Bulk SMS vs. SMS marketing: Which one’s better?

Woman smiling and texting

Text marketing is one of the fastest-growing lead generation strategies – and for a good reason. Seventy percent of customers agree that texts are an effective way to get their attention, so it’s crucial for businesses to take advantage of the accessibility that they provide as a marketing tool.

Texting is an intimate form of communication that has a 98% open rate, the highest of any marketing channel, allowing you to reach your leads more consistently. But effective marketing is more than just reaching leads. You need to connect with them, inspire confidence in your business, and encourage them to take your offer by sending tailored texts to each contact.

Unfortunately, not all forms of text marketing are equal. You may have heard of different approaches to texting your customers, including bulk SMS marketing, mass texting, and SMS marketing. While they sound similar, there are some key differences between the different terms that make a significant difference in the way you approach marketing through text.

What are bulk SMS and SMS marketing?

The two primary forms of texting that marketers use are bulk SMS and SMS marketing.

Bulk SMS, also sometimes referred to as mass texting or text blasts, is an approach that aims to reach as many people as possible as quickly as possible. With a bulk SMS sender, you can send one-to-many texts to a list of contacts all at once to help you save time when mass texting. These messages generally consist of one-off messages meant to produce immediate sales from your text list.

Definition of bulk SMS: A text marketing approach that prioritizes sending texts to large lists of customers, often without list segmentation or personalization.

Meanwhile, SMS marketing focuses on engaging leads across the marketing funnel by building personalized relationships while communicating at scale. This strategy also includes sending one-to-many texts but emphasizes the importance of tailoring each text to the recipient by segmenting your lists and sending targeted, relevant content.

Definition of SMS marketing: A full-lifecycle text messaging strategy that uses targeting and personalization to form meaningful connections, engage contacts, and encourage interactions while maintaining full compliance.

Key differences between bulk SMS marketing and SMS marketing

Bulk SMS marketing and SMS marketing both include sending texts to groups of people at once, but the way they approach generating sales is much different.

Message volume and targeting

Bulk SMS prioritizes quantity over quality when it comes to sending texts. Bulk texts are sent to entire contact lists at once with the hope that the offer is enough to convince the average customer to complete their purchase. Bulk texting also involves sending more texts per week or month to keep your business fresh in leads’ minds and to see which offers work best for generating sales.

SMS marketing involves texting specific segments of your contact list as opposed to the entire list at once. Rather than sending general promotions, SMS marketing texts aim to provide genuine value that nurtures leads into loyal customers. To provide that value, you must target your offers to that specific type of lead to improve conversion rates. You’ll also send fewer texts with SMS marketing or send a similar number, but with greater variation in the type of message you send, like in drip campaigns.

Personalization and customization

Personalization is not a priority of bulk SMS marketing. When you send bulk texts, you’re communicating with a wide variety of different leads and using text templates that try to be relevant to as much of your contact list as possible.

SMS marketing focuses on targeting specific segments of your list with personalized messages that engage them more effectively and building relationships through conversational marketing. Custom fields are another crucial element of SMS marketing: adding these fields to texts personalizes each message with that contact’s specific information, helping to improve engagement.

Campaign flexibility and scalability

Bulk SMS and SMS marketing lend themselves to different types of campaigns. Bulk SMS works for sending one-time promotions to a large number of people at once. Because it lacks the targeting necessary to engage specific contacts, bulk texts don’t have the ability to address each individual lead’s status with the correct text, which makes it harder to communicate at scale with relevant texts.

SMS marketing allows you to create a number of campaigns that engage contacts at every stage of the life cycle by leveraging customer information. Some campaign options include welcome campaigns to confirm opt-ins, product launch campaigns that build hype, re-engagement campaigns that target cold leads, review campaigns to collect valuable feedback, and many more. While you can send one-off texts with SMS marketing, you can also create drip campaigns that nurture relationships with each lead over time.

Venn diagram comparing bulk SMS and SMS marketing

Comparing SMS marketing and bulk texting features

Bulk text messaging platforms aim to help you send one-to-many texts quickly. They are generally isolated to just SMS and allow 1-way texting that lets you reach contacts, but doesn’t let contacts respond. Bulk SMS platforms may also offer list-building and list broadcasts that help you send mass texts to different groups, but they lack the tools to personalize them.

SMS marketing platforms enable personalized communication at scale for a wide range of uses. They’re compatible with multiple communication channels and message formats, including SMS, MMS, web chat, and social media messaging, that help concentrate your marketing efforts into a single application. You can also create campaigns using scheduled texts and automations that customer actions trigger to engage them when they’re most receptive. Customer profiles will inform your marketing strategies, allowing you to personalize outgoing texts at scale using custom fields while segmenting your lists to ensure your content connects with recipients.

Opt-in management is another essential feature of SMS marketing platforms that allows you to maintain a compliant list of only contacts who want to receive texts and minimizes spam risks. Finally, advanced reporting tells you what’s working and guides you toward improving engagement and conversion rates.

List of sms marketing and bulk texting features

Benefits of bulk SMS

While bulk SMS marketing is more limited to sending promotions, it can still be helpful for some businesses. Benefits of bulk SMS include:

  • Cost-effective: Bulk SMS is usually cost-effective to implement and send mass texts to your contact list. You may find free or low-cost tools that are simple and straightforward to use for basic marketing texts, allowing you to save on startup costs and begin engaging with leads.
  • Large-scale reach: Bulk texting tools allow you to reach large groups of contacts at once with one-to-many texts. In many cases, you can text specific contacts or your entire list in just a few clicks.

Limitations of bulk SMS

Bulk SMS is fast and easy, but it lacks some of the most important capabilities for building strong connections that drive sales. Limitations of bulk texting include:

  • Lack of personalization: Personalization is crucial to engaging leads. Over 71% of customers say that they expect business text messaging to be personalized and will have a negative reaction if it’s not. With minimal options for including personal information and targeting available, bulk SMS can make your campaigns fall flat.
  • Hard to build relationships: Effective marketing nurtures leads at all stages of the marketing funnel. When you send generic marketing texts repeatedly, you aren’t addressing the needs of your contacts – you’re just selling to them. Impersonal bulk texts may also come across as spam which increases the chances of unsubscribes and hurts relationships.
  • Difficult to maintain compliance: Compliance is another concern when it comes to bulk SMS marketing. All businesses that text are subject to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and 10DLC regulations. Both of these regulations aim to protect consumers from receiving unwanted messages. Bulk texting tools may not offer opt-in management tools to ensure you’re only texting customers who have given their permission to be texted (a core component of the TCPA). These services also may not offer 10DLC registration assistance, putting your number at risk of being flagged as spam.

For more information on text messaging compliance, consult our SMS compliance ebook.

Benefits of SMS marketing

SMS marketing is a full-lifecycle approach to text marketing that unlocks much more potential in your marketing campaigns.

Benefits include:

  • Integrated personalization: Personalization is paramount to engaging leads. Most SMS marketing platforms include user profiles directly in the platform or by integrating your CRM. This makes it easy to personalize texts throughout the entire customer journey and to track customers’ texting engagement to inform future campaigns.
  • Specific targeting: General marketing texts don’t make contacts want to interact with your texts. Targeting, segmentation, and other SMS marketing best practices let you effectively engage each lead with valuable content that they want to read or respond to rather. Instead of being seen as a salesman like with bulk texting, your business comes across as a trusted resource that goes out of its way to address the customer’s needs.
  • Improved ROI: Marketing needs to provide value to your company. While most leading SMS marketing platforms have a cost, research has shown that personalized text marketing can provide an ROI of up to 1000%.
  • Compliant opt-in management: Compliance should be your top priority when implementing text marketing. SMS marketing emphasizes trust and compliance, offering opt-in management tools that allow customers to unsubscribe at any time and making it easy to manage extensive contact lists.
  • Advanced analytics: The more information you have, the better you can refine your marketing strategy. It’s simple to track the results of your campaigns with advanced reporting and analytics to see what’s working and how much value SMS marketing is generating.

Limitations of SMS marketing

SMS marketing opens up a whole world of possibilities, but it does have a cost.

The limitations of SMS marketing include:

  • Startup costs: SMS marketing platforms generally have an initial cost or membership required to use them. Some smaller businesses may struggle to work with the upfront cost of implementing a new platform, which can make it intimidating to get started.
  • Onboarding time: Advanced features expand SMS marketing’s capabilities, but only if you know how to use it. It can take some time to get used to using the advanced features of your SMS marketing platform. To help save time, look for a user-friendly SMS marketing platform that only takes a few hours to get up and running with.

Fortunately, the 10-times return on your investment generated by choosing SMS marketing over bulk texting often pays for the startup costs of your new business texting platform and makes up for any delays associated with implementing it.

When to use bulk SMS

Bulk SMS marketing is best used when you want to send one-off ads like product launch announcements or holiday sales that aim to increase awareness without expecting much engagement. You can also send informational texts like expanded business hour promotions as bulk texts because they don’t need to be personalized.

If you don’t have an SMS marketing platform already, you can minimize startup costs by sending bulk texts. It’s best for businesses that can’t afford more robust SMS marketing tools but still want to keep their leads active and informed.

When to use SMS marketing

SMS marketing can be used for just about any marketing purpose, but it excels when you’re trying to generate long-term success by building personalized relationships with leads.

Here are some times that SMS marketing is the right choice:

  • Product releases: If you want engagement, your marketing texts need to be relevant to your contacts. SMS marketing allows for list segmentation that makes it easy to send targeted texts to leads that have shown an interest in a specific type of product for better conversion rates.
  • Welcome texts: First impressions are important – and so is only texting people who sign up for your texts. A personalized welcome text ensures subscribers intended to subscribe, welcomes them by name, and sets expectations based on what they’ve elected to receive from you to help build trust.
  • Appointment reminders: Appointments include a variety of details that are crucial for creating effective reminders. You can create campaigns that send appointment reminder texts at preselected intervals before the appointment and draft texts that merge that contact’s specific appointment and personal information into custom fields to ensure they’re relevant.
  • Re-engagement: With SMS marketing, lost leads don’t need to stay lost. Using customer information like products or services they’re interested in and the stage of the marketing funnel they are in, you can create personalized texts that give you a chance to re-engage a cold lead.
  • Thank yous: Humanizing your brand is a great way to build better relationships with customers. 86% of buyers are willing to pay more for a great customer experience, so sending a personalized text thanking customers that includes their name and purchase helps them feel seen and valuable to your business, improving brand loyalty.
  • Reviews: Feedback from customers is both a great learning resource and a powerful marketing tool. You can use SMS marketing to create campaigns that follow up with customers after a purchase to receive feedback, collect testimonials and reviews, and engage them based on their responses to address concerns or answer questions.

Bulk SMS and SMS marketing: Which option is best for your business?

Text marketing is an essential element of any marketing strategy, so it’s important that you choose the right approach for your business so that you can achieve the best results.

When choosing between bulk SMS and SMS marketing, the primary factor you need to consider is your budget. A small business with short contact lists or a lower marketing budget may not be able to make an SMS platform work right away, so bulk texting would allow for communication with leads at scale with minimal startup costs. However, if you have the budget and time to implement an SMS marketing platform, the ROI potential means that it’s almost always the right choice.

If you need to use a bulk texting solution, look for SMS marketing features like list sends and custom fields for personalization to improve engagement and achieve better results. You can also consider investing in an SMS marketing platform that makes it easy to engage at scale, build and nurture relationships, and remain compliant, like Heymarket’s personalized bulk SMS marketing solution.

The takeaway: bulk SMS marketing vs SMS marketing

Every business should implement some form of texting into its marketing strategy. Both bulk SMS marketing and SMS marketing are viable, but their approach and results will be quite different.

Bulk SMS marketing is a low-cost, simple, and fast way to reach out to your contact list. You’ll be able to use a text template to send the same message to multiple leads at once, saving you the time and effort of sending them manually. However, you probably won’t have access to targeting, personalization, or other marketing tools that help you to improve engagement or the compliance features that support you to only text leads who want to be texted.

SMS marketing and personalized bulk SMS marketing solutions provide the same speed as bulk texting but with greater control over the contents of your texts and the lists you broadcast to. You can use custom fields to enter leads’ personal information into your text templates and ensure that you’re tailoring texts to recipients at any scale. Opt-in management also simplifies compliance to ensure you’re texting legally and maintaining positive relationships with your contacts at all times.

When possible, always choose a personalized and targeted bulk SMS marketing tool that allows you to build both short-term and long-term success with your texting. It’ll form better connections, improve engagement, grow your ROI, and help you build better relationships with contacts that encourage organic growth rather than one-time interest.

Don’t settle for impersonal, spammy bulk texts. Explore Heymarket’s targeted bulk SMS marketing platform and begin forming meaningful connections with your contacts today.

For a strategic look at building an SMS marketing strategy and sending targeted bulk texts, read our ebook Automated Text Messaging: The Complete Guide.

Ebook cover: SMS Automations, The Complete Guide

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