It was bound to happen. I made some SMS marketing mistakes being overly aggressive and pushing the boundaries of text message marketing.
Why was it “bound to happen”? Well, over the years, I’ve been known to burn marketing channels faster than Usain Bolt runs the 100-meter dash. And when it comes to marketing in general, I tend to subscribe to the “Unless you’re breaking stuff, you’re not moving fast enough” philosophy.
So, what happened?
Ultimately, our SMS number was reported one too many times and we needed to change up our game plan. But here’s the good news…
I’ve learned a ton about SMS marketing over the years and I’m about to share the “Do’s and Don’ts” with you. I don’t want you to make the same mistakes that I did.
Also, if you’re currently experiencing problems with your SMS marketing, don’t freak out. As long as you were just being a little aggressive and “bending” some of the SMS best practice guidelines — chances are there’s a simple fix to this problem.
We (Customers.ai) can get you set up with a new SMS number, and if you follow the tips and best practices that I’ve learned by pushing the boundaries myself, you shouldn’t ever run into this problem again…or at least not for a really long time.
This article is exactly what you’re looking for if you’re trying to stop texts from being marked as spam, reduce the number of complaints reported about your SMS number, decrease the unsubscribe rate of your SMS subscriber list, avoid having your SMS number blocked, banned, or blacklisted.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this article on how to avoid common SMS marketing mistakes:
- Always get SMS subscribers to opt-in.
- Always include a clear way for SMS subscribers to opt-out.
- Add personalization to your SMS marketing strategy.
- Optimize the send frequency of SMS messages (AKA don’t send too many texts!).
- Keep your SMS character count to 160.
- Provide value first, then sell.
- Respond to your SMS subscribers in a timely fashion.
- Be careful with how you use URLs in SMS marketing messages.
- Send your SMS Messages at the Right Time.
- How to stop texts from being marked as spam.
PS – #10 on the list could be its own article on how to avoid being marked as spam, so don’t miss that one!
How to Avoid Common SMS Marketing Mistakes
One thing that I want to make crystal clear, is that you shouldn’t be afraid of adding SMS to your active list of marketing channels. Just the opposite, actually. You should be afraid of what it means to not run SMS marketing campaigns.
And we have the SMS marketing statistics to prove it.
In fact, 75% of consumers want to receive texts with special offers.
That means that the large majority of consumers want to receive text messages from the brands they know and trust. However, you need to be disciplined and execute your SMS marketing campaigns the “right way.”
So, in order to avoid your SMS marketing mistakes that would get your text message marketing campaigns marked as spam, having your SMS number blocked, or worse — make sure you’re adhering to the following text message marketing best practices:
SMS Marketing Mistakes to Avoid Tip #1: Always Get SMS Subscribers to Opt-In
Want to get more SMS subscribers the right way? Well, you should be able to, because texting is the #1 preferred communication channel for consumers.
In fact, 75% of consumers are comfortable receiving SMS messages from brands as long as they opted-in to messaging.
That means that as long your SMS subscriber lists are made up of people who opt-in, it’s much less likely that you’ll run into problems.
Here’s an example of how we use SMS keywords to opt-in users to our SMS subscriber lists:
This works right now should you want to test it out and get all the latest marketing tips from Larry Kim. So, if you live in Canada or the United States and text the word “CLUB” to (617) 433-5511, that will enter you into our Unicorn Marketers Text Messaging Club where Larry Kim will send you a weekly message with the latest growth marketing strategies.
SMS keywords are just one way you can get more SMS subscribers.
SMS opt-in is powerful, not only because you can re-engage with your customers after they leave your website, but because the results from SMS marketing are almost hard to believe.
For more SMS opt-in strategies, check out these 20 SMS marketing tools available on the Customers.ai platform.
SMS Marketing Mistakes to Avoid Tip #2: Always Include a Clear Way to Opt-Out
Just as you always want your SMS subscribers to opt-in of their own free will, you’ll also need to provide an opt-out option.
This is just like including an option to unsubscribe from your email newsletters. You can get in trouble if you don’t include it.
At Customers.ai, we like to include the message ” Text STOP to unsubscribe” at either the very top or the very bottom of our SMS marketing text messages, like so:
Make your opt-out visible, and always include it in your text message marketing campaigns. It’s better to lose subscribers than to be blacklisted and forced to use a new SMS number.
SMS Marketing Mistakes to Avoid Tip #3: Add Personalization to SMS Strategy
Another way to avoid common SMS marketing mistakes is as simple as including the user’s first name to personalize your SMS outreach.
SMS marketing is unique because it’s scalable with mass marketing campaigns, but also has the advantage of providing the feel of one-on-one communication.
Successful text marketing campaigns capitalize on this. They utilize features like custom fields and segments to send smarter and more relevant texts to their valued subscribers.
In Customers.ai, you have the ability to create tags, any user attribute, or custom field you wish in the easy to use chatbot builder. This allows for super personalization capabilities, as well as the benefit of creating highly targeted segments.
Learn more about Customers.ai user attributes and audience segmentation tools.
SMS Marketing Mistakes to Avoid Tip #4: Optimize Frequency of Sending SMS Messages
So, what’s the optimal frequency of sending SMS messages?
Simple answer: Whatever frequency keeps your unsubscribe rate below 3%.
Ideally, you want your SMS unsubscribe rates to resemble your average mass email marketing unsubscribe rates. The average email unsubscribe rate is between 0.2% and 0.5%, according to most marketing experts.
SMS unsubscribe rates tend to increase significantly once marketers send more than 10 to 15 SMS messages in a thirty-day period. And those sending more than 20 SMS messages in a month risk unsubscribe rates as high as 60%.
I’ve reduced my SMS campaign frequency to 1 text message per week, at most. The result? We’ve cut our SMS unsubscribe rate down to 0.7%.
Once per week is actually still a bit aggressive, as the optimal SMS frequency is 2-4 texts per month.
Just as important as not sending too many text messages per month, is to not send messages consistently enough.
Although you don’t want to spam your customers, you also don’t want them to forget why they opted-in to your SMS list to begin with.
Consumers respond well to consistent messaging. Just like a good social media strategy, successful text campaigns maintain a consistent and regular schedule.
All of that being said, be a good marketer and test, test, test! There are dozens of reasons why your audience may react differently than others. So keep track of your unsubscribe rates, and try not to exceed 5%.
Extra hot tip: Set expectations up-front regarding how often the audience gets SMS updates. For example, in your SMS opt-in campaigns, include a sentence such as, “Don’t worry, we’re not going to overload you with texts. You can expect (at most) one high-value text message from us per week.”
SMS Marketing Mistakes to Avoid Tip #5: Keep Character Count to 160
When it comes to SMS, size matters.
Keep your text messages concise (ideally under 160 characters). Lengthy messages are more likely to be flagged as spam.
That’s why we make it super clear in the Customers.ai platform when you’ve crossed over the 160 character threshold.
Additionally, Customers.ai OmniChatⓇ allows you to create chatbot dialogues for live chat on your website, as well as Messenger for Facebook and Instagram. So, in addition to the SMS character count, you’ll also have a dial keeping track of your chatbot dialogues purposed for other marketing channels.
So think about it this way, if you receive a large number of emails in one day from a company, it’s natural to perceive that as spam.
However, when you chat with one of your SMS or Facebook Messenger contacts, the same quantity of messages isn’t so negatively perceived.
This is partly because the messages tend to be shorter.
When communicating via chat, limit your messages to ideally less than 160 characters, and no more than 200 characters. A quick sentence and a call to action or a question, for example, works great.
An audience will be a lot less sensitive to receiving several texts per week as opposed to receiving several emails.
SMS Marketing Mistakes to Avoid Tip #6: Provide Value first, then Sell
SMS marketing is very similar to email marketing. You’re going to get dinged by mobile carriers if your initial communication is super aggressive with heavy sales rhetoric and links. Candidates are more likely to mark you as spam and opt-out of communication when you do this.
Before we go any further into this common SMS marketing mistake and how to avoid it, I should say that I am absolutely not telling you to never offer deals and promotions via text message marketing. By all means, do offer promotions and incentives, because SMS is a great place for it.
However, it’s best not to go for the sale up-front. Instead, make sure to provide the value of joining super clear.
One of the keys to success touched on earlier was the idea of exclusivity. Expanding on this concept is the principle that you must make every text worthwhile.
So instead of blasting your subscribers with the same vague ad each week, create SMS drip campaigns to work consumers down your funnel. People need to understand the value of your product and service before buying, so give them the time to do that.
Discounts, exclusive savings, important announcements, event alerts, and useful information are valuable things to share with your customers. Consider layering in some rich media, like photos or videos, to diversify and engage your audience.
Without value, the odds of your customers unsubscribing increases dramatically. Here are some direct response marketing examples for you to utilize once you’re ready to convert prospects into customers!
SMS Marketing Mistakes to Avoid Tip #7: Respond to your SMS Subscribers Quickly
This one should go without saying, but to emphasize my point, consider this SMS marketing stat:
75% of consumers are particularly frustrated when they can not respond to a text message from a business due to limitations with certain kinds of texting tools.
Additionally, it’s really easy to assume that people are going to either follow the marketing funnel connected to your SMS campaigns or simply ignore your text if they’re not interested in that particular message.
However, what if someone does reply with a question about your product or service, or they want to know more about your promo?
It only takes 90 seconds on average for a person to respond to a text message.
So you need to remember that SMS chats are a 2-way conversation. Unlike email, SMS campaigns are interactive and reactive.
What’s great about chat flows is that you’re able to route them one way for a positive answer, and one way for a negative answer. And with Customers.ai, users can live chat back and forth with you and your company via SMS in the unified OmniChatⓇ inbox.
The best practice for this is to send an automated alert to a live chat agent, or whoever is in charge of handling prospect and client communications.
SMS Marketing Mistakes to Avoid Tip #8: Be Careful Using URLs
First of all, if you’re going to bend the rules and send out cold SMS messages, don’t include URLs in your cold outreach. Carriers perceive this as spammy communication if there have been no previous text messages sent.
However, sharing links has become a part of how people text each other. And it’s perfectly fine to do so when someone has opted-in and become an SMS subscriber.
But repeat texts to multiple people with the same link makes carriers suspicious. They don’t want a large number of their carriers to be potentially spammed by a dangerous link.
Shortened URLs that don’t specify a domain name and use lots of numbers, like bit.ly/74536474637, are also a stronger indicator of potential spam because viewers can’t see where the link will take them. However, you can use branded links from someone like Rebrandly, which are still shortened but use a domain name and custom URL slug, i.e. Customers.ai/live-chat.
SMS Marketing Mistakes to Avoid Tip #9: Send your SMS Messages at the Right Time
When is the best time to send SMS marketing messages?
Imagine it’s 11 p.m., you’re in your PJ’s and binging a Netflix series. The last thing you want is your phone lighting up with a text about a promotion on car insurance premiums.
Assuming alignment with the subscriber’s expectations, it’s generally best practice to keep your texts within reasonable business hours to avoid annoying anyone.
The peak time for a business to send an SMS marketing campaign is between 12 pm and 3 pm both weekdays and on the weekend, with almost one-third of mobile opted-in users favoring this time.
Plus, it often doesn’t make sense to text your customers when they can’t immediately take action or respond to you and your offer. So out of common sense and courtesy, schedule your marketing messages at reasonable hours.
SMS Marketing Mistakes to Avoid Tip #10: How to Stop Texts From Being Marked as Spam
What are the most common spam filter triggers for mobile carriers such as Verizon and AT&T?
Here are the top 5 most common things that trigger mobile carrier spam filters:
- All caps – One or more words in your message use all capital letters.
- Email addresses – Inserting an email address into your message will most likely result in carrier filtering. To be safe, remove it, especially for new SMS subscribers and audiences.
- Not using the proper URLs – We recommend using a URL shortener such as Rebrandly to shorten your links.
- Messages ending in a URL – We (the team at Customers.ai) actually violate this rule often ????. Still, it’s true that messages ending in a URL are more likely to be filtered. Make sure your URL is trustworthy if shortened, and if it’s easily avoidable, don’t end your message with a link.
- Dollar signs – Having a dollar sign in your bulk text messages will increase your spam score. We recommend removing dollar signs from this message for maximum deliverability.
Think of the above 5 warnings as guidelines as opposed to red lines that if crossed will result in your SMS number being blacklisted. It won’t, but if you do these things constantly, it very well might.
Carriers want to protect their users from spammers so they don’t lose them as customers.
And “spammers” are abusers who:
- Don’t have a prior chat history with users.
- Typically send high volume messages at a ridiculous pace.
- Include dangerous or annoying links.
- Write messages that are long, unhelpful, and confusing.
- Are coercive instead of supportive.
Carriers want to prevent users from coming into contact with these abusers, which is why they filter messages with these annoying characteristics.
This filtering process is all automated, which means you have to be careful to avoid looking and sounding like those same abusers.
Aside from just triggering spam filters, you also put yourself at risk of losing your audience’s interest when your messages look like a spammer’s.
Even if the carrier doesn’t catch your spammy messages, contacts can always choose to block your number, or opt-out of receiving future messages from you, on their own if they’re annoyed.
The last thing you want to have happened is to get your SMS phone number blacklisted, so follow the aforementioned guidelines and pay close attention to the following…
So, these next three items are a lot more like red lines. While it’s not guaranteed that you’ll be blacklisted, you will be playing with fire ????.
To avoid being blocked, you need to:
- Always offer contacts a way to opt-out of messages.
- Stop messaging contacts if they opt-out of messages (this one should be obvious).
- Only text contacts who have opted-in to being messaged.
SMS Marketing Best Practices
While Customers.ai will always deliver your SMS messages to their destination, it’s possible that the recipient’s mobile phone carrier (i.e. AT&T and Verizon) may block the SMS message due to a number of factors related to the SMS message itself, which is completely beyond Customers.ai’s control.
Now that you’re all set to test out these effective SMS marketing tips, it’s time to get started with your first campaign.
Or, watch our video on “How To Do Text Message Marketing.”
SMS marketing is the fastest way to reach the more than 5 billion people that send and receive text messages around the world. And that’s because it’s instant, convenient, and universal.
Want the best stats on the effectiveness of text message marketing? Check out these 60 SMS marketing statistics that will blow your mind.
When you’re ready to execute your own SMS marketing campaigns, opt-in programs, and text message blasts, use Customers.ai’s suite of SMS marketing tools.
Have questions? Customers.ai’s SMS FAQs help doc has answers.
Important Next Steps
See all the tools in Customers.ai’s multi-channel chatbot platform by getting started with Customers.ai for free.