Putting SMS To Work For You

This is our complete guide on how to use SMS messaging to optimize engagement especially when it comes to self-guided applications.


At one of our companies, recruiting for field inspectors is an 8 day a week task of herding ducklings. However, we just made a simple tweak to our HubSpot application form. We asked for permission to text the person in relation to the position rather than sending email by default.

The change was nothing short of amazing. With our email-based approach, we would average getting the first onboarding inspection in the hands of a rep in about 17 days.

When we had the rep texting into to our HeyMarket platform (omni-channel communication vendor) we are getting the first case for the rep to complete, in their hands, in one day. One day! I could go into the details, but I won’t. Happy to talk with you about it though!

Why didn’t we do it earlier? We were scared off by the TCPA and FCC rules about getting permission. Scared enough to not do ANYTHING. Once I got past that, off to the races.

Next, we want to provide a path for our carrier customers of ViewSpection to use the SMS path as well vs. the email invitations most of them send. Up until now, most carriers have also, not wanted to deal with issues around opt in compliance.

Why put in some effort? Because the returns for a little work are large.

ROI comparison

In ViewSpection’s use case

  • Self-guided interior inspection by policyholder is $15 compared to $65 if done by a vendor in the field.
  • A self-guided inspection with email invite will engage to completion about 30% of the time. With a SMS invitation the completion rate is 60% and above.
  • If a carrier ordered 1000 self-inspections via email and got 30% back, they would safe $15,000 on those 300 inspections compared to doing them in the field.
  • When a carriers orders the same number but with SMS invites, they should get back 600 inspections and the savings jumps to $30,000.

That does not factor is time savings or being able to do more inspections and identify more risk.

Let's dive in a bit deeper and look at the steps you would need to take to put SMS to work for you.



SMS Engagement

You have probably seen this metric, “SMS messages are opened and responded to on average, in 3 minutes, 90%+ of the time.” I have a story that puts this into context.

Here I have aggregated some good info on SMS Opt-In best practices. Let’s start with this blog from Aktify, titled’ “What You Need to Know About Obtaining Consent”.

“It’s well-known that text messaging, or SMS, is more effective than email outreach or cold calling for marketing. 98% of text messages are opened, and 95% of them are read (and responded to) within three minutes of delivery. By comparison, a high-performing email marketing campaign might have an open rate of less than 20%. And when it comes to phone marketing, only 20% of people say they answer calls they aren’t expecting.”

Great, but don’t make the mistake of starting to send SMS messages to your clients or sales targets.

“Before you can initiate SMS campaigns, however, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) requires businesses to obtain consent. The TCPA applies to texts, calls, or voice messages sent to customers or leads via their landline or mobile phones. Ensuring you comply with the TCPA for text messages is critical to your campaign.”

So how do you get that consent? Carefully, Correctly and Continuously! The TCPA has two types of consent (Prior Express Consent and Prior Express Written Consent) and the second one is the most powerful. Notice though that EACH one includes the word “PRIOR”!

Prior Express Consent

“Prior express consent is required for texts, autodial calls, or non-solicitation calls. Consent can be written or verbal. If someone has voluntarily provided their phone number before any texts are sent and there is a prior relationship between the parties, businesses can contact consumers — but only for the reason the consumer provided their number.

For example, if a lead fills out a form and asks for additional information about your business or sends you a text inquiring about something, you can respond — but only to the specific query. You may not initiate additional marketing messages or supply other offers in the future without express written consent.”

Prior Express Written Consent

“Calls or texts to cell phones for advertising or telemarketing require written consent expressly for the purposes of receiving marketing messages. The written agreement must include clear and obvious disclosures informing consumers that, by signing or otherwise authorizing the agreement, they are allowing advertising calls or text messages.”

Some Examples for Opt-In Messaging

Aktify provides some great language and later we will talk about how you can put those opt-in connections in front of your clients!

“Here are two sample forms that you may want to adapt for use in obtaining consumer consent for TCPA compliance.”

By clicking the button below, you consent for [COMPANY NAME] and its service provider [SERVICE PROVIDER] to use automated technology, including calls, texts, and prerecorded messages, to contact you at the number and email provided for [COMPANY NAME] offers. This consent is not required to make a purchase. Clicking the button below constitutes your electronic signature.

By clicking, I am providing my electronic signature expressly authorizing [COMPANY NAME] to contact me by email, text, or phone (including an automatic dialing system or artificial/prerecorded voice) at the home or mobile phone number above. I understand I am not required to sign or agree to this as a condition to purchase.

Notice that these opt-in messages include email and phone consent. “Even if you only plan on using SMS messaging, you should ask for email and phone consent at the same time in case you want to follow up in the future.”

But wait, there’s more (still quite simple, don’t freak out)

The Mobile Marketing Association’s guidelines for best practices for SMS consent stipulate that:

  • Instructions for STOP and HELP should be capitalized or in bold lettering
  • “Stop” replies should be treated as Do Not Call or Do Not Text requests
  • Disclosure should be given that messaging and data rates may apply
  • Acceptance boxes or terms and conditions should not be pre-checked — consumers must indicate their acceptance of the terms by manual selection
  • Reference to a website where complete terms and conditions are available for viewing should be made

These guidelines also recommend removing consumer phone numbers that have been inactive for six months or more from marketing lists. You can also request regular, fresh opt-ins.


“Once you’ve received written consent from a consumer, you need to keep a record showing the type of communication they’ve agreed to receive. Since records are to be kept for at least five years from the date consent was obtained, you should also have a way to track the date of consent.  Include a mechanism for opting out for consumers that wish to discontinue further marketing communication.”

We use HeyMarket to manage our compliance around SMS and there are other great providers such as:

What About Do Not Call lists?

In our insurtech use case, as you will see, we are going for opt-in direct from the client. That can come from the agent or the carrier or other means direct to the client/consumer.

For that reason, we will not focus on the DNC list here but to that point, here is some best practice:

“Businesses that conduct telemarketing should download and scrub the DNC registry at least every 31 days. Unless a consumer has provided written consent or has an established business relationship with you, calling someone on the DNC list is a violation of the TCPA.”

Your Opt-In platform of choice should provide the following compliance chores for people you communicate with who at some point, ask to be DNC’d.

“You’re also required to maintain an internal DNC list. If consumers do opt-out, you need a procedure to ensure you do not send additional communications to that number. Procedures need to include a written DNC policy that complies with legal requirements. Personnel must also be trained in the use of the DNC list.

Even if a consumer previously provided consent, if they subsequently revoke it, future calls and texts to the consumer are prohibited under the TCPA.”

Summary of the What and Why of SMS Opt-In’s

Alright, how are you doing so far? Make sense? In summary, I would say the main points are:

  • All consent must be PRIOR to sending an SMS
  • All consent must be in writing
  • Consent and withdrawal of consent must be tracked and maintained
  • There are good platforms that will facilitate this


HOW To Get That SMS Consent

Textedly has some great info on ways to capture that SMS opt in!

First off, “Note that the term “written” doesn’t necessarily mean handwritten consent. It includes other forms of permission that a business can document and save, such as a text message reply or an online form submission.”

Text a Keyword Short code

“Sending a short code is the fastest and easiest way to establish consent and opt-in. Customers can text a specific keyword to subscribe to a business’ SMS marketing campaign (for example, text the word ‘START’ to 12345).”

Whenever you advertise your keyword, you also need to follow up with an opt-in message. Your message must include:

  • The intended purpose of your campaign
  • Message frequency
  • Message and data rates
  • Link to your terms and conditions
  • Link to your privacy policy

Don’t forget to include ‘STOP’ and ‘HELP’ instructions for users to opt-out or learn more.

Look at this sample format for an opt-in text message:

[Company name], coupon/value proposition or campaign, message frequency, ‘Msg & Data rates may apply,’ Reply STOP to cancel. Reply HELP for info.

Online Web Forms

Customers can fill out a form online to sign up for your SMS marketing list and authorize their consent. Clearly state that the customer is agreeing to opt-in to your SMS marketing database when they provide their phone number to your business.

Here’s some sample language for express written consent via web forms:

By pressing “[Name of Button, i.e., ‘Submit’],” I agree to receive recurring messages from [Company Name] to the provided mobile number and also agree to the [Company Name] terms and privacy policy at [link]. Message & data rates may apply. Reply STOP to cancel. Reply HELP for info.


Paper Forms

Paper forms are outdated, but they work the same as online web forms. In this scenario, a customer can complete a form in writing to sign up for your SMS marketing database and offer their consent.

You still need to include the same disclaimers on your paper form so customers know that they are agreeing to receive SMS marketing messages from your business.

Important: If you’re going to use an online form or paper form, it’s best to implement a double opt-in and to archive the paper file.

What Is a Double Opt-In?

“A double opt-in occurs when a business requires consumers to provide a second level of consent after joining an SMS marketing list through a paper or online web form. Typically, a double opt-in message asks consumers to reply ‘YES’ via text to confirm they want to receive text marketing messages.

Requiring a double opt-in is a good way to confirm your subscribers were aware they signed up for SMS updates when they filled out your form. Since your subscriber did not initiate communication by texting a short code, a double opt-in will give you peace of mind that they truly wanted to join your list.”


3 Examples of SMS Opt-In Workflows


This is a great example from the insurance industry with both the Opt-In form and full blown Terms & Conditions agreement from “Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America”.

From their lead in they clearly speak to the challenges present:

“. The expansion of text messages to and from independent agents brings challenges along with the opportunities. The challenges include developing proper workflows and policies for text messaging, properly preserving text messages in the agency’s management system…”


Here is the link to the full PDF with the Terms & Conditions:



Recruiting Workflow

Gardner Group Field Rep Recruitment

As mentioned earlier, we previously used email as the main channel to recruit and onboard a field rep. What we typically experienced was that we would lose the “connection” we had with the rep once we started the email process.

It took us awhile to learn to leverage the power of HubSpot and the marketing forms. Once we matured in that area, it was quite simple to add in the opt-in messaging. With that opt in, we had the opportunity to capture the double opt-in within minutes of the form submission. We could automate the double opt-in but we have not done so yet. The double opt in usually happens in minutes. Then we are able to use a few templated messages to have the rep try our web app demo, review some videos and chat about territory. Oftentimes, within 30 minutes, we are at the stage of setting up the rep in the ViewSpection system, giving them credentials to our platforms and have assigned the first two cases to work.

So, this is a bullet point approach we are taking:

  • Get Opt-In for SMS communication in the field rep application
  • Capture and archive the Opt-In with HubSpot
  • Send Double Opt-In to rep applicant within the HeyMarket omni-channel platform
  • Capture and archive the Double Opt-In with HeyMarket
  • Provide link to our web app for them to try out our app on their own property
  • Provide like to videos about our company and platform
  • Do any Q&A back and forth
  • Introduce the rep potential via email to our onboarding staff person
  • Assign first cases

Insurance Agency Work Flow

As was mentioned in the IIAB article on SMS Opt-in, the opt-in process is easier when completed during the intake or renewal process.

Now the opt-in should be completed so that it confers permission for both marketing and administrative communications.

We often say, it is the agent who can best facilitate a value add such as getting the self-service inspection complete. If the opt-in is already part of the work flow, sending the SMS with the link to the inspection web app takes 10 seconds and is often completed in that hour. This enhancement of engagement works the same with ANY process or reach out the agency may have.

So, this is a bullet point approach we are taking:

  • Get Opt-In for SMS communication from the client
    • Text a Keyword Short code
    • Online Web Forms
    • QR Code
    • Paper Forms
  • Capture and archive the Opt-In with appropriate platform
    • HeyMarket
    • HiMarley
    • Front
  • Send Double Opt-In to client
  • Utilize automated, semi-automated or full manual message flows to the client to walk them thru the policy sales process on your omni-channel platform.
  • Refresh the opt-in every six months


Disclaimer: Please note that this advice is for informational purposes only and is neither intended as nor should be substituted for consultation with appropriate legal counsel and/or your organization’s regulatory compliance team.

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