Best Practices

Opt-In Text Message Marketing

Building a text message subscriber list using opt-in messaging ensures you stay TCPA compliant and keep your customers happy.

Mathew Gorka

By Mathew Gorka

February 22, 2023

10 min read

Opt-In Text Message Marketing

Opt-in SMS messaging requires companies to receive verified consent before texting customers. Consent, or permission to text consumers, is the most important rule of SMS marketing compliance. Not only does opt-in text messaging exist to protect consumers from being bombarded with unsolicited messages, it can also lead to higher campaign engagement.

Opt-In SMS Marketing

Opt-in text messaging happens when a company gains a consumers’ consent to receive SMS marketing messages. The agencies that monitor SMS activities and dictate the laws, like the TCPA, explicitly state that companies must obtain express written consent before sending any SMS marketing messages.

Businesses cannot text consumers that have not subscribed (consented) to receiving those communications. Most importantly, a company must not be deceitful or misleading in obtaining that permission. In other words, your customers must understand what they are agreeing to. Any communication that happens without this consent will make your business susceptible to fines and/or other repercussions.

Always remember it is your company’s responsibility to obtain consent for every contact you plan to communicate with. Be sure to clearly and effectively outline the details of your SMS campaign wherever you ask consumers to opt in. Requiring a double opt-in, or the act of having subscribers reply with an additional affirmation to your initial text message after subscribing, is the best way to ensure your compliance. What’s better; it's been statistically proven that double opt-in campaigns have higher engagement and success rates.

Opt-Out SMS Marketing

Opt-outs occur when a subscriber, or member of your contact list, indicates that they no longer wish to receive text messages from your business. It is imperative that your business allow for this option, making it clearly actionable. Most companies will ask subscribers to reply “STOP” at the bottom of their communication.

The “STOP” keyword signifies that the subscriber who sent it wishes to be removed from your marketing list. That customer has officially opted-out and is no longer a subscriber. Your company should immediately cease SMS communications with every customer that opts-out, at the risk of fines and/or other penalties as outlined by the TCPA.

Opt-In SMS Marketing Benefits

Opt-in text messaging exists to protect consumers. The goal of opt-in messaging is to ensure consumers consent to messaging and understand what their consent implies (to receive your marketing text messages). Opt-in messaging affirms that consumers didn’t accidentally subscribe. You also want to ensure your customers weren’t confused by buttons and misleading language, subscribing under false pretenses.

Establishing an early double opt-in means starting off on the right foot, instantly generating trust and transparency with each customer. An audience of willing participants means higher engagement, more responses, and better conversions. It also means less chance of penalties by organizations like the FCC.

Benefits of opt-in SMS marketing include:

  • Speed to Market: Texting subscribers is fast and simple. Beat your competitors to the punch without paying an expert graphic designer or software engineer. With Helios SMS marketing you can draft, template, and bulk message in a matter of seconds. Also, this speed and ease of use means reduced marketing costs.
  • Higher Return on Ad Spend (ROAS): Keeping subscribers is cheaper than getting new ones. Plain and simple, lead generation is time consuming and expensive. Opt-in SMS marketing means very few spam complaints and unsubscribes. Less churn means more contacts to communicate your marketing messages with. Engaged and willing participants make for a happy marketing experience, adding revenue to your bottomline.
  • Lower spam complaints: As we mentioned above, the goal is for the highest possible engagement with the least amount of complaints or unsubscribes. Text spam complaints are between 2%-3% on average. Compare that to email marketing campaigns which have spam rates well over 50% and you can see the advantages of SMS marketing. Less churn means less spend on lead generation and more engagement with loyal and excited customers.
  • Higher open rates and click-through rates (CTR): By ensuring your SMS marketing list is filled with engaged and willing participants your company is sure to see ROAS improvements. A customer who takes the time to double opt-in is genuinely interested in what your company has to offer. They will welcome, read, and interact with your content, promotions, or updates.
  • Lower compliance risk: Multiple opt-ins means multiple records of consent. reduces your risk of fines.

SMS Opt-In Methods

SMS Keywords

In most cases, you must send a confirmation text as a dual-opt-in measure to subscribers before they’re officially opted into your marketing campaign.

However, you can bypass this step with SMS keywords. An SMS keyword is a unique word that coincides with your text marketing campaign. When consumers text the keyword to your shortcode or textable phone number, they expressly consent to opt into your SMS program. For example, a spa might promote the keyword “RELAX” to encourage consumers to join their SMS list and receive exclusive massage discounts.

Website Prompts (Pop Ups & Banners)

A well timed pop up or banner can work wonders for your business. We recommend A/B testing different time intervals. For example, how long do return customers spend on your site or how long does it take before converters place an order? Some people prefer a pop up right when the user gets on the site while others prefer to wait until later in the user's journey. Banners are often visible right on the home page or landing page, however, they can be activated on a different high traffic/engagement page.

Regardless of when or where your sign up prompt appears, you’ll want to capture the attention of your engaged visitors. Engaged, frequent, and loyal visitors are the ones most likely to want more from your business. Share the details of your program, with all of the necessary compliance requirements we’ve outlined, and close with a unique offer to entice them to act.

Online Forms

Online forms enable customers to fill out and sign up for your SMS marketing list by authorizing their consent. To start, clearly state that the customer is agreeing to opt-in to your SMS marketing database. The customer should know how you plan to use their number when they provide it to your business. You should also include a statement about the ways in which you’ll protect their info and make them aware that they can opt-out at any point.

Paper Forms

Paper forms are the least digital option but they still get the job done. Think of paper forms as a physical version of your online form. Customers and prospective clients can complete the form in writing to sign up for your SMS marketing database and offer their consent. Physical forms are good for businesses that see lots of walk-in traffic like salons, fitness studios, pet stores, etc.

Continuity is key. Make sure to include the same disclaimers on your paper form that you do/would on an online form. Customers need to explicitly know that they are agreeing to receive SMS marketing messages from your business. We recommend a double opt-in, especially for paper form submissions.

Opt-In Text Messaging Recommendations

  1. Confirm opt-ins. The TCPA requires that your SMS marketing recipients receive a message confirming their participation in your SMS program. This message reiterates the details of your SMS program. Asking subscribers to reply “YES” means they are double-opting in, or reaffirming their desire to receive SMS messages from your business.
  2. A straightforward explanation of your program at opt-in. When you promote your SMS marketing campaign, you must include the name of your business, the purpose of the campaign, the cadence or frequency of messages your subscribers will receive, notice of any message rate or data rate, a link to your terms and conditions and privacy policy, and a simple way to opt-out.
  3. Offer immediate value. Subscribing to your program may seem like no tall-ask, but people hold their personal information, privacy, and inbox notification sanity very seriously. The best way to get and retain customers on your SMS marketing list is to offer exclusive discounts, one-time exciting promotions, or early product releases/announcements.

Disclaimer: Please note that this is not legal advice and is for informational purposes only. Your company and associates assume full responsibility in all legal matters.

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