How to Get More SMS Subscribers: A Complete Marketer's Guide

Key strategies for getting your customers to enroll in your SMS text messaging program

Mara Miller
Director of Marketing
How to get more SMS subscribers graphic
Table of Contents
Table of Contents

Remember a time when unlimited text messaging wasn’t part of your mobile phone plan, but was a premium add-on or just wasn’t a thing at all? For those targeting Gen Zers, they’ve likely only had unlimited text messaging their whole lives.

SMS messaging is as powerful a channel as ever since it's a native capability to all mobile phones, and the current number of mobile phone users in the world today is 7.33B. And in the U.S. alone, SMS usage has been growing at a rate of 6.2% since 2019

Now if you’re thinking to yourself that this is only applicable for peer-to-peer communication, research shows that 54% of consumers say they prefer direct communication from brands through SMS messaging.

This all proves the widespread adoption of both mobile technology and SMS as a powerful communication channel are growing and with no signs of slowing down. 

However, often the biggest challenge for brands is how to build and grow an SMS subscriber list that they can communicate with via text. 

Read on to uncover how to get more SMS subscribers and the most effective acquisition tactics and channels you should activate to build a database of mobile customers, at scale.

What Is SMS Subscriber Acquisition?

SMS subscriber acquisition is the process of a brand promoting their SMS text messaging program to get consumers enrolled in the program in order to receive offers, promotions and other kinds of updates through SMS and MMS messages. This is typically achieved through a set of strategies and tactics brands use, both online and offline, to promote their SMS program to consumers that includes instructions on how to sign up. 

Sounds simple, right? In fact, it can be relatively easy to acquire a lot of SMS subscribers. Especially when using the right subscriber acquisition tactics for your brand and customers, you can make it quite seamless for them to become SMS subscribers.

Why SMS Subscriber Acquisition Is Important

Acquiring SMS subscribers in order to interact with them through text messaging is important because it’s a channel that is proven to improve your conversions and ROI. According to Forbes, a text message can create $0.25 per $1 in revenue earned from customers as compared to just $0.05 for email.  

It’s important to note that this ROI is far from fleeting. Consumers actively want to engage with brands more frequently through SMS than any other marketing channel. Almost 40% would like to interact with a brand at least two to three times a week.

This strong engagement certainly lends itself to text being a proven channel for driving revenue. 

How SMS Subscriber Acquisition Is Measured 

SMS subscriber acquisition is about growing the number of your customers that have consciously chosen to receive text messages from you in order to engage with and purchase from your brand. 

Here are the key metrics for measuring the success of your SMS subscriber acquisition efforts:

  • SMS subscriber growth rate - Percentage change of total SMS subscribers over a specific time period.
  • Opt-ins - Total number of consumers that join a brand’s text program over a specific time period.
  • Opt-in confirmation rate -The percentage of consumers who successfully complete the process of signing up for a brand’s text program, including responding Yes (or Y) to a text message prompt to confirm their opt-in.
  • Opt-outs - Total number of mobile subscribers that exit a brand’s text program over a specific time period.
  • Opt-out rate - The percentage of mobile subscribers that exit a brand’s text program at a given time.

Now that you know the basics let’s explore the most effective ways of acquiring subscribers – or acquiring more subscribers if you already have a growing mobile subscription list – so that you can begin interacting with them via SMS and MMS.

How to Get More SMS Subscribers - Top 7 Promotional Channels

When you’re building your list of SMS subscribers, your top priority, whether you’re just starting with text message marketing or have been doing it for years, is to make sure you’re always growing your SMS subscriber database and providing your brand the opportunity to reach as many of your customers as possible.

As consumers reach for their phones to take an action and fulfill their immediate mission – whether it’s to shop, eat, pay a bill, or something else – make the most of their intent by placing calls-to-action (CTAs) to join your SMS subscriber list in these top-performing acquisition channels.

1. Website

Utilizing high-traffic locations on your website is key for SMS subscriber acquisition. When executed right, opt-in rates from website CTAs can run as high as 63%.* 

Here are some locations that have been most effective for converting scrolling into SMS subscriptions:

  • An always-on CTA in a banner at the top of your website’s homepage
  • More prominent placements such as homepage takeovers or pop-ups aimed at getting a significant boost in subscriber growth in a short period of time
  • A checkbox at checkout

For mobile web visitors, instead of prompting them to text a keyword, offer either a phone number entry field or Tap2Join functionality to further simplify the process of signing up for your mobile program (more on these tactics in a moment).

2. Email

For a boost in SMS subscriber growth take advantage of your existing email subscribers that have already shown interest in your brand – likely a contributor for why opt-in rates from CTAs in email can run as high as 87%.* 

Follow these recommended tips on how to convert email subscribers to mobile subscribers:

  • Send 2 to 4 emails per year that are entirely dedicated to driving new mobile program subscribers with a particular focus on the subject line CTA to drive email opens
  • Always include header and footer CTAs for your mobile program in each promotional email sent
How to get more SMS subscribers via email
Place CTAs near the top of your website and emails for highest visibility

3. Social Media

It’s no secret that social media is instrumental in reaching consumers, particularly millennials and Gen Zers. That’s because social is full of content that is engaging and highly personalized, motivating some 80% of social media users to use it daily. 

Reach consumers who are already engaging with your brand by promoting SMS in the sweet spots of your social accounts. Key acquisition points include:

  • Instagram and Facebook stories detailing the program and how to join. Influencer partnerships are a great opportunity to broaden reach.
  • Instagram and TikTok “Swipe Ups” that link to a webform for consumers to fill out in order to complete their sign up for your mobile program.
  • Text-a-keyword CTA included in all social media bio descriptions for followers to easily sign up.

Although the digital space is where a lot of a brand’s subscriber volume comes from, you should not lose sight of the power of offline channels. Mobile program opt-in confirmation rates from printed signage CTAs can run as high as 90%.*

To emulate similar success you should use your physical spaces to promote signing up for your brand’s mobile program in the following ways.

4. Point of Sale

While your customers are at checkout completing their transaction, prompt them directly on the keypad to join your SMS program. 

If updates to your keypad require cutting through a lot of red tape, while you go through that process promote a keyword CTA to join your mobile program via counter signage, stickers or buttons worn by store associates. 

5. Store Associate Contests

Incentivizing your store associates with a reward - something as simple as a pizza party - for whoever generates the most mobile program sign ups in a given period proves to be an effective growth tactic. Here’s an example:

Associate: "Would you like to join our text alerts program? You can receive exclusive offers and insider updates."

Customer: "Sure, what do I need to do?"

Associate: "Please provide your cell phone number for me, and we will send you a message confirming your interest. Once you receive the message, reply "Y" to receive an instant offer."

Customer: "Thanks! I'm in."

6. Printed Signage

When your customers are physically shopping the right message can catch their attention quickly. Promote signing up for SMS with visible signage using the real estate when available to highlight the benefits of subscribing to your program (e.g., exclusive deals on select products, product previews before promoting to your general audience, etc.). 

A major added benefit is you can give them instant satisfaction by texting them a mobile wallet welcome offer that they can scan at checkout for use in that same in-store visit.

Examples of effective printed signage include:

  • On-shelf signage 
  • Larger signage placed in store windows or on aisle caps
  • Mirror stickers
How to get more SMS subscribers via printed signage
Place high visibility in-store CTAs to drive mobile growth

7. Receipts

Keep connected to your customers that are in a major rush by including CTAs prominently on their receipt. Be sure to promote the welcome offer they will instantly receive upon signing up to get them to purchase sooner.

Determining the Right SMS Subscriber Acquisition Strategy

It’s important to know that some channels are more effective in some industries than others. That’s why it’s so important to work with a mobile marketing partner who has deep experience in your industry. The right partner can point you to the best-performing channels for your brand, so you can build your database at the most rapid pace possible. 

For example, brands in the retail and quick serve dining industries find success by investing in a copious amount of in-store signage, placing it where it’s easily visible and training employees to discuss the benefits of signing up for text messages with customers. 

This is why a multichannel approach to mobile user acquisition is key, so that you’re meeting different consumers where they are and engaging them in the channels they prefer most. 

If you don’t have the green light to use all available channels for promoting SMS sign-up, here are some tips to help you determine the priority channels to secure.

  1. Evaluate Channel Value. Look at all of the possible channels you could be in and their corresponding attributes, such as cost, average engagement, scale, and audience segmentation. Determine which attributes are the most valuable to your business objectives to give you clear direction on which channels you should focus on securing (at least until your next planning season rolls around).
  1. Time to Market. Some channels can be activated almost immediately while others can take time to develop or secure to get more SMS subscribers. If it’s critical to get the ball rolling sooner than later on building your SMS subscriber database then take advantage of the channels you can get up and running quickly.
  1. Competing Teams. Do you have other teams with more established programs who get first right of refusal on practically every channel? Start with your low-hanging fruit - it gets you to market quicker and thus gets you results faster, giving you the success story you need to get the premium real estate in the future.

Channel-Agnostic Recommendations for Scaling SMS Subscriber Acquisition

Regardless of the channels you use to promote your SMS program, there are a couple of important additional tactics that must be considered in order to quickly and steadily grow. 

Clear and Simple CTAs

Every CTA should have easy-to-follow directions for how a user can sign up to receive text messages from you.

If texting a keyword is your signup method of choice, be sure to make your keyword and short code BIG, BOLD and a different color to catch the eye of consumers. Leave the keyword and short code as simple text – adding quotation marks could confuse consumers. And when you have real estate to promote more detail, have a prominent display of the mobile program’s value prop. 

Tap2Join Functionality

Whether pursuing digital or in-store acquisition, simplifying the process for signing up for your mobile program is key. Require as few steps as possible for consumers to complete their sign-up.

Tap2Join is a seamless acquisition tactic that pre-populates an opt-in within a mobile device’s native messaging app. Growing your SMS subscriber list is easy because all consumers have to do is hit send to join. Tap2Join is ideal for websites, social media, email header buttons, and even QR codes on signage or receipts. 

This seamless acquisition tactic is an embedded string of code that when tapped on or accessed, pre-populates an opt-in message within the native messaging app on a user’s phone. All consumers have to do is hit send to join. Tap-to-Join can be embedded on a brand-built webpage or using Vibes Mobile Page Builder. Ideal placements for Tap-to-Join range from social media Swipe Ups, email header buttons, or QR codes at the point of sale.

Tap2Join mobile text subscription
Engaging with Tap2Join sends shoppers directly to their native messaging app on their phone with a pre-populated opt-in message
Subscribe text message landing page
Link an opt-in webpage into your social stories to drive sign-ups

QR Codes

Let’s not forget about the Cinderella story that is QR codes. What was it that drove the QR code comeback? It just came down to how easy and convenient it was to use, particularly when Apple and Android devices built QR code scanners into their native cameras. The pandemic then drove the adoption as seemingly the entire population began scanning menus at diners and white tablecloth restaurants alike. Now that smartphone usage and life on-the-go travel hand in hand, nobody wants to be met with barriers to interaction if they can avoid it. Scanning something that links to precisely what the consumer wants is the new way of consumer + brand relationship building. All of this is likely why the US saw a 433% increase in QR code scans in 2022 compared just to the year prior.

To make opt-ins even quicker, utilize QR codes for seamless SMS subscriber acquisition.

Welcome Offers

Consumers may be eager to begin receiving text messages from you, but they still want to know what’s in it for them. Regardless of the channel you use to promote your mobile program and how easy you make it to sign up, offering an incentive will increase your opt-in rates and quickly generate sales.

This can be easily achieved through promoting an exclusive welcome offer in your CTAs that a consumer can only get if they sign up for text messages.  

For instance, one Vibes customer was struggling to grow their mobile customer database, but once they began using Welcome Offers, they saw a 41% growth rate and generated $120M in mobile-attributed revenue versus a minimal return when no welcome offer was presented.

Additional Consideration: SMS Compliance 

It is important to understand that when acquiring SMS subscribers and you begin sending them text messages there’s a unique set of rules and requirements. 

SMS compliance are regulatory rules that can have severe financial and reputational repercussions if they’re not followed when sending out marketing text messages. These rules are inclusive of two key sets of SMS compliance regulations: CTIA & Carrier compliance and Legal compliance. 

Vibes has a robust and experienced compliance team ready to assist you in evaluating compliance and providing recommendations for improvement (we just can’t give full legal advice, of course!)

Take the Next Steps with Your SMS Program

Whether you need a fast and powerful start to growing an SMS subscriber list or you need a steady boost in growth, these top SMS subscriber acquisition strategies are proven to help you grow and reach a wider audience.

Atwe have seen texting continue to grow as a marketing channel, which is why our mobile engagement platform is built to scale with expected growth over time. This is one of the many reasons why we've been a leader in SMS marketing for over 25 years, helping brands achieve - if not exceed - their mobile marketing goals. 

Don’t wait – contact us now to get started on building your SMS subscriber audience today and begin seeing the value mobile as a channel will drive for your business.

*Results seen by select sample of Vibes customers

Mara Miller
Director of Marketing
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