SMS Marketing Guide

Learn about the most important elements of SMS marketing

Find out how to create your first SMS campaign and:

  • How to build your customer database?
  • Which business areas can SMS message serve?
  • What are the most significant elements of SMS message?
  • How to measure effects of SMS campaign?

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Building a customer database for SMS marketing - step by step

Customer database is a cornerstone of a successful SMS campaign. The first question is: should you buy it or build it yourself? According to the research conducted among our clients, 94% of companies build their own databases. Simply because it’s significantly more effective to collect data yourself than to purchase it. After all, you don’t risk sending your messages to random people. There are many ways of building a contact database, as you can do it during:

  • retail or online check-out,
  • new user registration,
  • newsletter subscription,
  • loyalty program sign-up,
  • collecting data with tools like Facebook LeadAds,,
  • Two-way communication via SMS.
  • Overview of 5 methods of database building

  • 1. During online sign-up

    Payment page is an excellent space to interact with customers. That’s why a large number of brands try to convince you to register to their newsletter after the finalized purchase. For the same reason, it’s a great time to ask for a telephone number. Hesitant customers can always be softened with a discount voucher. You can acquire contact info by including input fields or by using our SMS Newsletter widget. Try to predict your future campaigns and ask for additional information that will come useful when creating targeted messages.

  • 2. During retail shopping

    Telephone number can also be acquired during the visit at brand’s retail shop - you just need a tablet or a simple paper form. Please remember about GDPR consents, information clause and disclosing the purpose of the collected information.

  • 3. Virtual Mobile Numbers plus e-mail, outdoor and press

    Virtual Mobile Number (VMN in short) is a regular, 9-digit number that allows 2-way communication. It’s a convenient method of acquiring client’s telephone numbers. Just include it on a website, flyer, billboard, poster, image or social media. By sending a predetermined text (e.g. YES, OK), they will be able to subscribe to your database. Consider adding some additional incentive - discount code, free shipment, etc.

  • 4. SMS Newsletter

    To make things even easier, we have created a tool that allows users to subscribe via a website. Newsletter SMS widget can be placed on a page or linked on social media profiles. Every part of the widget is customizable, so you can adjust it to your branding. To install it just copy a source code generated in the SMSAPI Customer Portal. Check out TEDxKatowice case study for more information about how to use is efficiently.

  • 5. Loyalty programs

    VIP clubs are an effective way of data acquisition and at the same time they help to keep your customers engaged. If you are able to present them with meaningful profits, they will share their contact information. You can start with a paper form, just be sure to keep them always up to date by sending e-mail and SMS messages.

SMS Communication - categories by application

Mobile communication based on SMS can be divided into three main categories depending on the function.

  • Marketing


    Messaging that supports sales. Use SMS to inform customers about the new offer, promotion and limited occasions. Keep in mind, you need marketing consent to send this kind of messages. We advise to use targeting and personalization to achieve the best results. You can automate the process by using custom fields from your contact database. Furthermore, sender name ID, call to action, shortened links and direct approach to the recipients should all be applied.

  • Notifications


    All alerts, status changes, delivery or official information. Due to a lower frequency (if compared to e-mail), SMS is a preferred channel for notification delivery. It’s simply harder to ignore or overlook an SMS which ensures higher chance of getting through with your message.

    Notifications sent by e-commerce is a standard. Most of them might be automated thanks to the integration libraries, with e.g. CRM. Satisfaction surveys and polls are the natural expansions of such messages.

  • Authorization


    Mobile phones are exceptionally private devices, most of us protect them with a great care. That’s why they are a widespread method of sensitive data verification and transaction authorization. Messages sent by banks, financial institutions and other companies are direct, fast and independent of internet access. SMS are also used as password reminders and verification code distribution. All the above is possible with an SMS Authenticator feature available in the SMSAPI Customer Portal.

  • Anatomy of SMS - elements and personalization

    SMS communication is definitely more than 160 characters. Although text message is not the newest technology, it might be easily expanded with links which helps to switch offline customers online. Discover the most popular elements of the effective SMS marketing.

    • Sender name

      Company’s name in the sender name field allows clients to quickly identify sender. To add your company’s name type it in Customer Portal. All names are verified by our staff, so there’s no risk of impersonation or false identification. Sender name ID is limited to 11 alphanumeric characters. Please, bear in mind that setting a sender name ID might not be available in every country.

    • Virtual Mobile Numbers

      Regular, 9-digit receiving number which allows your customers to contact you directly. VMN is useful for fast satisfaction surveys and all other situations when you need to gather feedback. Remember to include your company’s name in the content of message so receivers will be able to identify the brand.

    • Direct approach to recipient

      Basic yet effective method of drawing customer’s attention. Starting an SMS with recipient’s name shows individual approach towards communication. Together with the personalization feature it provides you with mass messaging solution able to target individual customer. Uploading your contact database to the SMSAPI Customer Portal with the custom fields allows you to automate the process.

    • Shortened link

      Because of the 160-character limit of SMS, link shortening is an important and commonly used feature. What’s more, it allows you to avoid long, inelegant lines of links. By using tools like you can measure users’ engagement by counting each click. Although SMS service works offline, links will allow you to redirect clients to your website.

    • Discount codes

      Generated for each individual client provides you with an opportunity to measure campaigns performance. You’ll be notified about every used coupon online or in your retail shop. The SMSAPI Customer Portal allows you to generate and to import codes from your system, e.g. CRM.

    • Call to action

      A phrase meant to induce a certain reaction. In most cases it’s a verb in imperative (buy, discover, go, etc.), that’s why it’s best to follow it with a link or discount code. This way you’ll be able to effectively direct customers to a next step of your campaign.

    • Time limited offers

      The limited availability is one the most basic principles of marketing. According to R. Cialdini, restrictions force customers to make quicker decisions. Limiting offer to a shorter time (for example till midnight) might be more profitable than a regular longer period. All because SMS are usually opened within first 5 minutes after delivery.

    • Targeting

      Directing campaigns at selected audiences. Your contact database should be segmented into smaller target groups. You can divide it using e.g. localization, shopping preferences or loyalty program criteria. Messages created for a specific audience show higher performance than unspecified ones. Segmentation can be done manually or automated in the SMSAPI Customer Portal.

    • Survey

      Voting and survey feature lets you conduct simple and fast satisfaction research among your clients. Use a virtual mobile number to allow them to answer your question by replying. Use the generated report and statistics to measure the campaign effectiveness.

    • Opt-out

      SMS communication works best when conducted in a spirit of permission marketing. You can do it by adding Opt-out link at the end of the first message sent. It will help customer service at your company by reducing work needed to manually remove records from database. Furthermore, each recipient less equals lower cost and higher effectiveness of your next campaign.

    Measuring the effectiveness of SMS campaign

    To send an SMS is just a first step, you should also analyze its performance. According to our 2017 report, majority of companies do not measure conversion of their campaigns. What indicators should you take into consideration?

    • Deliverability - when choosing SMS communication provider check their technical capabilities. Message capacity and deliverability depend on the quality of connection with GSM operators. Before the first campaign, check the numbers in your database with HLR (Home Location Register) to remove all incorrect, inactive ones.
    • Open Rate - by our reports, 98% of SMS are opened and read, most of them within the first 5 minutes after delivery. All due fact that a phone is always within our reach, and an SMS is still considered a highly personal medium.
    • Link CTR - (click-through rate) shows the percentage of people who have clicked a link in SMS. Clicks into links shortened by can be counted at any time.
    • Opt-out Rate - percentage of people who have clicked the link divided by the total number of contacts in database. Personalized Opt-out link allows recipient to unsubscribe at any time, without a help of customer service. Opt-out Rate is a clear information how well the sent messages are matched with a target group.
    • Discount codes - personalized discount code sent via SMS might be used online and in a retail shop by presenting it at the checkout. Each use of a code is counted which allows to measure campaign’s performance.
    • Average revenue growth - monitor the revenue growth after the SMS campaign. By tracking down transactions with discount codes, you can check the effectiveness of your mobile marketing. Similarly, you can check link’s performance by adding UTM parameters.
    • Increased website traffic - if you are adding links to SMS, remember to include UTM parameters which will allow you to easily check the performance of the campaign. Furthermore, you will be able to precisely track user actions in Google Analytics.

    More about measuring campaign effectiveness: KPI Blog article


    Almost all courses come from the recommendation of our loyal customers. Thanks to the cooperation with SMSAPI, we can reach our audience, directly and fast. We try not to sale our services. Discounts are rare, as we tend to “hunt down” occasions and offer something more. It’s considerably cheaper to care for your clients than to look for the new ones. It’s really simple – once you have gained the client’s trust and engagement, do everything to maintain it – you’ll earn more.
    Łukasz Gapa

    Auto awa

    Łukasz Gapa
    SMS message is a very important marketing tool for Gino Rossi. Thanks to this direct and fast communication we are able to be in constant touch with our customers and affect sales volumes – especially when we want to announce sales or special discounts. SMS marketing is one of the most effective marketing channels that can significantly influence sales figures. At the same time – it’s important to remember that the most effective campaigns include more than one channel – for example, SMS & e-mail campaign at the same time. This kind of activities brings the best results.
    Wojciech Chochołowicz

    Gino Rossi

    Wojciech Chochołowicz
    We chose to contact our customers via SMS because we know how important SMS messaging is for everyday communication, we use that solution a few times a year for our most important campaigns. Usually we combine a few channels to increase our conversion rate, we know from experience that using both e-mail and SMS results in 30% higher income from a campaign.
    Wojciech Tomaszewski

    Wojciech Tomaszewski

    Your First Campaign - Step by Step

    It takes just a few minutes to send your first business SMS. All because of the self-sign up system. Excluding the sender name verification, all features of the SMSAPI Customer Portal are available without the need of contacting our customer service. Let’s go through the process step by step:

    • Click Register button on website
    • Fill in the form to create a free trial account
    • Type in recommendation code, if you have it
    • Log in to the Customer Portal using data provided before
    • Although it’s optional for the first campaign, we recommend to click Payment button, select Invoice data section and fill the required fields
    • On the Portal’s frontpage click Send SMS button
    • Select a sender name (random number will be available by default)
    • Type in recipients' phone numbers or import a contact database
    • Type in the message
    • Click send to start sending of your first SMS campaign

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