So you got excited about SMS text message marketing and have high hopes for what it can do for your business. Justly! Mobile marketing is now coming to life and many companies are using text message campaigns to extraordinary effect.
You’ve set up with a service provider and started creating a list of people to send your messages to, but here you are staring at the blank screen on your PC. How the heck can you communicate some kind of meaningful message when you only have 160 characters to play with?
First, the good news
It may seem like an incredibly short space in which to say something meaningful, but it depends on your perspective. Here’s an idea: you get 20 more characters than a Twitter update! Twitter is being used today in very creative and effective ways by online marketers. So if they can pull it off with fewer words, there must be great hope for SMS text message.
We need to challenge this idea that copy cannot be effective if it is short. Radio advertising has long been recognized as one of the most consistently effective types of advertising. The most common radio ad is 30 seconds long. Would it surprise you to learn that these ads generally contain fewer than 70 words and the best radio ad writers insist that repetition is a key ingredient? 70 words with repetition, and it is very effective.
Some may argue that writing SMS text messages can hardly be called “copywriting” when you have so few words to play with. I would argue that for this very reason the best, most disciplined and thoughtful writing is required to consistently achieve results and build an audience.
What about “serial” SMS text message marketing?
One way around the challenge may be to consider splitting your copy across multiple text messages. However, there are several warning factors that we only do this in moderation.
First of all, it can be a hassle for the receiver and can also burden you with an additional cost, depending on your cell phone service plan.
Second, there may be delays between receiving the various parts of your message. Sometimes the SMS service provider may be at fault, but it can be as simple a reason as the receiver moving in and out of clear reception areas. Recipients may also receive message deliveries in the wrong order, and all of this can lead to confusion. Therefore, this tactic should only be used sparingly, or it may lead to an increase in the number of subscribers who choose not to participate.
So, How MAKE You do it?
In a way, writing effective SMS text messages is like writing JUST a headline. Good copywriters often say that if they have 8 hours to write a text, they will spend 7 of those hours on the headline and the last 1 on the rest of the text. The headlines are SO critical; they are an art form in themselves. A headline can make or break your text because readers will make the decision to keep reading based on whether the headline captures them. For this reason, great copywriters are seasoned headline writers.
Writing great headlines is great training for writing SMS text messages.
1. Shoot an arrow.
A great text message is an arrow, not a shotgun. You are shooting a point at a set target, not shooting a pile of pellets in a general direction. All the best copywriting, long or short, has a definite goal. The vast majority of text messages are answered (if at all) within 20 minutes. Therefore, your message must be attention-grabbing, clear, and immediately actionable.
two. Talk about benefits, not features.
The old principle of all sales writing is more imperative in this way than in any other. Sell the sizzle, not the steak. Don’t try to list all the things your widget does; just tell them how you can improve your life.
Good copywriting doesn’t try to “create demand.” Rather, it seeks to channel existing demand. In other words, find out what your customers already want and get rid of that itch. That’s the best news for short copywriting, because if you had to create demand on every 160-character message before you could call to action, talk about an impossible task!
3. Write your call to action first and keep it brief.
“Call 800-555-5555 now.” That’s a clear call to action in 21 characters. That leaves you 139 characters to satisfy a need and give your solution. “Can’t cook tonight after work? Our delicious lasagna will be hot and ready for you. 20% off with this text: $ 10! Call 800-555-5555 now”… 10 characters to spare.
Four. Resist the urge to abbreviate words.
Remember the “KIPS” principle … keep it professionally stupid! That doesn’t mean writing an office memo, but you don’t want to write like you’re a high school sophomore texting your best friend after school.
5. Test! Test! Test!
Try different approaches. Once your list starts to grow, you need to do this within campaigns. Have 2 versions of the same basic message and send each one to the middle of your list. Over time, you will begin to develop a sense of what works best.
Write for SMS text message marketing with only 160 characters? It can be done and it can be done well.