Text messages are relatively simple beasts. They are only 160 characters of text, and can include website addresses and phone numbers. So, with this simple format, what makes a great text message that will have a positive impact on your sales?

First, include your business name

A great SMS message that sells starts with your business name. It seems obvious, but forgetting this is a common mistake! Identifying your business in each and every message is crucial for customers to understand who the message is coming from, and it’s also a requirement in a lot of countries.

To make it simple, the easiest way to include your business name in your text message is just to start the message with it. For instance, you can use something like “Bob’s Burger: save 50% off your next purchase…”.

SMS Example - Business Name First

Then, continue with the offer

So, how to write the perfect text message for your customers? It’s actually pretty simple, always start with the offer!

Take for example the two text messages below. Most text messages promotions will have two components, the first being the offer, (i.e. “receive a free soda”), and a qualifier for that offer (i.e. “when you purchase any regular sushi roll”).

The key when sending a great text message to your customers is to have the offer very close to the start of the message. On the contrary, the qualifier can be near the end of the message. The reason is that the offer is there to hook the SMS subscribers. You want this hook, the part that grabs their attention, at the start of your text message, not at the end!

SMS Example: the special offer should be first SMS Example: start with the special offer

And finish with the fine prints

Finally, in the last part of the message, you will tell your customers how to redeem the offer, when it expires, and how to opt-out from the messages:

  • The redemption instructions explain what they need to do to take advantage of the offer. Typically, it can be something like “Show text to redeem”.
  • The expiration date creates a sense of urgency and makes the offer time-sensitive, which is a key component of the offer. To keep it short and sharp, a typical way to mention this is “EXP dd/mm”.
  • Finally, in a lot of countries, you have to include instructions to opt-out from receiving future messages. For instance, this would typically be “To end reply STOP”.

Also, don’t forget to keep it short

Besides the structure of the message, a key think for its success is to keep it short.

As we said, a text message is 160 characters of text. We recommend that you keep your messages below that limit, so that they fit in one SMS. Why is that important? If you send more than 160 characters, first you will pay for several SMS (1 SMS per slice of 160 characters), and second, on some mobile phones your message will be separated into two different SMS messages. This can be very confusing for the customer! Just see below:

SMS Example: SMS longer than 160 characters will split

While writing a text message that is less than 160 characters can be a challenge, it can almost always be done. Take for example the example on the left below: it uses 178 characters, i.e. 18 characters over the 160 characters limit. With a little tweaking, we reduced it to 157 characters, without taking away any key information. We could fit the entire message into one text message, saving money and adding clarity for the customers!

SMS Example: SMS longer than 160 characters will split SMS Example: keep your text message below 160 characters

Want a shortcut? Use this template

So, let’s recap. Here is the structure you can use to write winning SMS messages:

  1. Business name: it’s essential that you include your business name in each text message offer you send customers.
  2. Offer: then, follow immediately with the offer you’re making to customers. Get them hooked!
  3. Offer fine prints: you then tell the customers what is required from them to be able to take advantage of the offer you just made.
  4. Redemption instructions: you tell customers how to redeem the offer.
  5. Expiration date: and make sure your customers are aware of when the offer will expire.
  6. And finally, opt-out instructions.

Keep it under 160 characters, and that’s it! An example:

SMS Special Offer Template

The next steps

Use that template and start writing winning SMS messages!

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