As global and local economies become faster and communication is becoming more immediate, businesses are increasingly turning to bulk sending SMS messages as a quicker, more direct way to market to their customers. As a business owner, you may be especially interested in this marketing technique, given the impressively high ROI rate of SMS campaigns.

If you’re ready to jump into SMS messaging but don’t know where to start, you’re in the right place. (And you’re not alone!) Many businesses aren’t aware of how to begin, or the best practices to put in place. Follow along for everything you need to know about how to start using SMS marketing for your business. First things first, let’s cover the definition of opt-ins and what to do once you have those opt-ins.

What is the definition of opt-ins?

If you look up opt-in meaning from the Merriam-Webster dictionary, to opt-in is “to choose to do or be involved in something.”

In terms of your business, opting-in happens when a customer or prospect gives a business permission to send them promotional messages. Under the Telephone Protection Consumer Act, it is illegal in the United States for businesses to market to customers via SMS messaging without first obtaining the customer’s consent or them opting in. (There are other rules for SMS promo messaging under this law, which we’ll cover more in-depth below.) 

By collecting opt-ins, you’re building a database of phone numbers from customers who choose and want to hear from your business. Once you have an opt-in list, you can begin sending promotional messages directly to the phones of your prospects and customers—reaching them through a channel with a 98% open rate! (Something that can’t be said about email.)

How do I build an opt-in list?

It’s easy to begin building an opt-in list, and opportunities to opt-in can be offered to customers in a variety of ways. Some examples are businesses can ask for new customers’ phone numbers in-store, through emails that include a link to sign up and receive texts, by inviting customers to enter their phone number and click a consent box while purchasing on a website, etc. 

The important thing when building an opt-in list is to create an offer or incentive that is enticing to your customers and prospects. What do your customers or prospects value most? If it’s a discount, businesses can offer sales that are invitation-only for customers who have opted-in. If it’s convenience, dental and medical offices can offer to invoice patients via text.

If customers are most excited about keeping up with the hottest trends, a business could offer to share regular text notifications about the coolest trend or product of the week. Offers to opt-in are truly endless, and part of the fun is using your creativity to come up with something cool for your customers and prospects. Stumped on ideas? Look to businesses you admire for examples of ways to format an SMS marketing message.

What do I do once I have an opt-in list?

This is the exciting part—you get to start marketing to customers and prospects through SMS messaging!

person looking at a sms text

SMS Campaigns

You can now send special offers and discounts directly to your opt-in list over text. Think of the possibilities! Some examples are a hair salon telling clients it has a few spots open on Friday and will give a free product to anyone that fills them; or a retail store letting all customers know that a sale is going to happen on an upcoming Monday. Think of something short and sweet that your customers would be excited to hear, and then deliver!

Convenient communication

When it comes to business-to-customer communication, convenience is everything. Convenient messaging means big wins for your revenue goals. For example, a waxing salon can send appointment reminders, invoices, and request a review after their customer purchases a service, directly to their phone. And in the process, the salon can let customers know that if they’d like to add on an additional service or product, there’s a special offer going on that’s only available for a limited time. And all of this communication can happen directly over SMS.

Long-term relationships

SMS promo messaging brings incredible long-term value to your business. By conveniently contacting your customers, you can:

  • Increase visits to your storefront
  • Build stronger relationships with existing customers
  • Increase retention of new customers by extending follow-up offers
  • Keep customers in the know about your business

When SMS messaging is done well, you can build positive, long-term communication with your customers. Investing in your business-to-customer communication is investing in the well-being and sustainability of your business. 

SMS best practices once you’ve gathered opt-ins

person on phone and laptop

As mentioned above, there are legal parameters when it comes to texting your customers, and using best practices with your SMS marketing is incredibly important.

Under the TCPA, there are 6 important rules you need to know:

  • You must receive consent before any message is sent.
  • You must disclose your company name. (No mystery offers!)
  • You must include a coupon or value proposition.
  • You must disclose the frequency of messages that will be sent each month. (Best practices for how often to text customers can depend on your industry, but generally, send no more than 4 messages per month.)
  • You must disclose possible carrier costs and fees.
  • You must provide the option for a subscriber to ask for help and choose to opt out of future texts.

Beyond these rules, how to market with SMS messages mostly comes down to your business style. Sending a text is a much more immediate, intimate way of interacting with your customers, so have the style of your SMS messaging to reflect that. Because texting is more casual than email, use conversational language in your messaging and refer to your customers and prospects by name. Texts also are much shorter and more direct than email; keep your SMS messages short and to the point, and include a specific call to action so that your texts are achieving maximum impact and ROI.


SMS marketing is rapidly changing the landscape for businesses hoping to gain the edge on developing relationships with their customers and boosting sales. Now that you know what opt-ins are, how to get new opt-ins, and what to do with your opt-in list, you’re ready to boost your sales and begin messaging your prospects and customers today

Matt Boyce
Matt Boyce Head of SMB Marketing

Matt Boyce is a marketing and business professional at Podium, the premiere messaging platform that connects local businesses with their customers.

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