SMS toll-free numbers: using text message marketing for businesses

Profile photo of author Jon Palmer
Jon Palmer
6min read
SMS marketing
March 19, 2021
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SMS messaging is the new up-and-coming marketing channel for ecommerce. And there’s data to back it up. 

SMS marketing campaigns have generated some staggering performance metrics, like a 98 percent open rate, 30 percent click through rate (CTR), and a 30x return on investment (ROI). 

These numbers may be exciting, but what do they mean for you?

Maybe they represent an untapped opportunity or the potential to reach your audience in a way you never have before. 

Or maybe you’ve been wanting to try SMS messaging, but you don’t have the budget to test out a new marketing channel. If that’s the case, then toll-free SMS numbers are your saving grace. 

Let me explain why. Keep reading to learn: 

Types of numbers available for SMS marketing

SMS messaging is not a new technology—the first text was sent in 1992—but brands have only started adopting it as a viable option for marketing in the last few years. 

There’s been an explosion in the adoption of SMS marketing with 56 percent of retail marketers planning on increasing their investment in SMS.

This means that there’s a good chance that your competitors are reaching their customers (and maybe yours) via text message marketing. 

Why SMS marketing in an era of data privacy?

But before you get in on the fun, it’s worthwhile knowing what types of numbers your SMS provider can offer and which one is best for your business’s needs. These include:

  • Ten-digit long code (10DLC) 
  • Toll-free numbers 
  • Dedicated short code

A 10DLC is an inexpensive option and you can set it up immediately, but you can only send one message on 10DLC numbers per second (this throughput, or the number of messages that are sent per second, can’t be increased). This means, as your business grows, you’ll eventually have to purchase and send from multiple 10DLC numbers to accommodate your ever-expanding SMS list. 

A toll-free number is also inexpensive and you can set it up immediately. Unlike 10DLC numbers, toll-free numbers can increase their throughput from three to 150 messages per second. 

This would allow your business to only use one phone number for your SMS marketing campaigns. 

The last option is dedicated short codes. The costs associated with setting up short code numbers can start at over $1,000 per month and these numbers take months to set up. 

You can also increase the throughput on short codes exponentially to quickly deliver timely messages to your customer lists no matter their size. Because of this, short codes are a good option for brands planning to send SMS messages to over 100,000 people per month. 

Shared short codes are short codes that are used by multiple businesses at one time. They’re not an advisable option because they’re prohibited by carriers like T-Mobile and AT&T.

Why toll-free numbers are the best choice if you’re new to SMS marketing

When you’re testing a new marketing channel, how quickly that channel generates revenue is incredibly important. 

When you decide to test out SMS marketing, you’re dedicating precious time and resources to get up-and-running instead of other potential opportunities, like optimizing your abandoned cart email series

If you have to wait months to set up your SMS number (think short codes), then it takes away from other projects you could be working on—and there are only so many hours in a day.

Especially if you’re just testing this channel before jumping into a full investment, you probably don’t want to have to wait to see results.

As your business grows and the list of subscribers who opt-in to receive SMS messages from you grows in tandem, it’s imperative to have an SMS number that can support that expansion. Instead of having to add multiple 10DLC phone numbers as your SMS subscriber list grows, a toll-free number allows you to have a single SMS phone number dedicated to your brand. 

If you don’t have a large marketing budget to allocate to new initiatives, cost is the ultimate deciding factor when you’re considering getting started with SMS marketing

A toll-free number is the best SMS option if you’re cost conscious because it’s only a few dollars per month, and in some cases, it’s free when you sign up with an SMS provider. 

When you compare that to $1,000+ per month cost for short codes, opting to use toll-free numbers becomes a no brainer if you’re not yet sure how SMS will perform as a marketing channel for your brand.

When are toll-free numbers not your best option?

If the higher cost of a short code phone number isn’t a limiting factor when you’re considering SMS, it may make sense to build your SMS list using a short code phone number to avoid having to transition to one later on.

Say you send your SMS messages using a toll-free number, but then you grow your business’s SMS marketing channel and send SMS messages to 100,000 people per month. 

You would need to switch from a toll-free number to a short code to support the growing demands of your SMS campaign and ensure you’re sending SMS messages to your subscribers in a timely manner. This change in phone numbers could be disruptive for your customers. 

Consider cost and your long-term plan for SMS messaging to help ensure you create a cohesive customer experience from the beginning.    

Connect with your audience via SMS by using a complimentary toll-free number from Klaviyo

If you want to test the impact of SMS messaging on your marketing strategy but you’re constrained by budget, starting out with a toll-free number may be your most effective option. You can acquire this type of SMS phone number immediately, and it’s inexpensive to do so. 

With Klaviyo’s SMS service, you can now get complimentary toll-free numbers, which will help you keep your ROI high while you decide if text message marketing is a good fit for your business.

If you see promising results from your initial SMS campaign and you want to continue to grow your SMS list, the throughput of toll-free numbers can be increased to grow with your SMS list. This eliminates the need to purchase multiple 10DLC numbers for your business or take on the high monthly costs of a short code number.  

With a growing number of people craving more personal ways to connect with their favorite brands, ecommerce marketers are seeing unmatched reach and performance from SMS. If you aren’t using SMS already, the time to start is now.

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Jon Palmer
Jon Palmer
Senior product marketing manager
Jon Palmer joined Klaviyo’s Product Marketing Team in 2020 and is based on the West Coast. He is a former Marketing Director who spent 8 years at HYLETE, a fitness apparel brand, where he was a Klaviyo customer. Jon loves taking on marketing challenges and using data to solve problems. Outside of work, Jon enjoys cooking, scotch, fitness, and dogs that weigh over 150 pounds.