Email Marketing

5 Biggest SMS Marketing Mistakes—And How to Avoid Them

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The cohesion of omnichannel marketing strategies has become increasingly important in 2023. Consumers now have multiple opportunities to connect with brands over different mediums.

And everyone has their own preferences for how they’d like to be contacted, whether it’s by email, SMS, social media, in-app push notifications, anything and everything, or not at all.  

For the consumers who engage with your brand through multiple channels, it’s important to have a unified message and branding, while also tailoring your content based on the medium. An Instagram post should not be the same as an email, but they can support each other.  

Many digital marketers have worked on perfecting the unity between social media and email, but are still struggling with how to best use SMS as part of their overall brand experience.  

Since email marketers are often tasked with developing and maintaining an SMS strategy, it’s tempting for them to follow the same rules as email. But they are completely different channels with different best practices to keep in mind.  

Read on to learn the top five SMS mistakes marketers make and alternative methods to try instead.  

Mistake #1: Using SMS and email the same way 

Email and SMS have completely different capabilities, and each should be optimized for its strengths. Using SMS messages to send a basic text version that exactly matches an email is not a good use of resources. Plus, it’s bound to make the consumer wonder why they’ve subscribed to both.  

Instead, build your SMS strategy around complementing your email goals.  

Some strategies include: 

  • Using email for pre-sale awareness building and SMS for the absolute last-chance message 
  • Sending a happy birthday text (since subscribers are more likely to open it on the big day than they would an email) 
  • Sending a text alert for a new location opening near a subscriber 
  • Using SMS for transactional messaging such as: 
    • Shipping notifications 
    • Post-purchase surveys 
    • Part of a cart abandonment journey
    • Back-in-stock notifications (like the example below from Coach)

Mistake #2: Skipping the welcome text message 

If someone signs up for your SMS program and they don’t hear from you for awhile, chances are they’ll forget your brand and why they signed up.  

So, when you do reach out, you’ll see an increased number of unsubscribes. Use a welcome text immediately after they subscribe as an opportunity to set expectations and start the relationship on a positive note. This text from Roark Dispatch is a great example:  

If you have an email preference center set up (and you should), you can also add preference options for SMS communications and include a link so subscribers can choose how and what to receive.   

One thing to note with a welcome series that includes coupon codes: Set up your workflow to remove subscribers from this journey if they have already used the code or made a purchase. Receiving multiple reminder emails at the same time as shipping notifications is frustrating.

A final word on welcome messages: If you do offer a welcome coupon or offer, be sure to remind subscribers before it expires, as Bandier does here.

 Mistake #3: Texting too often 

Texting is more direct and instantaneous than email for most consumers.  

They’re more likely to get an alert on their phone than they are for a promotional email. 

SMS is much more in-your-face—which has pros and cons. Validity research reveals 96 percent of subscribers have felt annoyed at least occasionally by SMS marketing messages. Their number one grievance? Brands texting too often. 

For years, texting has been reserved mostly for friends and family, and has taken over email (and phone calls) as the preferred method of quick, casual correspondence. Remember that as much as you may think of your subscribers as part of your brand’s family, you still need to respect that you’re a business (and not actually their mom or BFF).  

All that to say: chill.  

Limit your texts to only highly relevant and timely messages. There’s no need to text every day. (Or even worse—multiple times per day.)

Remember that most subscribers are part of your omnichannel strategy. They may also see your emails, social media posts, paid advertising, app notifications, etc.

To avoid overdoing it, define the purpose of each channel and the cadence that makes the most sense to achieve that purpose. Be mindful about how you approach SMS as part of the overarching strategy. 

Mistake #4: Going off-brand 

Remember how we talked about the cohesion of your strategy? That most definitely includes your overall branding across channels.  

First and foremost: Make sure to include your company name in every text to make it clear which brand is contacting them. Subscribers likely don’t have your number saved under your company name. 

If your emails are written in a casual way, your texts should be too. For example, this text from Fenty Beauty takes a more casual approach—and that’s OK, since it’s consistent with their brand voice. 

Even the use of wording is important. If your email and social media showcase a “Spring Sale,” but your SMS says it’s the “last chance to shop the April Sales Event,” then everything just gets confusing—likely for your internal team as well when you meet to discuss the results of the sale.  

Mistake #5: Using long URLs  

We always stress that using link shorteners in email campaigns is spammy. But, as mentioned previously, SMS is a whole different channel, with different rules.  

Long links in a text look sketchy and take up valuable space that should be reserved for other vital information.  

Free and public link shorteners, however, are prohibited by some ESPs because they are often used by spammers and offer no protection for the end user. Depending on the free shortener being used, phone carriers can block your message from being delivered to protect subscribers.  

Some platforms offer their own link-shortening functionality that lets you shorten the link with your domain. Another option is to set up a private link shortener. Always check and verify what your SMS platform offers and will allow for link shortening.   

Final thoughts: Be cool 

SMS text message can be a powerful addition to your marketing strategy—if you use it wisely. It has different capabilities to other channels and should be configured differently.  

Don’t just rinse and repeat your email strategy over text—work to complement it instead. If you send a daily email, you don’t need to send a daily text with it. Be cool and don’t overdo it. It’s not cute when an ex texts too much, and it’s even less cute when a company does. 

To learn more about how to navigate the opportunities and pitfalls of SMS marketing, read this new report from Validity: The State of SMS Marketing in 2023.