Brands, Marketers, Advertisers: How To Safely Stay Ahead With SMS

by | Oct 8, 2021

So you’re hearing the buzz about “SMS campaigns”, and you decide to try one of your own. You come up with an amazing offer that you’re going to send to your existing group of loyal customers, and start brainstorming some amazing ideas for clever ad copy. 


Low key, you dig a little deeper into more statistics about how well SMS marketing works, and you start thinking about how many sales you’re going to make since you’re going to be sending this amazing offer to your existing, loyal customer base.


Lo and behold: you send your brand new campaign, and (aside from a few people unsubscribing) you get a ton of sales. This is it. You’ve found your new golden ticket. So the campaigns continue, and the sales keep rolling in. 


So you keep hammering this new marketing strategy for months. You’re not trying to brag, but you’ve become a bit of a text-marketing master (if you don’t say so yourself), and you are seeing amazing results.


Things couldn’t be better, right? 


Sure, until you get slapped with a fine for $5 million dollars.


Wait, hold up, what just happened? If you want to find out, you need to read this article and safeguard yourself against some of the most common (and expensive) pitfalls that direct-to-consumer (D2C) marketers face every day. Read on to be sure that your SMS marketing campaigns are fully protected and compliant, and avoid litigation and fines.


Why Is SMS the Future of Marketing?

The most popular method that D2C marketers have used for the past decade is email. It was the easiest way to get in front of people, and sending emails was relatively inexpensive compared to other marketing channels. So in the old days, email was the strongest, most essential pillar to any new product launch, sale announcement, or promotion. “Was” is the keyword here.


Nowadays, the email marketing racket is saturated. And while we’ll be the first to admit that it still works relatively well overall, it’s not the powerhouse marketing channel it used to be. People’s inboxes are absolutely loaded with hundreds of other offers that you’re competing with. 


Additionally, promotional emails aren’t conversational. They’re a digital billboard that shouts at customers to “take action.” There’s not an opportunity to speak with your customers, ask and answer questions, and get them farther down into the sales funnel. 


That’s where SMS comes in. 


SMS solves all of the problems that email marketing now faces. In fact, SMS right now is what email marketing was about 10-15 years ago– it’s an underused sales channel that isn’t saturated quite yet, and yields amazing results.


There’s no argument that people’s cell phones are a massive part of their lives. The average person spends four (or more) hours each day on a mobile device. With people checking their phones 150+ times every day, you can safely say it has their attention. 


People are also openly admitting that they prefer using their cell phones to receive promotions and product offers. In a recent report by MartechSeries, over 75% of people said they actually like getting notifications about things they can purchase during their browsing of social media or the web. 


Also understand that when you use SMS marketing, you’re going to reach your customers faster than virtually any other channel. People check texts in a blazing average of only 90 seconds (whereas, if they even get your email, they check it in around 90 minutes). 


If all of this wasn’t enough, look a the versatility of text message marketing. You can use it to quickly and potently reach your customers in the following ways: 


  • Remind customers about abandoned carts (for eCommerce)
  • Start a two-way conversation (for more engagement, and a better closing %)
  • Remarketing promotions (this is a powerful tool)
  • New customer acquisition (be sure you’re TCPA compliant)


And that is just for starters.


TCPA SMS Rules: Details of the $5 Million Dollar Fine

Ah, right. So far all we’ve done is sing the praises of text message marketing, but we haven’t hit on the whopping $5 million dollar fine we teased in the opening. And herein lies the rub. SMS marketing can be very high risk if you’re not doing it correctly. 


What is “correctly”? Well, you have to be 100% compliant with something called the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) that was enacted by congress. The TCPA is legislation that is heavily enforced, and its fines can be hefty. 


TCPA SMS rules are serious, and you need to adhere to them. We’re not attorneys, so if you have any in-depth questions, you can do further research, but the general idea is that to be TCPA compliant you are required to have the express written consent from a customer to contact them via text message (or autodialer). As you can imagine, this is not a simple task. 


One of the most important things to remember is that this consent must be written, and documented, and you need to be able to find it if you need it. The TCPA doesn’t mince words– it states clearly that the burden of proof rests solely on you, the advertiser. If you can’t provide proof of consent, you’re all but guaranteed to be hit with those hefty fines we talked about above. (Also note that people often opt into things and forget, so you may even get complaints from people who you legitimately had the right to contact.) 


The cost of a single TCPA fine varies but ranges anywhere from $500 to as much as $1500 per text. Yes, we said per text. So let’s say you have multiple people on your list, and you send them several texts each. That could rack up several fines pretty quickly.


The $5 million dollar example comes from a couple of places. First, businesses think that just because they have customer information they also have permission to send text messages to them. That is just simply not the case. So if a wide-eyed, new SMS marketer sends an unsolicited, non-TCPA compliant text to their entire customer list of around 3,300 clients? You could technically be penalized for every single text, resulting in up to $5,000,000 worth of fines.

Secondly, there are movements for class action claims that are becoming more popular. Being put together by people known as professional TCPA plaintiffs (people who regularly file TCPA lawsuits as a business model) these are serious business.


In a class-action lawsuit headed up by a TCPA plaintiff, a group of people band together and rally behind the cause of punishing the illicit sender together. It’s one thing to get a single, $1,500 complaint. It’s another thing when everyone you sent an SMS message to is actively working together to ensure you get fined for every non-compliant message.


And don’t think that the big guys are immune. The TCPA is unbiased in its regulations and fines. Check out this list of major companies, and the fines or settlements they paid as a result of breaking TCPA regulations: 


  • Pizza Hut: $6 million
  • Steve Madden: $10 million
  • American Eagle: $14.5 million
  • Jiffy Lube: $47 million


So How Can You Protect Yourself?

Our Validiform software is exactly the tool you need to protect yourself from costly fines, lawsuits, and settlements. 


We are being called the new standard in lead validation. We’re a service that automatically captures consent, and stores it on our protected servers. This information is captured in video format so that the proof is undeniable and there are no gray areas. Using Validiform, you’ll have everything you need to protect yourself from TCPA complaints.


If that wasn’t enough, we have the most robust set of features in the industry and an incredible price point. With long-term storage that’s 100% secure, you’ll have third-party verification at your fingertips quickly and easily.


With our simple set up you’ll be up and running in no time, and if you run into any issues, Validiform is proud to offer our incredible support staff to help you with any issues that might arise.


Don’t risk using a subpar solution, and protect yourself with the best. Get your free Validiform consultation today.