How To Build (Or Re-Build) A Compliant SMS List… Fast!

February 20, 2024

To build a complaint SMS contact list, you need to get “explicit permission” to text your contacts.

Sometimes this requirement is a shock when starting out with SMS list…. 

You may have collected phone numbers in the past, but you’re unsure if you’ve really got compliant “explicit permission” from them.

Don’t worry, this is a super common scenario!

In this short article, I’m going to break down what you need to know and how you can build a big (and compliant) SMS list fast, with hardly any effort.

First, What Does “Explicit Permission” For SMS Mean? 

In the world of SMS compliance, just collecting someone’s phone number doesn’t actually mean they’ve given you explicit permission to text them. 

Carriers want to see that when contacts opt-in, they are clearly aware:

  • That they are opting in into receive automated SMS messages
  • Who is sending the messages
  • What type(s) of messages will be sent
  • That it may cost them money to receive messages
  • How often you’ll be sending messages
  • How to get help
  • How to opt-out
  • Privacy policy
  • Terms

This might seem like a lot, but it's fairly simple to include all of this on your opt-ins.

What does this look like in reality?

We made an SMS optin-compliance requirements help guide here that gives an example to modify and use.

It should look something like this:

If You Collected Explicit Permission From Old Contacts: 

That’s great! You can easily import your contacts into Roezan:

Here's more on getting contacts imported into Roezan.

If You Don’t Have Explicit Permission From Your Old Contacts:

If you have a list of phone numbers that you were planning on using…

But didn’t collect their explicit permission

And therefore need to start from scratch…

Don’t worry, this is a VERY COMMON scenario.

You might be bummed that you can’t use these contacts at first…

…but let me just take a second to explain why this can actually be a GREAT thing to start from scratch:

1) Save SMS Costs

Even though SMS ROI is crazy high, it still costs to send every message. 

You don't want to be charged to send to a ton of old dead leads.

You also don’t want to be sending to people who don’t want to receive it, so starting over will help reduce costs and start with a super clean list of people that want to receive SMS from you! This will save you money!

2) Improve Deliverability & Reduce Delivery Errors

Your list of old phone numbers likely has a bunch of outdated information. 

People change phone numbers, may have input a fake phone number in the past, put in a landline, or any number of other issues. 

By starting fresh, you’re increasing your chances of getting good deliverability. 

3) Avoid High-Opt Out Rate

If you text a bunch of old leads that don't want to receive texts, you might get an unusual wave of opt-outs.

Having a high opt-out rate is a trigger / flag for compliance warnings, so you'd want to avoid this.

4) Ensure Compliance

If you aren’t sure if you got explicit permission, it can be a good idea to put your mind at ease by starting over. Then you’ll know for sure that everything was done right!

5) Reduce Spam Complaints

Compliance violations sometimes start with a contact hitting “report as spam” to their carriers on their phone. 

Here’s what happens:

At some point in the past they put their phone number in on your website. Then they forgot about it. It sat on your list for a while (one month, 6 months, a year) without getting a text. 

Then sometime randomly later, they get a text from you after importing their number. They are shocked, don’t remember you at all, and get upset. They hit SPAM on their phone and start your compliance woes.

Even though they opted in, people often forget about you. So by starting over, you can newly collect their number and start with the context they need!

6) Last Point: You Don't Need A Huge List on SMS To Bank

Look, with email, people typically get a~20% open rate and 1-2% CTR. That means out of 1000 people, ~10-20 will click.

That means that you're gonna need a pretty big list to really make things move.

But SMS on the other hand often has 98-99% open rates and 15-30% CTR. That's 15-30X the number of clicks.

We often get MORE results from smaller responsive SMS lists than big unresponsive email lists.

So if your SMS list isn't huge to begin with... That's OK! You can still crush it!

How To Build A Big, Engaging List… FAST

It’s actually pretty easy to build a compliant SMS list very fast. 

One of the most effective ways to build a list is to use your existing channels to get them to opt in, with an incentive.

For most people, the biggest controllable channel they have is email - 

So essentially you would just send an email to your list to get them to opt-in to something new.

This applies to other channels as well, like if you have a big social following, you could post there and get them to opt-in. 

Just include the compliant SMS opt-in on your next promotional push!

Here are some examples that you might use to build your SMS list fast:

An Upcoming Product Launch:

Launches are often a series of specific content leading to a product. 

So before starting it, you can position the launch as a “5-Day Quick Start” or “3-Day Challenge” or “Special Training” etc. 

You still might end up sending it to everyone on the email list regardless, but getting people to opt-in can create a list of “high engagers” that you can hit more often since they explicitly are raising their hands! This will build your SMS list fast, and you’ll have highly engaged contacts.

A New Webinar / Training:

Include the phone number on the signup form for your upcoming webinar / training and offer SMS reminders for when you go live.

(Check out our monthly workshop webinar strategy.)

Promote your webinar everywhere you have traffic - email your list, post on socials, put on your website, etc. This is a great way to start building an SMS list!

A “Sneak Peak” / Bonus Training:

Do you have training you’ve done for your paid members? Or something you’ve sold in the past? 

Let your audience get a “sneak peak” of what it’s like to be a paid member for a limited time for free as a taste / teaser. 

Require them to opt-in and put the compliant SMS opt-in on the page. 

Plus, you can follow up the opt-ins with a small automated series pushing back to the content (or another call to action, like buying your product or booking a call)! 

A Contest Or Giveaway:

Get people to opt-in by holding a contest or giveaway. This is classic way to get new opt-ins!

Create A VIP SMS Club:

This is popular in the E-Com niche, create an “SMS VIP Club” - essentially a list of “insiders” that get behind-the-scenes content, discounts, early-access… whatever you want! 

The idea is to piggyback off your existing channels to get your SMS list rocking fast. 

It doesn’t have to be complicated, and you can build a list of thousands of highly-engaged, compliant phone numbers with as little as a few emails and 1 landing page.

Expanding Your SMS List Going Forward

After you get your compliant new list started, you can start weaving in SMS opt-ins to all your existing lead magnets, so you have a nice flow of new leads coming in all the time!

There are so many ways to collect phone numbers - Adding it to your lead magnets, webinars, website popups, checkout pages, FB lead ads… and more!

Check out this article on how to get more phone number opt-ins for SMS 


If you don’t have a list of phone numbers from your contacts, don’t worry, it’s a common scenario. In some cases, building a list from scratch is a great idea anyways to help save on costs, increase deliverability, and keep your marketing clean.

If you need any help getting started with SMS, book a call with us here.

We’d love to help!