3 Compliance Tips for Your Next SMS Marketing Campaign
There are so many advantages of using SMS messaging as part of your marketing campaign, from the speed in which a campaign can be designed and sent to customers, to the statistics which highlight the positive open rate of an SMS campaign. When conducting an SMS marketing campaign, there are a number of compliance regulations you should be aware of, to ensure that your communications are as effective as possible, without being potentially damaging to your campaign or your business. If you’re marketing to a UK market, the UK Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) gives clear guidelines on what falls within the rules. Below we’ve highlighted some key tips to ensure your next campaign is compliant, based on common questions that arise.
The short answer to whether you need to gain ‘opt-in’ consent from people you send SMS marketing to is ‘yes’. However, you don’t necessarily have to ask them if they opt-in to SMS messaging. For example, if you have recorded a customer’s details such as their name and mobile number from a purchase they’ve made, or even from an enquiry into the service or products you offer, you can send SMS marketing using those details. Recording details in this way would be considered a ‘soft’ opt-in. They’ve opted to give you their details but for another purpose – so if you are going to market to them, the content needs to be related. Let’s say the customer bought a car from you, but you now want to market an unrelated product to them such as a rucksack, you would technically be breaking the rules surrounding SMS marketing. However, if the marketing you wish to send is offering car insurance, or breakdown cover, under the guidelines you’d be covered for marketing a ‘related’ product or service.
Another condition of marketing to ‘soft’ opt-in customers is that they were given the opportunity to ‘opt-out’ of all communications from you at the time you recorded their details. Without this, you are unable to send any marketing materials to them. Another extremely important part of ‘opt-in’ marketing is that only commercial marketing is allowed via ‘opt-in’ messaging. Charities and political parties cannot use this form of communication to reach people. Also, if you have bought any data from third party companies, you must have direct consent from the person that they are happy for you to send them SMS messaging. The guidelines are explicit that you must have direct consent from the person you wish to market to for any electronic marketing.
Number of messages
Within the regulations, there are no set rules regarding the number of SMS messages you can send, but as with all marketing, it is important to consider the relevance of the information you’re sending. Before you send any messages, you should be clear about the objectives of your marketing campaign and design the volumes of your SMS messaging accordingly to reach those goals. SMS messaging is considered more akin to telephone marketing than email marketing, as it is a direct and very personal way to contact someone. As a result, you don’t necessarily want to then send your customers multiple messages per day, as this is more likely to do harm than produce the results you want. Most people agree that to be hounded by numerous messages that pop up on their phone throughout a short period of time would be annoying and could ultimately be detrimental to your relationships with your customers. Consider the number of messages you would be happy to receive and try to plan your campaign around that.
The best way to avoid frustrating your customers with the number of messages you send is to be clear from the start about how you’ll communicate with them. If you’re a bar or restaurant and want to send out weekly offers, let people know to expect a text from you once a week. A good way to review whether the volume of your SMS messaging is too high is to monitor the response from the SMS messages you send out. If the number of ‘opt-outs’ you receive is high, the chances are you’re sending out too many messages.
Passing it on
Once you have sent an SMS message, it is the recipient’s decision as to whether they forward the information on to their contacts. You may find that if your SMS message offers a discount or promotion offer, that many people do choose to forward the details so that their friends and family can also benefit. However, within the body of the SMS message, you must not have words or phrases that suggest you would like your message to be forwarded. If you were to send out an SMS messaging campaign and then add the new people to your list, you would be in specific violation of the PECR guidelines, so it is something to absolutely avoid.
There are always instances when mistakes can be made, and you can relax that in most cases, if it’s the first time your company has violated the guidelines, you’re more likely to be issued a warning than prosecuted. However, if there are a large number of complaints made against your company, or if you’re found to be a repeat offender, it is possible that you could be charged heavy fines and punished for the violations you’ve made.
If you want more support when sending out your SMS campaigns, partnering with an expert SMS messaging provider, such as Fastsms, is a good way to avoid any mistakes that could lead to issues in adhering to the guidelines laid out for SMS messaging. To avoid any mistakes, and potentially detrimental press and fines, why not contact Fastsms to see how we can offer the extra support to ensure your campaign is a success?
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The PECR Regulations, better known as the Privacy and Electronics Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003 are one of the most important pieces of legislation affecting those involved in SMS Marketing. They exist to safeguard the privacy and use of personal information when used for direct marketing through electronic means, including communications by SMS. Parts of it crossover with the Data Protection Act 1998 (DPA) and where it does so, both pieces of legislation should be complied with. Unlike the DPA, the PECR is obligatory whether or not you process personal data in the course of your business. Read this essential guide to PECR for SMS Marketing to ensure you know everything you need to know.
Yet another company (Quigley and Carter Limited) have been fined by the ICO for not having permission to send SMS messages. In this case, they had outsourced their marketing to a third party who then sent messages on their behalf. So is staying compliant with the regulations regarding SMS messaging so difficult? It doesn’t have to be.
The first thing to remember is that legally, you must give the customer the chance to both opt-in and opt-out of your SMS campaign - but the good news is people are happy to opt-in - 49% of them according to a 2014 survey. So all you need to do is stay compliant and follow some basic guidelines to grow your list.
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Any UK business that collects, stores and uses other people’s personal data for purposes such as marketing and selling is subject to the rules of the Data Protection Act, and those using SMS marketing are no exception. Having a basic understanding of the DPA legislation and its main requirements is useful to maintain best practice in direct marketing such as SMS marketing and also helps to uphold your hard won customer trust - as well as avoid the potentially costly consequences of falling foul of the law. Read this article to learn how to avoid the simple pitfalls and get your SMS marketing campaign off to the right start.
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