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10 Simple Tips for Writing Better SMS Campaign Copy

Posted by Sam Schrup | May 2, 2022

So you’re getting into SMS marketing and hoping to make an impact for your business. How will you use text messaging to prompt action from your customers?

A major component of this is how well you’re able to craft messaging that truly speaks to your list. You want them to click on your messages, eager to see what you have to say, rather than scroll on by to the next text.

Copywriting is not an easy skill to learn but it’s important for anyone who sends out text marketing messages. You’ve got limited characters to work with and you need to make an impact within a short amount of time.

The good news is, writing effective text messages is a learnable skill. We’ve got some simple tips to help you write better campaigns:

#1. Use line breaks

When you write blog posts or any other type of longform content, it’s a best practice to use formatting techniques in order to keep your content clear and easy to read. The same goes for text messaging.

What happens when you are confronted by a wall of text? You might try to quickly skim it, but otherwise you ignore most of the text. This is common when you consider how busy people are and that a text message might arrive while they’re in the middle of doing something.

Using line breaks has the effect of breaking up text, much like paragraphs or bullet points do for blog posts. A tip for doing this effectively is to ensure you have one key point per line break. Consider the “who”, “what”, “where”, “when” and “how” that you want to convey in a message (or any combination of those elements). These tend to be the key details people need to know, so break them up into sections with line breaks.

#2. Identify your brand early

It’s happening: As mobile phone users, we’re all being targeted with spam messaging that we didn’t sign up for. You glance at your phone and if you don’t immediately recognize who sent the message, you often don’t stick around to find out.

This is why it’s important that brands identify themselves early. There are a few different options for doing this, depending on your business and its messaging. For example, a lot of nonprofits tend to say “This is Jenny from [nonprofit name],” while other businesses insert their brand name before the message, like the Pacas messaging in the screenshot below:

Let people know who you are early so they’re more inclined to keep reading!

#3. Start with a compelling “subject line”

In email marketing, we always talk about optimizing the subject line so that it’s compelling enough to get subscribers opening your emails. In text marketing, it’s all about your first few words.

If you take out your phone now and open the texting app, what do you see? For each text message, you see a preview of the first few words. Sometimes they help to clue you in to what the message is about, but other times, they really don’t.

The goal of any business using text marketing should be to treat those first few words like a subject line and make them compelling. They should let the subscriber know what the message is about, while enticing them to click into it and find out more.

Using power words within the first sentence or two can help to make it more compelling. Power words are a copywriting strategy for triggering an emotional response in people. Some examples of these include: save, bargain, special, limited, exclusive, last chance, extraordinary, undiscovered, secret, priceless and stunning.

#4. Use an image

There’s definitely something to be said for “showing it” along with saying it. Text messaging gives you the option of including media elements to help capture the attention of your subscribers.

Media such as images, GIFs or videos are definitely worth testing as part of your text marketing strategy. Businesses often find that the right imagery in texts helps get them better engagement.

Your media elements should be high quality images that help to convey your message about the product or service you’re selling. It doesn’t have to be super-complicated – often a high quality picture of the product is enough to keep people interested, like the text message from Elemis below:

If you want to get better results from text marketing (or other forms of digital marketing), make it as easy as possible for people to do the thing you want them to do. This includes using direct links to product pages, landing pages or relevant content in your text messages so that they have a quick way to learn more.

As a general rule, using one link per message is best, although there are cases where more than one link may be useful (such as “go here to buy tickets for Saturday” and “go here to buy tickets for Sunday.”)

#6. Use your brand voice

A key success factor when using any marketing channel is that the customer must trust you. Part of that involves them learning who you are and becoming familiar with your brand style and voice.

This means you need to be consistent across your marketing channels, including text marketing. Your messages need to sound like they’re coming from your company! It’s a mistake to try to adopt a different persona via text because it ends up confusing people.

Use words, phrases and tone that resonate with your customers and are consistent with how you address them via email or social media. Be mindful of any unique lingo or jargon - will your audience understand? Are those words consistent with your other marketing channels?

#7. Provide value

Texting for the sake of making “noise” is a big mistake. It trains people to ignore your messages, so that when you have something important you’d like to communicate or get them to do, they won’t pay attention.

Every message you send should have a clear purpose and provide genuine value for the subscriber. Consider why they signed up to your text list in the first place - what did you promise people they’d get as a subscriber? This is what you need to deliver upon.

“Value” isn’t always about sales or discounts. It could be that you’re offering subscribers a first look at limited edition products, or free shipping. Think about what value means to your particular subscribers.

#8. Have a clear call to action

In the spirit of keeping things easy for text subscribers, it helps if you give them clear directions about what they should do next. A call to action is a one to two line directive for next steps. For example:

  • Order your bottles of this exclusive Merlot by replying to this text with the number you’d like now.
  • To see our midnight collection, click here.
  • Get your tickets by ordering here.
  • Sign up for our loyalty program by replying yes to this message now.

#9. Spark a sense of urgency

Urgency is a psychological sales strategy that you can harness in your text copy. Humans respond to urgency because they fear missing out. When you convey a sense of urgency, you’re saying “act now or you might not get this.”

How can you spark urgency via text? Here are a few simple ways:

  • Add a deadline. “Order yours before midnight EST today to take advantage of this exclusive discount.”
  • Explain why they need it right now. For example “get your bulbs now in time for Spring planting.”
  • Tell them that there are a limited number available. This tends to create FOMO (fear of missing out).

Consider phrases like: last chance, don’t miss out, clearance, hurry, limited edition, today only and limited time offer.

#10. Treat SMS different from email

Email is an opportunity to go more into detail about your products, services and offers. Text messaging works best when you cut to the “meat” of the message. Keep it short and sweet to convey maximum value in a minimum number of characters.

People treat text and email differently. Most don’t want to read an essay via text and the medium is not particularly user-friendly for longer messages. Save the nitty gritty details for email, or, if necessary, you can include a link via your text that directly takes people to where they can find

Final thoughts

These 10 tips can help text marketers to hone their messaging and get better results from SMS. Writing effective copy matters, and it’s a good skill to hone.

As a final tip, always test your text messages before sending them out to your list. Typos can ruin the effectiveness of a message in an instant, so it’s important to proofread all texts and check that they look good. Make every text you send matter!

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