts — at the frequency you promised — to keep them engaged and active. Here are three of the best ways to keep your SMS list engaged: 

1. Send new offers and discounts

Text messages are short. That can be an advantage, because all you can really do is present the offer and let it speak for itself.  

Send your subscribers special offers and discounts that only they’ll receive. Make it clear that this will happen when you invite them to subscribe, and then follow through on it. 

Suppose you have a 15% off sale going on in-store. Give your SMS subscribers 25% off if they buy before a certain date. Or give them early access to a sale or a product. Let them be first in line. Give them advance notice.  

60% of SMS marketers said that offers and discounts are an effective type of content for engaging subscribers. This makes it, by far, the number one way to keep SMS subscribers active and happy.  

2. Send personalized promotions

With 48% of SMS marketers saying that it’s effective, personalized promotions are the second most recommended engagement method. And honestly, it probably would have been number one if more companies were using it.  

Personalization means much more than just using the subscriber’s first name — though that matters, too. There are at least ten very effective ways to personalize your offers and content through SMS marketing.  

It requires a bit more functionality from your CRM and customer data to personalize SMS effectively. Just like email.  

But the best kind of marketing is the kind that makes the recipient feel special, valued, understood, and important. Personalization does that. And personalized text messages do it better than almost any other media because texts already feel more personal than most other media channels. 

3. Send customer service updates

Customer service updates took a strong third place in our research with 42% of SMS marketers saying it’s an effective type of content for engagement. It was also the number one recommendation for engaging SMS subscribers of B2B businesses. Why? 

Because when you place an order, you appreciate getting updates about it. When you communicate with a company, it’s nice to know you were heard. SMS is a terrific way to send updates and 1:1 communication with customers about their orders, questions, and status.  

You can send texts when an order has shipped, when there’s a problem, if there’s an issue with a payment, as a purchase thank you, and for so many more reasons. 

Customers appreciate this type of communication. It’s good service. 

More SMS Research Insights

You now have a pretty good blueprint for growing and engaging your SMS subscriber list. 

But is there anything that might make this harder than it sounds? 

Our research examined the biggest concerns facing companies who are using SMS marketing and among those who aren’t using it but are thinking about it. 

Interestingly, the greatest concern among companies using SMS is about creating relevant content and offers. And that’s good, because as you saw, that’s the most effective way to keep your subscribers engaged. So creating relevant offers and content should be your top concern. Make it a priority. 

Some users and non-users are worried about being too invasive in the lives of their subscribers. But you really don’t need to worry about this, for two reasons.  

First, they opted in. If they don’t want to be texted by you, they won’t opt in. And they can unsubscribe at any time if they get annoyed or bored.  

Second, as long as you keep your word about how many texts you’ll send per month, your subscribers aren’t likely to be annoyed by receiving texts from you. If you promised no more than one per week, stick to that. If you promised five per month, stick to that.  

Also, if you’re sending personalized texts rather than generic ones, your customers will feel valued and known, not invaded, because you’re meeting them where they are and with what they need. 

Another concern of some companies in our survey was finding and using the right technology for effective SMS marketing. 

For that, you can turn to emfluence. We have enabled SMS marketing for customers using our platform as an add-on service.  

Finally, what was reported as the least common concern among both B2B and B2C organizations? Aligning SMS marketing with their brand. That’s likely because SMS is fairly universal in appeal for subscribers and easily customizable for companies of any size. If your organization is not yet using it as part of your marketing mix, add it to your roadmap today.   

Contact us to find out how to use SMS marketing for your company.


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