Affiliates SMS Marketing Guide

If you have a list of clients/leads you should try SMS marketing to upsell, cross sale or bring back dropouts. In this article we wrote what we learned from working with 1000's of affiliate SMS marketers.

In short,
✅ SMS marketing is a great and often overlooked by many marketers.
✅ To try SMS marketing, you'll need a list of customers. And no.. we don't sell lists.
✅ Sending your first campaign is easy - like everything else you shouldn't overthink it.
✅ After sending your first campaign, you'll get a benchmark to see how's the ROI and then can decide on your next steps.
✅ There a many nuances to successfully scaling SMS campaigns. We've written down here the most of the common advice, but every campaign/product/company/vertical is special in a way.
✅ The top SMS marketers we work with generate leads (they send SMS to) through Facebook or have a product they continuously resell to like loans or diet.

To start - signup, upload a list, send a campaign, measure results and iterate. Yes, 1... 2... 3... 4... 5...

We're trying our best to keep this content up to date, we'd love your feedback.

Affiliate's SMS campaigns are the fastest growing vertical in SMS marketing today. While Facebook, Google, Email and other channels push affiliates away with higher costs, regulations and competition. SMS stays consistent in delivery and ROI. With the growing competition in every marketing channel, SMS is becoming a necessity for affiliates who want to make most out of their costly leads. SMS is also on the rise because of today’s fully mobile funnels. New SMS marketers can think of it as Email Marketing with lists, sending campaigns etc' meets Media Buying with budget management and optimization (due to high cost per SMS and high CTRs).

Here we go, that's what we learned from working with more than 10,000+ affiliates on what you should know when venturing into the world of SMS.

A 1 minute video about sending SMS campaigns:

If Real Estate is - Location, location location.
Then SMS is - Data, data, data.

The limiter of any SMS marketer is the quality and quantity of their SMS contact lists. Collecting high intent leads that you'll up-sell, cross-sell, convert dropouts is where SMS really shines. The high cost of SMS makes it essential you send to people who are likely to convert. The biggest SMS marketers we meet usually advertise on Facebook, social and display type of verticals where they generate large quantities of opt-ins which they then retarget through SMS. The other type is customers who continually resell to their audience in verticals like loans and diet as the clients might purchase multiple times.

If you don’t have quality opt-in lists, stop here, go build your lists and get back when you ready :)

Let's talk numbers

In SMS you essentially pay the Telecom for the “right” to message a network subscriber. The price is different depending on the use case and country but generally ranges from about $0.01 to $0.05. The high CTR rates achieved balances out the price per SMS. That’s why SMS is a type of hybrid between email marketing (list management, sending campaigns etc’) and media buying.

SMS campaign finance simulation

So, what can you expect in terms of CPC, CTR and conversions. To answer that here's the numbers we see on average, (the changes is the change during COVID-19 where CTR is higher but conversions are generally lower)


A "route" is essentially the route you will send your SMSs through the mobile operator to the end subscriber. Without getting too much into the journey/history of SMS, each country has multiple mobile operators who have subscribers. To SMS them there are SMS Aggregators who basically connect all the different operators into one connection point you can connect through.

The two main issues you will like to address with routes are Delivery and Pricing.

Routes Deliverability

With the rise of SMS firewalls, delivery becomes an issue and sometimes the SMS messages get filtered, this can be because of the domain link in the SMS, the sms text or the communication provider (route). The difficulty of getting good delivery varies between countries.

Routes Pricing

Now each of this interconnecting aggregator has a pricing list where he buys and sales SMS through, this has led to an extremely fragmented SMS ecosystem and led into conferences where many people come to buy and sell SMS.. Yes, shocking.

How we solved routing in SMSEdge

A communications marketplace for Aggregators/Carriers

As SMSEdge started from affiliation and moved into SaaS we looked how to solve this routing issues, what we did is connect to 50+ aggregators carriers and split test them against each other per geo for the best CTR, CPC and cost per message (CPM :) )

By using real time and historic CTR information (that we have a patent for) against the bid of the SMS price we manage to keep our SMS costs down with the best deliverability. After a few years we completely stopped with affiliation and started offering the SMS platform we developed to solve our challenges to everyone.

SMS Marketing Strategy

The first step is determining your goal, and as we're talking affiliation we talking ROI (ROAS). Other goals to keep in mind is making your brand top of mind or part of a cadence (flow of emails, calls, SMS).

We'll focus on an ROAS strategies here. We recommend starting with your best list, best geo and best offer to send your first campaign, with this "benchmark" you'll use to compare against when testing different variables. An initial spend budget should be no less than 100Euro or  1.5 * CPA whichever is higher. If you achieve a positive ROI, then scale. If you don’t then start testing variations to isolate the issue.

Optimizing SMS Campaigns

Keep it simple, it’s easy to overthink campaigns. Similar to the “Zeno Arrow Paradox” - when measuring the arrow’s distance to the target always by half it never reaches the target.

Target is 1 meter away and I'm always measure half the last test size -

0m - 0s - 1st measure

0.5m - 0.5s - 2nd measure

0.75m - 0.75s - 3rd measure


The arrow never reaches 1m with all the measurements.

Like the paradox you should balance scaling with optimization, as rule of thumb, when it works - send. When it doesn’t optimize :)

The Funnel - Sent, Clicks, Leads, Sales

The breakdown of an SMS funnel,

Increasing Sent to Click (CTR) - Relates to the SMS text, list quality (and cleaning), and routes delivery.

Increasing Clicks to Leads - Is dependent on the landing page and SMS texts. 

Tip - Some SMS texts can have great CTR but don't create conversions, focus on conversions not CTR. For example when selling Blue Widgets the text - “Hi {fname}, the discount expires tomorrow. Check it out -> {{{domain}}}''  might have great CTR but then the customer doesn't know it's about Blue Widgets. A text like “{fname}, Blue widgets are on 30% discount til tomorrow at {{{domain}}}” might have better conversions as people are already in the mindset of what they're gonna look for.

Increasing Leads to Sales - This relates to further down the funnel including the offer itself, pricing, checkout experience, email sequences, call centers etc.

The parameters - list, text, landing page, offer, time of sending

List - The foundation of your campaign. First, remove all landline and inactive numbers. This can be done by performing an HLR or MNP lookup on your contacts within your lists. This check will allow you to identify the active numbers within your list and eliminate the bad ones. This requests will also enable you to analyze which carrier is behind that specific phone number.

Text - the only way to know which text works best is by split testing different ad texts and measure conversions. We recommend to have a minimum of three different ad texts.

Landing Pages / Offers - if you have multiple landing pages then they should all be split tested. Obviously you better check that it works well from your phone. Rotating offers is also a good strategy as sending the same offer a few times might become less impactful.

Time & day of sending - the best time to send is usually offer dependent. You should perform initial tests throughout the day to see what time works best. The offer could work best in the morning, during the day or in the evenings. Most campaigns are sent during morning times. Weekends can prove to work very well but we recommend to start with the weekdays.

Your lists get tired, your customers get tired, it's natural

In most verticals you can only send so many messages to the same customer expecting him to buy, if he didn't buy in the first 10 SMSs the chances he'll buy in the 11th SMS are slim. With that said if your product can be resoled, then a customer who bought on the 2nd message, will probably be more likely to buy in the next messages.

Note that this really depends on the type of offer you're sending and what the client is expecting to receive from your communications.

Other optimization techniques

Extracting clickers - A general rule of thumb is that you should send more to people who open the links inside your SMSs than people who don’t resonate with your message or SMS in general.

Extracting clickers from a list

Optionally, keeping clickers in a list and sending just to them in the campaign view.

List Slicing - sometimes a big list is composed from multiple sources or even one source that has changed lead gen sources (for example, started with Facebook and then did more Google PPC). This creates a situation where different parts of the list can have different qualities. Splitting the list into 10 different parts for example and testing them separately might be worthwhile. 

Taking a list and slicing to 10 equal parts

Sending slowly - Using the instant results of SMS is great so you’ll know what works. Start by sending $5, wait and send more as you continually optimize. When you think you have reached your optimal result you can then “Finish List”. * you should use a platform like SMSEdge that supports this type of Slow Sending.

Spintax - sometimes sending a large amount from the same text might trigger a spam filter, splitting the text in a way of {hi|hello} {fname} will create two permutations - hi {fname} and hello {fname}. It is worth split testing this against a regular text to see if it affects delivery.

Segment analysis on send - when sending a large campaign you can see if the campaign stopped working (got filtered, started getting late in the day etc’) by splitting a send into 10 different parts and seeing each of their performance. If the last segments stopped receiving clicks then this is good indication that some sort of filtering happened.

A balanced clicks distribution on a small campaign's segment analysis

ROI per list per country per offer - it’s important to measure the ROI of different data sources, offers and geos. By doing this you will better understand where to spend and whats needs further testing. 

Testing different countries ROI against each other, breaking into landing page and list.

Actually sending

To finish here's a quick flow of actually sending your first campaign

  1. Open an account.

  1. Upload list: the system will automatically eliminate any malformed or landline number. There is also the option to clean your data via an HLR or MNP check. These options are dependent on availability to specific geo’s.  

  1. Add offer and ad texts: you can add multiple offers and ad texts into the system which will then you'll be able to split test at initial tests. 

  1. Select the routes: One of the biggest advantages at SMSEdge is our extensive range of routes per geo. Having the ability to test multiple routes in the beginning phase of your campaign will significantly increase your chances of achieving a high CTR, which will decrease your cost per click and increase your ROI. For "just let me send" users we have the "Smart Route" which automatically route your messages to the best performing one.

  1. Click Send: Once you have set up your campaign based on the previous steps, hit send and optimize based on your test results. The real time analytics dashboard provided will allow you to see the performance from your entire campaign including your clicks and ad text performance. When you are happy with the results you can hit the “Finish List” button and let the cash roll in! 

About SMSEdge - Adding That Extra layer of Innovation:

SMSEdge is the leader in SMS innovation. Our goal is to make SMS marketing accessible to all marketers, making sending highly optimized SMS campaigns a breeze.

What do you think about Affiliate's SMS marketing?

We would love to hear your comment/questions below👇👇👇

Sign up below to get started