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How to Collect Phone Numbers For SMS Marketing

11 Actionable Tips from Operators

SMS marketing is one of the most powerful channels for reaching new customers and growing your revenue. It’s also a fantastic way to build loyalty and lifetime value for your repeat buyers. 

With 95% of Americans owning a phone—and Postscript customers seeing clickthrough rates upwards of 80%—it's pretty clear that SMS should be squarely on your marketing radar in this decade and beyond.

But without a solid strategy for (legally) collecting phone numbers and growing your list, you’ll never see the amazing ROI results that so many companies are currently experiencing. After all, the number of conversions you see is directly dependent on the number of messages you send—and you can't send messages to nonexistent subscribers.

In this practical guide, we’ll explain how to: 

  • Set up a simple opt-in process for your customers (one that will get phenomenal results)

  • Incentivize people to join your SMS list (so they’re thrilled to receive your messages)

  • Stay compliant with the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) to prevent any legal issues

Click to jump to a specific section:

Why you need to start building your SMS list right now

In case you’re still unsure whether text marketing is right for your business, here are three quick reasons to embrace it:

  • SMS campaigns have amazing open rates (up to 99%)

  • SMS campaigns get opened quickly (90% within 3 minutes)

  • Tough laws prevent spam (ensuring SMS will remain a powerful channel)

The fact is, not everyone has notifications turned on for Facebook Messenger or email, but almost everybody with a phone has instant notifications turned on for text messages.

While most businesses are looking at the shiny new up-and-coming social media platforms for growing their brand, SMS is a much more powerful and simpler way to reach customers and potential customers in a personalized way.

Whether you’re running an ecommerce store or a more traditional business, the strategies in this guide can (and will) help you engage your customers and drive new revenue.

For many businesses, SMS (Short Message Service) and MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) will outperform all other direct-response marketing efforts.

Okay, before we jump into our 11 actionable tips for growing your SMS marketing list, let's take a look at how to stay compliant and avoid any legal headaches. 

Why you can't simply buy a list of phone numbers

When it comes to legal compliance, SMS is unlike most other marketing channels. You must get explicit permission to send people text messages. That’s why you never want to buy a list and upload the contacts. The TCPA states this is a clear violation that is punishable by law.

What is TCPA?

TCPA is a federal statute designed to safeguard consumer privacy. This legislation restricts telemarketing communications (e.g., voice calls and SMS texts). It’s important that you stay compliant with this protection act when launching your SMS marketing program—unless you’re okay with huge fines. We'll talk more about maintaining TCPA compliance below. 

The fact is, sending the wrong message to the wrong person can mean legal trouble for your business. But don’t let this alarm you—doing SMS the right (and legal) way is not all that difficult.

Don’t worry—you don't have to get a formal letter. “Written consent” can be given when someone texts a word to your short code, enters their number into an online opt-in form, or signs up for your text messages at an event.

The important thing here is that you keep a record of this consent (either digital or physical). That way, if you’re ever accused of non-compliance, you can prove that you have consent from each individual on your list. 

It’s also important to note that if you’re importing contacts from another database, you must ensure that they were collected in a compliant manner. Otherwise, you risk incurring major penalties and fines. (For more information on how Postscript handles subscriber list migration, check out this help article.) 

Here are 4 more quick tips for remaining compliant:

  • Once people opt in, send them a confirmation message stating who you are and what you’ll be sending them. Be sure to include the phrase “message and data rates may apply,” and clearly state how to opt out.

  • Be mindful of anything that might be considered SHAFT content. This includes messages related to sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, or tobacco. These types of messages put you at risk of violating the rules and regulations of CTIA—a trade association that governs the communications industry. 

When it comes to SHAFT, you're better safe than sorry. Don’t message anything that could be deemed as offensive or inconsistent with what people expected when signing up for your SMS list. (Please note that there are now compliant avenues to promote alcohol products via text, but you need to confirm with your SMS provider that you've satisfied all related compliance requirements before doing so.)

  • Make it easy to opt out. Just like it’s crucial to stay compliant when collecting new numbers for your SMS list, it’s also important to stay compliant when managing your unsubscribe process.

Make it very simple and straightforward for people to opt-out of your list (to prevent any complaints). 

The safest option is to have opt-out instructions at the bottom of every message you send (e.g., “Reply STOP to opt-out”). At the very least, you’ll need to have this opt-out verbiage on the first message you send to subscribers. 

Once a subscriber opts-out, send a confirmation message letting them know that they are no longer subscribed.

Another great idea is to add some messaging in this opt-out confirmation that gives them a chance to re-join your list and receive information and offers specific to their interests. You could accomplish this by using keywords to segment your list.

It’s hard to know exactly why someone chose to opt-out. Perhaps they opted out because you were sending offers for products that weren’t relevant to them. In this case, you might add some messaging like, “Reply MENS or WOMENS to continue receiving special offers for men’s or women’s products.”

Phew! Now that we've covered our compliance bases, let’s look at 11 actionable tips for collecting numbers and growing your text marketing list.

1. Set up a short code.

What is a short code, you ask? 

Simply put, it’s a 5 or 6 digit number brands can use to make opting in faster and easier for subscribers. Folks text your short code number to join your list, and you will send them messages from that same short code number.

Your short code is sort of like the face of your SMS marketing program.

In this example, the short code is "45632"

In this example, the short code is "45632"

2. Create an easy-to-remember keyword.

In SMS marketing, a keyword is a unique term (it can include letters as well as numbers) that people text to your short code to join your list.

For the best results, you want to choose a keyword that your customers can easily remember. You also want to select something that’s relevant to your brand. 

Here’s an example from Gary Vaynerchuk:

In this example, the keyword is "EMPATHYLIVE"

In this example, the keyword is "EMPATHYLIVE"

Gary encourages people to text EMPATHYLIVE (his keyword) to 29071 (his short code) to join his SMS list.

3. Advertise your keyword everywhere.

Once you’ve decided on your memorable keyword, you want to shout it from the rooftops! 

You can promote your keyword anywhere and everywhere. Here are a few examples: 

  • Radio

  • Signage

  • Television

  • Your website

  • Your email list

  • Your social media bio/posts

  • PPC advertising

  • Your business card

  • Your email signature

  • Your product packaging

  • And the list goes on

The more people you expose to your keyword, the higher your subscriber rate will be.

Bad Habit Boutique advertises their keyword and short code in their Instagram profile.

Bad Habit Boutique advertises their keyword and short code in their Instagram profile.

Here's an example where Bad Habit Boutique advertises their keyword and short code in their Instagram bio. They incentivize opt-ins with a 15% discount on a new subscriber's first purchase.

4. Include a sign-up form on your website.

On top of your keyword opt-in strategy, it’s a great idea to have a sign-up form somewhere on your website where visitors can enter their details and subscribe directly to your SMS marketing.

Tone It Up added a SMS lead-capture form to their website to collect more subscribers.

Tone It Up added a SMS lead-capture form to their website to collect more subscribers.

One important detail? Make sure you include compliant opt-in language as part of this form. (To be clear, this verbiage is required at every opt-in point.)

5. Capture opt-ins on your order confirmation page.

Immediately after someone completes a purchase on your site is probably the best time to ask them to join your list. They’re buzzed on the dopamine rush of ordering something they want, and they obviously like your brand.

One highly effective strategy is asking them to enter their phone number for shipping notifications (which many people will want). Right below that, add a tick box that says something like, “Want to receive exclusive SMS monthly coupons from us?”

6. Offer exclusive perks to subscribers.

When it comes to giving up personal details like email addresses, people are cautious. And they are even more protective of their phone numbers.

Folks need to know that giving your brand space in their most personal inbox will be worth it for them—and that they’ll be receiving exclusive offers, perks, or discounts that they can’t get anywhere else. So, that's what you need to deliver.

Ideas for SMS-exclusive perks include:

  • Monthly coupons

  • Free shipping offers

  • Free sample offers

  • Contests and giveaways

  • First access to new products

  • Exclusive product bundles

Payless offers SMS subscribers 20% off as an incentive to join.

Payless offers SMS subscribers 20% off as an incentive to join.

7. Be clear about how often you text your subscribers.

The last thing people want is to be spammed with SMS messages they aren’t interested in. To overcome this fear, be very clear during the sign-up stage about how frequently you’ll message them.

You can add this below your offer. Alternatively, you can make it part of your offer headline like the below example from Subway.

Subway explicitly states that they will text you weekly.

Subway explicitly states that they will text you weekly.

8. Create contests as an incentive to opt in.

Who doesn’t love a contest? This is another great way to motivate people to join your SMS marketing list. By encouraging folks to “text to win”—and setting a deadline for participation—you can build your list very quickly.

Whether you're promoting a monthly giveaway or a one-off prize draw, it's a good idea to mention what else people will get when they join your list. In the example below, IGA mentions that subscribers will receive “exclusive deals and alerts” when they opt in to enter the contest.

Fresh Foods encourages subscribers to sign up by giving away gift cards in a raffle.

Fresh Foods encourages subscribers to sign up by giving away gift cards in a raffle.

9. Promote your SMS opt-in via dynamic display emails.

If you send marketing emails, include a section promoting your text short code and keyword. Using dynamic display elements, you can set up this section to only appear for email subscribers who aren’t already on your text marketing list.

Grunt Style encourages email subscribers to also opt-in to SMS communications.

Grunt Style encourages email subscribers to also opt-in to SMS communications.

This email from Grunt Style offers recipients 10% off if they subscribe to SMS messages.

By integrating your text marketing platform with your email marketing platform (e.g., Klaviyo) you can heavily promote your SMS program to folks who have yet to join—without the fear of annoying people who are already on your SMS list.

10. Use mobile popups.

Website popups are great for collecting opt-ins. They are especially effective on mobile because folks can navigate directly from the popup to their messaging app—making the opt-in process seamless. (To do this, set your CTA button to open an SMS on their phone with your short code and keyword pre-populated.)

Setting up mobile-specific popups will likely increase your conversion rate, and you’ll be targeting visitors who generally prefer shopping on their phone (which is great for ecommerce brands).

11. Offer a discount for their favorite product.

Through dynamic popups and dynamic display elements in your emails, you can get laser-focused about the incentives you offer people. 

By dangling a discount on a customer’s favorite product, you’re sure to boost your text opt-in rate.


These 11 strategies will help you grow your SMS marketing list substantially. Even better? Partnering with an SMS-specific platform like Postscript to help you launch and continually optimize your ecommerce brand's SMS marketing strategy.

How platforms like Postscript can help

If you’re currently selling on Shopify—and you’re ready to create and manage an SMS marketing program—Postscript can help you do it all.

Whether you’re looking to send product announcements, sales and discounts, abandoned cart reminders, or any other promotions to your customers, Postscript will make it a breeze.

With no coding required and simple installation, it couldn’t be easier to get started with SMS marketing for your Shopify store.

Postscript offers a free 30-day trial, which allows you to:

  • Build your SMS subscriber list: Quickly build a TCPA-compliant subscriber list for text message marketing using popups, landing pages, email opt-ins, links, and more.

  • Automate your text marketing: Drive traffic and sales using personalized SMS marketing campaigns. You can also trigger automations like welcome series, abandoned carts, post-purchase flows, and more.

  • Create engaging, personalized SMS campaigns: Segment your list using your Shopify store data; use images, photos, and GIFs to make your messaging stand out; and have 1:1 text message conversations at scale.

Investing in the SMS channel now will set you up to drive loads of value—and revenue—for your shop in the years to come. And it all starts with compliantly collecting phone numbers and growing your list consistently.

Ready to make SMS your #1 revenue channel?