Text messages are a part of everyday life. We use them throughout our day, every day, to communicate with one another while we’re apart.

And while we all use text messages in our private lives, most of us also receive SMS marketing messages from companies and organizations that we do business with.

But, what is SMS marketing and are you using it as part of your small business marketing plan?

With 91% of consumers interested in signing up for texts and open rates as high as 98%, you should take advantage of SMS marketing for your business.

Moreover, 80.5% of consumers check their text notifications within five minutes of receiving a text, highlighting the importance and versatility of SMS messages.

What is SMS marketing?

SMS stands for “short message service,” and as a business, SMS marketing is the act of sending a text message to customers or clients who’ve opted in to receive timely communications from your business or nonprofit. 

Basically, SMS is a great way to send and receive things like limited-time offers, sign-up confirmations, event announcements, appointment reminders, and more.

How SMS marketing can benefit a small business

One of the biggest benefits of using SMS marketing is that you can communicate with your customers in the channel they prefer most.

Plus, combining SMS marketing with your other marketing channels can boost your company’s average user lifetime by 76%.

Not to mention that emails and SMS from small businesses are the two most helpful communication channels to consumers.

Constant Contact’s Dave Charest and Stephanie French discuss why SMS text marketing is an effective tactic for small businesses.

What a small business should be using SMS for

What can’t you use it for? From abandoned cart messages to appointment reminders, reservation confirmations, donation drives and flash sales, SMS is not just for large retail businesses anymore.

As a small business owner, your greatest advantage is the relationships you can build with your customers. 

SMS text message marketing offers an additional way to build those relationships by communicating timely information to your audience when and where they want to receive it.

That’s why every business or nonprofit can benefit from using text message marketing as part of their marketing strategy, no matter how large or small.

SMS marketing examples

Still wondering how you can use text message marketing for small your business? Take a look at these examples:


Retail and ecommerce businesses can use text message marketing to share promotional or sales notifications, send abandoned cart reminders, build anticipation for new and seasonal products, welcome and nurture new customers, and even ask for reviews after a purchase.

Real estate:

In real estate, you can use SMS to grow your client base and deepen connections. 

Use SMS marketing to welcome and nurture new leads, share information on new area listings, provide invitations and reminders for open houses, alert clients to price and status changes, and even ask your client to leave a review online. 

Plus, you could send a text invitation and reminders when you’re running a client appreciation event.


SMS is a great way to keep your community informed, active, and growing.

Your nonprofit can send messages around your fundraising events, such as save-the-dates, registration updates, and even a thank you message after your event is complete. 

SMS is a great opportunity to alert members when you’ve sent an important email or newsletter update that requires a timely response. Plus, you can send alerts and notifications about your cause, welcome new subscribers, raise emergency funds, and share updates on your progress. 

A few other ideas include sharing inspirational messages around your cause and even reminders for healthy habits like drinking water, working out, and meditating.


SMS is practically made for the service industry.

Use text marketing to confirm appointments and cancellations, send appointment reminders, notify customers of last-minute openings and missed appointments, announce product sales or service discounts, or send reminders to check email for service contracts or receipts.


If you’re in the business-to-business (B2B) world, you can use SMS too.

Consider sending event invitation reminders, appointment reminders, alerts on new downloads and helpful content, company announcements, order management, or product and service updates.

Why email, SMS marketing, and social media are better together

Using SMS doesn’t mean you should drop the use of other marketing channels such as email marketing and social media. In fact, customers prefer it when their favorite brands use more than one marketing channel to engage them. 

In particular, SMS and email marketing are more effective when combined because they’re both permission-based marketing channels.

When people sign up to receive your messages, they’re not just giving permission for you to send them marketing messages; they’re asking you to. They’re showing that they’re interested in your business, and they want to receive more information from you. 

Whether it’s the latest news on industry trends or a flash sale on cat toys, it’s up to you to send timely, targeted messages on the channels your subscribers prefer.

Doing so will ensure you get the best results possible. And, because not everyone likes to receive the same messages the same way, it’s important to use your marketing channels both separately (omnichannel marketing) and together (cross-channel marketing). 

The trick is to know the unique aspects of each channel and how to use them.

Email marketing gives you ownership of your list and your ability to connect with your audience. It allows you to send personalized, targeted messages on your terms. It’s perfect for regular newsletters and messages with enticing images and intriguing snippets that lead back to your website, blog, or online store. However, you also have to compete for your reader’s attention in the inbox. 

SMS marketing is much like email marketing; it also gives you ownership of your list and your ability to connect with your audience, as well as allowing you to send personalized, target messages on your terms. However, these messages are more immediate than email and require clear and succinct messaging. This makes text message marketing perfect for sending exclusive messages that require a timely response. 

Just remember, no one wants to have their phone pinging all day long, so be careful not to abuse this connection, or you’ll turn people off.

Social media allows you to reach new people and share beyond your existing email list. But, algorithms can limit your reach, and the social media channel can control how, when, and if you can communicate with your subscribers. And, because social media success relies on your action and interaction, it can be time-consuming. However, social media is perfect for building brand awareness and growing your list.

When planning your marketing strategy, keep in mind that even though you should be using these channels together, you don’t want to repeat the same message on every channel. 

While we recommend occasionally mentioning what’s going on in other channels or with your campaign, you’ve got to have a reason to be there, and you must pay attention to how you’re using each channel  —  individually and together. 

SMS best practices 

Getting really good at something takes both knowledge and practice.

And while text message marketing is no different, here are some basic SMS text message marketing best practices to get you started in the right direction.

Stay in compliance

When it comes to text marketing, staying in compliance includes things like getting permission, including proper disclaimers, only sending marketing texts during certain hours, and providing a way for recipients to opt out of receiving further text message communications from your business.

Luckily, a reputable, professional service provider will help you stay in compliance.

Grow your list

Growing your SMS marketing list is just as important as growing your email list and social media connections. After all, the power of your digital marketing efforts lies in reaching your customers and customizing your message to their wants and needs.

Start by announcing the new communication channel to your email recipients and include a call to action (CTA) with a link that directs them to your landing page or sign-up form, where they can enter their mobile phone number. Be sure to tell them what they’ll get out of it — from a special discount code for joining to early or exclusive access to sales or industry information.

Set goals

As with all marketing efforts, without setting a goal for your text message marketing, your messaging will lack focus, and you won’t know if your actions are working. So, always set a goal for every campaign. Whether that’s to get 100 opens or to increase sales on a specific item by 10%.

Check the data and use your reports

This goes along with setting goals. Once you know what your goal for a campaign is, set KPIs (key performance indicators) to check your reports against.

If you start out your first campaign to get 100 recipients to read your message, check your report to see the open rates. If the report says that you had 100 opens, then you reached your goal. If it’s less than 100, see if you can figure out why. 

Revise and repeat

If you don’t get the results you’re looking for in a campaign, don’t chuck it. Take a hard look at your campaign and your reports and see where the weak link is. 

Were your open rates low? Maybe you need to try writing a better headline.

Were open rates high but click-through rates low? Double-check the link in your message. Was it working properly? Was it clear what they needed to do to get the offer?

Did sales underperform? Was the offer clear to your subscribers? Was your offer something your recipients would really be interested in?

When you use your reports to find the weakness in your campaign, you can work to improve that part of your campaign and then try again.

SMS text message marketing in Constant Contact

Just like with email marketing, using a trusted platform can help take the guesswork out of regulatory requirements — and even some best practices. 

With the SMS marketing feature within Constant Contact, many of the best practices outlined above are taken care of automatically, so you don’t have to worry about them, including: 

  • Restricting SMS messages to the appropriate hours of communication
  • Identifying your company in each and every message
  • Utilizing a dedicated local number rather than a toll-free or out-of-area number for best engagement
  • Giving your recipients required disclosures, as well as opt in and opt out information
  • Shortening links for clear, succinct marketing text messages

Using a trusted platform also has the advantage of using proven tools — like landing pages and sign-up forms – to help you build your SMS subscriber list.

Creating an SMS campaign

By managing your SMS and email marketing within the same tool, you have the ability to superpower your new SMS marketing campaigns with the information you already have about your loyal customers and your interested prospects.

Finally, once you have launched your first SMS marketing campaign, you can see the outcomes alongside your other marketing reporting for a full picture of when, how and why your customers are engaging with your messaging.

Armed with this information, you will be ready to refine, relaunch, and continue to improve your marketing messages for the best results.

How to get started with SMS text message marketing

Getting started with SMS marketing is easy as long as you know three key things: your brand, your message, and your audience

With any marketing effort, knowing your brand and your brand voice is critical to creating on-brand, authentic, and meaningful communications with your customers. 

Whether your business aims to be a serious thought leader or a fun and friendly community member, sticking to your brand when starting SMS text campaigns will help the rest fall into place. Stay true to what your customers already know and love about you when you start creating your first text campaign, and you’ll be well on your way to success.

So what to send first? As outlined above, text marketing works best for particular types of messages: ones that are timely, succinct and exclusive to SMS. Sales, event reminders, and product sneak peeks are all good examples of the types of messages that work well over text. Consider what you already know about your customers and what motivates them, and start from there. 

This is where knowing your audience comes into play — and can make a significant difference between a text campaign that is “wow!” and one that is “meh.”

Just as you would with an email campaign, customizing your SMS marketing messages to your audience is key. Whether sending a text wishing a customer a happy birthday or reminding them a product they frequently purchase is back in stock, a customized message can show your customers how much you value their support.

Armed with a good grasp of your brand, your message and your audience, you’ll be ready to start growing your SMS list and sending messages in no time. Text message marketing doesn’t have to be hard   —  it’s just one more way to ensure you’re communicating authentically with your customers in the ways and places they prefer the most! 

Knowing what platform you want to use can help tie it all together. A trusted platform like Constant Contact helps you stay on top of regulations, follow best practices, and manage your online marketing efforts all in one place. If you are a current customer, follow this tutorial on setting up SMS in your Constant Contact account. If you’re new to Constant Contact, check out our package offerings to choose the plan that’s right for you.

*This content is not meant to replace legal advice or full regulatory guidelines around text message marketing.