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How to Get Outrageous Engagement with Text Messaging – @betwext
The Agents of Change

AOCP-Pinterest-Brian-MikesFor business owners, it’s been pounded into our heads that we need to build our email lists. Build your list and email your audience with content, information and special offers. Sure, email is great, but do you realize the average person that owns a smartphone has it in their hand almost every 7 minutes? So doesn’t it make sense to hit them up where they’re hanging out? Texting isn’t just a convenient way to chat with our family and friends, it’s also a powerful mobile marketing tool.

If you’re doing it in a purely opt in way, and offering some form of attractive incentive, texting can offer you benefits over other forms of marketing. Texting is quick, interactive and pretty inexpensive. It’s also a great way to send out time sensitive information, whereas if you were to send an email, that may not be opened by the intended recipient until the next time they log into their laptop or PC.

Brian Mikes completely immersed himself in the world marketing, learning online marketing, email marketing, SEO and online advertising. Now he teaches the benefits and profitability of text message marketing.

Rich: Brian Mikes grew up in Arizona and went to college in southern California. He moved to San Francisco during the .com boom to work in investment banking. Yes, he was that evil guy raising money for growing businesses.  All told, he worked to raise almost 5 billion dollars in funding.

Now after a decade of banking Brian quit his job and moved back to Phoenix and became an entrepreneur. He quickly learned online marketing, email marketing, SEO and online advertising, eventually building three different million dollar businesses.

Brian invested as an Angel in betwext.com, a software company focused on mobile marketing. Seeing the power of the business, he jumped in and started working day to day with the team. Today Brian wants to share the power of text messaging with small businesses everywhere. Welcome to the show, Brian.

Brian: Thank you very much for having me on, Rich. Happy to be here.

Rich: Alright, awesome. Well, I’m excited to talk about mobile marketing. We say that we’re all about search, social and mobile marketing, but we definitely don’t spend enough time on it, so I appreciate this.

There are so many ways to market small business these days that a lot of owners and marketers may feel overwhelmed. They’re looking to prioritize, so why should we consider mobile?

Brian: Rich, this is a great question, I get it all the time. Everybody I know carries around a smartphone, it’s staggering if you think about the number of smartphones that are sold by the big major companies, Apple, Samsung, you go down the whole list. Here’s the big reason, the people with smartphones look at it – according to a couple of different studies – on average about 150 times a day. If you take that and you figure out you’re going to sleep a few hours, that means on average people are looking at their phone about every 7 minutes. Which is just shocking if you think about it.

And because everybody has one of these devices in their hand, it makes it a very powerful medium to communicate through. Not everybody – especially the younger generation – is on their laptop or on a home computer anymore. A lot of people are giving those items up for a smartphone, and for me that kind of sells it. As a smart business owner that’s why you want to be marketing to people directly on their mobile phone, and the key is figuring out the right way to do it.

Rich: I can speak to young people being on their phones all the time, we got a call yesterday from my daughter, Sophie, who sneezed, dropped her cellphone, smashed on the ground and she was beside herself like she lost a pet.

Brian: Oh, absolutely. You know, some studies I’ve read, 87% of people have their cellphones within an arm’s reach of them 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. A lot of people sleep with their cellphones, it’s absolutely amazing. 

Rich: It is a little bit crazy. She was beside herself and I said, “You know sweetie, it’s ok, we’ve all dropped our cell phone, I’ve dropped mine and smashed it on the ground once.” And she asked, “Is that when you were a young kid?” And I said, “Yeah, phones weren’t around when I was a young kid.”

Alright, enough of my family problems. Now here on the Agents Of Change podcast we talk a lot about the power of list building and email marketing. Now are you suggesting that mobile marketing replace email marketing?

Brian: No. This is a big misconception of a lot of people who look at mobile marketing, especially the SMS based or text message marketing that I like to blow the horn on. In my view, mobile marketing doesn’t replace other types of marketing like email marketing or online advertising or any of that. It’s something that augments it, it’s another arrow in your quiver, if you will, a way to communicate with people on a different level about important events and really drive engagement.

If you think about it – at least with my family – my mom emails me occasionally, but when it’s something important she’ll send me a text message if it’s timely. I talk to small businesses all day long and I say the same thing to them, think about communicating with your customers or your prospects, you want to send them details and reams of information to educate them on your products and things of that nature, that’s best left to email or driving them to your website and delivering information over a video. When you have something like a special offer or a timely notice or you want to do something for your VIP customers, text message marketing is a great way to get in front of them, using that mobile device to get in their hands.

Rich: Alright, just to be clear, so mobile marketing is an umbrella term. Today we’re going to be focused mostly on this idea of text messaging – or SMS messaging – and basically how to connect with our customers and prospects. And one of the things you’re suggesting is that depending on the message there may be better platforms, but for very specific uses such as the VIP list or something that’s really quick and pithy and time sensitive, that a text message may be a more valuable channel.

Brian: Absolutely. Yeah, you just nailed it on the head. The time sensitive nature of text messages is critical. Another one of those random stats about text messaging and your smartphone, on average 93% of messages are viewed within 3 minutes of being sent. So if you think about this from a marketing world, let’s say you’re a pizzeria owner and you send out a message to your customers on email. You don’t know if they’re going to get that email that day, that week, you don’t know when people are going to log in to their email accounts and read your special announcement about a discount on a Tuesday when you’re super slow. With a text message, you can literally tee it up to go out at at 5:05PM, send a special message out to your frequent users to say, “Hey, what’s for dinner? Don’t have any plans? Come to Tony’s Pizzeria and order a special large pie.” You can make a very timely offer to people and you’re almost guaranteed that they’re going to receive it and recognize it and acknowledge it within a very short period of time.

Rich: Now just as a side note, my beautiful and talented transcriptionist is always giving me a hard time because every time I try to come up with a local business, I use pizzerias. So now, Jen, this wasn’t my fault. I just want to go on the record.

Alright, I want to jump around a little bit now because you mentioned this imaginary pizzeria that we have that has all these people that we can text message to, let’s talk about where they get people’s phone numbers. I mean, who’s giving up their cell phone number to maybe get a pizza discount or know that there’s a pizza two for one special going on?

Brian: Sure, absolutely. And let me start off by saying it’s not imaginary. We actually have customers at Betwext that are pizzerias. One of the pizzerias we work with in the Bay area has over 30,000 phone numbers in their database that they’re texting on a regular basis.

Rich: Wow. I’d be very curious to know how they got 30,000. I mean, do you buy lists, how do you do it?

Brian: No, no, you don’t want to be buying lists because it’s very much like the email world. You don’t want to go out and buying email lists because you don’t know what their quality is. Believe it or not, the big carriers – AT&T, Sprint, Verizon – they actually will block certain phone numbers if you send spam messages from them. So text spam is a real thing and it’s something that is actively monitored and blocked by the big carriers, so you want to be very careful about how you get people on your list.

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Really, the simplest, easiest way to do it is just like you do for email name capture, you want to offer. Or every time you engage with them you want to give them an opportunity to sign up to learn more to get a special discount or special offer. The pizzeria that we deal with, what they do as part of their checkout, they have trained their cashiers to ask if they’d like to be on their text message list to receive discounts periodically. And people who love the pizzeria sign up, and that’s how they were able to build their list. It takes time, it takes a little bit of effort.

Another example, just because I know you want real world examples, we worked with a church in a college organization and we went to their club day and what they did was have a giant banner made that said, “Want to learn about our activities? Text the word ‘church’.” So they gave their phone number and tossed the banner up and that’s how they collected names and contact information for new students who were joining the college and interested in learning about what was going on.

Rich: Alright, so we’re incentivizing both. With the pizzeria we’re giving away pizza or discounts or what have you, the church is incentivizing less but it’s new college students just coming to the school that want to connect with a church in their area and this is how they want to communicate, so they’re more than willing. Just like I might sign up for an email list, they’re going to sign up for this. What do you call it, a SMS list?

Brian: Yeah, so we call it a “text message list” or “mobile marketing list”. And you’re absolutely right. And there’s hundreds of examples like that. You don’t have to just give things away, it doesn’t always have to be a discount. Sometimes it can be additional information. I know we have conferences that utilize our text messaging platform that communicate with everyone at the conference. So they ask people to sign up when they join the conference and they’re able to communicate information about room changes and who’s sponsoring the luncheon or the dinner or the networking event that’s going on. I’ve seen car washes we’re they’re using it as a rewards program. Get 4 car washes and get the 5th free, sign up for our text messaging platform in order to get these kinds of coupons and offers.

Real Estate agents will put the text message number and a special keyword right on their sign in front of the house, so people who are driving by don’t have to pick up the phone and talk to the realtor, they can literally send a text and get a response back with a link to more information. It’s absolutely amazing how people are using this.

Probably one of my favorite ones is a personal trainer. He uses his text messaging platform as a way to send daily inspirational messages to his group of followers. So when he has people who are interested in working out with him or are considering hiring him, what he does is he says, “Join my text message club first and you’re going to get daily inspirational notices from me about this and you’re going to learn about how I work and how I inspire people to work out with me.”  And it’s been a great avenue for him to bring on new customers.

So it doesn’t always have to be a discount, it doesn’t always have to be something free, but it needs to be something people desire.

Rich: Right. So it’s an incentive or an ask. It sounds like obviously an incentive may move people a little bit more quickly to give up their digits.

Brian: Oh absolutely, without a doubt. You see it all the time where you walk into a restaurant, “get a free coke, get a free meal, 10% off your next visit”, offers like that always work really well. I’ve also found it’s very hard for people to say no when they’re asked one on one personally by people. When people get to that checkout register and they say, “Would you like to get a discount or get some information about our next sale, can I sign you up for our free text message list?” People jump all over it.

Rich: So let’s talk just for a minute about some of the different methods that we get on it. Because I’ve heard you talk about a couple different ones. In the church example you gave us, it basically said to text “church” to their number. For the pizza place, basically people are being asked when in line if they’d like to get on the list for occasional discounts or whatever. And are they literally typing in or writing down that phone number and then I get added to that list? What are some of the methodologies that we literally get people onto our lists?

Brian: The basic one that everyone operates from is you have a signup list at a conference, people add themselves and then you go in and you type in their name and information later. Some people collect business cards and then add that information to the database later. My favorite way is you basically just put up a sign or hand them a card that says to text a keyword to a number, and what the system does is automatically add that person’s phone number to your texting list. So you’re not doing it by hand, it’s a more automated way to do things.

Rich: Ok, makes sense. So let’s say you’ve convinced me – whether for my pizzeria, or conference, or my web design firm – I figure that text message marketing is one of the ways in which I’m going to build my business. How do I get started? I know that if I’m going to send out email newsletters that I can turn to my vendor like Constant Contact and they’re the platform that I’m going to run on. Is that the next step, so I choose the equivalent of Constant Contact for text messaging? 

Brian: Absolutely. I would recommend it. Betwext is very much like a Constant Contact, iContact, Mailchimp, we’re a provider of service. There are hundreds of other companies out there who do the same thing. What I would encourage you to do is go out and find an organization that you’re comfortable with and that has a platform that you’re going to use. I’d really recommend that you spend a few minutes, our business and most of our competitors don’t want to steer you towards them but most will show you how the backend operates. You’ll be able to see how to get in and send a message and how the system works.

One of the things that I always tell people is don’t worry about all the bells and whistles right off the bat, just get in and use a system that you’re going to use. Whether it’s ours or somebody else’s, the power of text message marketing will just expose itself instantly when you start utilizing it.

There’s a ton of different features and a ton of different bells and whistles that all the different services offer, really just start capturing names and just start communicating with your customers. Send them a regular weekly message, let them know what’s going on in your business, let them know about special events or conferences, keep them in the loop and treat them like the VIPs that they are and you’ll see an amazing jump in customer interaction and business.

Rich: So I know that with these email service providers I own that list, I built up the list, I’m just using their platform. If at one point I outgrow one and need to switch to another for whatever reason, I can take that list and bring it over. Is it similar in your industry if I start with one company and I decide that I’ve outgrown them or I don’t like them anymore, that I can take those phone numbers with me?

Brian: Absolutely. For our system you can export them as a CSV or in an Excel spreadsheet file, take it over to one of our competitors and re-upload it there. You constantly have people moving back and forth between systems.

You know, Rich, one of the things that’s going to surprise you about this business is this is very much like email service providers. The text message service providers – or SMS service providers –  we have a huge gamut of what entry level products start at and what high end products go towards. For example, you can find entry level products at $9/month, and then you can see that ratchet up to $200, $300, $500, $5,000/month. I know of some messaging companies who focus on Fortune 500 companies, and their entry to just talk to them is $5,000/month. Those are huge budgets, those are people with tons of experience behind them and people to manage it. As a small business owner it’s very simple to get started, it’s very low cost to get started. LIke I said, you can find some as low as $10/month to get going.

Rich: Let’s just talk about that. So I find a starter kit of $10/month, I’m sure that I must be limited on the number of people on my list or the number of text messages that I can send out. What are we looking at to get started if we are looking on that low end?

Brian: Most pricing goes one of two ways. It’s either a flat, monthly fee where you get a certain number of phone numbers in your system and you can send a certain number of messages. Or, it’s a flat fee plus your messages.

So for example it would be $9/month, plus $0.02 for every text message you send. Keep in mind most small businesses – if you start thinking about the number of customers coming through your organization – you might have 200-300 customers on your list, So you’re talking $4-$6 to send out an actual message to people. And when you’re only doing it once a week or twice a week at the most, it’s not really that high. For the impact that you get, it’s a very low cost way to do things.

Rich: Absolutely.

Brian: One of the things we haven’t talked a whole lot about is features.

Rich: That was my next question. I was going to say, you said to start simple, but that kind of got me curious about what are some of the features that maybe I want to get into once I’ve got the basics down.

Brian: Sure, exactly. You know, just like email marketing, text message marketing – mobile marketing – is the same, You have the ability with most systems to segment your list. So you can have people that are interested in a “prospects” list, a “current customers” list, a “VIP” list. YOu can break it up into a thousand different pieces if you want, You can even do auto responder campaigns or drip campaigns where you can set up a number of messages to go out over time.

One of the big things that people are going to want to be aware of is keywords. And if you remember nothing else from this conversation, remember keywords. Keywords are what allows you to add someone to your list or allows them to add themselves to your list. So you walk into the pizzeria and they say. “Text the word “pizza” to xyz number”, pizza is their keyword.  You can make your keyword pretty much anything you want, however, on some platforms they use a shortcode and normally that shortcode is very shared.

Now I’m going to get into the weeds here a little bit, Rich, so bear with me a second. There’s two different kinds of texting, there’s a long code – which is just basically a phone number – your normal, traditional phone number. And then you have a shortcode, which is those 5-6 digit numbers. The shortcodes are very, very expensive out of the gate. If you want your own dedicated shortcode, it is several thousand dollars a month to start.

So what we do at Betwext – and a lot of the other providers like us – is we provide the option to do a long code. To just set up a phone number that literally acts as your texting message. When you get your own long code, you have the ability to put in any keyword you want. If you’re using a shortcode and it’s shared amongst a whole bunch of people, you now have to worry about who’s using what other keywords. Because if you use a shared shortcode, you can only use the same keyword once. So if you’re the third pizzeria to use this shortcode, I can guarantee you the word “pizza” is gone, the word “slice” is gone, the word “pepperoni” is gone. So that’s one of those things that you want to be aware of before you sign up. If you’re going to do a shared shortcode, you want to make sure that whatever keywords you want to use are still available.

Rich: And are keywords one way in which we can segment our list?

Brian: Absolutely. It’s the easiest way to segment them.

Rich: And are there reports in some of these platforms – like Betwext and others – that I can segment once I get people on my list maybe by who clicked on a link or something like that?

Brian: Yeah. You know the tracking at that level isn’t as robust yet as it is in email. So you know how email when you send out a message you can see who opened it, who clicked, what links they clicked on? The tracking on that level isn’t quite there yet, so what we do is we recommend people utilize a link shortener like Bitly to put a link into their text messages,a dn we recommend that they add a tracking code to the back so you’re able to see who utilizes that.

A lot of the people will move people back and forth from lists by making special offers. If somebody is a VIP customer, they’ll go ahead and move them to a VIP list or have them text a special code to a VIP list so that they’re self segmenting. That’s usually the easiest way to do it.

Rich: Alright, that makes a to of sense. And this does seem a lot like email marketing. Maybe like 5 or 10 years behind some of the features we see in email marketing, but obviously having some strengths that email doesn’t have right now. 

Brian: Yes. Absolutely.

Rich: Before we wrap up today, one thing I’m kind of curious about – and this may be industry specific – but have you seen specific tactics or techniques in text messaging that seem to have a higher engagement rate? Are there certain things you’re seeing out there that you’re saying, “It’s really effective when companies out there do this,” in their messaging?

Brian: Yeah, absolutely. And a lot of this comes down to what your organization is geared towards. One of the things that we’re seeing a lot of success with, for example, is with nonprofits asking for donations over text message as opposed to redirecting people to a website or trying to get them to donate. That’s an area where you literally send them a text, you have a link in there to your donate page and they’re able to drive better traffic back. People tend to engage more.

You see this across the spectrum and it’s hard to really just pin down and say this is absolutely the best way to do it. Every group is different, every industry is slightly different with how they utilize mobile text message marketing. But absolutely, you see better engagement, you definitely know that people are getting your messages, and for me the big thing is sending out timely messages. Once again, back to that pizzeria example, if you send a text message at 9am saying to order a pizza tonight, by the time dinner time rolls around most people are going to forget about it. If you send that out at 5:30-6:00PM when people are getting home after having the kids at a baseball game, all of a sudden it starts becoming more relevant to their world.

Rich: Makes sense. Now in the email world I know that a company like Constant Contact will have features already built in so I don’t need to worry about unsubscribes or anything like that. On platforms like Betwext, do you take care of the “stop” command, do I not need to worry about that?

Brian: Absolutely. Yeah, that all is built in and that’s something that’s pretty standard across the board for all providers, Betwext or anybody else. Things like managing the list, people who text back the word “stop” to get off the list, those are things that you want to recognize and monitor.

One of the risks of using text message marketing is you have to follow the “do not call list”, you have to follow the government regulations that are very much like the canned spam rules for email. You have similar rules for text message marketing and you just want to make sure that you follow those. Companies like ours have those standard disclaimers and disclosures and all the legalese that you want to have at the bottom of your sign ups that you have when people sign up, and ways to pull people off a list and add people to a list, and track to make sure you’re not violating any of those rules and regulations.

Rich: Interesting, very good stuff. This has been great, Brian, I appreciate your time. Where can we find out more about you online?

Brian: I write actively at the Betwext blog, so you can go to betwext.com/blog, and I publish articles there on a weekly basis, if not more frequently. Alternately, if people are looking for info or they want to see how this works,they can text the word, “info” to my phone number, which is 480-400-7877, and you’ll see the system. I put in an autoresponder, it will send you a welcome message and a link to some additional information into a free guide that we’ve written about mobile marketing for small businesses with a bunch of ideas and information in it.

Rich: Awesome, I look forward to getting that. We’ll have all that information, including all the links that Brian shared with us today in the show notes, don’t forget to check those out. Brian, thank you very much for your time today.

Brian: Thank you, Rich, my pleasure.

Show Notes: