Marketers know the value of short message service (SMS) campaigns. A 98% open and with most read within 3 minutes of receipt means it’s a very effective and efficient tactical lever. Marketers use SMS texting services for activities ranging from promotions to appointment confirmations.

Compelling content for SMS and MMS campaigns is very different from the copy that you would write for your email campaigns or social media posts. Let’s look at eight critical points to keep in mind while crafting your SMS marketing campaigns.

1. Keep it short

While ClickSend allows you to send text messages up to 1224 characters long, it doesn’t mean you have to send very long messages. Since your recipients will read your marketing text messages on a phone screen, you don’t want the recipient to scroll up and down their screen to read your message.

A compelling text message is short and goes straight to the point. Most marketers follow a 160-word limit. Instead, focus on what you feel is essential and reveal more information if the user responds to your initial message. That way, you save on text costs and focus on prospects that are more likely to purchase from you.

2. Avoid slang and abbreviations

As your text character limit is restricted to 1224 characters you should not build your message around slang and abbreviations to make room for more characters. That’s just irritating, and it makes your business look highly unprofessional.

People tend to interpret abbreviated words and text slang differently. If your recipients can’t understand your messages, they’ll end up ignoring you.

On the other hand, a well-composed message is easily understood with proper grammar and spelling, and it gives the reader a good idea of what the brand is offering. The example below shows a marketing SMS that doesn’t use slang or abbreviations but is still able to fit a complete message into a limited number of characters:

Example of a text campaign on a mobile handset


The message above introduces the brand, addresses its target audience, announces a sale, and invites the reader to visit the website and browse through its offerings. Because the sender sticks to using proper grammar and spelling, it can convey its message effectively.

3. Make it actionable

The whole point of sending a marketing text message is to drive the recipient to take some action. Including a strong call-to-action is a critical part of the message, and it encourages the user to take the next step in the buyer’s journey. If you want your audience to take action on your messages, make sure that it includes a CTA in the form of a clickable link or a response code.

For instance, the first CTA from job site JobStreet takes the recipient to a job fair pre-registration page. The second CTA, which was sent on the career fair, links to the event page itself.

JobStreet SMS campaign example on a handset


Some other examples of standard SMS CTAs include:

  • Sign up for free!
  • Use code XXXX at checkout for a flat 20% off!
  • Complete this survey for a chance to win a Free Meal!

Similar to email marketing, the point of sending text messages as part of a marketing campaign is to get users to visit your site or purchase something from you.

4. Personalize and use conversational language

To get higher conversions with your SMS marketing campaign, you need to write your message to read like a conversation between two people who know each other. Therefore it is recommended that you don’t use buzzwords or industry jargon unless you’re marketing to people in the same industry.

A personalized and customized message for each recipient will yield a higher response rate simply because the reader finds the message more engaging. Using personalization methods like addressing the user by name, identifying yourself, sending location-specific offers, and highlighting their recent activities like a purchase or cart abandonment captures their attention.

For instance, the SMS message below from Simone Fash contains a few elements of personalization:

Image of SMS on a handset


Each customer that creates a Simone Fash account receives the text message above. Instead of saying “Thanks for registering”, it says “welcome to the club”, which makes the customer feel like they’re part of an exclusive club. It then invites the recipient to check out the company’s latest offerings and implies that the user now enjoys VIP-level discounts and access to limited-edition items.

The type of personalization you see above comes from a detailed understanding of the customer’s wants and needs. Each element of the message is intended to give the customer a sense of importance and exclusivity, which in turn adds to the brand’s appeal and results in conversions.

5. Offer value

When users opt to receive your text messages, they expect you to deliver value to them.

Offering a special deal or coupon while thanking them for being a customer is easy to deliver and provides significant value. Make them feel special by indicating that the offer is exclusive to your SMS marketing list.

Aside from sending group offers, you can also send offers to individual customers for special occasions. For example, you can send exclusive deals to customers on their birthday, like what Serenity Blue Spa does:

SMS example from Serenity Blue Spa


People enjoy receiving free stuff and discounts, especially on their birthdays. By using SMS marketing to pamper your customers, you help build customer loyalty and give them an opportunity to try your new services.

6. Include a sense of urgency

A sense of urgency and text messages go hand in hand. Most text messages are opened and read in the first three minutes. Therefore, SMS messages are ideal for promoting flash sales and time-sensitive deals.

There are many different and creative ways to instill this urgency, including setting a time constraint or saying that the product is limited. The critical aspect of this strategy is that a tangible factor drives the urgency.

Example of call to action in SMS campaign


In the example above, Alpha Lion offers a $8 discount for customers who decide to buy a nighttime recovery supplement in addition to whey protein shakes. However, the offer is valid for only a few minutes before the vendor finalizes the items to be shipped to the customer.

7. Don’t forget about opt-in and opt-out

It’s illegal to text your contact list unless they have permitted you to send messages (opt-in). An excellent way to build your opt-in SMS list is to strategically place opt-in forms on your website and social media pages. Add the form on your checkout page, email campaigns, and social pages.

Similarly, it’s also illegal not to offer them a way to unsubscribe or opt-out of your messages.

Trying to game these rules runs the risk of your company being blocked from the SMS platforms. Hence, always give users a way to opt out of your SMS alerts in every message you send. Opting out is even more critical in the first message you send to a customer.

Example of SMS campaign showing opt-out option


Dominos offers its customers the opportunity to opt out by texting “STOP”. They also include the disclaimer of “text messaging rates may apply” for greater transparency with their customers.

Offering an opt-out is also a way of cleaning up your SMS mailing list, and it ensures that the customers on your list are interested in your product and will open and read your message.

8. Get your timing right

Lastly, you need to get the timing right for your SMS marketing campaign. There are few interruptions more irritating than your phone ringing in the middle of the night with a new SMS message, early in the morning, getting ready to go to work and on weekends and holidays.

You do not want to lose loyal customers by irritating them at inopportune times. You also need to pay attention to the different time zones.

It’s a good idea to segment your SMS list based on your customer’s time zones. But, you also need to follow telecommunication privacy laws. In Australia for example the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) specifies that you can only send SMS marketing messages between 8 AM and 9 PM.

You have a small window during that period when people are more likely to look at their phones; in this case, between rush hour and lunch (9 – 12 PM) and between lunch and the afternoon rush hour (2 PM – 5 PM).

Wrapping up

If you don’t run a regular and scheduled text marketing campaign, it’s time to get started. Use the eight steps outlined above to create and launch your SMS campaign. Having trouble thinking of campaign ideas? Visit our industries page for examples relevant to your business.

While a text message campaign doesn’t replace your email campaign, you will amplify the conversions, customer service and results when you use them together the best marketing campaigns are always integrated. Send and receive mass text messages today and see your sales and conversions improve dramatically!


David Pagotto is the Founder and Managing Director of SIXGUN, a digital marketing agency based in Melbourne. He has been involved in digital marketing for over 10 years, helping organizations get more customers, more reach, and more impact.