So, you’ve fallen in love with SMS for your business. But, you haven’t quite worked out how to ask people for their number. 

We’re here to help as your contact list wingman. 

There are  20+ ways to grow your contact lists so you can reach more people with every send. 

We’ll take you through the 20+ ways you can grow your list. We’ll explain the importance of opt-ins, and offer some important number collecting considerations. 

Ready to spark some SMS chemistry between your business and your customers?

You should never send unsolicited messages. But the type of opt-in you need to use depends on the type of SMS you’re sending.

Handset showing an example of transactional and marketing SMS

There are two types of messages that businesses send: 

Transactional SMS is used to share information, alerts, or updates. They’re usually sent after customer-initiated transactions or activities. For example, delivery updates or appointment reminders. 

Promotional SMS is used to send marketing and promotions. For example, discount codes, event invites or new product launches. Before you start collecting numbers, you need to think about what type of SMS you will be sending. Both transactional and promotional need contacts to opt-in. However, the rules around promotional SMS are more rigid. Make sure you check the opt-in rules so you don’t get caught out by regulators.

22 simple ways to collect customer numbers

Now that you’re all caught up on consent, it’s time to start collecting numbers. And watch your contact list grow!

1. Text-in competitions and contests

Everyone loves enticing prizes and the possible thrill of winning. Text-in competitions are an easy way to collect mobile numbers (and promotional SMS consent). 

Make sure you have a prize that will appeal to your target audience. Then create the promotional assets for your contest, you might share it via social media or an email newsletter. 

It’s important that you clearly state the conditions of entry on your promotional materials so you can collect opt-in consent along the way. Many businesses get competition hopefuls to text a dedicated number with a ‘keyword’. 

You can set up an auto response to acknowledge the entry and provide any additional information.

2. Text message polls and surveys

Invite people to tell you what they think — lots of people love a soap box. Plus, you might get some valuable insights. 

You might invite someone to share their thoughts after a customer service interaction. Your survey can be done entirely over text — after you have opt-in consent of course! 

Many businesses might just ask their community a question and give people the opportunity to answer by texting a dedicated mobile number or shortcode. This can be done via in-store promotion, social media, email or any other channel.

3. Refer a friend

Word of mouth referrals are business boosters. So, why not incentivise them? 

Offer the referrer and the friend who signs up something enticing — it could be a discount, early access to sales or a free gift. 

You can create referral links that take people to an SMS signup page. This allows you to track referrals and collect details, including the all important phone number. 

Make sure everyone understands that they’re opting into your SMS contact list. Provide a clear confirmation message about their subscription and the value they will receive from being subscribed.

4. Keyword campaigns

This is one of the easiest ways to grow your list.  You create a specific word or phrase that people can text to a designated number to subscribe to your SMS marketing list. You’ll need to work with an SMS provider, like ClickSend, to get a dedicated number. 

You can promote your chosen keyword across various channels, such as your website, social media, print materials, and in-store signage. 

Make sure you clearly tell your audience what to do. For example, “Text ‘JOIN’ to 12345 to receive exclusive updates and offers.”

Example of surveys sent via text message

5. Offer a reward or incentive

People don’t like to hand over their details, without getting something in return. You can turbocharge a keyword campaign by offering a reward or incentive for signing up to SMS. 

You could offer a discount, a freebie, or access to exclusive content. Just make sure you tell people clearly what the benefits are of joining your SMS list.

If SMS marketing is a cornerstone of your strategy, you might have a call out on your home page or use a pop-up. For example, your CTA could be: Text [keyword] to [dedicated number] and save [discount] on your next purchase. 

Once someone texts in, you automatically text them a coupon or discount code back. Too easy.

6. Social Media

People will only subscribe to your SMS list if they know about it. Plus, the marketing rule of 7 states that people need to see something seven times before they take action on it. 

So, don’t be afraid to shout about SMS from the social media rooftops. Talk about it on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, Threads, YouTube or anywhere your audience is. 

Repetition combined with a compelling incentive will encourage people to sign up or opt in.

7. Mobile Signup Widgets

Mobile signup widgets can seriously simplify the SMS sign-up process for website visitors.

A mobile signup widget is a small, interactive element embedded on a website. When your customer clicks on the widget, it opens a messaging app on their mobile device with both the designated keyword and the mobile number already filled in. All they need to do is press ‘send’. 

These types of widgets are usually compatible with desktop, mobile and tablets.  Remember, you’ll need to make sure your opt-in process is compliant and always give customers an option to opt-out. 

8. Leverage Existing Email Marketing

People’s inboxes are cluttered and they might prefer receiving brand updates via text. Especially if you’re sharing time sensitive information or offers. 

Invite your email subscribers to sign up to SMS to access even more benefits from your business. You can run these two channels, email and text messaging, in tandem — sharing the same offers across both.  

9. In-store

If you’re lucky enough to have a bricks and mortar store, it’s a great place to get contact list sign-ups. 

You can have sales staff collect email addresses and mobile numbers during the checkout process. The face-to-face ask is a great way to grow trust and make a personal connection as a business. 

Again, a compelling offer can go a long way to really drive signups. If they’re at the check out, you might want to offer a discount on their current purchase or a gift for signing up.

Many retailers offer to send paperless receipts and warranties via text message, which is also another incentive for customers to hand over their number. But make sure you get consent to send marketing messages too. 

10. Leverage your website

If you don’t have a physical storefront, why not use your digital one? Your website is a powerful asset and you can use it to drive your contact list growth. 

One way you can do this is by adding a contact form on your website rather than just listing your business contact details. This encourages people who are making enquiries to enter their phone and email details — you can give them the option to sign up as a subscriber too. Just make sure that the signup box is unchecked.

Pro tip: make this process automated. Choose a contact form builder for your website that can be integrated with SMS, like Paperform. Once someone signs up, you can send an automated text response thanking them.

Website contact form submission triggering a text message

11. Events

Once you’ve got your SMS keyword campaign set up, you can broadcast it at events. Places such as industry events, conferences, trade shows, concerts, festivals, openings, product launches and more. 

Add your SMS keyword campaign to event signage or to any promotional material you’re handing out. It’s a great opportunity to get customers to sign up while they’re physically engaging with your product.

12. Advertising

SMS is extremely powerful — click through rates for texts are 20-35% compared with under 3% for email marketing.

Basically, SMS is worth investing in. You can use paid advertising to invite people to sign up to your SMS list. Keyword campaigns work well and so do QR codes that take customers to a sign up page. 

You can advertise your SMS list across as many channels as you like. This includes anything from major TV advertising and out-of-home ads to your in-store collateral, your website, your social platforms, your email signature, and print advertising.

Just make sure you’re measuring your progress and analysing your results — it’s great to invest in advertising, as long as the payoff is worth it.

13. Rewards programs

This one’s nice and simple, if you are running a rewards program — make sure you grab your customers numbers when they sign up. Making sure your customer reads the T&Cs is usually part of a rewards program, so this is a great opportunity to get an SMS opt-in too. 

After all, SMS is the perfect channel to communicate about rewards, update people with offers or send notifications.

14. VIP clubs

It’s like a rewards program, but better. You can offer your really high-value customers (aka big spenders) access to a VIP club. 

It’s a fantastic way to make people feel special and you can collect mobile numbers and opt-ins  at signup. 

Remember, high value spenders usually deserve high value treatment, So, don’t bombard this customer with offers — make sure you segment your SMS list and send them tailored communications. It’s easy to segment your customer contact lists if you use an SMS marketing platform.

15. Use your app

If you offer a mobile app, why not leverage it to grow your phone number database? Apps are a great opportunity to collect numbers. 

If you use an app, request that your customers update their contact information at sign-in. Make sure you put the all important T&Cs front and centre. 

While you’ll likely use push notifications to get your customers to re-engage with your app, SMS can cut through to those users that have push notifications turned off.

16. Get contacts through customer care

It’s hard to get phone time with customers, so make sure you use it. Customer service  calls are a great time to ask for mobile contact details or get SMS consent. 

Make sure your customer service reps understand the value of signing up as an SMS subscriber. This allows your reps to  share the benefits with your customers, making them more likely to say yes. Especially if you’re offering great incentives, like discounts through SMS. 

Many businesses also offer a text callback service. This is where customers send a text message request for help and the next available representative will call them when it’s their turn. No more hold music. 

17. Recruit a chatbot

Chatbots can do more than answer questions — they can request customer information too! If you’re using chatbots on your website, you can program them to ask for customer phone numbers or direct customers to a sign up page. 

Remember, people don’t like handing over their personal details online and many people don’t trust chatbots. If you’re recruiting a chatbot to grow your contact list, make sure the chat is secure and you don’t come across as pushy or spammy. 

Make sure you include links to your privacy policy, T&Cs and any security documentation to boost customer trust. 

18. Use popups

Let’s face it, popups are annoying. But they work. In fact, popups have an average conversion rate of 11%.  If you get thousands of website visits a week, your list will be growing at a steady rate. Just remember to give your customers an easy way to exit the popup, otherwise they might exit your site completely. 

Pro tip: integrate your popup software with an SMS marketing provider to make the whole process seamless. 

19. Free trial or demo

If you offer your customers a free trial, demo, webinar or free information session — this is the perfect time to ask for mobile numbers. 

Add an optional phone number field and opt-in consent checkbox to your sign up process. You can grow your list quickly. And, if you segment your contact list properly — you can use SMS to retarget people that didn’t sign up initially. Who knows, maybe a perfectly timed SMS will get them to be paying customers?

20. Offer great content

Most people are happy to give something in return for access to great content. If you have whitepapers, e-books, or offer webinars, you can leverage these assets to collect phone numbers. 

You can use what’s called gated content. Where you give someone access to your white paper, e-book or other once they enter in their contact details. 

Just make sure that the content you’re offering is of value to your target audience. You want the right kind of people to sign up to your SMS list, the type of people that are going to make a purchase.

21. Onboarding process

If you’re asking our customers to sign up for an account. Make sure you ask them if they’re happy to opt in to marketing SMS. 

Most businesses ask for mobile numbers as a part of an account set up or if a new customer is making an order. It’s incredibly easy to put systems in place that ensure you can grow your contact list during sign up.

22. Keep it fresh

You should be putting in constant effort to grow your contact list. People can unsubscribe, move and change contact details, or simply no longer need your product. So, it’s a good idea to keep sourcing new leads. 

For example, Ash liked to go to the pub for after-work drinks on the occasional Friday. Now that she cannot make it to Friday drinks, she is no longer interested in hearing about 2-for-1 specials on Fruit Tingle cocktails. Thus she unsubscribes to her local pub’s contact list. 

Luckily the pub had been running an always-on keyword campaign and there were plenty of new, fruit tingle loving customers ready to take Ash’s place.

How to grow a strong database of SMS contacts

Before you leap into contact list building, there’s a few considerations to look out for. 

1. Understand your audience (and their relationship with your product)

You could have a lengthy list of contact numbers, but if they are not quality leads then your list will be of low value to you. You can start by asking yourself the below questions:

  • Who is your customer?
  • What are their interests, needs, and problems for which you can provide a solution?
  • Where do they live?
  • How do they communicate?
  • Do they prefer to shop online or in-store?

2. Understand text marketing and spam laws

Any reputable SMS service will do everything possible to ensure that users are not sending spam. 

In saying this, the onus is on the sender to comply with all relevant legislation relating to text message content. So make sure you look up the rules and regulations and comply with them. 

Cartoon man sits on a clock

For example, in many countries businesses can only send promotional SMS to subscribers who have actively opted in by providing their mobile number. And you must also make it easy and simple for a subscriber to opt out ie: “Reply STOP to unsubscribe”. 

3. Timing is everything

Retain subscribers by consistently sending SMS but don’t bombard people with a text every week. Unless your target audience likes to be high touch. Make sure you’re only sending high-value, targeted promotions or transactional SMS that makes your customers’ lives easier. 

If you’re sending globally, be mindful of time zones – no one likes getting a text message in the middle of the night.

4. Privacy is Critical

Clearly guarantee privacy for your subscribers and never sell or otherwise pass on subscriber details to third parties. That’s a huge no-no for obvious reasons. 

You should never buy contact lists or send out spam messages. Texting is quite a personal channel, so treat your customers with respect.

Build your contact list with ClickSend

Over 90,000 businesses trust ClickSend to deliver their SMS marketing and MMS marketing worldwide. With ClickSend, it’s easy to create and segment contact lists. Plus, you can use customer placeholders to personalise messages automatically. Sign up for a free 14-day trial and test our platform for yourself.

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