Five Steps to an Effective Text Marketing CTA

Your text marketing efforts need a solid call to action (CTA). A CTA drives the customer to react, essentially stirring enough curiosity to get them to do what you ask (e.g., click here, shop now, redeem your code here). Creating an SMS marketing CTA requires more than just the CTA itself, however. The entire text message should support the ask to your customer, leading them to take action.

In this post, we’ll go over how an SMS marketing CTA differs from other forms of marketing CTAs, the five steps that lead to an effective CTA in your text message and examples that tie in those essential elements.

SMS marketing CTA: How it’s different than other traditional marketing mediums

An SMS marketing CTA works like a CTA in a marketing email, on a website or in print and digital advertising with respect to the customer goal: It’s meant to inspire an actionable response. The differences appear in the SMS marketing CTA’s composition and visibility.

There’s less space

Emails and websites provide lots of room to play with copy and images that entice the consumer to act. A text message can be limited to 160 characters and an image, giving you much less space to make an impact.

The delivery frequency is lower

As best practice, text marketing messages shouldn’t be delivered to the recipient on a frequent cadence. Our 2020 State of Texting report found that on average 53% of consumers send or receive texts from a business sporadically.

Texting is a personal medium and you wouldn’t want to risk the relationship with your customer by invading their space with lots of marketing texts. Email marketing is different, for example, in that you might be able to get away with sending messages more often since it’s a high-volume medium: 61% of consumers receive anywhere from 10 to 49 emails per day.

There’s no “button” for your CTA

A button is useful for helping your CTA stand out and to mask the link that leads to the desired landing page. A text doesn’t offer the option of a button, so your CTA needs to stand out in other ways (more below).

Visibility is higher

An advantage to a text is that it’s arguably much more visible than any other marketing medium — the message is delivered straight to the texting app, which 77% of consumers cite as the most used messaging app on their phone.

Related content: The Ultimate Guide to Texting Your Customers

These differences won’t hurt your text marketing efforts, but they should help you understand why the following elements are needed to create a compelling CTA in your text messages.

What makes an effective SMS marketing CTA?

As mentioned, a CTA should motivate the recipient to do what you’re asking of them. The CTA itself might be the easier part to come up with (e.g., shop now, download for free), but the entire message should build up to the CTA.

1. Write a short message

When it comes to creating an effective text marketing CTA, the shorter the better. SMS is a bite-size medium by nature, so recipients expect to see a concise message. This is a guideline, however, not a rule. There will be exceptions for longer messages (business texting software allows a high SMS character count when needed), but if you find yourself running out of space, move the message to an email or reconsider the length.

2. Show the value of your ask.

Tell the recipient what’s in it for them. What’s the benefit if they do what you ask? Are they getting a limited-time discount? Are they getting extra loyalty program points that lead to a free service? Will they learn something useful? Whatever it may be, make it clear how the ask is in their best interest.

3. Sprinkle in some urgency and FOMO

Aside from showing the value of your ask, your recipient might need another incentive to get moving. FOMO (fear of missing out) and urgency are great ways to accomplish this because they offer a time-sensitive benefit. Retailers do this all the time with flash sales, low-stock alerts and limited-edition items (see example below).

Consumers love exclusivity and may be more inspired to act if they feel like they could miss a good opportunity. And language like, “Last chance!” or “Only a few left in stock” give just enough urgency to stir curiosity and lead them to tap on the link.

4. Be creative with your copy and use images

Texting is known for being a fun medium, so use that to your advantage. Be playful with your copy if it aligns with your brand, and include relevant images to help your message stand out.

Images are especially helpful at capturing a customer’s attention: Feature the product you want them to shop, create an image that highlights the discount or add text to the image to save room on character count.

5. Personalize your message

Consumers also engage more with brands they connect with emotionally, so consider using the opportunity to build on that relationship.

Use their name in the message (business texting software lets you do this with group messages) and provide your name, too (you can do this with a text signature). Personalization can elevate the text from a generic marketing message to a one-on-one interaction. You are, after all, speaking to another human via a very personal medium. Your customer might be more inclined to act on your CTA if you make them feel a little special.

Related content: 15 Marketing and Promotional SMS Templates to Use Right Now

Examples of an effective SMS marketing CTA

If you need some inspiration for your next SMS marketing CTA, look to the examples below that recently caught our attention.

Retail flash sale

This retail business uses several elements of an effective marketing SMS that leads to a solid CTA, which is to shop a selection of duffel bags.

SMS marketing CTA example

  • The message is short and to the point.
  • The value is immediate with an eye-catching “FREE GIFT!” in bold text. If I buy a duffel bag, I get a free accessory that goes with the bag.
  • The free gift and duffel bag are featured in the image, so my interest was piqued to see what other colors were available.
  • The incentive to redeem the offer is clear with the language “Hurry, offer ends 2/20/20!” I know that my chance to get a free item is limited (urgency!).
  • I was convinced to at least look at the duffel bag shopping page, so the message ending with the CTA “Shop Duffels” was a perfect wrap up and ask.


Nail salon loyalty program

This example makes good use of an incentive to follow the CTA, which is capturing the customer’s email address. Instead of simply asking for it, the salon lets the customer know that they’ll get an extra star for their loyalty program in return, which gets them one step closer to collecting a free manicure.

SMS -marketing-CTA-example

Retail sitewide sale

This retailer’s text message caught my eye because of the personalization (along with the discount, of course).

SMS Marketing CTA example

  • The company is making a connection with me: They use my name, and the sender introduces themself. They also say they’re giving me a Summer Sale discount, which makes the offer seem more exclusive.
  • The image shows the free product, the 20% off sitewide sale and shows the urgency of the ask— the deal ends in a few days right before midnight.
  • The CTA leads to the shopping page on their website.

Need more examples for your text marketing efforts? These blog posts have you covered:

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