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How to Write SMS for Marketing

If texting represents uncharted territory, then you need these six do’s and don’ts on writing SMS for marketing campaigns.

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You know your audience.

You know what email copy resonates with them. You have that one Facebook ad that outperforms the rest and your Instagram captions are on point.

As great as these channels are–and the copy you write for them–you’ve decided to put the 29% conversion rates of SMS to the test.

The problem is you don’t have a clue how to write a marketing text message. 

Sure you text your friends and family all the time, but you know texting your customers is different. You don’t want to annoy anyone–but you also want people to take action.

Here’s how to write SMS messages that compel people to take action–without a word wasted.

  1. Don’t Overdo Abbreviations
  2. Don’t Sound Robotic
  3. Don’t Forget to Say Who It’s From
  4. Do Make It Actionable 
  5. Do Pique Curiosity
  6. Do Make It Urgent 

First, Review These SMS Marketing Best Practices

Before you even think about writing your message and clicking send, it’s worth revisiting three core SMS marketing best practices:

  • Focus on bringing value to the table: subscribers give you access to the most direct and personal way to reach them. So, successful campaigns offer value to their subscribers in return.
  • Get your timing right: brilliantly written texts are no match for waking someone up at four in the morning.
  • Avoid irregular campaigns: you don’t want to annoy your subscribers. But you also don’t want them to forget you exist. Try and maintain a reasonably regular campaign schedule.

Get these SMS marketing fundamentals right and you’re already one step closer to success.

Six Tips to Help You Write SMS for Marketing

We’ve broken these six tips on writing SMS for marketing campaigns into three do’s and three don‘ts.

Don’t Overdo Abbreviations

While the 160 character limit of SMS means you need to be careful about waxing lyrically, there’s no reason to go overboard with abbreviations. 

Instead of being clear and to the point, you sacrifice clarity and professionalism more often than not.

Compare these two examples to see what we mean.

Go2 Joes 2day 4 a gr8 deal! 20% off 1 slice wen u sho this text
Visit Joe’s today for a great deal! 20% off any slice when you show this text.
Hi John it’s Scott @BMW Cars 555-222-0733 notifying you that your vehicle lease is due to expire soon.

If you really need more space, you can always send an MMS message that gives you up to 1,600 characters.

Don’t Sound Robotic

Texting is an intimate way to connect with your customers–it’s how people communicate with family and friends. 

So don’t be afraid to let your brand’s personality shine through in your texts so that your message doesn’t come across as awkward. 

The key to getting this right is to focus on being authentic. 

If you’re a bubbly, energetic organization, make sure that comes through in your messages. On the other hand, if you’re more formal and technical, don’t feel pressure to stray from that. 

It’s all about meeting your customer expectations. A good way to test this: if your SMS marketing copy sounds wildly different from your email marketing, then it’s probably time to recalibrate.

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Buy a gift for a friend and get yourself one for free! Treat yourself to BOGO Yankee Candles this Black Friday

Don’t Forget to Say Who It’s From

This applies to everything from discount messages and appointment reminder texts, to a welcome SMS for new customers.

People are busy and there’s always a chance they don’t remember signing up to your text list

If you got a text out of the blue about raincoats, but no mention of the brand or store, you might even think it was spam.

Explore all our raincoat deals and get yourself ready for spring showers!
Patagonia’s raincoats are the best way to stay dry. Explore all our raincoat deals and get yourself ready for unexpected spring showers!

Do Make It Actionable

Every article on writing SMS campaigns tells you to include a clear call to action. 

That’s because the short nature of texts sometimes means people sometimes forget to tell the recipient what they want them to do. 

The call to action should be immediately apparent to your recipient. No clever wordplay or unnecessary words needed.

Also, don’t forget that certain persuasive terms hold more sway than others. Some of the most powerful action words include:

  • You
  • Because
  • Instantly

We recently launched our new line of raincoats, including new colors and models:
You need to stay dry. Because who wants to get unexpectedly soaked? Shop our new line of North Face raincoats and get 10% off:

Do Pique Curiosity

There a ton of different ways you can use curiosity to drive better results from your copy. (This article is a good overview of the different strategies.)

One strategy involves using expectations to your advantage. Compare these two messages to see what we mean.

Increase results from your Google ads by spending more money. Get the guide here:
Spend less money on your Google ad campaigns and see a 5x increase in the number of leads. This guide explains how:

Disorder is created when you propose something that runs counter to common wisdom–which requires investigation to restore sense and meaning. 

This is a tactic that can do wonders for your click-through rates.

Do Use Urgency to Your Advantage

Urgency and text messages go hand in hand. 

That’s because 90% of text messages are opened within three minutes. 

It’s what makes SMS perfect for flash sales or time-sensitive offers–your customers will almost always see your message.

There are a ton of different creative ways to do this–you could put a time constraint on a sale or let your customers know how much stock is available. 

The most important element of this tactic is that it’s something tangible–not just a vague reference to “limited supplies” or “limited time”.

We just launched our summer collection. Shop it now while stocks last.
We’re giving the first 100 people to buy from our just launched summer collection a $29 gift card. If you want to be one of the lucky few, get on it now:

An Easy North Star to Keep In Mind

When people ask us how to write better SMS for marketing, we always ask them to read the last campaign they sent out. 

When they’re done, our question for them is, “Would you reply or click on this message?”

If the answer is no then it’s back to the drawing board.

Drew Wilkinson
Drew Wilkinson

Drew Wilkinson is the Head of Marketing at SimpleTexting. Drew has more than a decade of experience managing successful integrated marketing programs to build brands, raise awareness, and generate demand.

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