With a 98 percent open rate, according to research and advisory firm Gartner, text marketing should be part of your advertising strategy in 2020 — but only if you are confident you aren’t breaking any laws.
Consider that for most people, their mobile phone is something they can’t, and won’t, live without, even if just for a few hours. A recent Axway study, “The Role of Smartphones in Our Lives Today,” shows texting is the No. 1 way people use their smartphones.
Because it’s usually never more than an arm’s length away, text message open rates are as high as 98 percent, Power Reviews’ study “How SMS Marketing is Changing Customer Engagement in 2019” reveals. The average response time to a text message is only 90 seconds, according to Text Request.
And that makes perfect sense, doesn’t it? Once a text message comes in, your phone notifies you with a sound, a buzz, or a pop-up notification on your home screen. Then, about three minutes later, if you haven’t acknowledged it on your device, you get another reminder.
Our smartphones are conditioning us to be responsive to text messages. That’s what makes this mode of communication so powerful and effective.
Before you start using text messages in your marketing or communications strategies, you should first answer two questions:
What is the purpose of my text message?
Do I have express written consent from all customers on the distribution list?
If the answer to the first question is that you’d like to send a message that makes an offer for your services in any way, there is a good chance that the Federal Communications Commission’s Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which prevents the unauthorized messaging to a privately owned phone number, could construe your intent as “advertising.”
The good news is that using text messages for marketing purposes is not a deal-breaker with the TCPA. However, to avoid hefty fines if you are in violation (fines start at $500 per message to an individual phone number), the answer to the second question is extremely important.
To understand whether the TCPA laws could affect your plans to use text marketing, you have to be extremely confident in how you obtained the cellular phone numbers in your database, and know that you have to have express written consent from the owner of each individual phone number.
EXPRESS WRITTEN CONSENT
“Express written consent” is the phrase the TCPA uses to categorize whether the owner of the phone number gave it to you with the clear permission to send marketing text messages, and he or she has “opted in” to your marketing program. It also means you have documentation on file that proves you have his or her permission to send text marketing.
While it says “written,” the TCPA does allow for digital opt-in consent. However, you definitely want to be sure that your process — whether written or digital — follows all TCPA guidelines and doesn’t leave you exposed and vulnerable to a lawsuit.
Also, so that it is very obvious what your clients are giving their permission for, you want to have it as a separate agreement outside of the contract for doing business with you.
Because text messages are viewed quickly after being sent, and are a widely accepted mode of communication, text marketing definitely is a marketing strategy that makes communicating with your clients easy, to help you grow your business.
To ensure your business is collecting opt-ins legally and in the easiest and fastest ways, find or create a process that can help you properly gather and validate your text marketing opt-ins. Also, consult with your attorney to ensure your strategy doesn’t violate the TCPA.
BERKOWITZ is owner and founder of The Image Marketing Group, and is a StoryBrand Certified Guide who can help businesses clarify their message. She also helps businesses obtain opt-ins for text marketing. She can be reached at TheImageMarketingGroup.com.