Tips for Stronger SMS Opt-In Messaging

Bryce MarshallIn my last post, I outlined 5 key elements to successful copy and design development SMS campaigns. The success of a campaign not only depends on the campaign structure, but also depends on the execution and design of the initial opt-in messaging. Today, I’m going to dive into each element and provide some tips for attracting participation with SMS campaigns.

SMS call-to-action

  • The best verbiage and format to use for SMS calls-to-action is: “text keyword to short code.” There are few reasons or situations where using an action word besides “text” makes any sense.
  • There is rarely a need for any additional verbiage to be used, such as “text key word to short code from your mobile phone.” Consumers understand the call-to-action when presented concisely – as long as it is well-designed and clear.
  • Tying the benefit statement at the end of the call-to-action (i.e.“text key word to short code to receive 15% off your next purchase.”) can produce a long and cumbersome design challenge. You’re better off using the benefit language as its own point of emphasis, not an afterthought to the call-to-action.
  • Use caps and/or quotation marks to designate the key word. Ideally, the entire call-to-action rests on one line of copy. If this is not possible and the call-to-action copy needs to be stacked, the break should come after the key word.
  • Do NOT mix color treatments to provide emphasis to the keyword alone or short code only. Instead, use the color treatment for both the key word and the short code consistently.
  • The call-to-action copy should be central to the design and have equal or greater weighting to the benefit statement(s).

The Benefit Statement:

As I mentioned last time, the benefit statement is critical to answering the “What’s in it for me?” question for consumers.

  • Have a clear and concise message about the value the consumer will receive in exchange for taking the time to text and provide their mobile phone number.
  • Keep in mind that many consumers are very hesitant to provide personal information like an email address or mobile phone number if they are not certain of the value they will receive in exchange.
  • The benefit statement should have equal or close-to-equal weight and significance in the copy and design of the in-store signage.
  • In some cases, it’s appropriate to have the benefit statement as the headline message to draw interest.

Special Considerations

Special considerations help avoid confusion when consumers begin participation with the program. They also help to avoid negative response and backlash if the program does not meet their expectations.

  • Be sure to clearly communicate any special considerations to consumers.
  • Make sure all expectations are clear.
  • Weight and priority of the special considerations should come below the call-to-action and benefit statements.

Examples of special considerations could include:

  • Any additional steps required (or more information requested) to fully participate;
  • When the process (or time required to complete the process) will be more time-consuming or comprehensive than initially apparent (ex: “This 3-part survey will take approximately 3 minutes to complete);
  • Any limitations or restrictions – whether because of consumer’s carrier, geography, membership status, or other reasons.

Terms and Conditions

Terms and conditions should appear on all signage.

  • Use a font size that makes it clearly legible from arms length.
  • For terms and conditions text, consider using the disclaimer and/or terms and conditions of the carriers as set forth in the MMA’s guidelines


With your SMS program, it is critical to visually establish credibility with the consumer. They need to know that the SMS program is from a brand they trust.

  • Additional considerations with branding and design are important to tie-in the promotional signage with overall brand standards.
  • When appropriate, the design should also provide visual cues indicating how the SMS program fits within the framework of the overall brand relationship or campaign, including the specifics of an integrated cross-channel campaign.
  • Branding does not come first. Do NOT allow branding content and design to overplay, overshadow, crowd, or supersede the two most critical components: the call-to-action and benefits statement.
  • Be sure to offer value beyond the brand alone. Interaction with the brand, in and of itself, does not qualify as a benefit statement.

What questions to do you have about SMS opt-in messaging? Contact me or post a comment below.


  1. carolyn
    Posted November 17, 2010 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Excellent! Nice review for sms opt-in messaging, it would be quite useful for improving messaging interface. One thing i found missing from the list that is timing of sending messages. It is very very important for getting more response of your messaging.

  2. John Jordan
    Posted April 23, 2011 at 12:55 am | Permalink

    Hey Bryce, thanks for the article! Great and very helpful info!!

    One thing, in your suggestion…

    “For terms and conditions text, consider using the disclaimer and/or terms and conditions of the carriers as set forth in the MMA’s guidelines”

    I went there, found some good stuff, but I cannot find a sample of the terms/conditions/disclaimer.

    Can you help me find that? Thanks!

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