Whether you’re just starting with text marketing or have been using it for a while, there's no way forward without a solid SMS subscriber list.

Unfortunately, growing your SMS list is not always as easy as it may sound. SMS marketing is strictly permission-based, meaning that to send text messages to your customers, you have to get their consent first.

The good news is – people tend to open around 98% of SMS they get; therefore, once they opt-in, you can be sure that most of your messages are read.

Worth the efforts, right?

So without further ado, let’s go through some of the ideas for collecting phone numbers that can help you effectively and, most importantly, legally grow your SMS subscriber list.

What is SMS opt-in?

SMS opt-in is written permission customers give a business or organization that wants to send them SMS messages.

Even if a brand already has some kind of relationship with a customer or has their phone number in their contact base (e. g. for shipping purposes), without a customer’s consent to receive text messages, sending an SMS becomes illegal.

Opt-in text message example

Opt-in text message example

SMS compliance laws

In different countries, SMS opt-in rules are regulated by different laws. However, the idea that unites them all is that a business must provide clear information and stay transparent about its practices when communicating with customers via text messages, besides getting written permission to send them.

For instance:

  • In the US, SMS marketing requirements are covered in the US Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Additionally, SMS marketers should follow Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) regulations that cover industry guidelines.
  • In Canada, SMS marketing laws and regulations fall under Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).
  • In Europe, to send text messages to customers, you have to follow the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

So make sure to check the regulations for the specific countries/regions in advance if you want to send messages to your customers without getting into trouble.

7 ways to collect phone numbers and grow your SMS subscriber list

Alright, so you now know that people should willingly sign up for text messages, but you might still find it challenging to develop the ways that enable them to do it.

Fortunately, there are quite many of them – check out the list below for inspiration.

1. Come up with a memorable keyword and promote it

Keywords are one of the most common ways to get more people to subscribe to your SMS campaigns. It's usually an easy-to-remember word that people can text to a company's shortcode and become a part of their SMS subscriber list.

What’s great about keywords is that they can work anywhere – both online and offline, which provides more options for businesses and is also convenient for the customer.

For instance, you can showcase your SMS marketing keyword in-store, if you have one, put it on your printed ads, posters, and flyers that you send with each order. It then becomes easy for visitors or your customers just to text the keyword to your shortcode if they want to opt-in for your SMS messages.

2. Add a sign-up form on your website

Sign-up form on Subway website

Another popular way to grow both email and SMS marketing lists is by adding a sign-up form on your website. People who visit your website are already interested in what you have to offer and might be as well willing to stay updated in the future.

There are several ways to do it:

  • Pop-up form. It's probably the most attention-grabbing way to engage customers and let them know about the possibility of signing up for SMS. You can use traditional pop-ups (pop-up window) or take them to a new level by gamifying the experience with "spin to win" wheels, a reel of coupons, and so on (incentives will sure be an extra nudge to opt-in!)
  • Website footer. Wherever on the website your visitors are, the website footer always stays there. That’s why it’s a great place to add a sign-up form and make it convenient to join the list when they feel like it.
  • Sign-up page. You can also dedicate a separate page to highlight the benefits of joining your SMS program so that your visitors can make an informed decision.

3. Inform your email subscribers about your SMS program

If you already have an email subscriber list, don’t hesitate to use it to grow your SMS list. Among your email subscribers, there can be people who don't even know about an option to get your text message updates but wouldn't mind signing up.

Besides, it can bring you an excellent opportunity to combine email and SMS marketing for even better results.

Suppose you honestly read the newsletters you get yourself. In that case, you might have noticed that companies that use SMS marketing put a friendly reminder at the bottom of their emails (whether it’s a casual update, promotions, or order confirmation email), inviting them to subscribe to text messages.

This way, you can enrich your list with people who are genuinely interested in your offers.

4. Invite customers to opt-in at the checkout

SMS opt-in at checkout

Someone’s already reached the checkout – great, you’ve earned their trust! Is there a better time to ask for their phone number to nurture this relationship in the future?

Usually, customers have to fill in their contact details for delivery at the checkout, including their phone number.

The easiest way to try and add that number to your SMS subscriber list is to leave a checkbox below it, offering an incentive in exchange for digits.

5. Use social media

Social media is another channel that should not be overlooked when collecting phone numbers to grow your SMS subscriber list. Most of your potential customers are there, making it a good place to promote the benefits of opting in for your text messages.

One way to do it is to use social media to promote previously mentioned text-to-win competitions.

Another way is to encourage customers to sign up by regularly using posts and stories. For instance, by using Instagram stories, you can make subscribing effortless for the user, allowing them to simply swipe up and join the program.

Of course, this will also require you to offer something valuable in exchange (e.g., a 20% discount) to encourage your followers to act.

6. Organize a text-to-win competition

Text-to-win competition example

Competitions are one of the most effective ways to collect phone numbers since usually, people are willing to sign-up if they can really benefit from it. That‘s the key thing to remember when organizing such competitions – you have to offer something valuable which will make it worthwhile for people to enter.

Then, by simply texting your chosen keyword to your shortcode, your prospects and customers become a part of your contact list and get a chance to participate in the contest.

Ensure that they know what they‘re signing for – stay transparent about your future communications and promotional offers that you‘ll be sending using text messages.

7. Generate QR codes

The use cases of Q.R. codes for collecting phone numbers are very similar to keywords as they are also easy to include in all your printed materials, promote online or in-store. It's a quick and convenient way for your prospects and customers to opt-in for your text marketing by simply scanning the Q.R. code with their smartphones.

Once they scan the code, a pre-filled SMS message appears on their screen, and all that’s left to complete SMS sign-up is to send it.

3 key tips for growing and maintaining your SMS subscriber list

Be transparent about the frequency of your messages

One of the main reasons why subscribers opt-out is that they get too many messages that they don’t want to receive. To avoid this, use a welcome message to make it clear how often you'll be texting (e.g., 4-5 times per month) so that it wouldn't come as a surprise, leading to frustration and disappointment.

Choose the right timing

SMS is a very personal channel. If people trust you by giving access to it, make sure your marketing messages don't come when they least expect it, such as late at night or on weekends.

Stick to the business hours to increase the chances of people acting on your offers and maintain good relationships.

Offer value with every SMS

Every message you send to your subscribers should offer them some kind of value – whether it's in the form of a discount or useful tips.

Varying between different message types and incentives will keep your customers engaged. On the contrary, if you fail to provide value or your messages are simply irrelevant, they will no longer see a point of being subscribed to your SMS program.

Should you fear SMS opt-outs?

It’s important to understand that SMS opt-outs are normal. There will always be people who decide to unsubscribe for a wide variety of reasons. That doesn't mean you did something wrong – interests and customer behavior constantly change, naturally, so do their choices.

Besides, for you, as a company, this can even help to “filter” your audience, meaning that you will be communicating to people who really want to hear from you, therefore, are more likely to act on your offers. Tracking opt-outs can also help you identify what's working and what doesn't, allowing you to improve your SMS campaigns. Additionally, you can also use a phone validator that can run a verification check on your contact list to figure out which numbers are invalid.

However, if you notice a sudden drop in the number of subscribers or your SMS opt-out rate starts increasing uncontrollably, you’re probably doing something wrong. Here's where you can begin a closer investigation.

For instance, make sure you're not sending too many messages at the wrong times, slang and abbreviations don't hurt your brand image, your texts are relevant to your subscribers and come with different incentives that help keep them engaged.

Sit back and watch your SMS list grow

SMS compliance laws shouldn’t stop you from adding text messages to your marketing mix. SMS is a great way to reach customers, stay on their radars, and encourage them to act on your deals.

Sure, it might sound complicated at first, but all you need to know is that consent is a must and get familiar with the ways you can get it. And there is more than one – so you can choose whichever suits your business or organization best and watch your SMS list grow.

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