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The Best SMS Marketing Message We’ve Ever Seen

I’ve been using Photobox a bit lately. They’re one of the dozens of online photo printing services. 

Competition in the sector is ferocious.

A Google search brings up 7 advertisers on page 1, all of them vying for my click.

Google search for online photo printibng

Having become a customer some months back, they had already collected my mobile number.

Since then, they’ve been sending occasional and very well crafted texts which have successfully brought me back to being a paying customer. (Although sadly, they didn’t us our SMS API to send the message.)

The latest text from them, sent a few months ago, was simple, short, punchy and persuasive.

In fact for a pure sales SMS, I don’t think I’ve seen a better one.

Here it is.

A near perfect text message marketing message

At first glance, the message seems rather abrupt and lacking a little warmth.

But this is SMS, there’s not much space to chat cosily before getting to the point. 
You have just 160 characters. No waffling allowed.

The objective here is to make me an offer I can’t refuse and make me respond.

So what is it about this text that makes it so darn effective?

Anatomy of the near perfect SMS marketing message

There are at least 5 things we can learn from this text.

Let’s dive in and look at the details.


“50% off EVERYTHING”
An attention grabbing opener

SMS offer - 50% offer

There’s no better way to grab my attention than with a price slashing offer.

This one is clearly designed to stop me in my tracks, make me sit up and pay attention.  

The shouty capitals make the point even more emphatically.

20% or 30% off wouldn’t have done it for me, but 50%? Now I’m listening.

“Ends at Midnight”
 Act now, there’s a deadline

Text showing a deadline for an offer

This ‘deadline’ ruse is as old as marketing itself but it’s still a very effective way of creating a sense of urgency.

Unless you order before midnight, you’ll miss out on this fantastic offer’, is the message they’re conveying.

It’s very compelling.

It’s a particularly effective tactic online where offers can easily be switched off after the end time.

“Use Code 50Dec”
Simple instructions on how to get the discount

A simple code is the best way to redeem a discount, it’s what we’ve all become accustomed to online.

By mentioning the code in the text itself, rather than waiting to explain the details on the landing page, Photobox have reassured us that we’re not going to have to jump through hoops to get our hands on the offer.

Use the code, the discount will be applied. We understand immediately how this offer is going to work.” 
Sensible use of URL shortener

SMS highlighting URL

There’s no need to waste precious characters by using the whole web address.

Using a URL shortener is an obvious way of reducing the web address and saving characters for the offer itself.

They’ve plumped for which is the most popular and one of the oldest.


“Optout? Text STOP to 60163”
Clear and simple opt out instructions

This is the perfect example of how to provide opt out instructions.

They’re unambiguous and crystal clear.

What’s more, they haven’t been tempted to resort to text speak to reduce the number of characters used.

How could this message be improved?

Excellent as it undoubtedly is, we think with a little tweaking here or there this message can be improved still further. We’ve taken the liberty of suggesting some changes.

Here’s a reminder of the original text.

50% off EVERYTHING ends at midnight! Use Code 50DEC Optout? Text STOP to 60163

Message Length : 100 characters

Here is our improved version.

A better SMS marketing message

Message Length :147 characters

Although they’ve only got 160 chacters to play with, Photobox have been amazingly frugal and only used around 100 characters, (including spaces).

If they’d used the full 160, they might have found a way to inject a bit of humour or come across as slightly more human. 


Research always shows that if you personalise your marketing, you get a higher response. Whether you’re a fan of this corporate chumminess or not, it’s a proven tactic.

SMS showing personalisation

Photobox had already done the hard work in collecting my personal details.

It seems a shame not to use them when talking directly to me. 



The original message had ‘Photobox’ as the sender name of the text but didn’t mention the company name in the body of the text. 

Include company name

Repeating the brand in the message adds clarity and will help recognition.

Text showing company name

Specify when the offer closes

By emphasising the fact that the offer ends at midnight tonight, you create an enhanced sense of urgency.

Testing is the key

As with all direct marketing, your don’t need to guess which text will get the best response, you can test.

One of the joys of using SMS is that testing different approaches is no more expensive than trying just one.

So you can segement your data and try different texts to see which one gets the best response.

It’s far less hassle than putting together A/B tests for web landing pages or email.

Looking for Ideas?

If you’re lacking inspiration for your next campaign, you might want to take a look at The SMS Works message library which has examples texts for various industry sectors.

Please feel free to use them as you wish. If you want us to come up with some ideas for your next campaign, we’ll gladly put together a text or 2, or suggest ways to improve what you already have.

No charge, we’d be happy to help. All our details are on our contacts page.

If you’d like to set a free account and test our SMS API, please help yourself. Your SMS API test account comes with 50 free text credits.

author avatar
Henry Cazalet Managing Director
Co-founder and Director of The SMS Works, a low cost and powerful SMS API for developers. About Henry