Whether it is through personal SMS or business text messaging, majority of businesses have adopted SMS marketing to reach out to their current and potential customers.

SMS marketing helps you in connecting with your customers and keeping them updated about your business. You can create robust and personalised SMS marketing campaigns based on the specific needs of your customers. With the help of your customer database, you can extract details regarding the specific interests and preferences of your customers and reach out to them directly on their phones.

It is very common of businesses to send SMS regarding several specific purposes. Customers receive an SMS on beginning or termination of a subscription. They receive an SMS as a confirmation of a payment they made. They receive an SMS regarding exclusive offers and discounts tailored according to their needs. This way, SMS marketing helps businesses stay in touch with their customers and provide personalised services to them.

There are various applications that help businesses undertake SMS marketing effectively, an ideal example being textible.io. Textible.io is the best app for Salesforce when it comes to SMS marketing. It automates business text messaging, allowing the users to connect with their clients in a personalised and efficient manner. It also allows users to create strong SMS marketing campaigns.

However, is it legal to text someone without their permission?

The answer cannot be a simple yes or no. There are specific rules one needs to follow as a business organisation for sending text messages to their customers for SMS marketing. The legal act that looks into this matter is known as TCPA.

What is TCPA?

Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is an act passed by the United States Congress in 1991, turned officially into a law by then President George H. W. Bush. TCPA was introduced t look into the matters regarding the solicitation of telephone calls, text messages and faxes. The activities under TCPA are overlooked by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).

The primary purpose of TCPA is to prevent customers from receiving unwanted marketing calls and messages from companies they are not interested in. It checks and regulates telemarketing calls, unsolicited faxes, text messages, pre-recorded calls and auto-dialled calls. This prevents marketers from spamming their customers with messages against their will.

If you are willing to undertake SMS marketing, it is important to comply with all the TCPA SMS rules while sending messages to your current or potential customers. The text message marketing laws by TCPA strictly prevent marketers from contacting their customers without having a “prior express consent” for the same. This consent essentially depends on the content of your message and type of device used for communication. You therefore need sufficient consent before sending marketing messages to your contacts on their phones.

TCPA Guidelines Regarding Spams

In communication through both SMS and emails, spams are fairly common. According to TCPA text messaging rules, “unsolicited advertisements” are considered as spams.

These are essentially the messages that advertise the availability or talk about the quality of a product/service delivered to an individual without them having given a permission to do so.

This implies to messages circulated with regards to any product, property or services. If the individuals that you may consider as potential customers have not expressed any interest and given no permission (in writing or otherwise) to allow the delivery of such messages, they are considered as spams and not acceptable under TCPA guidelines.

If you need to send promotional messages to your customers, it is advisable to obtain a presentable proof of consent from the concerned individuals before you start sending the text messages. You can do so by sending an initial message screening your target customers.

Getting Consent Of Your Customers

According to the TCPA, it is mandatory for businesses to obtain a written or digital consent by the customers for sending promotional messages. It is important for the marketer to have full disclosure and clearly explain the customers about the nature and purpose of the messages while asking for consent. Moreover, they should be provided with an option to opt out of a marketing campaign, with a choice to continue receiving messages from the concerned marketer.

The text message marketing laws of TCPA recommend marketers to retain the consent for a minimum of four years. The consent needs to be duly signed by the customers, which can be written, digital or a simple opt-in for a campaign.

While drafting an agreement for seeking consent of the customers, you are required to list all relevant terms and conditions without missing out any minute detail. Make sure you make it clear to the customer that on signing the agreement, they are allowing you to send the concerned type of messages to them through SMS.

Moreover, you are also required to make it clear that the consent of receiving messages does not involve any condition for purchasing your products or services. On drafting the agreement, make sure you obtain your customers’ consent within the purview of the federal and state laws. It is advisable to keep a proof of the customers signing the agreement for future.

Details To Mention In Your Ads

As a marketer, there are important considerations to be noted while posting an advertisement asking your potential customers to subscribe to your messages. These are the ads where you ask your customers for their contact numbers.

According to the TCPA guidelines, it is mandatory to mention the name of your campaign in the advertisement. You are also required to mention the content of the messages that will be sent to the customers and the frequency of the same.

Along with these basic details, it is also important to add a URL to the complete terms and conditions of your SMS marketing campaign. This link should also lead your customers to your privacy policy and details about opting out of the campaign.

Most of these ads require customers to send in a specific code to the mentioned number, confirming their interest in opting in. It is advisable to state whether data charges are applicable on sending this text message. Once they receive the code, customers are sent a confirmation, clearly stating that they will now start receiving the mentioned messages by the marketer.

Here are the details you are required to state clearly on your ads, according to the TCPA guidelines:

  • The name of your company
  • The frequency with which the customer would receive messages
  • The offer your customer can avail on opting in for the campaign
  • Carries fees and costs
  • The option your customer has for opting out of the campaign in future

Rules For TCPA Compliant Text Messages

In order to send TCPA compliant text messages, it is important to ensure that the content you deliver is in sync with the content you mentioned in your ads. Always deliver what you promise.

If you fail to send any of the promised messages to your customers within 18 months of them opting in for the campaign, your campaign will be considered to be inactive. Here, your agreement along with all your terms and conditions will cease to exist.

Moreover, it is important to note that lotteries, sweepstakes and contests are governed by specific state laws. If your messages deal with activities of similar nature, it is mandatory to put in a registered short code in your campaign messages.

Consequences Of Sending Spam Text Messages

For every spam SMS you send as a part of your marketing campaign, you will be charged with a fine of $500. The same goes for any message that does not meet the TCPA guidelines for text messaging.

However, if one or more customers file a law suit against your messages and the court of law rules in their favour, confirming that you have consciously violated the terms of TCPA, you will be fined $1,500 for every spam SMS sent to your customers. It is therefore extremely important to be in sync with the TCPA text message rules.

According to the “Private Right of Action” section of the TCPA, “ A person or entity may, if otherwise permitted by the laws or rules of court of a State, bring in an appropriate court of that State— (A) an action based on a violation of this subsection or the regulations prescribed under this subsection to enjoin such violation, (B) an action to recover for actual monetary loss from such a violation, or to receive $500 in damages for each such violation, whichever is greater, or (C) both such actions.”

Moreover, if the court ascertains that you have wilfully and knowingly violated the laws, it may increase your award amount to a maximum of three times the fine mentioned in the section (B) in the above paragraph.

Apart from the monetary consequences, it is natural that the violation of TCPA regulations and sending spam SMS would result in customers losing faith in your business. This will ultimately result in more customers opting out of your campaigns.

Exceptions To The Need For Consent

As a marketer, you are not required to ask for consent and explain all your terms and conditions in all circumstances. If customers ask for information regarding your marketing campaign, you need not officially seek consent before sending them the required information via SMS.

However, you are only eligible to send one SMS following such a request. This SMS should strictly adhere to the information asked by the customer and digress into any unwanted information, whether it is promotional in nature or not. You are also entitled to an exception of one text message in case a contact number has been reassigned to a different subscriber.

Best SMS Practices To Follow For Text Marketing

In order to ensure that your message is completely in sync with the TCPA guidelines and it is able to convey the intended message to your customers, here are some of the ideal practices to follow while undertaking text marketing for your campaign:

  • It is advisable to mention details regarding opting out of your campaign at least once every month. Include a small message addressing the same at the end of your marketing text.
  • Look into the opt-out requests and process them as soon as possible (it is advisable to acknowledge in real time). This provides your customers with a sense of reassurance and makes your activities more organised.
  • Along with the details regarding opting out of your campaigns, it is important to include contact details for your customer care services at least once every month. If the details are precise, you can add them to every marketing SMS you send to your customers.
  • Always keep a track of an opt-out request once it has been received. Ensure all the procedures are carried out efficiently and the concerned customer is successfully opted out of receiving your messages. Also, inform the customer through a final SMS, confirming the fact that they will stop receiving similar messages from you in future. It is also advisable to provide details of opting back in for your SMS campaign, in case the customer feels the need to do so in future.

TCPA Guidelines For Marketers Making Calls

Along with SMS marketing, if you are willing to get in touch with your customers once in a while over telephone, it is important to consider a few TCPA guidelines for telemarketing, which will be applicable to you.

Here are some of the most important telemarketing guidelines by TCPA:

  • A residential contact number is not to be called after 9 PM and before 8 AM.
  • Do not continue ringing for more than 15 seconds or 4 rings in case of an unanswered call by the customer.
  • Always clearly mention your identity along with the identity of your company as soon as a call is answered.
  • Duly explain the purpose of your call and acknowledge the response you get from the customer.
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