Why SMS Marketing Fails (And How to Do Better)

by Victor Green
3 mins read

The past few years have seen some profound changes in the SMS marketing word. What used to be considered fringe strategy by many marketing experts is now one of the most mainstream techniques across multiple industries. However, just like with every other marketing channel, not everyone gets things right with SMS marketing. In fact, most of the mistakes that happen can be broken down into the following six categories.

The call to action

SMS marketing is technically a category of mobile marketing, and this often results in marketers focusing too much on platform and not enough on the message itself. With the growing popularity of mobile devices and smartphones, instances of this mistake seems to be on the rise. It is hard not to focus on the device, given the differences between the medium and the traditional desktop. Still, it is important to realize that at the end of the day, the person at the other end if the screen is the same. SMS or desktop, the individual at the other end of the screen still needs a relevant call to action. Make the call to action relevant and precise. The call to action is not only important in facilitating action; it shows recipients why the message came in the first place.


Texting is traditionally considered casual, and because of this, a misconception exists that one can use a different language when looking to engage customers. Users might use what many people refer to as ‘text peak’ – short forms, abbreviations and acronyms. That does not necessarily mean they should be used by the marketer. Take a light approach towards the crafting of the message, but be careful not to confuse the light approach with being unprofessional. In the fight between trendy and credible, stick with the language that will portray the brand as credible.


Text is an amazing medium, given the fact that majority of messages are read within minutes of them being received, and that more and more people now have smartphones. This might tempt the marketer into sending messages to people without consent, at least definite, verifiable consent. Legally, one must obtain permission to send text messages to a customer’s phone. In most cases, before the message is sent, there must be express written consent from the person being targeted. Many businesses misunderstand this, and take such simple steps as obtaining a phone number from the client as consent. There must be a clear indication that the phone number is being obtained for purposes of promotional messages.

Opt out

Another related mistake that many businesses make is failing to allow an easy opt out. Even if the individual gave their consent, it should be easy for them to opt out at any time. Unfortunately, some marketers do not make it easy. This is not necessarily always the case and the rules might not be as strict as they are for opt-ins, but some extreme cases might result in legal action. Before then, though, recipients will feel trapped and this might result in messages being generally ignored or the company number being blocked in many customer phones.


With return on investment becoming a huge factor in every marketing decision, it is important to make sure every step taken has the maximum possible impact. This calls for the A/B testing of everything. Without split testing, marketers will miss out on a lot. Use a testing technique that allows you to study the effect of individual keywords, different calls to action, extensions and offers. Test only one element at a time for clear results. This is the only way to ensure the messages sent have the biggest impact. Results might not always be what is expected, but they will strengthen the campaign.

Sending habits

Text is relatively new in marketing, and not everyone understands the boundaries and etiquette. Generally, the rules that govern SMS marketing are roughly the same as those that govern positing on social media. For a start, do not send more than two messages per week. Anything over two is exuberant and will likely lead to high rates of opt out. It is also important to understand when to send messages and when not to. The best time to send a message is when the use of the mobile device is at its peak; typically between 12 and 6 pm. anything outside this is considered personal time, as users tend to concentrate on internet browsing and app use.In the digital marketing world, text message marketing is the closest thing to a marketer being guaranteed that their customer will read their promotional message. This is high praise in a world where things are rapidly changing. Even then, it is important to remember the rules when using text for marketing. Choose a reliable service provider and objective, but do the actual texting right.

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