It seems like daily I get asked the question, “With email marketing I can import a list of customers, why can’t I with SMS marketing?” There are a bunch of reasons, like it’s a violation of the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act), you can be sued for a lot of money and that by doing so you are violating MMA (Mobile Marketing Association) and wireless carrier guidelines. Even if you’re not afraid of being sued for millions or breaking federal law, there is one thing that every business owner should be afraid of… ANGRY CUSTOMERS!
Did you know that industry estimates show that around 12% of all wireless users are charged up to 20 cents per message for incoming texts? To put it in perspective, lets say since your business opened it’s doors you’ve been able to amass a list of 5,000 customer’s mobile phone numbers. If you were to send all of your customers a single SMS message, 12% of those 5,000 customers (600 customers), would be charged for that text message. That’s a whooping $120 that your customers would have to pay out of their own pocket to receive your SMS message. Since email is free for recipients, the laws/regulations are much more relaxed when compared to SMS marketing, which allows them to do things a little different.
The follow up question usually sounds something like “OK, understood… Can I at least send one message to my customers and ask them to opt-in for future SMS messages, wouldn’t that be OK?” Again, our answer is no. Why? One SMS message, even if it’s asking for permission, has already done its damage to the customers that are paying per message.
The last question usually is, “So if I can’t import my customers’ mobile phones numbers, how am I supposed to send them SMS messages?” You do so by having your customers opt-in to receive your SMS messages, with the use of an SMS shortcode and mobile keyword. More importantly, you clearly tell your customers when they are opting in, that “msg & data rates may apply”. You can see a perfect example of this in the advertisement below.
Hopefully this clears up any confusion as to why you are allowed in email marketing to import a list of customers, but not in SMS marketing.
(SMS Marketing Campaign for Lobby Nightclub in Seattle)