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5 Common SMS Marketing Mistakes to Avoid

June 14, 2019

by Henry Cazalet

Founder & Director, The SMS Works

SMS is still a remarkably effective marketing strategy. Avoid these common mistakes, and you’ll generate a better response from your next text campaign.

It’s been over 27 years since Vodafone employee, Neil Papworth sent the first ever text message. Since that historic day in 1992, trillions of messages have been sent worldwide.

Most businesses have used SMS as a way to get in touch with their customers and staff. It’s one of the most effective communication channels available and business SMS is as popular today as it’s ever been. Astonishingly, 90% of all messages sent are read within 3 minutes

For such a mature and responsive channel, it’s surprising that we’re still seeing so many SMS marketing mistakes. Some of these are fairly minor but some can result in breaking the law, potentially leading to massive fines.

We’ve identified the 5 most common mistakes that companies make when using SMS.

1. Fail to Obtain the Correct Opt-In From Your Customers

Despite some very high-profile cases where companies have been heavily fined for using consumer data which they had no right to use, it’s amazing how many companies are still texting customers who have not opted in.

The rules on using SMS for marketing are very clear both in the EU and the US. While the rules are slightly different, the consequences for companies caught text spamming are serious.

For the most serious cases in the EU, companies can be fined up to 20 million Euros or 4% of global turnover, whichever is greater. In the US, the consequences for failing to heed the rules are damages from $500 to $1500 per text message sent to each person who did not provide consent. 

With the stakes so high, it’s crucial that you not only have the customers’ permission to text them but you can also demonstrate how permission was obtained.

2. Fail to Optimize the Website for Mobile Phones

If you’ve sent your prospects a text, the most common "call to action" is to invite users to click through to a website where they can take advantage of your offer or find out more.

It’s therefore vital that the web page that customers land on is properly optimized for mobile phones. Nothing will have people clicking away faster than if a site looks bad and loads slowly.

I recently received a message from a water charity. The message was well crafted and contained a link which I clicked. I was taken to a web page that was made up almost entirely of small, blocky text. It was tricky to read with no images or features to break up the monotony.

This could have been a far better experience if the company had just taken some time to think about the first impression that this page gives.

It’s so vital that marketers give mobile optimization the priority that it deserves. With over 52% of all global web traffic coming from mobile phones, this issue is only going to become more urgent.

Percentage of All Global Web Pages Served to Mobile Phone

Mobile usage and reliance continue to grow each year. 

Businesses must implement mobile-responsive content and web design to stay up-to-date on current consumer trends

3. Fail to Shorten Web Links

With SMS, you have just 160 characters to get your message across. With that short sentence, you have to achieve the following:

  • Announce who you are
  • Make a tempting offer
  • Tell the customer how to respond
  • Provide them with an opt-out from future texts

It’s quite a task. With just 160 characters, every single one of them counts. A simple and often overlooked way to win back a few characters is to use a “URL shortener” for your web links.

Your link can be reduced significantly, giving you more characters to get your message across more persuasively.

There are many URL shorteners to choose from and most of them are free.

4. Send Too Many Messages

According to research by Frost and Sullivan, 98% of all texts get read compared to just 22% of emails.

With read rates like that, it’s little surprise that some companies can’t resist sending text after text in the hope of generating the same response each time.

It’s a risky strategy that’s likely to fail. By bombarding customers with a string of unwelcome offers, you’re likely to irritate your customer base, resulting in more people unsubscribing from your list.

By taking a short-term view and trying to squeeze out as much response as possible, you risk alienating your customers and reducing the overall numbers.

Less is most definitely more. There’s no perfect number of texts to send but if your customers receive more than a couple of texts a month, it’s worth asking yourself if you’re overdoing it.

5. Send Everyone the Same Offer

One of the most powerful benefits of SMS is that you can easily adapt your offer to make it more appealing to different segments of your customer database.

Most companies hold a huge amount of information on every customer. This data can be used to create offers that are as targeted as possible to the individual.

Instead of sending everyone on your list the same text, use your data to segment your customers into a number of categories or types. Send specific offers to the different categories that are most likely to appeal to them.

Unlike almost all other marketing channels, there are no additional costs to create as many different types of messages as you want.

By tailoring your offers and using SMS sparingly, you can maximize the response from every text that you send.

6. Use Inappropriate Language

Avoid using text speak in your marketing texts at all costs. For many people, text speak is never going to be an issue. It’s just using the language that we all use every day.

But for a few, it comes across as wholly inappropriate and unprofessional. Unfortunately, there’s no way of knowing in advance which customers are going to be infuriated by it.

By using common abbreviations you may be saving on the character count, but you may also be turning off a proportion of your customers who may choose never to buy from you again.

It’s better to play it safe and stick to standard English rather than risk the fury of some of your loyal customers.

The Future of Text Messaging Remains Strong

Despite the rise of messaging apps, SMS texting is still as popular as ever. Research by Mobilesquared revealed that in 2017, 1.67 trillion business texts were sent. 

They predict that the figure will rise to 2.8 trillion by 2022. That’s a 68% rise in just 4 years.

How Many Texts Were Sent Each Year 

By planning your campaigns with care and precision and avoiding these common SMS marketing mistakes, you’ll be making sure that your next campaign has every chance of success. Consult with a digital marketing company that understands SMS texting campaigns before beginning your efforts. 

By giving your SMS campaigns this attention to detail you’ll not only be generating a higher response, but you’ll also be gaining an edge over your competitors.

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