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How to Collect Phone Numbers for Text Marketing & Grow Your SMS Marketing Contact Lists

Find out how to (legally) expand your SMS list and boost your marketing efforts.

Cartoon concept of a growing text contact “list”
March 7, 2023
Chloe Mulliner
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Reading time about 6 min

As a small business owner, SMS marketing can open up many new opportunities to engage with your current customers and attract potential customers. But you'll need a contacts list before implementing your first SMS marketing campaign.

In our guide on collecting phone numbers for SMS marketing, we provide you with everything you need to know about building a contact list including some additional SMS resources to set you up for success. First, we recommend learning about federal and state SMS laws, creating a short code, and keywords. Then, we dive into some of our favorite ways to (legally) collect phone numbers, and you'll be all set to unleash the marketing power of SMS messaging!



How to Collect Phone Numbers for Text Marketing & Grow Your SMS Marketing Contact Lists

Before we jump into ways of collecting phone numbers, let’s review the legality behind acquiring numbers for your SMS list and the ins and outs of short codes and keywords.


Follow the Law

For starters, SMS messaging is permission-based, meaning you must have your customers' consent before sending them any SMS text. In fact, it's the law.

Under the Telephone Consumer Protect Act (TCPA), it’s illegal to send an SMS text to a customer if they haven’t previously agreed to opt-in text messaging from you, as that’s considered unsolicited messaging. This means you can’t start building an SMS list based on numbers you acquired in other ways, such as via a contact form on your website. It also means you can’t send your customers an initial SMS text asking them to opt-in to your program, as that one text— sent without their permission—violates the law.

To help ensure you comply with the laws, the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) set forth a best practices guide. One best practice recommends adding a double opt-in option, requiring the recipient to opt-in to receive SMS messages and then reply “YES” to the initial message, further confirming their consent. Other recommendations suggest clearly explaining your recurring text program and the option to opt-out anytime.

Long story short: If your customers agree to receive SMS messages from your business, you can legally add them to your SMS contact list and begin sending them marketing messages.


Understand Short Codes and Keywords

When growing your mobile number list for marketing, you want to make it easy for your customers to join. And that’s where short codes and keywords can help.

A short code is a textable number your customers use to sign up for your messages. Instead of using a long string of random numbers like a traditional telephone number, short codes tend to be shorter and easier to remember, such as 858585 or 52225.

As for your keyword, this phrase grants access to your text program. It’s like the passcode “Open sesame,” except it can be something associated with your brand. So, if you run a bakery, your keyword might be COOKIES. Or, if you sell organic produce, your keyword could be VEGGIES.

For example, your ad might say, “Text “COOKIES” to 46464 to get a free batch of cookies at Mimi’s Baked Goods.”

Sample Ad with Keyword


Tips on How to Collect Phone Numbers for SMS Marketing

Ready to start collecting phone numbers? Check out our tips and tricks for growing your marketing contact list.

Offer Perks

Sample Message

Your customers are doing you a favor by joining your SMS marketing list, so why not grant them perks for signing up?

You can offer your customers countless benefits to encourage them to sign up. For instance, give them a free shipping code or a special discount on their next purchase.

Then, keep them hooked once they've signed up by offering monthly discounts, product samples, exclusive access to new products, and more. That said, don’t blast out multiple texts in a day or spam your customers’ inboxes at all hours. When it comes to SMS communication, sometimes less is more.

Create a Competition

Drumming up some friendly competition is another way to pique your customers’ interest.

First, determine a prize, and then have participants text your shortcode for a chance to win. The more exclusive and sought-after your prize, the better. For instance, if you own a spa, you could give away a free couple’s massage, or if you run a boutique hotel, you could gift the winner a complimentary weekend getaway.

Consider partnering with other companies to spark even more interest in your sweepstakes. For example, if you sell snowboard and ski gear, could you partner with your local ski resort to provide free lift tickets as the prize? Or, if you’re a surf instructor, why not ask your neighborhood surf shop if they’d agree to donate a surfboard as your giveaway? You might be surprised at how willing other brands are to help you—just remember to return the favor down the road.

Display ad for a spa

Start a VIP Club

Everybody wants to feel like a VIP—and your customers are no exception.

Create a VIP club that spoils your most-valued customers. For example, offer them exclusive access to your newest product line, invitations to VIP-only events, special discount codes, and discounted tickets. Once you’ve created all the perks around your VIP club, invite your customers to join by signing up for your SMS program.

Include SMS Messaging in Your Promotional Emails

If your customers have already subscribed to your newsletter, there’s a good chance they’ll be open to joining your SMS list, too.

Include a gentle nudge in your promotional emails to encourage new subscribers. You could incorporate some of the ideas above, such as enticing them with more incentives, promoting an upcoming competition, or inviting them to join your VIP club.

Use Pop-Ups

Pop-ups are making a comeback—and not in the annoying way of the past. Nowadays, brands are using pop-up messaging on their websites to incentivize their customers (and get them to join their SMS marketing lists.)

For example, you might see messaging like “Get free shipping on your next bouquet order! Text FLOWERS to 56665” or “Want 20% off your next clothing purchase? Text FASHIONISTA to 33333!”

Add a pop-up message on your landing page, but only make one to avoid harassing or annoying your customers. Also, include a visible “No thanks” option so uninterested customers can continue browsing your website without hassle.

Design a QR Code

QR codes are popping up everywhere, from billboards to business cards. While you’re probably already familiar with QR codes used for menus, instructions, and websites, did you know you can use them for your SMS campaigns, too? It’s true! Customers can scan QR codes to conveniently opt-in to text programs.

Simply design a QR code that links to a pre-set text message with your short code and keyword that launches in your customer’s messaging app. After scanning your code, all your customers need to do is click send to join!

Ask in Person

While there are countless creative and tech-savvy ways of collecting phone numbers, you don’t have to complicate things. Sometimes, the best approach involves asking your customers in person if they’d like to join.

Let’s say you’re ringing up a customer’s items at your check-out counter. You could ask something simple like, “Hey, are you interested in receiving 10% off your next purchase with us? If so, text COFFEE to 64646 to receive our promo code!” Or, “Have you heard about our contest? We’re giving the winner a free trip to Cabo! Just text CABOVACAY to 121212 to enter for a chance to win.”

Contact EZ Texting Today

SMS marketing for small businesses offers an excellent way of enhancing customer engagement and getting more eyes on your content. But if you’re not using SMS marketing, you’re leaving a lot on the table.

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