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Why I don’t advise marketing like a teenage girl

Some ecom marketers market as if they ain’t a day over 14.

Throughout the Black Friday madness, when I wasn’t writing Black Friday emails for clients, I was also looking for cool gifts for Peanut for Christmas. I figured why not get them at a discounted rate during Black Friday, and that led me to interact with many ecom brands as a consumer instead of marketer.

Some of these ecom brands had their marketing machine rolling:

In order to get the discount, you had to join their email list—which is not only a smart move, but it’s also in direct contrast with brands who just give their coupon codes away on the site (or worse, automatically add the discount code to all their products).

While these other two strategies also work, they’re playing the short-term game: It’s much better to conceal discount codes—yes, even Black Friday discount codes—behind a form, so new visitors also have to join your email list instead of going straight for a purchase. Of course, this adds a little more friction to their experience, but all friction ain’t bad. In the worst case scenario, you might lose a customer or two (but these are customers who were only interested in ordering your discounted products and never would’ve paid full price anyway), but you’ll gain many more purchases over the long-term by forcing visitors who would’ve bought anyway (and who will pay full price) to first sign up for your email list in order to get your discount code.

Anyway, I’m getting off track:

Back to marketing like a teenage girl…

While many of these brands did have their marketing channels “buttoned up,” many of these same brands also decided to market like a 14 year old girl. Never mind the legality of actually marketing to 14 year olds… but none of the ecom brands in question were selling products to teenagers. I was shopping for Peanut after all, not our niece.

So, what made their marketing come across as a teenage girl?

Well, it had to do with SMS.

Y’see, many of said forms I praised above were sneakily “two-step” forms, which means that in order to reveal your discount, you must enter your email then your phone number.

I obliged for a few of these companies who offered gifts Peanut would like. And boy, what a mistake that was!


Because for the past week, I’ve gotten multiple text messages every single day from a variety of these brands. It came to a head last night, as I was trying to finish The Ink Black Heart book I’ve been consumed in after work (for, checks notes, research purposes):

I unsubscribed from every single SMS text subscription I signed up for.

Now, you may be thinking I’m being a bit hypocritical here:

“John, you’ve sent a daily email for 16 straight months! How are you gonna get upset because of a few SMS messages?”

Well, I’ll tell you cully:

I ain’t a teenage girl.

I don’t particularly like getting phone notifications.

And SMS marketing is not the same as email marketing.

Sure, you can use SMS to drive more sales. I’ve found they’re particularly effective as “tagalongs” to emails during heavy promo szyn. Some of the SMS automation stuff is kinda neat too—like adding an SMS message to your abandoned cart automations.

But SMS ain’t email.

You can’t “get away” with a daily SMS like you can with email.

SMS messages also charge you per word and per subscriber. So there’s a financial incentive to keep it as short as possible, which means most people gloss over the message because you have almost no chance to make your audience interested in reading your SMS messages.

“But John, don’t SMS messages get a near 100% open rate?”

Yeah, maybe. But so do all text messages. Yet, ask your local incel “good guy” who sends a good morning text to their crush every morning how often that girl actually responds to said good morning text.

And you know what?

There ain’t an easier way to make your audience think you’re a teenage girl than by sending multiple SMS messages per day promoting a lame “extension” for Black Friday/Cyber Monday.

You can, however, do that with email.

Email is far less intrusive than SMS. 90% of your audience won’t get a phone notification every time you email them. You can “get away” with sending a daily email (or even more…).

Email is also far more forgiving than SMS.

In fact, just the other day, Klaviyo messed up the scheduling for two emails I had going out for a client. One was supposed to go Tuesday, the other Wednesday. Well, Klaviyo decided to take it upon itself to send both of these emails, one minute apart.

Both emails still received a decent amount of opens, clicks, and sales.

Then, there’s the one time Ben Settle’s email software messed up: He accidentally sent 10 of the same exact email to his list all at once—fooling foolish people into believing this was one of Ben’s mastermind tactics. It was a simple software mistake. I don’t remember Ben’s exact stats, but I’m not sure if this 10-email bomb even made a single person unsubscribe.

Not even Ben could “get away” with doing this over SMS though.

But most important of all?

SMS companies lie:

They made SMS seem like the next best tactic since social media marketing or keyword stuffing for SEO. Both times, guru-types claimed “email is dead!” but it wasn’t. And it won’t ever die.

These trends died a quick death. And we’re starting to see the writing on the wall for SMS marketing too.

Despite what the SMS companies tell you when they’re trying to sell you, near 100% open rates simply don’t matter. SMS is NOT more effective than email and it never will be because you’re limited to less than 400 total characters in most cases. Also, SMS does not further the relationship with your list like email does, and in fact, it does almost the complete opposite.

And I could go on and on, but this email’s already getting pretty long.

So, I’ll leave you with this:

If you need help designing an email and SMS marketing strategy (and yes, as I said I’m not totally opposed to SMS, but you cannot treat it like email for many of the reasons listed above) as well as filling that strategy with persuasive, entertaining, and yes, profitable copy, then hit reply, and let’s chat.


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