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SMS Campaign Mistakes and What to Avoid

SMS is a very important channel that isn’t being fully utilised by many brands. One of the main reasons, in my opinion, is because we’ve all seen at least one example of it being done incorrectly.

Many of these bad examples are harming our initial perception of SMS in the same way that spammers advertising Viagra products started to damage the reputation of email marketing several years ago. However, there is a simple way to change this perception.  Own the SMS channel for your brand and build a reputation for sending personalised, well thought out, relevant content to your audience.

SMS is not that different to email, all you need is a clear call to action, opted in contact data and the correct grammar. If you are using good quality data that has been organically grown, then include personalisation fields such as the recipients first name so that they are confident the message was intended for them, it’s a small touch which makes a big difference.

Through highlighting examples of poorly executed SMS campaigns, I hope that this blog proves to be a useful guide which will help you to implement an effective SMS strategy and avoid these simple mistakes. I haven’t named and shamed any brands in this blog either because that isn’t the point, these are used for illustration only.

Like any encounter, first impressions count. If you are new to SMS then you need to think about how you can build a relationship with your audience to gain trust, increase engagement and impress them!

SMS Marketing ExampleReview: Spam is irritating, irrelevant to the masses and this scattergun approach is about as welcome as an unsolicited telesales call. Whilst they want me to reply with the keyword PPI and they will call me, why haven’t they offered me a number to call them on in the message? There is no personalisation here either, which immediately makes me think that this is part of a bulk SMS broadcast which was badly executed.

This approach to SMS is what gives those selling PPI a bad name because essentially, there is a benefit to a consumer using their services otherwise they wouldn’t be in business. I also think that the branding of this SMS is an afterthought as they have added the company name at the very end which doesn’t help to differentiate them from their competition. Also, there is no shortcode or masked sending domain. By not having these details in place, I as a possible claimant won’t be getting in touch with them because I’m not confident in the service I would receive as it lacks the professional touches. First impressions count and whilst small businesses can be equally as good as large corporates, I have no confidence as a consumer.

Better still, when I Googled the company, the first results page was filled with complaints. This is terrible for their brand. If a business doesn’t provide more contact details, to the point where a consumer needs to Google them, at least make sure the first page of results aren’t all negative!


SMS Marketing MistakesReview: This second example is another unsolicited SMS to my business mobile and the content is advertising adult services which are of no interest to me personally. I find bad grammar and text speak particularly annoying, so this example has been selected for many reasons. Firstly, I didn’t subscribe so this tells me they aren’t using opted in data and because of these points; the message has no relevance to me. Also, even after I replied with STOP as directed, I am still receiving these messages, which is very bad practice and infuriating. Keep reading for tips on how to address this if you too have had this issue too.

SMS Campaign MistakesReview: My third example is from a utility provider and again, I didn’t opt in to receive messages from them and therefore consider it as spam straightaway, the message is also messy and poorly designed. Whilst the message tells me that I can get cheaper rates from them in comparison to their competitors, because I don’t use either of the competitors mentioned, the content is irrelevant. They also sent back-to-back texts over a two day period, which isn’t ideal when after receiving the first text I didn’t respond or show any interest.

Another frustrating point is that they are asking me to call them on an 0800 number, which as a member of O2, can’t be done without first removing the 0 which makes the process fiddly and offers me a very poor user experience. With O2 being one of the largest network providers, I won’t be the only person that has this problem.

If I were looking for a new utility provider, at the very least provide me with a free number for me to call from my mobile, after all, I’m being asked to do all the running and so I want to be incentivised!


SMS Campaign Example

Review: My fourth example is yet again, unsolicited spam. I know this because I don’t have an account with this particular bank and so when the link supplied within the SMS didn’t work I wasn’t surprised. The first message I received also didn’t include an opt out which is very bad practice for any SMS used for marketing purposes. The only time you don’t need to include an opt out is if your SMS is a digital receipt.

This type of message is what gives SMS a bad name and a good way to address these fraudulent messages is to report the sender and I’ve detailed below how you can do this.

If this were a legitimate SMS then I would expect to see the use of personalisation fields, such as my first name, account number or local branch. If they were really my bank, then I know they have this data and so it’s just lazy not using it.

Key takeaways:

  • Use opted in data, otherwise you are spamming recipients which is really bad practice.
  • Mask your sending domain – this is vital for successful brand management and in doing so, you will earn the trust of your recipients.
  • Use a short code or trigger to encourage responses, but equally, make sure someone is monitoring the replies.
  • Use correct grammar and structure your content. Think about the impression you are making, especially if you are new to SMS. You might only get one chance!
  • Use personalisation fields such as first name, reference number or purchase information. Using these pieces of information will ensure that your recipient knows that the message is intended for them and that it’s also something they have opted in to.
  • Provide contact details for your company to build the recipients confidence – it also gives consumers the opportunity to get in touch with you at a time that is convenient for them. And if you do, why not use a voice short code that is mobile friendly? You’re more likely to receive inbound calls this way.
  • Ensure you provide an easy opt out, better a recipient does this, than having a bad association to your brand or reporting you.
  • Only use mobile numbers that have been contacted within six months. Otherwise the data is likely to be out of date and this will have a direct affect your results.

Useful tip:

If you get an unsolicited SMS from a short code that you don’t recognise, you do have the option to check who owns this number by visiting

PhonepayPlus are an agency of Ofcom and you will find company details within the results page which you can use to either make contact or log a complaint.


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