Let’s take a walk down memory lane back to high school. You’re writing an essay for your English class and remember what your teacher had said about the introduction paragraph — it has to have a “hook.” Something needs to grab your reader’s attention or they won’t have a reason to keep reading. 

Ok, so you’re not in high school English classes anymore (thank goodness!), but I’m here to tell you that you shouldn’t abandon that advice from your teacher. When you’re communicating with any audience, you want to make an impression. Especially when you’re trying to engage your customers, your writing needs to catch their attention and hold it. 

This concept is especially important when you’re writing an SMS message to send to your customers. While SMS is a great channel in terms of reaching customers with speed and flexibility, you only have a handful of words to make the message truly worthwhile. With 160 characters or so to capture your customer’s eye, you have to make deliberate choices to make the writing effective. We’ve put together a list of six helpful tips to writing a more effective SMS message to make the most of each text sent. 

>>Read Next: SMS Message Examples from the Employees of Dunder Mifflin Paper Company

6 Tips for an Effective SMS Message

1. Treat your first few words like a subject line.

When a text pops up on my phone, I can’t avoid the impulse to glance down and skim the first few words of the message. In just that glance, I can sense the tone and can decide whether I want to open that text right away or if it can wait.  Is a friend in need? Does my sister need me to babysit again? 

When you send an SMS message to your customers, always consider what they will see as the preview in their message inbox or on their notification screen. Treat the first few words as you would an email subject line: it’s the customer’s first impression before they open the text. Intentionally use powerful words (e.g., “explore,” “start,” “level up,” etc.), short sentences, or the customer’s first name through dynamic parameters to catch attention.

>> Read Next: 6 Tips to Harnessing the Power and Potential of Your SMS Marketing Services

2. Avoid confusing words and stay concise.

Just this morning I had a promotional SMS message from a politician pop up on my Apple Watch. The copy was wordy and the text was long. I don’t have time for that! Without a thought, I opened my phone and immediately deleted it. Attention spans are short, so when you send a text to your customers, get to the point quickly to ensure you capture their attention. 

In general, the shorter the text, the better. That rule is especially when you’re sending a proactive text to your customers. Keep the copy between 75-115 characters, or 3-4 lines long. Make sure your texts still look professional and are easy to understand by all age groups. Once you use big complicated words, long sentences or unnecessarily abbreviate words, you’ll lose your audience. 

3. Use visuals.

If the goal is to catch the eye of your customers, add in visuals where you can. MMS messaging makes texting customers much more interesting. Add in multimedia like images, GIFs, video, and audio to make your messages pop. Images are a fun way to give your messaging personality and flair. 

SMS message with graphic


Create attractive graphics that catch your customers’ eyes if they’re quickly scanning a text. 

Graphics can be used to communicate important information like discount codes or upcoming sales. When you add movement to an image — like as a GIF — this too will make your text stand out.

4. Express gratitude.

The customers on your opt-in list are likely to be some of your most loyal. And your loyal customers want to feel valued and cared for. So why not use every opportunity you can to express your thanks to them? 

When you send a text out, make sure your customers feel appreciated. Use expressions of gratitude in your text copy to build a connection with your customer base, even when you’re just sending an appointment reminder or a discount code. Add in phrases like “you’re the best, we appreciate you, your loyalty has paid off, thanks for being our customer” to boost engagement and interest in your brand and in your SMS message.

>> Read Next: The 5 Best Practices for Texting Customers (Without Spamming Them)

5. Use timely language.

Part of capturing your customers’ attention is to use some urgency in your writing. Powerful, emotional words and short sentences can effectively communicate when there is a time-sensitive event like a sale or low-inventory. Plus, most of your customers are going to be on the go when they receive your message. To add timely language in, use phrases like “this weekend, starting now, almost over, today only” so your customers want to open and read your text right when it shows up on their phone.

6. Assume your customer knows nothing… but also that they’re not stupid.

There’s a fine line between coming across as helpful to customers and being patronizing. The tone of a message can determine whether your customers stick around or not. Avoid over-explaining and address your customers like they’re adults…because, more than likely, they are! You don’t have to start at square one when explaining your product or a sale to your customers, but keep the language accessible. 

Be mindful when writing copy for your customers to not make them do additional work just to understand what they’re reading. Write instructions and descriptions simply and logically. Then, read and re-read before sending. Send a test text out just to your team internally to make sure the message hits right. Or, test it on a safe outsider to the brand to get their first impression before you blast it to hundreds of your customers.

Your customers want to connect with you. Read more about how to build texting into your customer journey for a long-lasting customer relationship.