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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 an 86% click-through rate, SMS should be squarely on your marketing radar for 2020 and beyond.

But without a solid strategy for (legally) collecting phone numbers and growing your list, you’ll never see the amazing ROI that so many companies are currently experiencing.

In this practical guide, we’re going to look at how to: 

  • Set up a simple opt-in process for your customers (that gets 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

What is TCPA? TCPA is a federal statute designed to safeguard consumer privacy. This legislation restricts telemarketing communications via voice calls and SMS texts. It’s important that you stay compliant with this protection act when launching your SMS marketing campaign — unless you’re OK with huge fines. See our tips on maintaining TCPA compliance below. 

Why you need to start building your SMS list right now

In case you’re still unsure if text marketing is right for your business, here are three quick reasons why:

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

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

  • Tough laws prevent spam (and ensure 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 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.

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

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

Before we jump into our 11 actionable tips for growing your SMS marketing list, it’s crucial we look at how to stay compliant and avoid any legal headaches. 

Can't I just buy a list of phone numbers?

Unlike other marketing channels, to stay compliant you must get 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 and punishable by law.

That 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 it the right way is not all that difficult.

How to ensure you have written consent from subscribers

Don’t worry; this doesn’t need to be a formal letter. “Written consent” can be given by people sending you their number in messenger, texting a word to your short code, entering their number in an online form, or by signing up 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 the individual. 

It’s also important to note, if you’re importing contacts from another database, you still need to get consent to begin text messaging them. 

Here are 4 more quick tips for remaining compliant:

  • Display your Terms and Privacy Policy below your CTA (or provide a link where people can view these).


  • Once people opt-in, send them a confirmation message containing: who you are, what you’ll be sending them, the phrase “message and data rates may apply” and also how to opt-out.

  • You should make it easy to opt-out. Adding “Reply STOP to unsubscribe” at the bottom of every message is a good solution.

  • Don’t talk about SHAFT: Any messages containing topics relating to


    sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, or tobacco could be found in legal violation of the rules and regulations of CTIA -- a trade association that governs the communications industry. 

Your best bet is to play it safe. Don’t message anything that could be deemed as offensive or inconsistent with what people expected when signing up for your SMS list.

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

Simply put, it’s a 5 - 6 digit phone number that is used to make opting-in to your list faster and easier for customers. Customers text your short code number to join your list and you will send them messages from that short code number.

Your short code will be the backbone of your SMS marketing campaigns.

In this example, the short code is "45632"

In this example, the short code is "45632"

2. Create an easy-to-remember keyword.

keyword in SMS marketing refers to a unique term (it can be letters and numbers) that people text to your short code to join your list.

To get the best result, 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 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

  • PPC advertising

  • Your business card

  • Your email signature

  • Your product packaging

  • And the list goes on

The more people are exposed 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.

Bad Habit Boutique advertises their keyword and short code in their Instagram bio. They incentivize subscribers to sign up with a 15% discount off their 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 signup form somewhere on your website for visitors to enter their details and subscribe directly to your SMS marketing list.

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.

There are many options for creating your signup form, including:

  • A standard lead form (as seen above)

  • A callback form (for customers that want a return call)

  • Non-intrusive website popups 

One important detail? Make sure you include compliant opt-in language as part of this form.

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

Straight after someone has made a purchase at your store is probably the best time to ask them to join your list. They’re buzzed on the dopamine rush of making a new purchase, and they obviously like your brand.

A good idea is to ask them to enter their cell phone number for shipping notifications (which many people will want). Then below that, you can add a tick box saying 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. This goes even more so for phone numbers.

People need to know that it’s worth their while and that they’ll be receiving exclusive offers, perks, or discounts, that they can’t get anywhere else. 

Some ideas are:

  • 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.

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

You can add this below your offer, e.g. “Max 1 SMS Per Week”. 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.

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

Whether it’s a monthly giveaway or a one-off prize draw, it's a good idea to mention what else they’ll get from joining (like the example below). You can see IGA mentions subscribers will be getting “exclusive deals and alerts” when they sign up for the competition.

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 have an email list, include a section in your emails promoting your text short code and keyword. Using dynamic display elements you can set up this section to only display 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 gives users 10% off if they subscribe to SMS messages.

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

10. Use pop-ups on mobile devices.

One great idea is to use pop-ups on your website and have them only display to visitors who are using a mobile device. 

By setting your pop-ups to only display to visitors using a mobile device you will likely increase your conversion rate and you’ll be targeting visitors who are more inclined to shopping on their phone (which is great for ecommerce brands).

You can also set them as one-click-to-opt-in to make the process seamless for users. To do this you want to set your button to open an SMS on their phone with your short code and keyword pre-populated.

11. Offer a discount for their favorite product.

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

By offering people a discount on their favorite product you’re sure to boost your text opt-in rate.


By using these 11 strategies you can significantly grow your SMS marketing list.

But, with more opt-ins comes the need to manage more opt-outs.

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.

Your goal should be to 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 on the first message you send to subscribers. 

Once a subscriber opts-out you’ll send a confirmation to let them know their opt-out worked.

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 more specific information and offers.

We never know 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 can add some messaging like “Reply MENS or WOMENS to continue receiving special offers for men’s or women’s products”.

How platforms like Postscript can help

If you’re currently selling on Shopify and ready to create, launch, and manage your 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 2-click integration, it couldn’t be easier to get started with SMS marketing for your Shopify store.

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

  • Build your SMS subscriber list: Quickly build a TCPA-compliant subscriber list for text message marketing using pop-ups, 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, and more.

  • Create SMS campaigns to engage: Segment using your Shopify store data. Use images, photos, and GIFs to engage. Then converse directly through 1:1 text message conversations.

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