Email to Phone: From your Email Server to SMS Gateway Servers

Beware — sending emails to wireless devices has its pitfalls

More and more people are using cell phones with SMS features these days. In fact, text messaging is becoming the number one means of electronic communication in the United States. This may seem like a ripe opportunity to reach out to people via their hand-held devices and put your products or services at their fingertips, but for businesses, it may not be the right thing to do.

Although the concept of emailing your campaigns to mobile phones is alluring, unless your contacts have specifically asked to receive messages this way, you may be putting your company at risk of getting blacklisted, fined, or perhaps worse, alienating customers and prospective customers.

For one thing, it’s the recipients that get billed for your messages; they may find this not only annoying, but costly, escalating annoyance and provoking them to contact their mobile phone service providers to complain. If you systematically send out unsolicited emails via SMS gateways, and mobile phone companies receive enough complaints, you may be prohibited from accessing their networks in the future.

For another thing, the FCC has strict guidelines within its CAN-SPAM Act1 , mandating that all emails, whether bound for email inboxes or wireless devices, must have a feature that allows recipients to easily opt out of future mailings. While Smart phones recognize live links, other phone types don’t, putting your company in violation of a federal law and potentially exposing you to up to $16,000 in fines for each violation.

Don’t fool yourself: If you think that everyone would gladly pay to hear about your latest and greatest, the coolest and the newest thing, think again. One major Mobile phone company learned this the hard way, when in 2005, UCAN2 brought a case against it for spamming its customers and then charging $.10 for each message.

You can prevent violating CAN-SPAM regulations, avoid potential penalties from consumer protection agencies and protect your reputation by simply cleaning your email list and removing SMS gateway email addresses. In fact, isolating SMS gateway addresses is a good idea even if you’re not worried about getting blacklisted, fined or irritating people, for the simple reason that many cell phones can’t display html (formatted) messages.

There are hundreds of domain names (and growing), specific to cell phones and pagers, that email marketers should avoid. How do you spot them? Use a real-time Web Service like DOTS Email Validation that continuously updates its database of wireless domain names, and flags email addresses that are known to use SMS gateways. To test a few email addresses on this service, go to DOTS Email Validation Lookups and see for yourself.

If you’d like to test a list of email addresses, try our free-trial batch processing or sign up for a live XML free trial key that lets you integrate the service into your own system and try it out for 30 days. See the table below for just a few known SMS domain names to look out for:

1Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act
2Utility Consumers’ Action Network, non-profit, pubic interest consumer advocacy