How important is it to run an SMS opt in campaign?
When you use SMS messaging for marketing, you have certain legal obligations to meet. One of those is obtaining permission to send direct marketing messages to the people on your list. While it’s true you can send messages to customers in the course of business with them, sending marketing messages needs to be done with care.
As an example, last month Optical Express (Westfield) Limited was issued an official warning by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) to cease its use of marketing via text messaging to anyone who has not opted in to receive their messages. The ICO had received nearly 5,000 complaints about the company’s marketing between September 2013 and April 2014.
In the marketing message, the recipients were asked to enter a contest to win free laser eye surgery. The message also allowed them to opt out by replying STOP.
On the surface it appears they used appropriate marketing guidelines by giving people a way to opt out. But the real issue came because the messages were sent to people who had no association with the company, and had never given permission to be contacted electronically. The ICO estimates that only one in every thousand people will complain about spam messages. If that is true, then the company must have sent around well over a million text messages.
The enforcement notice, dated 19 December 2014, doesn’t state how the company obtained the mobile numbers of the people. It only specified that the Information Commissioner’s Office was satisfied the company didn’t have the permission to use SMS messaging for direct marketing to those recipients that complained. If the company doesn’t stop sending the messages they will be held criminally liable.
According to an article on the dailymail.co.uk, the company plans to appeal the warning. Perhaps then we’ll be able to see how they believed they could send messages to all these people.
What this example highlights though, is even if you believe you have permission, it’s best to make sure you do. Even if you aren’t fined, the costs to the company in bad PR, lost customers, and lost business will undoubtedly be high.
The regulations about SMS marketing are quite clear. But sometimes people, and companies, can make mistakes. Find out what happened to a company that reacted poorly to the ICO’s request for information, and how it made their situation so much worse.
Executed properly, SMS direct marketing is a hugely effective and successful means of building customer loyalty and improving sales. But even genuine and honest marketing companies can suffer huge damage to reputation or even break the law through simply lacking knowledge or not double-checking before releasing campaigns. Read this article to learn more about the definitions of spamming and harassment, current UK law and how to avoid simple but costly mistakes.
In last week’s blog I covered how the Trump campaign sent unsolicited SMS messages to voters. This week I’m stuck on the same topic, but from a totally different angle: what we can learn from that failure. Because honestly, their biggest issue might not be violating the law. It might be the people they have writing their SMS messages. It’s time to dissect the message that spawned the law suit, and learn what we can from it.
All businesses are subject to the law when it comes to advertising and marketing. Companies cannot make false claims or mislead consumers via advertising materials, for example. Designed to protect consumers and commercial clients, the law regulates most forms of marketing in some way. With companies carrying out various forms of marketing activity, it can be difficult to keep on top of the relevant laws and guidelines. By working with SMS marketing experts, however, you can ensure that your marketing campaigns are fully compliant with the necessary laws and that you’re able to connect with your target audience lawfully and effectively.
When you start using SMS marketing, one of the first decisions you need to make is whether or not you’ll need to get replies. If you do, then you’ll need to decide between shortcodes and a virtual mobile number (VMN, also called longcode). If you don’t, then that’s alright too.
Over the last month or so I've signed up for quite a lot of webinars. I'm always trying to learn more about technology, marketing, best practices – you get the idea. So I've been excited to see many organisations offering SMS reminders for webinars. But there is one experience I had with an SMS reminder for a webinar that I simply had to share.
Four years ago, reputable commentators in The Guardian were wondering if SMS - short message service or text messaging - had peaked in performance after a two-decade exponential rise. Here we look at the evidence which shows that SMS is not only going strong, but continuing to stand out as an essential marketing channel for many businesses.
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.
Mobile marketing offers an unprecedented access to your customers virtually any time, anywhere. This is particularly true for SMS marketing because it is “always on”. Customers don’t have to be surfing the web, or using an app to receive messages. Instead, they see the marketing messages right alongside ones from their friends and family.