Business SMS Messaging Best Practices: How to Stay Compliant
There’s always a newer and better marketing tactic that has higher conversions and open rates. And with each marketing advancement comes learning curves, technical know-how, and rules to follow.
Now more than ever, people are interacting with businesses online and via text due to COVID-19. So, if you haven’t already implemented a business SMS messaging campaign, there’s never been a better time to dive into this tactic and determine whether it fits into your overall marketing strategy.
Why Business SMS Messaging Is Growing in Popularity
Aside from the fact that digital business is booming right now, there are several other important reasons to consider adding SMS to your marketing arsenal.
Here are some statistics to demonstrate how powerful business SMS messaging is:
- SMS messages have a 98% open rate! Yes, you read that right. We could stop there because you can’t argue with that, but let’s move on…
- 90% of SMS messages are read within just 3 minutes.
- Coupons are redeemed 10 times more often through SMS than any other means of coupon delivery.
- SMS marketing messages are 40% more likely to lead to a conversion than other types of marketing messages.
- After opting in, 75% of consumers are happy to receive SMS messages from brands.
So, there you have it. Business SMS messaging is absolutely one of the best ways you can market your company or brand.
What’s Holding Most Businesses Back & Why It Matters
Even after reading all of those incredible statistics, 30% of marketers will still miss out on the opportunity that business SMS messaging presents simply because they’re afraid of the compliance regulations that go along with it.
It can be pretty scary (but hang in there, because we’re going to make it really easy for you if you keep reading).
Compliance is no joke. Take Papa John’s, for example. They had to pay $16 million in a class action lawsuit because they didn’t have proper user consent.
Consequences for noncompliance can lead to financial damages that range from $500 to $1,500 per text message for each person who didn’t offer consent.
Before you start shaking in your boots, let’s move forward with a simple outline of what you need to know to avoid that from happening to you.
What You Need to Know about Text Message Laws & Regulations
Obviously, the whole point of SMS compliance laws is to protect individuals from receiving text messages that they do not want. So, if you just start from that mind-set, the rest is pretty easy.
But here are the 7 most important guidelines you need to follow:
1) Customers Must Provide “Express Written Consent”
You cannot send any text messages to your customers until you have their express written consent, and you can’t bury the written consent in a list of other legal stuff.
You need to very simply and clearly state what they are agreeing to in a place where they will easily see it so that they absolutely know what they are signing up for.
To obtain consent, you can ask your customers to do any of the following:
- Text a keyword to you
- Enter a phone number on a web form
- Give written consent in person
Here are some important tips to keep in mind for this one:
- Every SMS message applies, even if you aren’t sending anything promotional.
- It is illegal to require an opt-in in order for someone to purchase what you sell.
- You’ll need to be able to prove that you have consent (most business SMS messaging platforms will record that information for you).
- Even if you are importing existing customers into your business SMS messaging platform, you are still required to have their written consent to send them text messages.
2) Your CTAs Must Be Compliant
The words that convince a person to opt in to your SMS campaign are considered a call to action (CTA).
Each CTA for this purpose must consist of several elements, including…
- Purpose – They need to fully understand what they are signing up for (information, coupons, reminders, tips, etc.).
- Frequency – Make it clear how many messages they should expect per week/month.
- Rates – You must inform them that message and data rates may apply.
- Terms & Conditions – You need to add a link to your Terms & Conditions, and those terms should include the following:
- Your company’s or brand’s identity information
- Contact information for customer service
- A description of what they are signing up for
- Instructions for how to opt out, such as “Reply with STOP to unsubscribe”
You can view some great examples of how to set up your CTA here.
3) Send a Confirmation Message
The first text message that you send to people after they opt in must be a message that confirms they have opted in. It should include the following information (even if it seems redundant):
- Your company identity
- Message frequency
- Message and data rates may apply
- Instructions for how to opt out
Most business SMS messaging software builds this feature right in so that a message goes out automatically upon opt-in.
4) SHAFT – Do Not Text These
SHAFT stands for Sex, Hate, Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco. Businesses are not allowed to text anything related to those topics or include anything about them in their CTA.
This is one of the worst violations, but there are a few exceptions.
For example, if your company is a bar, you can probably still send messages about happy hour specials, but in order to do so, you’ll need to operate on a dedicated toll-free number and you’ll need to use an age gate to prevent people under the age of 21 from signing up.
5) Adhere to the Timing Guidelines
We don’t need to write several paragraphs about this one. It’s pretty simple: Texts are only allowed to be sent between 8:00 AM and 9:00 PM.
6) Determine If You Need Single Opt-in or Double Opt-in
Whether you need to use a single or double opt-in depends on the way that you are receiving consent. Here is an explanation:
- Single Opt-in – You can use single opt-in if you received consent through an SMS message. If they texted you a keyword to opt in, you are good to go.
- Double Opt-in – If, however, you receive consent by another means, you’ll need to use double opt-in. This might include web forms, check boxes on a form, hand-written consent, etc. In cases like these, you’ll need to send a SMS message verifying that they’ve opted in and ask them to reply YES if they confirm.
7) Be Compliant with Your Opt-Outs
Business SMS messages are classified as spam if they don’t conform to proper opt-out protocols. Here are the best ways to handle your opt-outs:
- You must make it really easy for them to opt out, which means they need to be able to do so by replying to your text message. The easiest way to do that is to say, “Text STOP to opt out.”
- Continually reiterate how easy it is to opt out by reminding your subscribers at least once a month about how to opt out. You can do this at the end of your messages.
- Acknowledge each opt-out by replying with a confirmation opt-out message.
- Of course, it should go without saying that when a person requests to be opted out, you must actually opt them out. Your software should take care of that for you.
Know Your Specific Regulations & Guidelines
Each country has different business SMS messaging regulations, and each industry also has different guidelines to follow. You can view information about that by using the following two resources:
- Mobile Marketing Association’s Consumer Best Practices for Messaging
- Wireless Industry Association’s CTIA’s Short Code Monitoring Program
NOTE: The guidelines we’ve provided above pertain to the United States.
In the U.S., nonprofit organizations are exempt from the opt-in and do-not-call requirements of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
Final Thoughts about Business SMS Messaging
As you can see, when you break it down in layman’s terms like we have, business SMS messaging really isn’t that scary. And honestly, it’s pretty much common sense when you follow the mind-set that you are protecting the privacy of your subscribers.
If you want to learn more about implementing this tactic in your marketing strategy, don’t hesitate to reach out!
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended as legal advice and it should not be substituted for proper legal counsel.