SMS Deliverability: How to Ensure Your Sales SMS Get Delivered

Ever send out an SMS and later find out your recipients never received it? There are only a handful of things more painful in life than that.

Needless to say, if your messages don’t make it through, all that sales and marketing effort (and money) you’ve spent is wasted.

But this doesn’t have to happen to you anymore. How, you may be wondering? Well, we’ve got just the solution!

In this article, you'll learn the key strategies for ensuring your SMS gets delivered. But before we talk about that, let's make sure we’re on the same page about what SMS deliverability is–and why it matters.

What Is SMS Deliverability?

SMS deliverability is a measure of how many of your sent messages make it to their intended recipients. It's often influenced by factors like message content, sender reputation, mobile device capabilities, recipient phone issues, invalid numbers, and even network congestion.

SMS messages can be a critical part of the sales process. They help nurture leads, have a higher open rate, and encourage interactions without getting lost in the email inbox. Deliverability issues, however, can limit their effectiveness.

There are four critical reasons to pay attention to SMS deliverability:

  • Poor deliverability can result in your messages being blocked by carriers.
  • Ensure leads perceive your messages as legitimate.
  • Keep customers engaged with timely and accurate messages.
  • Avoid sending messages to incorrect phone numbers–which wastes your money and makes you look spammy.

You already see where I'm going with this; as a sales manager or rep, to be effective with SMS, you need to make sure your messages are delivered to the right people.

Now that we have a better understanding of what SMS deliverability is, let's look at common reasons SMS messages fall short and cannot reach their intended destination.

Why Do SMS Messages Fail to Deliver?

You may already have a few ideas of what impacts deliverability, but let’s look at the most common causes.

1. Spam Filters

As of November 2023, there are 465,802,124 spam texts sent every day. And that's in the United States alone.

Why Do SMS Messages Fail to Deliver - Spam SMS Messages in Nov-23

To combat this, many carriers have implemented spam filters to keep these messages from reaching their customers. If your message looks like a spam message, it will probably get filtered out and never make its way to your customer.

For instance, if your message contains too many exclamation points or all capital letters, it might get flagged for spam and never make it to your intended recipient. Or if you keep sending messages to recipients after they unsubscribe from your list, that could also get you flagged as a spammer.

2. SMS Filtering

While spam filters are designed to keep out spam messages, SMS carrier filtering is used to filter out any messages that don’t match the phone carrier’s standards.

This means your message could get blocked for any number of reasons, including if it contains too many links or if carriers deem its content inappropriate.

Carriers sometimes filter messages from certain numbers if they receive too many complaints about those numbers sending spam.

Sometimes, it's not just carriers—some businesses and recipients have their filtering systems in place to block out messages from certain senders.

Why Do SMS Messages Fail to Deliver - SMS Filtering

Source: 9 to 5 Mac

If you're sending messages from an unknown number, a masked sender id, or from a number that's associated with spam, these filters might block your message before it reaches its intended recipient. Or if your messages contain too many keywords that could be associated with spam, they might never make it to your customer.

3. You’re Sending Too Many Messages

If you send too many messages to a single customer or recipient, it might get flagged as spam and never go through the system.

"How many is too many?" you might ask. Well, it depends on the carrier, recipient, and a few other factors (some of which I've mentioned here). In general, stick to four to five messages a month unless you have a specific reason for messaging (like an ecommerce company sending delivery updates.)

If you send too many messages to a contact in a short period of time, or if the recipients have indicated your messages are irrelevant or unwanted, they could be considered spam.

4. You’re Texting the Wrong Number

Texting the wrong number is a common mistake. It could be because of a typo, an outdated contact list, or simply the wrong recipient being selected.

Why Do SMS Messages Fail to Deliver - Texting the Wrong Number

It could also happen when you're texting an out-of-order number or one that's been disconnected. In either case, your message won't reach its intended destination—and you'll have no way of knowing it didn't make it.

Landlines and non-mobile numbers will also cause SMS delivery failures, as SMS messages are only meant for mobile devices. To avoid this, make sure you have a reliable system in place to check for typos, outdated contacts, and other common mistakes.

5. Message Content

The message itself could be to blame, as your text message content needs to adhere to the rules of carriers, or else you risk your messages being blocked.

For example, if your messages contain highly regulated or prohibited content, they might be flagged and not delivered. This is often different from region to region, so you'll need to be aware of any localized restrictions.

Case in point: messages containing sexual content or references to drugs, alcohol, gambling, and violence are usually highly scrutinized. So you want to make sure your messages comply with the regulations of your carrier and keep the content appropriate.

Also, check to make sure you’re compliant with the rules and regulations of your service provider. So you'd want to check their bulk SMS guidelines and make sure your messages comply with them to avoid any deliverability issues—and keep SMS delivery rates high.

5 Ways to Improve SMS Message Deliverability + Close More Deals

There are several steps you can take to improve the deliverability rate of your text messages and ensure they reach their intended destination, but these five are the most important:

1. Always Ask for Opt-in

Can you count how many times you've received a message from a company without opting in? What does it feel like?

Intrusive? Check. Annoying? Double check.

When you let your customer opt-in to receive messages from you, it gives them a chance to say yes. "Yes" to personalized content, "yes" to exclusive offers and updates, and most importantly, "yes" to a better customer experience.

They know what they're getting into when they opt-in, and they're usually more receptive to your messages. Here are a few ways to get customers to opt-in:

  • Offer an incentive, like a discount or freebie for signing up
  • Include phone number field in online forms
  • Invite customers to text you at a specific number to sign up
  • Encourage customers to sign up via social media contests

2. Clean up Your Phone Number List

From time to time, your customers and leads will change their phone numbers. Everyone does, right?

We all do it for several reasons; maybe they got a new phone or switched carriers. Maybe they switched jobs. Whatever the reason, you want to make sure your phone number list is up to date so your sales messages reach the right people.

There are both manual and automation-driven methods to identify outdated subscriber contacts. If you have a small list, and you have updated records for each contact, you can manually go through your list, check for discrepancies, and make corrections.

If you have a large list of contacts, you could use a PhoneValidator to automatically detect mobile vs. landline numbers and invalid phone numbers.

How to Improve SMS Message Deliverability - Clean Up Your Phone Number List

Data enrichment tools like Clearbit can also help you keep your lists clean and accurate.

3. Don’t Send Spam

First, what qualifies as spam?

People consider unsolicited text messages spam. Messages that follow tricky tactics to get people to click or engage with a message are also considered spam. A real-life example of this is the infamous "yes-no" scam, where the sender tries to get you to reply with a “yes” or “no” answer.

How to Improve SMS Message Deliverability - Dont Send Spam


While you might not mean to do it, even sending too many messages in a short time span can be considered spam. You want to send messages often enough to stay top of mind and ensure your message is seen, but not so often that it becomes annoying.

Spammy messages do more harm than good. They not only damage your reputation and make consumers less likely to respond to future messages, but can also get you in trouble with your service provider or carrier network.

So stay on the safe side; always get permission before sending a message. Be transparent with your customers, tell them what to expect from you, and send messages according to their preferences.

4. Use Short Codes

Short codes are usually five or six-digit numbers you can use for SMS marketing campaigns.

Most companies use them because they make it easier and faster to send messages to customers, and it's one super effective tactic to build engagement with customers.

More importantly, it's one of the best ways to get customers to opt in. All they have to do is text in a keyword, and they're opted in automatically. You get their consent, and you don't have to wait for them to fill out a form or click on a link.

For instance, let's say you're running a promotion and want customers to enter a code word to redeem an offer. And the offer could be anything from a discount code to free shipping.

You can use a messaging service like TextMagic to create a short code and set up an automated message that sends customers the code word as soon as they enter your promotion. You've probably seen these types of SMS campaigns, like when you text “WIN” to a certain number and get a message back with the code word.

So it's a great way to improve your SMS deliverability rate and also drive revenue.

5. Spread SMS Messages Out

Instead of sending 1,000 messages at once, try sending fewer messages at a time. That way, you can space out your messages over a longer period and ensure everyone sees them. For example, if you are sending sales-related shipping notifications, make sure to send them at the relevant times so they won't get lost in your customer's inbox.

Also, make sure your messages are spread out correctly to accommodate different time zones—if your audience is in a different time zone, they don’t want a text notification at 3 a.m!

SMS Sales Messages Have High Open Rates–if They Get Delivered

The benefits of SMS messages can't be overstated. It's a convenient and cost-effective sales strategy that gets results.

And it has a higher open rate than email marketing or direct mail. No wonder a survey of U.S. internet users found a staggering 42 percent open rate for text messages versus only 32 percent and 31 percent, respectively, for e-mail commercial messages and promo messaging apps.

But that number means nothing if your messages don't get delivered in the first place. So follow these best practices—get permission first, avoid spammy tactics, use SMS sequences that start from consent, and follow any other best practices to increase your SMS message delivery rate.

In the end, if you're careful about delivering your messages, SMS can be an incredibly effective tool for sales.

Good luck!

Table of Contents
Share this article