How to write successful SMS messages
1. Personalize your messaging
Before you begin, know who you're talking to. SMS messages should feel tailor-made, like a one-on-one chat between friends.
Start by exploring your customer data. Your email marketing data is a good place to start. Pinpoint who your customers are, where they live, what they like, and how they interact with your brand. Use this information to segment your audiences into smaller groups, and only send messages that are relevant to them.
- Loved the Illuminate Lamp, [NAME]? Meet the Ignite Lamp—a perfect match: [LINK]
- Hi [NAME], the Sunrise Pendant looks great in your cart! Complete your purchase and we’ll send it your way. [LINK]
- Hey there, [NAME]! Craving a refreshing Seedling Soda? Explore our latest arrivals! [LINK]
2. Lead with value
From the first line of your SMS, make it clear what’s in it for your customer. Whether it’s a discount, promo code, or invite to your next event, they should immediately know the benefit of opening your text.
Think of the start of your SMS like the subject line of an email: this is your first impression. So, make it count.
- Hi [NAME] get 40% off all Seedling Soda’s this weekend only!
- [NAME]: You’re invited to Big Mood Spa’s VIP members retreat on July 14th: [LINK]
- Quick, [NAME] reply YES for a FREE gift with purchase.
3. Keep it short, sweet, and clear
With only 160 characters to work with (or 153 for longer messages sent in multiple parts), every word matters. So, it’s important to be concise, clear, and direct in your copy.
Use simple and straightforward language that is easy for your audience to understand. Avoid jargon, abbreviations, or slang that could potentially confuse your reader.
Similarly, choose one specific idea to focus on per message. For example, your SMS might be promoting new opening hours, a flash sale, or a new product. Stick to that main message and avoid trying to pack multiple ideas into one text.
- Last chance to register for our free online event! [LINK]
- Hi [NAME]. Did you forget something? Your shopping cart is still waiting 🛒 [LINK]
- Your discount code expires in 2 hours—hurry and save now! [LINK]
4. Offer time-bound incentives
Urgency is a powerful motivator. Including phrases like "limited time offer," "ending soon," or "today only" can inspire action from your customers.
Additionally, align your promotions with relevant holidays or events. According to data from Mailchimp, 62% of customers find holiday promos and discounts “very” or “extremely important.”
- Our Black Friday sale ends soon! Save up to 50% on all outerwear.
- FLASH SALE: Start your weekend off right with 15% off all denim—today and tomorrow only!
- Happy Birthday [NAME]! Enjoy a FREE coffee today, as our gift to you ☕
5. Make it visually appealing
SMS is a visual format, so pay attention to how your message looks. A wall of text can be overwhelming and may cause readers to tune out. Break up your message with punctuation, capitalization, and line breaks to make it more digestible. You can also add text overlay on images to help clarify your offer.
Consider using visuals like images, GIFs, or videos in your message—but, make sure they are mobile-friendly before deploying. Test your messages on multiple devices before sending.
- 🍂 NEW FALL ARRIVALS: Get 25% off your next purchase with code FALL2023 Shop Now: [LINK]
- Hey VIP ✨ We’re so happy you’re here. Enjoy this $15 anniversary present. Valid until Dec 31st. [LINK]
- Get 2x rewards during our CYBER MONDAY SALE. Happening today only. Shop now: [LINK]
6. Encourage two-way communication
Customers want to feel valued and heard by the brands they support. Including a reply option in your SMS messages encourages two-way communication and opens the door for feedback or questions and provides you with an opportunity to respond directly to customers.
If you won't have time to monitor and respond to replies actively, consider using keyword auto-responses like "Help" to answer common customer questions quickly.
- Hey [NAME]! Enter for a chance to win 1 of 3 $100 gift cards. Just fill out our latest survey: [LINK]
- We’re all ears 👂Share your feedback, and you could win exclusive discounts. REPLY now.
- Have a question? Chat with us! Reply HELP to reach our customer success team.
7. Provide a clear call-to-action
Don't leave your customers guessing about what to do next. Make sure your SMS includes a clear and concise call-to-action (CTA) that tells them exactly what you want them to do.
Use action-oriented language like "Shop Now," "Claim Your Discount," or "Get Started" to make it clear what the next step is for your customer. As well, make sure these CTAs lead to mobile-friendly links that take customers right to your offer.
- 🚲 Upgrade your ride with Tandu! Free shipping on first order. Shop now → [LINK]
- Get 25% off your first Kroma Dry Cleaning visit! Click to claim: [LINK]
- Join Assembly's VIP Program for early access, design consultations, & exclusive discounts. Enroll now: [LINK]
8. Maintain compliance
Lastly, make sure to follow SMS compliance regulations and get explicit written consent from your customers before sending them any messages.
Include an easy opt-out option in every message, and be mindful of "quiet hours" specified by your selected time zone. Mailchimp customers can send SMS messages between 8 am and 9 pm in their chosen time zone. Be sure to independently research applicable laws, carrier guidelines, and seek legal advice regarding your SMS marketing plans so you are compliant.
- Stay in the loop with Seedling Soda Co. Text JOIN to start receiving our latest offers and news. Msg&Data rates may apply.To opt-out, reply STOP.
- Calling all cyclists! Tandu's giving you a 10% discount on all accessories. To opt-in, reply YES. To opt-out, reply STOP.
- Relax and rejuvenate at Big Mood Spa. Get 15% off your next visit. To accept, reply 'RENEW.' Opt-out by replying STOP at any time.
SMS writing don'ts
Even with the best intentions, mistakes can happen. To avoid damaging your brand's reputation and losing customers, here are some common SMS writing don'ts to keep in mind:
- Don’t send generic, one-size-fits-all messages: Pay attention to personalization, and don’t use the same copy from your email campaigns or other marketing channels.
- Don't sacrifice clarity for brevity: Avoid text speak, even if you’re trying to save characters. "dnt mk txt lyk dis."
- Don’t overuse emoji, abbreviations, or capital letters: Avoid crowding your SMS with confusing characters or shouting in all caps. Make sure your copy is clear and easy to read so your customers know how to take action.
- Don’t use clickbait tactics: Your message should deliver on the promise made in the first sentence. Avoid misleading intros or deceptive offers.
- Don’t forget to proofread: Typos, grammar issues, and broken links can make your SMS look unprofessional. Double-check your work before sending.
Taking a cross-channel approach
By combining SMS campaigns with email, social media, and more, you can create a powerful omnichannel experience for your customers. Here, a simple sale can turn into a multi-faceted campaign:
- Send an email about an upcoming sale.
- Follow up via SMS to provide a discount code.
- Share a social "how-to" of your product with a link to the sale.
- Create a Facebook event and invite customers to attend.
- Send an SMS reminder the day of the event.
Mailchimp's SMS add-on* lets you manage your email and SMS campaigns all in one place. Plus, with SMS reporting, you can gain valuable insights on how to help improve your cross-channel marketing strategies.