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Email & SMS MarketingContent Marketing

It Takes Two: How Email and SMS Can Be Used in Tandem for Maximum Marketing Impact

February 2, 2023
Courtney Grace

Table of Contents

As marketing channels can fluctuate in their predictability and performance,  teams need to double down on strategy and get the most impact out of their omnichannel mix. 

Luckily, certain channels lend themselves to coexistence and can often employ the same messaging (with little tweaks here and there). SMS (short-messaging service, or text messages) and email are a perfect example.

Often pitted against one another in a head-to-head of open rate, click-through rate, and overall customer impact, email and SMS should, in reality, work in tandem. More often than not, email and SMS share customer data lists and strategy, but marketers have been led to believe the choice is one or the other.

When you properly use SMS and email together, you can achieve maximum marketing impact and reach every customer on their preferred channel.

We now know the impact of utilizing three or more channels in a single campaign: 

Target, for example, noted its best quarter ever in Q2 2020 by integrating physical and digital channels under one campaign “with a sales increase of 24.3% and digital sales soaring 195%. Target discovered that multi-channel consumers spend four times as much as store-only consumers, and 10 times more than digital-only consumers,” says V12 Data.

You need to be using omnichannel impact to cut through the noise and save time, money, and precious staff resources during this time of economic uncertainty. Full stop.

We’re going to discuss how to best pair these sister marketing efforts together, but first — some must-know stats to consider as you build out your 2023 marketing plan and beyond.

5 stats about email and SMS you should know before confirming your marketing strategy

1. Email and SMS: Oil and water? Or peanut butter and jelly? 

Neither email or SMS is “better” than the other in the grand scheme of marketing tactics, but one may be better suited for certain segments of your audience than the other. Plus, knowing the latest SMS statistics better equips you to double down on impact when you combine strategy versus choosing one or the other.

2. SMS open rates versus email open rates.

When comparing SMS to email open rates, texting takes the cake: a whopping 98% of texts are opened versus just 20% with email. In this case, your more urgent messaging may be best delivered by SMS versus email, especially during more time-sensitive stretches of the year like the holidays.

3. SMS click-through rate versus email click-through rate.

SMS again “wins” out in the click-through rate debate at 19%, with email clocking in at 4%, but click-rate is only applicable if you’re trying to gauge traffic. With email, you have the luxury of sending longer, multimedia-rich messages that are ripe for brand awareness and improving other key metrics.

4. SMS costs versus email costs.

Email as a channel tends to be more cost-effective than SMS, especially at large volumes. Sending mobile messages can add up, as most providers charge by the message.

Email, on the other hand, tends to be far more cost-effective for organizations, with the cost largely falling to the email service provider (ESP) they employ. While most have a monthly message threshold, it tends to be enough to send multiple messages to your audience.

5. SMS versus email preferences with customers.

While data shows that 60% of consumers “prefer” receiving SMS to email messages from brands, it’s important to first and foremost consider your audience demographics and behaviors. We’ll get more into it later, but you can determine the preference of each audience member by noting patterns in their open and response rates to either channel and then segment them based on preferred contact method.

In short? You can’t compare the two channels, but rather use each in your mix to amplify your messaging and reach all segments of your audience, wherever they may live, to net some major benefits.

5 huge benefits to integrating SMS and email marketing campaigns

SMS is the new(er) kid on the block, boasting big numbers and making waves for the smallest of startups to massive organizations like Dell. But email is a mammoth; in marketing years, it’s grandfathered in as one of our most traditional and invaluable assets. 

Marketers that have long since pitted these strategies against one another and approached their execution separately weren’t entirely in the wrong, but there are undeniable benefits to using email and SMS in tandem rather than as competing entities:

1. Get more out of your campaign or messaging.

Using the same messaging for both email and SMS will not only hit customers with a one-two punch for your campaign and double up on awareness — but it will also save time, money, and resources you’d be spending otherwise to create bespoke messaging for each channel.

SMS has more restraints around media and character limits than email does, but you can carry over the main messaging points, imagery, and call-to-action to your texts.

2. Share customer data between the two.

Lead generation campaigns nowadays can and should prompt new customers to enter both their email and phone number. For returning and existing customers, you likely already have both of these data points from past orders.

Track tactical data like open rates, click-through rates, and conversions to not only develop the right cadence and messaging for your SMS and email strategy but also for your audience segmentation. Being able to see customer data side-by-side allows you to determine, based on behavior, whether your audience should receive only emails, only texts, or a mix of both.

3. Use one channel or the other to improve content resonation and customer retention.

Marketing SMS is really great for some things and not for others. Email picks up where SMS isn’t strongest. 

Using SMS and email in tandem doesn’t mean they have to look entirely alike; rather, using the same key messaging points but delivering them in the most effective format will improve content resonation and, ultimately, customer response to your content.

Here are a few types of objectives you might work into your overall email/SMS strategy and the best channel for delivering them:

4. Cross-pollinate list growth for both channels by using one to promote the other.

When you send email messaging promoting your SMS subscription and vice versa, you’re naturally combining the two strategies to grow each individual audience list. Your email subscribers may not know about your SMS program while your text lists may have had an aversion to email but want to receive additional messaging about products, launches, and brand highlights.

We highly encourage this cross-pollination, and the deal is made even sweeter when there’s a small discount or promotion involved.

The benefits of combining your email and SMS strategy are clearly plentiful, but how does a marketer go about bringing the two channels together into one impactful execution? Reference this workflow for a double marketing whammy:

A workflow for combining your SMS/email strategy and execution

Approach email and SMS the same way.

Marketers all too often think of email and SMS as separate channels with separate goals and strategies. Instead, start thinking about them as two efforts under the same umbrella.

Before you begin building lists and creating campaigns, ensure the following:

  • Compliance: Customers have to opt in to receiving marketing messaging from you, be it an email or a text. Make sure that all customers who receive these messages have given you that permission; otherwise, you could face fines or penalties.
  • List cleaning: Put processes in place for regular list cleaning to remove any unsubscribers or “dead” contacts who don’t interact.

Once these are in place, you can start working on your audience segments.

First, create segments for both lists.

Your email and SMS segmentation strategy should look the same, whether based on demographic, purchase behavior, or particular goals. These lists may look similar, especially if customers have opted into both text and email communication, but remember to assess your data regularly and deduce which messaging method is most effective for members of your audience.

Next, set up drip campaigns and other triggered sends for SMS and email.

Marketers regularly use drip campaigns like a welcome series and an abandoned cart series in their email campaigns. The same can be used on SMS. Putting these campaigns in place ahead of time with triggered send days and times will ensure subscribers receive regular communication.

Then, agree on key messaging points.

Combining your SMS and email strategies allows you to use the same messaging across both channels. You’ll get more out of the copy and design while changing the delivery and brevity by channel to ensure you’re always brand-friendly and focused.

Drive the same call-to-action and put metrics in place to gauge effectiveness.

As the messaging should be consistent between your email and SMS sends, the same goes for your call to action (CTA). Driving customers to the same landing page or prompting them to act on the same goal — by using UTM links to determine which channel customers are coming from — lets you gauge overall effectiveness of your CTA and messaging.

You can determine that effectiveness by measuring open rates, click-through rates, traffic, and conversions.

Finally, track open rate, click-through rate, and attrition data to change your strategy or delivery method

If someone on your subscriber lists regularly opens and engages with your SMS sends but never opens an email, or vice versa, use data to best inform the type of messaging and the delivery of that messaging you need to send in order to best engage them. 

Studies show that most people find receiving too many brand messages annoying and frustrating, which can lead to attrition and affect important engagement metrics. There’s a big difference between too many messages and messages that aren’t delivered in the most effective way. If your customers are open to receiving texts or prefer email correspondence, follow the data and adjust strategy accordingly.

You can’t afford to not be effective: Integrate your email and SMS marketing today

Technology changes quickly and can create a lot of uncertainty, especially for marketing departments. How can you message more effectively? How can you stand out and gain customer trust as well as their business?

Effectively combining email and SMS strategies and creating a plan in which both channels can flourish will only result in net-positive list growth, engagement, improved customer lifetime value, and conversions — all of which are crucial to business bottom line.

Courtney Grace
about the author

Courtney Grace is a marketing solopreneur specializing in copywriting as well as content, lifecycle, and social media marketing for B2C, B2B, Ed Tech, and CPG brands. Courtney is a deep subject matter expert, having produced hundreds of articles in these verticals during her career.

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