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SMS List Building Tips: 12 Ways Marketers Can Tactfully Grow Their Subscriber List

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Email. Social media. Paid search. While there are incredible benefits to each of these marketing channels, there are drawbacks as well.

  • Send an email, and you’re left hoping it goes to an account customers actually check.
  • Put the word out on social, and you’ve got to pray your post makes it through the algorithm and isn't buried in an endlessly refreshing feed.
  • Run a paid ad, and you’d better keep your fingers crossed that you’re reaching the right audience.

SMS marketing has emerged as the most valuable new tool for brands because it addresses these challenges, providing direct access to the customers you’re trying to reach. But, like any other marketing tool, your potential for success increases with the size of your audience.  

Even with a clear and effective SMS strategy, your audience needs to be sizable in order for your message to be heard. To truly reap the benefits of SMS marketing, you’ve got to find ways to continually grow your audience and build a strong community of subscribers. Here are 12 SMS list-building hacks that will help you do just that.

Incentivize customers to subscribe with an exciting offer

Discounts, sales, offers, and incentives are offered anywhere that customers turn. You can’t visit a website without being offered 10% to join an email list, $X off your first order, or a free gift with purchase. In a world where tactics like these are so prominent, offering an incentive is par for the course if you want someone to join your SMS list.

#1. Delight with discount codes

When offered as an SMS list incentive, discount codes serve a dual purpose: You gain a subscriber, and that customer is one step closer to converting. Data from Statista shows that consumers of all ages are much more likely to purchase from a new brand when offered a discount.


Image Source: Statista

You can offer a percent-off discount or test a dollar-off approach (e.g., receive $10 off your next order). Either way, be sure to promote the discount wherever you’re encouraging subscriptions and deliver the code via text after the recipient has subscribed.

Pro Tip: While dollar-off discounts can be enticing, we recommend offering a percent-based promotion—such as 10% off your next order. Research from publicis sapient shows that more than half of consumers (52%, to be precise) list percent-off discounts as their preferred type of discount.

#2. Offer gifts to new SMS subscribers

There's nothing that makes customers feel more special than getting a gift, whether it's in the form of a discount code or — in this case — a physical item. Offering gifts to new SMS subscribers is a perfect way to nurture brand loyalty right out of the gate, and can help engage and retain members of your SMS community for years to come.

Free items work particularly well as an in-store tactic for companies with brick-and-mortar locations. You can delight customers immediately with the gift so they’re especially motivated to sign up for SMS. Say you own a chain of coffee stores. You might see more success with your SMS list-building efforts if you offer a free coffee as an incentive for subscribing, rather than a discount off a future order. Offers like this capitalize on people’s innate desire for instant gratification.

Pro Tip: Post your free gift offer on a sign outside your storefront to increase foot traffic and convert people who may otherwise have walked right by.

#3. Grow your SMS list through a contest

Contests are a fun, cost-efficient way to grow your subscriber list and increase brand awareness among new audiences.

Let’s say you run a giveaway on social media. To enter, people have to like the giveaway post, tag three friends, and text the magic keyword “BANANAS” to your SMS number. After texting the keyword, they receive an automated response that lets them know their entry has been received and that they’ve opted in for SMS updates.

Chances are, you'll get good engagement from people who are already following your brand on social media. But if you boost that post to people who aren’t your followers, you’re likely opening the door to subscribers who aren’t existing customers. Once they’ve joined your list, you can nurture those leads and—through the power of SMS marketing—turn those subscribers into customers down the road.

Pro Tip: Contests are a great way to generate a quick bump in subscribers over a short period of time, so consider running one when you need a little something extra to get over the hurdle of that next subscriber milestone.

Make it easy to opt in on your website

Your website is an untapped goldmine when it comes to SMS list growth. It grants you direct access to your most qualified leads (and most loyal customers) at a time when they’re the most likely to opt in for communications—while you’re already on their minds. Here are some ways you can make opting in a breeze for your customers.

#4. Put a pop-up on your website

A website pop-up that encourages visitors to subscribe for SMS updates is one of the easiest ways to ensure that you gain new subscribers on a consistent, monthly basis. Let’s look at this tactic in action.

According to Sumo, the average pop-up conversion rate is 3.09%. So if you get 100,000 new visitors to your site in a month, that simple pop-up could help you add over 3,000 subscribers to your SMS list. Multiply that over the course of a year, and you’re looking at somewhere around 36,000 subscribers from your website alone.

In other words: The more site traffic you receive, the higher your potential for SMS growth.


Pro Tip: See what features your SMS provider offers before messing around too much with pop-ups! At Community, we simplify the process by offering sign-up units you can embed directly onto your site—no coding or plugins required.

#5. Add a signup option at checkout

Checkout is the perfect time to get new SMS subscribers, and it requires almost no effort from customers. Shopping in-store? Just rattle off your phone number. Shopping online? All you have to do is check that tiny box next to your phone number, and voila! You’re in.

Setting up checkout opt-in for SMS varies based on which e-commerce platform you sell through, however, since each one has its own requirements and approved third-party integrations.

Pro Tip: Community’s Shopify integration lets customers subscribe directly during checkout, and links purchase history to their account, so admins can see each subscriber’s buying history directly within the Community dashboard. This information is especially valuable when determining which products to promote to customers.

#6. Offer keyword opt-in

One of the simplest ways to encourage SMS signups is to ask customers to text a specific word (i.e., PIZZA) to your company phone number. When they text the phrase, they’re automatically subscribed to your SMS list. This is a feature SMS providers like Community offer, and something you can set up directly within the platform.

The process is simple:


Use different keywords for different marketing channels so it’s easier to track attribution. By using “MAGIC” on social media, “BEANSTALK” in your paid ads, and “GIANT” on your website, you’ll be able to tell exactly where subscribers came from. Speaking of asking for SMS signups on other channels . . .

Use other marketing channels to cross-promote

While your website may be a key source of new SMS subscribers, there are so many other places you’re interacting with customers as a large brand. If you want to take your SMS list building to the next level, adopt an integrated marketing approach and leverage those channels to amplify list growth.

Some simple ways you can do this are:

#7. Collect phone numbers through your IG profile. You can use third-party apps like Linktr.ee to collect SMS subscribers directly through your IG profile, or add your SMS number to your business account and provide an option for customers to text you.

#8. Include a signup link in your email footer. Your email list has been growing since your company first opened its doors. By including an SMS signup option within your message footer, you can convert existing email customers into SMS subscribers.

#9. Incorporate “Text us” as a primary CTA on social media. Whether you’re on FB, IG, Twitter, LinkedIn, or other platforms, be consistent about using “Text us” as a primary CTA in your content. For platforms that allow texting as a contact option, make sure you add it to your profiles!

#10. Make your SMS number as visible as possible. The more eyes you get on your phone number, the more likely you are to gain subscribers. Don’t be shy about plastering it everywhere—from merchandise to promotional materials, signage, and more.

#11. Run mobile-specific remarketing ads. When investing in paid ads as a method for growing your SMS list, target those ads directly to mobile device users so they can convert instantly—when their phone is already directly in-hand!

To win more SMS subscribers, make it easy for customers to opt in regardless of where they’re interacting with your brand. You’ll see the best results when you use all your marketing tools to complement your list-building efforts.

#12. Give your SMS community a VIP vibe

Getting new SMS subscribers is important, but retaining them is even more critical to your SMS marketing success. If you want subscribers to stick around, make being a part of your community feel special by creating a VIP vibe.

Use these guiding principles to set your SMS community apart:

  • Make it exclusive—in a good way. Your subscribers are valuable. Make them feel special by holding events that only members of your SMS community have access to. That could be a special after-hours event at your brick-and-mortar location, exclusive access to a limited pre-release of a new product prior to its official launch, or something as simple as a flash discount for your site. Whatever you choose, send info about these exclusive offers by text so it’s only available to subscribers.
  • Provide ongoing value. Deter people from quickly unsubscribing by providing valuable content that keeps them coming back for more. Figure out what types of content the members of your SMS community value most—whether it’s funny GIFs, product tutorials, or straight-up discounts—and deliver it on a consistent basis.
  • Prioritize personalization. Let people know they matter to your business through personal touches. Send personalized product recommendations, ask for input, and take the time to wish them a happy birthday. These little touches go a long way towards helping each member of your community feel personally connected to your brand!

By creating a community people want to be a part of, you’ll be better positioned to retain subscribers long after their initial signup.

Grow your business with SMS marketing

To reap the full benefits of SMS, businesses must find ways to continually grow their SMS list and build a community of engaged subscribers. At Community, we do the legwork for you with thoughtful features that make it easy for subscribers to opt-in, and even easier for your company to engage and grow those audiences.

Start a conversation today and see how Community can help your business unlock the potential of SMS marketing.

Photo by Maxim Ilyahov on Unsplash

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As the co-founder and CEO of Community, I want to make sure our brand reflects what we truly stand for, not just in words, but in the actions we take. We exist to keep people connected to the conversations that they choose to be part of - we choose to connect with Black-owned businesses in SoCal.  For more information on Community or if you want to hear more from me, feel free to text me: 716-330-3003.

Other Leaders on Community include: Slutty Vegan; UNWRP; We're Not Really Strangers; Bobby HundredsThe Shade Room; Patrisse Cullors; Kerry Washington; and more

- Matt Peltier
716-330-3003
No items found.
As the co-founder and CEO of Community, I want to make sure our brand reflects what we truly stand for, not just in words, but in the actions we take. We exist to keep people connected to the conversations that they choose to be part of - we choose to connect with Black-owned businesses in SoCal.  For more information on Community or if you want to hear more from me, feel free to text me: 716-330-3003.

Other Leaders on Community include: Slutty Vegan; UNWRP; We're Not Really Strangers; Bobby HundredsThe Shade Room; Patrisse Cullors; Kerry Washington; and more

- Matt Peltier
716-330-3003
No items found.
As the co-founder and CEO of Community, I want to make sure our brand reflects what we truly stand for, not just in words, but in the actions we take. We exist to keep people connected to the conversations that they choose to be part of - we choose to connect with Black-owned businesses in SoCal.  For more information on Community or if you want to hear more from me, feel free to text me: 716-330-3003.

Other Leaders on Community include: Slutty Vegan; UNWRP; We're Not Really Strangers; Bobby HundredsThe Shade Room; Patrisse Cullors; Kerry Washington; and more

- Matt Peltier
716-330-3003

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