Opt-In Text Messaging: How to Grow Your Marketing List

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One of the most valuable (and too often underestimated) assets your business can build is a strong, clean contact list.

When you get people to opt-in to text message marketing, you'll have a direct line of communication with people who buy from you.

These are people who have given you permission to ask them to buy from you regularly, so you're never spamming them. They can easily opt-out if they find that the messages you send aren't resonating.

And the great thing about building an opt-in text messaging list is that once you kick it off, it's on autopilot. There's no knocking on doors, cold calling, or frantic networking involved. The leads come in, and then you can spend more time nurturing and converting them.

In this post, we'll show you what opt-in text messaging is, how it can help, why it saves you time and money, and how to launch a results-driving opt-in text campaign.

What Does Opt-In Text Messaging Mean?

Opt-in text messaging is the most cost-effective way to market goods and services to large groups of people simultaneously. However, because there are rules to follow about how you conduct opt-in text messaging, you cannot simply buy a list of cell phone numbers and start texting. You have to build opt-in lists.

Short Message Service (SMS) marketing is a “permission-based” activity. This means that potential customers have to give their permission for you to send them marketing text messages.

How Opt-In Marketing Helps You Build a Cleaner Marketing List

When people voluntarily join your marketing list, they're expecting to hear from you. They're giving you specific permission to contact them.

That means that you don't have to feel anxious when you hit the send button on your marketing text messages. You know you'll be strengthening your brand rather than worrying if you're hurting it.

You won't get spam complaints because contacts made a conscious decision to join. And, because people keep mobile numbers much longer than email addresses, and because they only have one mobile number, you won't have a bunch of unresponsive contacts that you constantly have to weed out.

RELATED READING: 5 Mobile SMS Marketing Strategies to Maximize Customer Engagement

Why Opt-In Text Messaging Is Saving Business Owners Time and Money

Opt-in text messaging is simple, powerful, and inexpensive. You'll maximize your time doing text marketing because you get a huge ROI for a minimal investment in hours.

Messages take just a few seconds to draft. You won't sit in front of a computer for hours trying to write pages of copy. Your team won't have to figure out how to write catchy subject lines just to get one out of five people to open the message, as you do with email. Contacts read 98% of text messages, compared to just 20% of emails.

One of the benefits of text message marketing is that it is inexpensive compared to other channels. Texts cost just pennies to send, and you're virtually guaranteed that the message will get read, so you don't have to worry about wasted expenses. Check out our pricing here.


How to Launch a Successful Opt-In Marketing Campaign

So, how do you get off the ground with a successful opt-in text marketing campaign? Here's how to grow your list and execute effective campaigns.

Incentive + Keyword + Short Code = Automated Growth

By far the best way to grow your opt-in list is with what we call the automated growth equation. Offer an incentive and have customers text a keyword to a short code to join.

Don't skimp on the incentive to join. Text marketing is so powerful that you may even want to consider your incentive to be a loss leader. In other words, you could lose a little money on this first offer, but make it up with a lot more in the long run. Consider offering big discounts or free items to get people started.

You'll combine your incentive with a keyword and short code combination to get people to opt-in. The keyword is a single word up to 12 characters.  As a best practice, pick a keyword that is a single word so that it won't be "corrected" by autocorrect. Find a keyword that matches your brand and relates to the incentive.

Keywords are provided by your texting platform. If you’re using a shared short code, you may not be able to secure some of the more common words, but the platform should make it easy for you to look up which words are available. There are requirements about how you write your auto response to opt-ins. EZ Texting makes it easy to do these responses.

What is a short code? A short code is a five or six digit number usually provided by your text marketing service platform. You may also consider renting your own dedicated short code.

Here are a couple of examples from different industries.

With a strong incentive + keyword + short code combination, you can start to grow a clean and powerful list. But where do you promote it?


On-Site Signage

If you are hosting a special event, lecture, conference, or trade show, you can gain subscribers to your opt-in text messaging by having on-site signage requesting attendees to text a keyword to receive special offers, basic information, or alerts. On-site SMS list building has been particularly effective for real estate text marketing, by placing keywords on boards outside properties for sale.

In-Store Signage

In-store signage works particularly well for attracting customers to opt-in text message services because the customers are already in your store, bar, restaurant, or gym, and have an existing interest in your goods or services. You can use the same “be the first to hear about our special offers” or “get a discount on your next purchase” incentives to encourage customers to send an opt-in text right away.


If you want to attract contacts to your opt-in text messaging via billboard or off-site signage, it is important that you use simple keywords and short codes. Although 91% of people have their mobile phones with them at all times, somebody passing a billboard on a bus or in a car will have to remember the details until they reach into their pocket and tap the keyword and short code into their phone.

Radio & TV

If you are advertising on the radio or TV, leverage that airtime by adding a texting call-to-action. Due to the volume of direct marketing, only the most memorable advertisements ever get any attention. Make sure yours is one of them by offering listeners and viewers a special offer for texting a keyword to your opt-in SMS marketing short code. Again, make sure the keyword and short code are easy to remember.


Email is a fantastic vehicle for building text opt-in lists. Whenever you send an email, make sure your email signature contains details of how recipients can join your opt-in text messaging service. If you have an existing database of customers you contact by email, send the entire database an email message advising them of your new opt-in SMS marketing. People love to be involved in something “new.”

Social Media

You can give your text marketing list a boost by cross-promoting it on your social media channels. Don't just promote it one time. Make it a regular practice to cross-promote email, social media, and text marketing lists to make sure that your contacts stay connected wherever they communicate best.

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Guidelines to Follow When Building an SMS Opt-In List

It was mentioned at the beginning of this article that there are rules to follow about how you conduct your opt-in text messaging, and that opt-in SMS marketing is a permission-based activity. We’ve covered several tips from the CTIA Short Code Monitoring Handbook here.

There are four important elements to include in any promotion:

  • You must include instructions on how customers can opt-out of your service and unsubscribe at any time by texting STOP to your short code.
  • You should also let your customers know that they can receive help by texting HELP to your short code.
  • Carriers require that you notify consumers of the cost of the service. Calls-to-action and opt-in confirmation messages should include the phrase “message and data rates may apply.”
  • Finally, tell your customers the maximum number of messages they will receive from your business - either by period of time or by transaction.

Also, check out: How to Send a Text Message Blast: A 5-Minute Guide to Texting Like a Boss

Opt-In Text Messaging Starts Here

If you're ready to build your text marketing list into a valuable business asset, the best next step is learning how to get started.

At EZ Texting, we've helped over 160,000 customers grow through text message marketing over the last decade. During that time, we've seen what it takes to get off to a great start. There are a few simple steps that you should take to make sure that you hit the ground running.

In our 9-step Roadmap to Mastering Text Message Marketing, we show you the nine steps all successful text marketers take when they're just getting started. Following these nine steps doesn't guarantee success, but they will give you a head start if you follow each one of them to the end.

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