Unsubscribing from SMS list

Help! My list is shrinking.
6 reasons why people are unsubscribing from your SMS list

SMS is ancient. 

It’s been with us for over 25 years and is embarrassingly basic, compared to the other feature-rich messaging apps. 

Sending a text is the equivalent of using an old BT rotary dial phone to make a phone call.

Vintage landline phone

Beautifully designed though these devices are, they’re utterly incomparable to a modern smartphone.

Surely it’s time for SMS to quietly shuffle off and retire gracefully.

RCS messaging (that absolutely no one has heard of yet) looks like it might be a contender to replace SMS. But RCS is beset with all sorts of problems that might mean it falls flat on its face before it’s out of the starting blocks.

For many brands, SMS remains the most effective marketing channel despite its limitations. Read rates for SMS are at 93% (mobilesquared) and response rates to SMS outstrip email by a country mile.

So when a marketer starts to see the number of subscribers to their opt-in SMS list shrinking, it’s a real cause for concern.

Here are some of the top reasons why your SMS list might be shrinking and what you can do about it.

1. You’re not offering anything of value to subscribers.

This seems painfully obvious but your subscribers joined your list because they thought they we going to get something for nothing.

That could mean special product discounts or perhaps useful information that isn’t available elsewhere. 

Whatever it was that tempted them to sign up in the first place has to be delivered upon.

For example, the discounts available to SMS subscribers should be different and potentially better than for non-members. 
A feeling of exclusivity is important to keeping your customers feeling valued.

‘If I can get the same discount just by visiting the website, why would I bother being part of the SMS list?’

Make sure that there are tangible benefits that customers would miss out on if they weren’t on the list.

2. You’re pummelling them with SMS spam

Your customers probably joined your list to get exclusive offers and discounts not to be assaulted by an avalanche of spam.

If you send too many texts, you’ll quickly find your members unsubscribing in alarming numbers.

“Spam is a waste of the receivers’ time, and, a waste of the sender’s optimism.” 
Mokokoma Mokhonoana

While there’s no hard and fast rule on the optimal number of texts to send, if your sending more that 2 or 3 texts a month, you’re probably overdoing it. 

SMS fatigue is very real and sending too many texts is one of the shortest routes to reducing the size of your list.

Less is most definitely more.

3. Your messages are confusing

160 characters is a tiny amount to get your message across.

With that, you have to announce who you are, make your offer and provide clear instructions on how to respond.. If you can inject a little charm or humour, so much the better.

It’s no mean feat and arguably one of the greatest copywriting challenges in marketing.

With so much to convey in such a small number of characters, it’s tempting to try and cram in as much information as possible. This usually means that you have to revert to awkward abbreviations and text speak.

This often leads to confusion and the resulting frustration drives people to follow the unsubscribe instructions.

Kwik fit logo

To illustrate whatt can be done, this text from Kwikfit is one of the best we’ve ever seen. Although strictly speaking it’s a reminder rather than a pure marketing text, it still has all the elements in place that marketing texts should aspire to.

Be clear, concise and keep it very, very simple.

4. Your links look spammy or even dodgy

Most SMS marketing campaigns contain a link to a mobile landing page where users can redeem an offer or make a purchase.

To reduce the numbers of characters used, most marketers use a URL shortener. There are plenty to choose from and they all do a very good job.

The problem with most URL shorteners is that you end up with a link that gives you no indication of what website you’ll be sent to if you click the link.

There’s always a moment’s uncertainty followed by relief that you’ve not been sent to some fraudulent phishing site.

Standard URL shorteners just look a little unprofessional.
For example, The SMS Works homepage can be shortened to this.


But that gives you no indication where that link might take you as well as being utterly unmemorable.

A much better solution is to use a URL shortener that retains your brand or domain name as part of the shortened URL. 

That way your customer will have the immediate confidence that they’re not going to be taken anywhere they didn’t expect and click through rates will improve as a result.

Rebrandly have got a great solution for this. They even have a tool that allows you to create unlimited unique URLs so that you can track individual customer journeys. Their service isn’t free but the small cost will be hugely offset by improved response.

5. Your messages are poorly targeted

Most brands hold huge amount of information on each and every customer on their database. It’s surprising then that most companies simply splurge out exactly the same text to absolutely everyone.

They take no account of the widely different customer profiles and huge differences that make up their target market.

One of the most powerful advantages of SMS is that for no additional cost, you can create multiple offers to match different types of customers.

By sending the same text to everyone, you’re missing a great opportunity to match your offer more precisely to your customers.

Segment your data into broad customer types and present them with offers that are most likely to appeal to them. You should get a much better overall response rate.

6. You have a weak or vague incentive to join your SMS list

Unless your opt in SMS lists is being constantly topped up, it will tend to slowly reduce through natural wastage.

Customers move on, mobile numbers expire and people opt out for a whole range of reasons.

To keep the numbers growing you have to be providing a genuine benefit that people outside ‘the club’ can’t access.

The benefits need to be crystal clear as well as attractive as possible. You also need to explain at the outset how many messages members can expect to receive and the usual reassurances about how you’re planning to use their data.

People need know that they won’t be spammed and that their data is secure before they’ll offer up their precious mobile number.

SMS is alive and well

Until something better comes along, SMS remains an incredibly quick and agile marketing tool. 

To prevent your SMS list dwindling, follow these simple guidelines and your campaigns will be as successful as ever.

Can we help at all? We’ve got so much experience between us; we may be able to offer you some useful advice or at least have an opinion on how you could improve your SMS marketing campaigns.

Please get in touch and we’ll be delighted to get involved.

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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