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5 SMS marketing blunders that will almost guarantee unsubscribes

SMS marketing is more popular now than it’s ever been.

Whether your using an SMS API or a piece of software to send texts, more and more companies are using SMS as a low cost, responsive way of contacting their customers and colleagues. 

But SMS is so amazingly basic, it’s bizarre that it’s still popular. When you compare it with the numerous messaging apps, it’s frankly downright lousy. 

Despite industry pundits predicting the slow decline of business SMS, the evidence appears to show that the reverse is the case.

Market research company Zion, valued the global SMS market at around $55 billion and expects it to reach $70 billion dollars by 2020, growing at about 4% a year.

With SMS continuing to flourish, how can you make sure that as many people remain on your opted in list as possible?

We’ve identified 5 common blunders that will have people unsubscribing in their droves.

Blunder 1
Send too frequently

SMS fatigue is one of the commonest reasons why your contacts will unsubscribe. 

There’s nothing more infuriating than a company that keeps on and on at you; disturbing you with their shrill texts, repeatedly offering you something that you would have bought if you were interested.

It’s an obvious point but don’t just keep sending the same type of text repeatedly, hoping that you’ll beat people into submission.

You won’t, you’ll just annoy them to the point that they’ll decide enough is enough and subscribe.

Sending too frequently is a sure-fire way of losing hard won good will. Worse still, there’s a good chance they might spread the word and encourage others not to sign up.

EE Opens SMS Floodgates


I recently received a tsunami of texts from EE, who were encouraging me to buy more data as my monthly allowance had run out. (I know, I’ve no idea why I’m on such a ridiculous tariff, I need to sort it.)

EE top up test

This is the text I received. Seems reasonable. I’d run out of data, so here’s a helpful alert to let me know and a link to click so that I can top up.

What’s not so great is that between 23rd October and 2nd November I received a further 16 identical texts.

On one day, I received 3 texts. After 1 week of this brutal SMS bombardment I think I hated EE more than any other company.

Why no unsubscribe option?

You’ll notice that EE haven’t included an unsubscribe option here. As this is an account alert and isn’t strictly marketing, they’re not required to include opt out instructions.

Under GDPR this is a slightly grey area as when you click through to the data top up area you are marketed to, with offerings of different data packages.


Blunder 2
Cram in too much

160 is a feeble character allowance but we’re stuck with it. The temptation is overwork your text so that you can get all your points across.

This always ends in a muddle. Your end up having to resort to text speak which people dislike or the offer itself is confused.

Perfect SMS marketing message

There’s much we can learn from this excellent text offer I received from Photobox.

In terms of clarity and brevity of offer it’s pretty perfect and I wrote a blog post giving a full analysis of the text detailing the reasons we felt it was so good.

You’re far better off keeping your offer simple with a clear call to action. Less is most definitely more. 


Blunder 3
Send stuff that’s not relevant


If you’re sending a customer or prospect a marketing text then you’ve obviously captured their mobile number.

Along with their number you’ll have undoubtedly taken a whole host of other details that will allow you to send a message that’s relevant to the individual customer and not just a bulk SMS blast sent to everyone on the database.

Be as specific and relevant as possible to minimise the number of unsubscribes.


Blunder 4
Just sell

SMS is one the most responsive direct marketing channels available and there’s no doubt that it’s very effective for generating sales.

But you can have too much of a good thing. If every text that you send is just trying to flog stuff, your customers and prospects will soon become bored and are likely to unsubscribe.

Mix up your sales texts with other useful information. Try and add some value to what you’re sending rather than overwhelming your contacts with sales offers.


Blunder 5
Get the timing wrong

The timing of your SMS campaign is vital. Get it right and your customers will love you for it and you’ll build loyalty and trust.

Get is wrong and you’ll be seen at best as uncaring and at worst incompetent.

I recently received an MOT reminder from Kwik Fit, just a few days after my car had been MOT’d… by them. Not their finest hour as they’re usually spot on with their text alerts and reminders.

Make sure that what you’re sending your customers make sense from a timing point of view. 

Can we help?

The digital and social marketing worlds are changing so fast and there’s plenty of expert advice to steer you in the right direction.

But If you’d like some help with your SMS marketing, feel free to get in touch.

Another set of eyes looking over what you’re sending can sometimes be useful in highlighting issues that might not be immediately obvious.

No charge of course, we’d be delighted to help. You’ll find our details on our contacts page.

You might also want to put our SMS API through its paces.

Help yourself to a free SMS API account. It comes with 50 free text credits for testing.

author avatar
Henry Cazalet Managing Director
Co-founder and Director of The SMS Works, a low cost and powerful SMS API for developers. About Henry