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3 Best Types of CTA for SMS Marketing

One mistake some marketers make is assuming people will know what to do when they read an SMS message. After all, they’re short and to the point right? How confusing could they be? On the other hand, when writing every other form of marketing they know that calls to action need to be clear.

So, just because you don’t have much room, it doesn’t mean you get to leave out your call to action! Saving space and being brief is important though, so take a look at three of the best SMS marketing CTAs you can use.


The most direct marketing messages ask people to buy something. Tickets, shoes, printer ink, travel – it doesn’t matter. If your message provides a link and you want them to make a purchase when they click on it, using the word buy sends a clear message.

“Buy now” is a very clear call to action. The customer reading that message will understand that if they click the link they will be taken immediately to the purchase page or perhaps the product page. This is one reason the word buy is so powerful, but also the reason you should reserve it for when you really are sending someone right to the product to purchase.

For example, if you say “10% off trousers” and you say “buy now” in the SMS message, where would the link take them? Men’s trousers? Women’s? Kids’? Or do you just send them to the main page of your ecommerce site? For some customers that might be good enough, but you’ll probably frustrate many of them too. Not everyone has the time, or wants to take the time, to search around a website to get the deal you just sent.

On the other hand, if you’re offering 20% off Blu-ray players you could provide a link that dynamically gives the customer a page with all your on-sale Blu-ray players. They’ll still have to look through the individual players, but they don’t have to search the whole site to find what your SMS message said was on sale.

So “buy” is one of the best CTAs, but it should only be used when your offer is specific enough you can direct them directly to the buy part of shopping online – not the search-and-then-buy part.


Mobile coupons have an average redemption rate ten times that of print coupons. That number includes coupons used in online shopping, but also ones that can be redeemed in-store.

In store use only mobile coupons are a great way to increase foot traffic when you need it. But how do your customers know what to do with the coupon when they get it in an SMS message? Presumably you’ll use the words “in-store” or the equivalent, but customers may still not know what to do with the message in order to get the deal when they arrive.

To take the guesswork out of it, let your customers know they need to “Show this message” to get the deal. Or maybe you include “Show coupon code to cashier” (assuming you’ve included one in the message). But it shouldn’t get more complicated than that if you want good redemption rates. You could have a message that says, “Click the link for a coupon to show the cashier in store.” On the whole, not too complicated, but “Show this message” is much clearer!

Text to...

The previous two CTAs were contained within SMS marketing messages you’ve sent to your customers. Another important CTA though, is getting people to opt in or engage with you via SMS.

Opt in campaigns are usually advertised in a variety of media and channels. But wherever it is, “Text to” is a universally understood call to action. “Text to Join”, “Text to become a VIP”. Sometimes it’s like “Text [number] to Join”. In all cases “Text” is the action verb that gets people to respond.

There are other uses for the “Text to” CTA as well. For example, there’s “Text to vote” or “Text to Win”. Either of these are clear CTAs for contest campaigns.

Exceptions, choices, and alternatives...

All of the above being said, there are always exceptions and options depending on your marketing and business.

For example, say you’re running a store-wide sale you want to advertise via SMS. Using the word “Buy” might be frustrating because the link you provide will probably go to your main ecommerce page (as I mentioned above). But you could use “Shop now” instead and people would know they’re clicking the link to look around at what’s for sale. Shopping isn’t the same as buying obviously, but it could get happier customers to your website who then make purchases when they have the time to shop.

“Reply.” This is one of the most common call to actions in an SMS message. There are times you want your customers to reply, but most often it’s used in conjunction with the ability to opt out: “Reply STOP to cancel msgs”. It can certainly be used in other ways too of course.

You also will want to use a CTA that makes sense to your customers. For example, I get SMS messages from a DVD rental company. All their messages say “Reserve” or “Rent”. I don’t see the word “Buy” ever. I’d be confused if I saw the word buy because I don’t expect to buy anything from them. I just rent.

So if none of the above CTAs would make sense for your business and customers, don’t use them. If you’re struggling to get good redemption on all your offers though, take a look at your messages and see which CTAs do better. If you think they might work, give the three above a try. And remember to always analyse and test in your messages until you know what works best with your customers.

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