Email and Text Marketing: When to Use Which?

by Hannah Harrington | Last updated 13th November 2018

text message on a mobile phone screen

There are benefits to using both email and text marketing for your overall marketing strategy. Email marketing is extremely cost effective and customizable, while text message marketing can easily grab your audience’s attention. The first step to knowing which one to use is to fully understand the best ways to use both, and how to apply them to individual campaign goals.

Pros and Cons of Email Marketing:

Email is a key player in the world of business. It works best when used to get across detailed information: from promotions to subscriptions to product updates. According to a study done by Radicati there are about 125 billion business emails sent and received every day, with the average employee receiving about 121 each day.

Pro: It is the most cost-effective way to send non-time-sensitive messages to a large group of recipients.

Although the price of a campaign can vary depending on the amount of coding or design needed, the average marketing manager spends about 20% of their budget on email marketing. Email marketing grows brand recognition and familiarity for new sign-ups at scale

Con: Since there are so many emails sent and received each day, it can be difficult to grab the attention of your audience.

When you’re crafting your email send schedule, think of the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” You don’t want to get in the habit of irritating your audience with constant contact, because they will respond by deleting your emails. Then, when you have something important to communicate, they will follow that same pattern.

Pro: You can personalize each send.

Gone are the days when business emails felt “cold” or boring. It’s easy to make every recipient feel important simply by addressing them by their first name and talking in the right jargon. Emails are also media friendly, meaning you can play around with their design by attaching video or images.

When you combine design with witty copy, you’re able to get across your brand’s personality and create that connection with your audience. To personalize further and increase the impact of your email campaigns, you can also make use of email retargeting. To do this, just upload your email list to AdWords. From there, any Gmail user can be targeted with ads within the Google network so long as they are signed in.

You can use email to mention your newest promotion, then target this email list with ads on Google, increasing the chances of click through to your site.

Con: Not all emails make it into your audience’s inboxes.

At its core, spam happens when an email is sent to someone who never requested mail from that sender. Most email servers have now placed filters in their systems to reduce the amount of spam that can make it into inboxes.

I’m guessing if you’re reading this, you’re not a spammer, but there are unintentional mistakes we can all make that might make the system think we are, like sending an email with a generic short link that could lead to an innocent message ending up in the spam folder.

Bottom line.

Use email marketing when you have a longer, complex story to tell. But, keep in mind your number of sends each a month. Flooding inboxes with constant messages creates unnecessary stress for your audience and causes them to pay less attention to the messages and then a greater likelihood that they will miss those that matter.

Pros and Cons of Text Message Marketing

Pros and Cons

Even though most of us can’t go a day without sending a text, less than 20 years ago, the average American only sent 35 text messages each month. Today, 12,986,111 text messages are sent every minute. Since texting has risen in popularity and usership, naturally businesses have also been trying to get in on the action. Once you’re aware of its advantages and disadvantages, you’ll be able to weigh up if it is the right fit for your marketing campaign.

Pro: Text message marketing is trusted.

Although texting is a much newer technology compared to sending an email, the majority of consumers trust SMS messaging for many daily activities, such as for refilling their prescriptions, being alerted to an outage, or for appointment reminders.

When it comes to your business, 80% of US consumers said that text message marketing positively impacted their customer service experience. When a company uses a branded link in their text message marketing, it can help increase the click through rate of the links by 39% because the customer trusts the link is legitimate and not just clickbait.

My mobile phone provider, 3, texts me every month just before I need to add money to my plan. Even though I am someone who is typically weary of click through links, I clicked through this one, because the link told me exactly where it would lead. I not only felt comfortable with the SMS they sent me, but important. It was cool to have such personalized and helpful messages from a service I rely so much on.

Con: Costs are higher in SMS marketing.

The cost to send an SMS message varies depending on several factors, such as the country, if its local, the length of the message, and the number of messages sent, but generally, overall it does cost more than for email marketing. Texts are more likely to be read and to drive action, leading to a better ROI.

Pro: Audience attention.

I’d argue this is the single most important thing all businesses want from their audience. We are all constantly bombarded with marketing messages that we tune out most of them. However, consumers read 82% of text messages within 5 minutes, meaning your message has a very good chance of being read when you want it to be read.

Since engagement rates are so high, text message marketing is best for short, important, and time-sensitive communications. Because customers are required to “opt in” to texts, it shows your audience has interest in receiving information about you, although this also creates the challenge of having to build up a list. But think of this as a positive, because you now have your audience’s attention, which as you know is half the battle.

Con: It can be challenging to make an impact.

Because texting doesn’t include all the bells and whistles of email, like having a clickable CTA, a video, or even color, it can be hard to get a message across.

But remember, the goal of text message marketing is the same as for all marketing: to move the audience through the funnel to convert, or in this case to get them to click the link!

Since characters are tight, and texts are meant to be short and direct, it can be hard to include a CTA. But not impossible! In fact, it’s actually quite easy. Take the “3” example again. Notice how they promoted me to go to “” to add credit to my plan? By reading that link, I could easily understand what they wanted me to do. Imagine if instead they had said “To top up, follow this link,”. Not only would they lose my trust, because I have no clue if this is spam, I would also be a bit confused, and also the text would be much more wordy.

The takeaway is, when you use a branded link, the customer immediately understands what the CTA is, and is then more likely to follow through.

Bottom line

SMS marketing is one of the most efficient and engaging ways to get time-sensitive messages to your audience. Although there are some challenges, like building a strong list, getting your message across, and the overarching costs, text message marketing is usually the best way to capture your audience’s attention.

To make the most of SMS marketing, there are a few things to consider. First, use triggered messages to spark conversions. Basically this means, follow up on interactions that your customers have with your business. If they make an online purchase or join your loyalty program, thank them by sending them a text message with a discount code.

Or, if you’re an actual brick and mortar store, send texts to remind customers to stop by. Another thing to take advantage of is analytics. You can track the success of your SMS campaigns through adding UTM parameters for Google Analytics to links the same way you would in all of your online marketing efforts.


Remember email and text marketing should both play a role in your overall marketing strategy. To understand what role each should play, first think of your customer. What way would they prefer to receive information? Put yourself in their shoes.

The biggest takeaway is to weigh the costs and benefits of each, as both of these programs involve both time and money investments and so they should be done with care and precision. Use email marketing as a “slow burn” to build relationships and to communicate complex information and use text message marketing for quick updates and reminders that require action.

Hannah Harrington head shot
Hannah Harrington

Hannah is the content manager at Rebrandly, a link management solution that empowers users to put their brand name on all the links they share. With a background in marketing and creative writing, Hannah’s passion lies in telling compelling customer stories. You can find this American expat exploring the streets of Dublin or nestled up with a cozy cup of tea.