The ONE Thing You Never Want To Do In SMS Marketing

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“UK B2C data for SMS marketing”

That was the search result headline I found while researching online. Interesting I thought. It must be relating to SMS marketing statistics for B2C (business to consumer) sales. Since I was searching for some updated information and studies about SMS I decided to click and read.

But the data it was talking about wasn’t statistics, case studies, or the latest research. Instead, it was a job posting on peopleperhour.com. The website, like Elance or many of the other freelance work sites, lets people post jobs and then members (usually called providers) can send in proposals. The job poster selects a winner and they get to work. For this particular job someone called “Ricky H.” was actually asking for the mobile numbers and names of people living in the UK so he could run an SMS marketing campaign.

Last I checked there were four people who had provided proposals and presumably included the “amount you can supply & cost” that Ricky H. asked for in the job posting. Scary. Just scary.

There isn’t any real information on Ricky other than he previously bought 200k UK names, emails, and addresses from another provider. But that job didn’t include mobile numbers.

So where do you think the job hopefuls will get their data? I’m not usually the suspicious type, but I would guess the mobile numbers Ricky gets won’t be obtained legally. If they’re genuine numbers at all.

SMS is NOT email

In the late 1990s and early 2000’s, if you wanted an email list to market to, you could just buy one. They were collected and sold by all sorts of companies. Even many of the big, recognisable brand name companies were selling their email lists to make money. But people started to get angry about it both for privacy reasons and because they received too much spam.

Thankfully the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) and the Data Protection Act make it illegal to randomly send electronic marketing messages out to people. In order to contact someone you need to have their permission, or meet some criteria for having conducted business with them in a related context. These regulations have been in effect since 2003 and include all forms of electronic communication including SMS and email.

That’s about the same time when using SMS for marketing started, but it still didn’t take off strongly until a couple of years later. But what all this history means is that it’s unlikely that you would ever have been able to buy a list of SMS “data” (mobile numbers and names) the way people had been doing for email. Not from reputable sources anyway.

Never buy a list

When you’re first starting out with mobile marketing, SMS in particular, you might be tempted to get mobile numbers anyway you can. But it isn’t worth it. The one thing you should never do is buy a list of mobile numbers for your SMS marketing.

First off, you’ll have no idea whether those people are interested in what you have to offer. If they’re not, you’re just throwing money at them with every message you send. It isn’t cost effective, and will likely end up being a waste of time too. Then you’ll have to start over and try and get opt ins to your list the right way. And the legal way.

Secondly, you’ll potentially get into a lot of trouble. If people get your message and consider it spam (which they will since they never asked for it), they will report you to the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO). It’s their job to keep track of complaints, and to dole out monetary punishments if they are warranted.

According to their latest news, the ICO had 62 cases under investigation in July. And in the beginning of August they prosecuted a company for telemarketing personal injury claims. The company pleaded guilty and had to pay a small fine. But the ICO has issued fines into the hundred of thousands. Some of those penalties have been overturned in appeals, though in every instance the company was still found guilty of violating the regulations, just not enough to justify such large fines.

ICO complaints

The image above is from their blog and it shows all the complaints they receive each month for the last couple of years. Note that they track all communications, not just text messages. But in July they had 1,592 complaints about spam SMS marketing messages. And they seem more than willing to investigate them all in time.

The moral of the story? Don’t take any shortcuts when growing your SMS marketing lists. Comply with the PECR, get people who actually want to be on your list, and reap the benefits a great SMS marketing campaign can provide. If you have questions on how to get started building your list, take a look at our many blogs on SMS marketing. You can also grab one of our helpful staff on live chat and we’ll answer any questions you have on how to get started.

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