SMS Strategies

How to Grow Your SMS Subscriber List

acquisition image
Jun 30, 2021
Written by
Pia Tserkonis
Pia is a Senior Manager on the Product Marketing Team. During her logged off hours she enjoys traveling, acrylic fluid painting, and long road trips.

The key to a successful text messaging program is growing a healthy list of subscribers. Here’s how to do it quickly (and compliantly).

Growing a healthy (and valuable) subscriber list is the first—and perhaps most important—step in developing a successful SMS marketing program. Unlike many other channels, SMS allows you to build an engaged list of subscribers you can communicate with directly. 

The more people who opt-in to receive text messages from your brand, the greater your opportunity to encourage them to make a purchase—driving incremental revenue and ROI. 

Follow these best practices to set your brand up for maximum success.

Design and build high-converting sign-up units

The goal of your SMS sign-up units is to engage and incentivize your audience to opt in for text messages. The sign-up process should be as easy as possible for them. The less work your audience has to do, the more likely they are to sign up. 

sign up flow

You can collect additional subscriber information, like email address, within the same sign-up experience, using our dual email-first sign-up units. Our data shows this useful feature can help you capture 3x more email subscribers on average than other solutions.

compliance features

All of our sign-up units can be customized to match the look and feel of your brand. Our intuitive editor allows you to easily style and design your sign-up units with copy and imagery unique to your brand while providing guidance on how to remain compliant with industry regulations, such as the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and CTIA regulations. When it comes to meeting list growth compliance requirements, subscribers must explicitly opt in for SMS marketing, and it needs to be a separate opt-in from email marketing.

Set display rules for optimal results

exit intent creatives

Before you launch your units, consider exactly when and where you’ll show your onsite sign-up units to visitors, using display rules. You can target optimal onsite experiences based on what your goals are. 

Use URL allow/blocklists to target specific pages

To maximize your list growth, we recommend showing your sign-up unit to 100% of site traffic, and using a full-screen pop-up to promote your SMS program to visitors. You can also choose to show your sign-up units on specific pages. For example, you may want to offer a product-specific discount to new subscribers who land on that product’s page.  

Set pop-up timers and scroll delays based on user behavior

Pop-up timers give you control over when you display your sign-up unit to visitors (down to the second), and scroll delays allow you to determine how much of a page visitors must view before a sign-up unit appears.  

To help find the right balance for when to show your sign-up unit, you should analyze your website traffic and the average time spent. Showing your unit to visitors too early can be a distraction resulting in higher bounce rates, but you also want to capture their attention with your offer before they leave your website. 

exit intent

Trigger your sign-up unit to appear before people leave your website 

Convert website visitors into subscribers with a final exit intent incentive. Using a display rule, you can show visitors a final reminder before they leave your site, giving them another chance to become subscribers. Our platform tracks a visitor's scroll behavior and mouse movement, and triggers a sign-up unit to appear at the pivotal moment they're about to leave your website.

In addition to helping you grow your list, this reminder will also reduce cart abandonment. Set up exit intent sign-up units to appear on your checkout page, and create a sense of urgency with a message that encourages the visitor to act immediately, such as:

  • Limited-time offer
  • Before you go
  • Finish your order
  • Last chance
  • Save an extra 5%

Launch your SMS acquisition strategy across channels

You’ve built beautiful, on-brand sign-up units, and determined when and where you’ll show them. Now, it’s time to set them live! Connect with your audience and invite them to sign up for text messages across your marketing channels, uniting online and offline experiences.                

Mobile and desktop website

bubble sign up creative

Your mobile and desktop sites should be the foundation of your SMS list growth strategy. You’re already driving traffic to your site using organic and paid marketing; capitalize on your increased traffic and capture the attention of shoppers with a sign-up unit that incentivizes them to subscribe to your SMS program.

With our two-tap sign-up technology on mobile, subscribers simply tap the button on your unit that loads a pre-populated text message on their device. Then, they hit “send” to immediately opt in and start receiving messages from your brand. 

Instagram Stories 

orchard st instagram sign up

Transform your social media following into subscriber growth using our “two-tap” sign-up technology within Instagram Stories. Users click the button in your Instagram Story to load a pre-populated text message on their device. After hitting “send,” they’ll be opted in to your SMS program.

Dedicated landing pages

SMS landing page

Create dedicated landing pages where consumers can learn more about your SMS marketing program and opt in. Not only will this give consumers another path to sign-up, but it will also provide you with flexibility on where you drive traffic beyond your homepage. These landing pages are especially helpful for driving traffic from paid advertising, social, and more.

Checkout page

checkout page

Capture subscribers at the point of sale by including a sign-up option on your checkout page. This makes signing up for your SMS program as easy as checking a box when shoppers submit their shipping information.


email imagery

Tap into the list you’ve built for your email marketing channel, and encourage email subscribers to sign-up for your SMS program to receive more timely updates and discounts from your brand. This strategy pairs well with our landing pages—simply include a link to your dedicated sign-up landing page within your email. 

Offline list growth

in store signage

Make sure you’re taking advantage of every opportunity to capture subscribers both online and offline. Drive new SMS opt-ins by encouraging your audience to text a unique keyword to your brand’s five or six-digit SMS shortcode. Include Text-to-Join (TTJ) information on your in-store signage, checkout kiosks, packaging, physical mailers, business cards, receipts, event collateral, and more.

When using TTJ, create a short and memorable keyword for your brand. Your brand’s name or something closely associated with your products and services will make it easier for consumers to remember and opt in to become subscribers.

Keep in mind that no matter the sign-up strategy you implement, you should never buy subscriber lists or opt in subscribers without their express consent. This is non-compliant with industry regulations and will leave you open to costly litigation. That's why we build our tools with compliance in mind, and feature technology to protect your brand against litigation, including audit trails, and subscriber opt-out protection.

Drive more SMS sign-ups through offers & incentives

Use offers to encourage consumers to sign-up for your SMS marketing program. Our consumer survey results show that offering discounts is the most effective way to encourage consumers to sign-up for texts from your brand. If you’re unable to offer discounts or similar incentives, consider highlighting a loyalty or rewards program, or hint at exclusive first access to content and products.

Lifestyle accessory brand Dorsal Bracelets uses Snapchat ads to direct traffic from the social media network to their website. Visitors are immediately greeted by a sign-up unit offering a 15% off discount in return for signing up to receive emails and text messages from the brand.

dorsal creative

Mobile and desktop sign-up units helped Dorsal Bracelets quickly grow their SMS subscriber list. Within seven months of launching their text messaging program with Attentive, sales attributed to text messages accounted for 30% of the brand’s total revenue.

When offering an incentive, we recommend using a dynamic coupon so you can send shoppers unique discount codes that allow you to track performance and avoid gaps in your business intelligence. Combine your dynamic coupons with auto-apply URLs to create a smooth and seamless checkout experience.

Stay consistent, analyze, and iterate

Remember, your subscriber list directly impacts how much incremental revenue you can drive from SMS marketing. For the best results, make sure you prioritize subscriber growth. You should continually analyze the performance of your list growth tactics, and refine them based on your shoppers’ behaviors.

A/B testing

We recommend A/B testing different versions of your sign-up creatives—comparing copy, imagery, and calls-to-action side by side—to see what performs best with your subscribers.

subscriber growth analysis

You should also analyze your subscriber growth metrics to see how your acquisition strategy is performing over time. Pay special attention to join dates and sign-up sources to see which sign-up units and channels are providing the most return on investment.

Want to see real examples of sign-up strategies used by our customers? Explore our SMS gallery, Texts We Love.

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