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Considerations for Successful Mobile Number Acquisition

Omar Pahati
Deliverability Manager

mobile acquisition.jpgSMS is a key component of cross channel marketing.  By sending messages to customers' mobile devices, marketers enable direct, personalized communications that have a greater sense of urgency compared to email.  But because SMS is so personal (recipients usually reserve SMS for their own private communications) it has warranted great oversight on the part of wireless carriers.  And because consumers pay each time they receive an SMS message, wireless carriers are warier of abuse compared to email messaging.  This has resulted in broad self-regulation by the industry and the creation of rules by which marketers must abide when using SMS, even for standard rate programs.

This environment makes it challenging for marketers to acquire mobile numbers.  And it's all the more important to follow industry standards when attempting to gain permission to send messages to a mobile device because those senders who don't follow the rules may be prevented from participating in mobile marketing.

The wireless industry publishes a rule book through the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) called the U.S. Consumer Best Practices that spells out all of the requirements for running a compliant SMS program.  And through The Wireless Association (CTIA), wireless carriers audit existing mobile marketing programs for ongoing compliance with the MMA rules. Non-compliant programs can be blocked by the carriers or the CTIA may prevent short code renewal.

SMS sign-up

The rules are pretty simple. The MMA says to include certain disclaimers at the opt-in point and in advertisements.  They also spell out required support for the STOP and HELP keyword commands, which trigger opt-out and customer service response respectively.

Any collection point meant to drive mobile marketing sign-ups must contain four elements in order maintain compliance with Mobile Marketing Association's U.S. Consumer Best Practices:

  • Message frequency:  You'll receive 5 msg/mo.
  • Message rates disclaimer: Message & data rates may apply.
  • Opt out instructions:  Reply STOP to the short code 12345 to cancel.
  • Customer service instructions:  Reply HELP to the short code 12345 for help.

Here's an example of these disclaimers placed next to a call-to-action for a mobile marketing program:

  • Text the word YES to the short code 12345 to receive SMS alerts from us. You'll receive 5 msg/mo. Message & data rates may apply. Reply STOP to the short code 12345 to cancel. Reply HELP to the short code 12345 for help.

SMS sign-up on the web or other non-mobile methods

The above disclaimers also should be displayed when the SMS sign-up is on a website.  A web based sign-up asks users to enter their mobile phone number into a web form or on a website preferences center. 

When accepting an opt-in via the web or any other non-SMS method, the MMA best practices document says the marketer must verify that the subscriber is in possession of the handset.  Verification can be achieved by asking the subscriber to respond to the sender or by asking the subscriber to enter a unique PIN code on the Web site.

Here are two examples of how to ask for verification in the initial SMS message:

  • To complete your subscription to our SMS program, please reply with the word YES.  Msg&Data Rates May Apply. Reply STOP to cancel, HELP for help.
  • Please enter the PIN code 09876 online at prompt to verify your subscription. Msg&Data Rates May Apply. Reply STOP to cancel, HELP for help.

Email acquisition via SMS

Wireless carriers also allow marketers to gather email subscriptions via SMS by asking subscribers to text their email address to a short code.  For example, "Text your email address to the short code 12345 to be added to our email list. Message & data rates may apply."

In a call-to-action of this type it's recommended to include the disclaimer: Message & data rates may apply. Email opt-in does not also imply SMS opt-in -- marketers who intend to message subscribers via SMS should gain SMS opt-in separately.

Don't break the rules

The wireless industry frequently audits programs that are already live.  In addition, carriers explicitly test each new SMS marketing program that is being launched onto a new dedicated short code.  When the rules aren't followed, typically the carrier or the auditing body will ask the marketer to amend the program to meet standards.  The auditor will then retest the program.  If the program is not changed to meet the standards then the carrier may block the sender.

Further reference

The single most important reference for mobile marketing in the U.S. is the MMA.  Their rule book is updated frequently and can be found at mmaglobal.com.  The CTIA handbook is another important reference for carrier compliance.  It can be found at WMCglobal.com.

For more information on Responsys' mobile offering, visit: https://www.responsys.com/mobile-marketing

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