SMS is not dead, just massively misunderstood and this episode dives into tactics for you to use to effectively bring SMS into your business right away. We also tackle the biggest opportunities for businesses to use mobile in their marketing mix and wax about the perfect location-based, contextually-relevant message – the golden unicorn of mobile marketing.
I’ve known Greg since he started his podcast a few years ago and am ashamed that he hasn’t been on the show until now but it was worth the wait.
Key takeaways from this episode. Click on the link and the video will take you to that clip
Rob: Hello, everybody, and welcome to Untether.tv. I’m your host and founder, Rob Woodbridge. Well, today, as usual, I have an exceptional guest. I have the great pleasure, and you have the great pleasure of listening to Greg Hickman. Greg is the founder of and host of a podcast called Mobile Mix at MobileMix.com. The podcast is dedicated to mobile marketing. He is the author of the brand new book, the SMS Marketing Handbook.
You can get that at SMSMarketingHandbook.com. Who is Greg? Well, he’s created mobile programs for the New York Jets. There’s a theme here. The Florida Marlins, the Carolina Panthers, AT&D, and recently Cabela’s. He has close to 100 podcasts about mobile marketing featuring himself, some insane guests that have actually enlightened me. I listen to this podcast religiously. So should you at MobileMix.com. Greg, welcome to Untether.tv. I can’t believe it. What has taken us so long to do this?
Greg: I have no idea, but thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. It’s a pleasure.
Rob: Well, no, this is totally my pleasure because I know the content that you produce is stellar. I know that you have just been back from some whirlwind speaking engagements and I know that you have been heads-down with your book, you know, writing this book.
Rob: So I want to jump into this quickly. We’re going to attack the question that everybody asks right now from me. I’m pretty sure it’s from you which is probably why you wrote this book to begin with. But why should marketers care? Why should they give a damn about SMS. Isn’t it dead?
Greg: No, it’s definitely not dead. Maybe it’s dying, peer-to-peer, but it’s not dying customer to business. It’s just one of the most powerful channels that exists in mobile. And if you look at any of the brands that use mobile really, really well, SMS is, by far and away, the workhorse of their mobile strategy together. It connects everything together. It connects their app strategy. It connects to their email, complements their email, complements their app messaging strategy.
So really it’s because it works. And it’s cost-effective. But I always kind of mention that I think what’s still interesting, and I know this was true at least late last year, is that Coca-Cola, and I’m sure you know this and maybe you’ve talked about this. But Coca-Cola spends 70% of their mobile marketing budget on SMS. Still, 2013, 2014, they’re still spending a majority of their budget on SMS. And, when asked why, the response is always, “we invest in what is effective.” And I just love that because it’s true.
Rob: Strong endorsement sitting right there. “We invest in things that are effective.”
Rob: Signed Coca-Cola and SMS.
Greg: Signed Coke. [laughs]
Rob: But there is a lot of conversation around this because we know this, but what’s the percentage of SMS that are open or are reacted upon within the first few seconds?
Greg: 90% in three minutes.
Rob: Yeah. And email is 90% never. Right?
Greg: Yeah, right.
Rob: Because I know that, from my perspective, is that I’m pretty much email bankrupt. I talk about this a lot of the time is that email comes in and it comes in and it’s just like a torrent of volume.
Rob: And it sits in my inbox for quite some time, and more often than not, it becomes expired without even me looking at it.
Rob: And then I look through it and I’m, like, oh, nuts. That would have been good to see nine weeks ago. But with SMS, it’s the reason why if you’re late on your bill with your credit card company or your service provider. They send it by SMS. Why? Well, because it’s pretty effective. You’re going listen and watch it.
Greg: Yeah, absolutely.
Rob: So when it comes to these things, how did you amass your knowledge around mobile marketing in general? And then why focus on SMS?
Greg: I got started in marketing mobile early, so 2005. And we were working with a lot of professional sports teams doing SMS, and I just saw how engaged customers were, fans were, with a lot of those sports teams that I worked with. Just a great way, effective, immediate, personal, that you create this communication that you can’t do with really any other channel.
There’s nothing right now out there that offers as immediate of an engagement. And the response to SMS messaging, when done correctly, blows other channels out of the water like crazy. Like SMS campaigns and MMS campaigns, I mean, I’ve seen and talked to people that have 65 plus percent response rate to messages that they send.
There are not many other channels that really do that. So why SMS won?
Because I love it and it works and I think not enough people are still using it. It’s one of the foundational tactics that really any business should be considering using. Retail, by far and away, should be using this as one of the main things they’re doing. But in my podcast, when people subscribe to my newsletter, I usually ask, What’s one thing that you’d like to learn more about? And again, by far and away, everyone is really interested in SMS. So I decided to write the handbook on it.
Rob: So you listen to your customers?
Rob: That’s a good way of doing it. Well, talk about the then. I’ve got a bunch of questions around… Maybe I’ll give you a second to think about these questions which is, What’s the best use of SMS? What is the best, most effective way to use SMS. And then for you, what has been the most effective SMS campaign that you’ve ever seen on the planet? If you were going to hand out an Oscar for SMS use, I want you to think about that. But while it’s going through you brain, I want you to talk about the SMS handbook. Because this is colossal undertaking, man. Congratulations on getting this thing out the door.
Greg: Yeah. Thanks. I really appreciate it. It was definitely a lot of work and surprisingly, one of the things that I’ve worked probably the hardest on ever. So it’s an E-book and there’s reasons that I made it an E-book. One, because it can be on mobile devices. So it still plays nice with mobile. Obviously, self publishing is nice. But really it covers why people should be talking about SMS even still. All of the basics. So this definitely, for the most part, I would say is skewed towards more of the beginner. But it does get into some more advanced conversation. So the basics, the language, the ecosystem, why the ecosystem is important. Compliance is a theme throughout the book with the wireless carriers and the recent TCPA Act and everything, the rules changed in October. So, we talk about that.
Rob: What is the TPCA Act? Many people I know probably won’t know that.
Greg: Yeah. So the TPCA is the Telephone Consumer and Protection Act. In the United States, they just announced a new rule regulation a part of that, that went effective October 16th of 2013 that basically said, “If you’re sending messages from an auto-dialed system, which is their bucketing SMS platform’s into that, then you need to have prior express written consent from the recipient.
So if you’re listening from the States and you are subscribed to any big brands, you might have noticed that week in October you probably got hit with a bunch of text messages asking you to resubscribe with these new disclaimers that are now required for us to use. It hurt a lot of people and a lot of people because of that, said, SMS is dead. But for me, I look at it as well, now we’re just weeding out all of the bad people and the people that were maybe going to attempt to not play by the rules. So that was a big thing. I talk about that a little bit. I don’t talk about it too much for two reasons. One, I’m not a lawyer.
Rob: You just play one on TV.
Greg: Yeah. I just play one on my Podcast. So that’s one reason. And then two, you can purchase the in one of three different ways. One, you could get just the E-book. Two, is what I call the starter package and it’s the E-
book and you get three training lessons from experts one of which is an attorney who focuses on mobile law or the laws and regulations around mobile.
So he does an hour-and-20-minute video presentation on All About TPCA. So if anyone is concerned with that, I would say that’s the package for you because that has plenty of content around that. Obviously, it’s the legal stuff, so it’s not the most exciting, but it pretty important. So that’s in there and then there’s one or two resources that come along with that package. And then the complete package there’s seven video trainings and four resources.
Like, one is, over the years, I’ve been collecting the word-for-word scripts that brands use. And that’s… all different types of businesses use when they send messages. So I’ve cataloged over… probably over, like, 300 or so different messages. And, you know, bucketed by brand and all that stuff. And you can go in and, if you’re looking for, you know, how do they communicate XYZ, you can see how other types of businesses are using SMS, from literally word-for-word. Do they use coupon codes? Do they use links?
So that’s one of them. And then a couple video tutorials on, like, just setting up simple campaigns through a couple tools.
But, yeah, so a lot of different ways you can get the book. And, you know, I wanted to make it digital, one, because of the mobile aspect of it, and two, because of the cost-effectiveness of getting it out there.
Rob: Ease of distribution.
Rob: All that kind of stuff. Yes. You don’t have to go through a publisher. And, quite frankly, publishers don’t help. And plus, you know what? As independent guys like you and I are…
Rob: You’d like to keep as much of that revenue as possible for your efforts that went into it, right?
Greg: Yeah. Yeah, so…
Rob: And you know what? I love digital products like this, because, you know, the way that you split it up… but you can get that enhanced version. If you really need to sit through an hour and 20 minutes of, you know, of a lawyer speaking, hopefully there’s a great soundtrack behind him that enhances it.
Greg: [laughs] Yeah.
Rob: But, you know, I think that there’s… that is… the breadth of the product is worth the dollars spent. But it’s not worth the effort that has been spent into it. You know what I mean?
Greg: Right. Yeah, yeah.
Rob: There’s an imbalance.
Rob: So whatever we can do to support Greg in doing this. I mean, I implore you, if you’re watching this, or you’re listening to this, go and buy the book. Just sit down and go and buy the book. The effort is… you know, far outweighs the price that is being levied on this thing.
Greg: Yeah. And really, quite frankly, I mean, if you look at the seven experts that are in the complete package, I mean, outside of the lawyer, I mean, his time alone, like, his hourly rate, I think, is, like, $500 or
$700 an hour, plus the amount of time he used to put that presentation together, which was multiple hours. So that one video alone is worth over
Rob: That’s crazy.
Greg: And then Bruce Hershey, who is now the VP of strategy at Archer, which is a, you know, SMS provider and agency, he does a whole session on how to create a contact strategy. So, you know, yes, SMS is important, but we understand that you still use email, you still use social, you still use push notifications and app notifications. How do they all work together and complement each other? So that’s what he talks about. James Citron does, you know, MMS. A bunch of different characters from, you know, the SMS platform world.
So, yeah, I mean, there’s, you know, the group that…
Rob: The value is…
Greg: Yeah. The value of those people. I mean, you get an hour of listening to these people talk. You know, it’s definitely worth the money for the book. [laughs]
Rob: Plus Greg Hickman’s mind.
Rob: Like, 94… you’ve done close to 100 podcasts of… with, you know, a mix between guests and your own thoughts, and your own advice.
Rob: And, you know, based on the experience that you’ve had for doing this, man, like, nine years now in, you know, SMS marketing. So that can’t be discounted.
Greg: Yeah. Yeah.
Rob: Like, we always forget that, is that, hey, you know, Greg, you’re an expert doing this, buddy. You should take a little bit… you’re like the Canadian, right?
Rob: Is like you’re like, “Oh, yeah, I guess I’m an expert.” But you are, right?
Greg: I guess, yeah.
Rob: So what…
Greg: Been at it for a while.
Rob: You have, yeah. Exactly. You made all the mistakes. But I love that the one thing about the 300 or so different SMS campaigns and the screengrabs… I think that’s a great thing, simply because it’s… it just shows you that, you know, if you need… if you’re stuck and you need a place to start, that’s a great place to start, if you ask me.
Greg: Yeah. Yeah. And you’ll… And then, if you look at them, you’ll start… if you’re observant, you’ll start to see some trends on how people use it, which, you know, might influence how you use it.
Rob: Yeah. Well, what do you think is the best use for SMS?
Greg: I mean, it really depends on your business. So it’s a… I know, a boring answer. But a couple things I’ll highlight. I think reminders. So, like, I think reminders are really important, especially for smaller businesses. So, like, there was a study that a single physician practice loses over $150,000 a year to no-shows. And a multi-physician practice, that is over $1 million. So by implementing something as simple as text message reminders of your appointment to reduce the number of no-shows, you can recoup a lot of that money and, you know, quite possibly change your whole year.
I know that, like, I work with the local, like, salon here in Denver, and we did the math, a number of times, about how much money she could potentially be losing if she has days with open appointments. She has one part-time employee. It’s like $27,000 a year if people don’t show up to the number of appointments that they have historically not shown up to.
Now she uses SMS to fill spots when she sees an opening in the calendar. So, today is ending, and she sees that there are two time slots open tomorrow, she’ll send out a message in the afternoon today or the early evening with a little incentive to get those slots full. And it worked every single time. She has a list of 400 people, and it still works every single time. You don’t need thousands upon thousands of people.
So that’s a big thing. The other thing I think that’s really great outside of just driving physical foot traffic–using time sensitive offers, which is pretty common–I think there’s a strategy behind that, and we use it at Cabella’s. I see a lot of other retailers using it: using SMS to increase the average order value per customer. For example, say you know that when someone comes into your store, they spend on average $100, right? That’s the value of the cart.
So you can send a message now that says, “Hey, when you show this code in store between this very small window–a couple of days, maybe–and you spend over $150, we’ll give you $20.” So what happens then, you drive these people, and they’ve spent lets say the minimum–$150. You give them $20; you’re at $130. You increased the average order value per person by $30, and you’ve just self-funded the entire program.
Rob: Right. Right.
Greg: So that’s amazing, and it works, and it works pretty much every single time. As long as you really understand that about your business, you know average value of every customer that comes in, you can then tie that to if we can get an incremental lift of x dollars, that changes our week or our month or our quarter by this percentage. It all becomes kind of like a no-brainer.
Rob: It does. But…
Greg: And then you do that once a week. You know, it’s something like that once a week in different variations.
Rob: You know, I see companies doing this, but I also see companies shying away from this, and I guess their general perception is, “We don’t want to spam our users. We don’t want to spam our customers with this kind of stuff.” But you know, when you have a 90% open rate or engagement rate within three minutes, and then you have this kind of success which increases basket size in stores, then how do you…
Greg: It works online too, by the way.
Rob: It does. Yeah. But how do you get these guys over this fear of using this tool but not abusing it, right?
Rob: It’s tough.
Greg: It is tough, and that was something we dealt with at Cabella’s. I kept the program really low-key internally for a while, because the second the merchandisers and the digital merchandisers heard about it, they were going to be like, “Oh, we want our product to be promoted in a text.” And I’m like, “No, we’re not doing…
Rob: Not a promotion like that.
Greg: “…text a day.” Yeah. It’s one text a week, that sort of thing. Then for the holidays, we had opted people into a higher cadence for holiday specials, which was actually up to one a day, but we got people opted into that higher frequency. It really does come down to just having someone that, I think, will stick to their guns.
Rob: Take ownership of it…
Rob: …be an inside champion. Do all those things, right?
Rob: And that’s what you were in Cabella’s. You fought those battles.
Greg: Oh my God, every day.
Rob: And protected it, right?
Greg: Every day, yeah.
Rob: Did I give you enough time to think about what you think is the single greatest, the Oscar-winning SMS campaign of your entire existence?
Greg: It’s tough because I don’t know all of the statistics from a lot of these campaigns other than the ones reported on Mobile Marketer…
Greg: …but I can tell you the company that I really like watching using SMS right now is American Eagle Outfitters. A shout-out to Bruce Hershey on that, because he’s really helping spearhead that with them and just spoke about that at a conference. They’re seeing over 60% engagement rates from their SMS messages.
Greg: Yeah, over. I’m saying 60 because I know it’s higher, but I can’t remember exactly how high it was.
Rob: Between 60 and 100.
Greg: I think it was like 67, or something like that, response to these very time-sensitive offers that drove incremental lift. And it was, you know, very much geared towards a holiday. They had a really cool campaign where they were giving away prizes every single day throughout the holiday. It was like the 12 days of Christmas or something.
Greg: And it was connected to this amazing mobile web experience. And you’d click on this link from the text message, and it would take you to this cool mobile page, and you’d tap on a present that was wrapped, and you’d watch it unwrap. And there was one of many prizes that you’d win every single day. Sometimes it was 40% off. Sometimes it was $40 off. They were giving away gift cards. They gave away a shopping spree.
And it was just super engaging. And a message every day, a value every day, right through the holidays. And to this day, they still send really… like, you know, you see their messages. They have, like, maybe a three- to five-day shelf life with a code. Sometimes they’re good in stores. Sometimes they’re good both in-store and online.
Greg: So they’re mixing that up. So I just really like what they’re… and they’re consistent. That’s the thing. A lot of people dive into it, and they’ll send one message a month, and they’ll forget a month, and things like that. But, like, you really need to… to get the most out of it, you need to be really consistent, have that… determine what your cadence is going to be, and your frequency is going to be, and, like, live and die by it.
Rob: See, for me, that is something that is so significant, right? Is that I get… just like, you know, many, many Americans, and many Canadians, I get… you know, the Gap, and Banana Republic. Every single day, it’s 40%
off. And it becomes… you know, the MSRP is now no longer relevant to me. There’s no… like, I love these emails that I get, which is really standard stuff, which is, you know, “Hey, today only, 40% off.” But then I know tomorrow, it’ll be 35% off, and then a week today, it’ll be 50% off again, right?
Rob: So there’s no… this is a terrible use of marketing campaign. And, you know, my open rate has declined steadily with those emails, because I know whenever I need to, I can just open up my spam, and I’ll get with a coupon that I need.
Rob: But if you juxtapose that against this open rate that you’re talking about, 60+%, whatever it might be, versus the ridiculous banner ad that you’re spending money on right now.
Rob: And the click-through rate. And then maybe an engagement somewhere down the road.
Rob: Or even, you know, an email open rate, which is probably sub-10%,
maybe 10 to 15% open rate, on a massive spam list. Greg: Yeah.
Rob: Or targeted, 60%, people who you know are going to walk into your store and spend some money, who value this.
Rob: I wonder, how come people aren’t doing this? Is it just education?
Greg: Well, that’s two things. Well, two things, actually, before I go to that, that I want to make clear, is, like, one, with the SMS and how it complements email. Like, I mean, I know people that are using SMS as a way to increase email open rates. So they… you send an email, and you notice that the subscriber hasn’t opened it in three days. Well, you can send a text message to that person. Assuming, you know, obviously they’re opted in.
Rob: Opted in. Yeah.
Greg: And it’s like, “Hey, we sent you a code for the special.”
Rob: Oh, wicked.
Greg: “Be sure to check your inbox.” And then they go back and they find it, and it kind of, like, revitalizes the email campaign. So now they’re using SMS to remind people to go check the email, because there was something important. So that’s one thing, I think, is really valuable.
And then two is, you know, we talked a lot about, you know, the dollars off, save 40, whatever. To shamelessly tie this back to the book, also, is Cain Russell from Waterfall Mobile, on another amazing platform and agency, he does a whole session on how to craft a call to action that converts.
Greg: And he goes into a whole session on, it doesn’t always need to be monetary. Like, there can be non-monetary incentive that gets people to opt in and take action. Like access. You know, you can give people exclusive access to something that they’re… you know, that is delivered through the SMS’s channel. You know, you could give some sort of, like, exclusive information. You know, things like that. So they keep… in his video training, he talks all about incentive, how to communicate that incentive, and also that it doesn’t always need to be dollars off.
Greg: Because that’s something that I’ve faced with Cabella’s, because Cabella’s, historically, is not a discounter. They don’t really discount… I mean, they have sales, but, like, they don’t really do coupons or anything like that. So, you know, we had to… you know, figure out ways to kind of get them to, you know, give us a little bit of leeway there with the SMS campaign.
But, you know, they’re looking to use … I mean, if they still are, I don’t know, but they were planning on it… to use SMS to, like, communicate exclusive events in stores, you know, for their VIP customers and things like that, that aren’t really, you know, monetary. It’s just,
“Hey, we only…”
Rob: To get them in.
Greg: We can only fit 50 people in this event.
Greg: We’re just going to tell you first through SMS if you’re on it. Because that means you’re important to us. So I think that was just important to…
Rob: But that’s a good strategy, right? Is that, you know, the people that are on your SMS list are above email and above your casual user, right? So this is an opt-in.
Rob: These are people that are dedicated to the brand.
Rob: And so your goal with those guys… maybe they come in three times a month. Your goal is to get them in there the fourth time, because you know that, as you said, they spend $100 each time. So bring them in one more time through an SMS campaign like this, through exclusive events. I mean, we talk about currency, you and I, right?
Greg: Yeah. Yeah.
Rob: Podcasts, video podcasts, blogs. Currency comes in many forms.
Rob: It comes in dollars, right?
Rob: It also comes in page views. It comes in audio listens, in iTunes subscribers…
Greg: Yeah. Time.
Rob: Email, right? Yeah. Time. Time… you know, the time on the site. Time in the audio and the video. You know, so you’ve got to understand that currency is not always about discounts, or always about dollars.
Greg: Right. Yeah. Yeah.
Rob: So… now part of what we’ve got to talk about here is this whole… like, you’re not just SMS marketing.
Greg: Right. Right. Yeah.
Rob: You are, like, the mobile marketing guy, right? And, like, a highly specialized in a field that is… I don’t know. Emerging, and… emerging at a rate that is about to accelerate at an incredible rate.
Rob: How’s that?
Rob: But… so elevating from SMS, there’s got to be something…
Rob: There’s got to be some things that you think, like, considerations around being successful in mobile, and successful in mobile marketing.
Rob: Can we run through a few of those?
Greg: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.
Rob: And then I’m going to talk about location after that.
Greg: Yeah. Absolutely. So… I think everybody that has trouble with mobile right now… I’d say most of the time, they’re having trouble because they’re diving in tactically.
Greg: There’s no strategy. They’ve got nothing. Like, there’s, like, SMS, sweet, oh, we’re going to build an app, sweet, we’ve got push notifications, awesome. Location-based messaging, we’ve got that. You know, all this stuff, and it’s, like, all from a tactical perspective. And that’s why people fail. Because they, like, forget Marketing 101.
Greg: So I usually… you know, kind of focus on the customer. And, you know, I just did a presentation at New Media Expo in Vegas in January, and I talked about how we, as consumers, consume content, and why that, how mobile has affected that, and then what you need to do because of the way that we consume content.
So there are… I’m sure there’s other studies that argue this. But there are apparently four modes of consumption. Four. So there’s focused use, which is… you know, you… most likely a good example is reading a book. Like, you’re focused on that one thing. There’s no other devices. You’re very focused on that task at hand. And what’s… what I found interesting about focused use was a lot of the examples I found around focused use always refer to reading books. Well, then we had, you know, ereaders, you know, which then spawned into tablets.
And there’s a company called Readmills. They make an app that lets you read books on your devices. And they found, through their studies and their own analytics, that they have more people reading books from their smartphone than they do tablets.
Greg: Yeah. So the people… like, the device that was created to digitize books is now losing to the phone, which people are reading books on these days.
Rob: Come on.
Greg: And you know what? I do it, too. Like, I actually read a book from this. So, like, it’s great. It’s easy. It’s with me. I can do it wherever I am. I don’t always need to have my tablet with me. So even focused use has been disrupted by mobile.
So then you have dual consumption, which is… everyone talks about second screen. So you have, you know, a tablet and a phone in hand, or whatever, watching TV. 85% of smartphone usage is happening while at home while watching TV.
Greg: 41% of Americans do it every single day.
Rob: Stationary. Not mobile.
Rob: Sitting on the couch.
Greg: Not on the go.
Greg: Not in a rush.
Greg: Maybe distracted. But dual consumption.
Greg: So mobile’s created dual consumption. Then you have time shifting, which is, like, on-demand. So, like, think about the times are… If you’re listening, if you’ve ever downloaded a movie to your tablet before you got on a plane.
Greg: Or you used InstaPaper, or ReadItLater, or NowPocket…
Rob: NowPocket. Yeah.
Greg: …to read an article later. So, like, now it’s on our terms, right?
So we choose when we’re going to consume the content that you so rushed to get out there every Thursday. I’m going to consume it next Thursday.
Greg: And I’m going to get your… I’m going to be two weeks behind you.
And then lastly is info snacking, which is, like, the biggest one, is when you consume content during times that would have otherwise been wasted, or, you know, not valuable.
Rob: Standing in line, or something like that?
Greg: Standing in line. My favorite: the toilet.
Greg: 75% of us Americans are, you know, proven to have used the phone on a toilet.
Rob: I don’t do that. I don’t do that at all. I don’t do that at all.
Greg: So, like, you have to understand how people, and how your customers specifically, are doing that. Obviously there’s really no analytics that will tell you if your customer’s [laughs] reading your content on a toilet. But, you know, you could do surveys. You can do, you know, surveys with customers…
Rob: Do you ask that in a survey? Like, “Hey, do you watch this on the… do you read this on the toilet?”
Greg: So, n-… I haven’t asked that question. But, like, for Cabela’s, we asked in surveys, “Do you bring your phone with you on hunts?” Like, is it on?
Greg: Do you have cell phone service when you’re out on some of these places? I mean, we got some really interesting questions. I mean, Cabela’s is hunting, fishing, camping. Like, it’s all about being outdoors. Like, when I think of that, I don’t think of having my phone with me. But we got some interesting responses of, “Well, when I’m sitting in a blind for five hours, what do you think I’m doing? I’m scrolling through Facebook.”
Greg: I have, like, seven extra batteries, if I even have reception, you know, at that point.
Greg: So it’s like, knowing that, how do… how would we change the way that we market to them? That we communicate with them? So I think it’s really about understanding your customers, and how your customer might be engaging with you, when they’re engaging with you, where they’re engaging with you.
I interviewed the head of… it was either the head of digital or the head of mobile at that point, for Brookstone.
Greg: And fascinating episode. They found that their tablet usage skyrocketed at 10:00 p.m. at night, all right?
Rob: Now, why 10:00?
Greg: People are in bed.
Greg: So… but they also found that two product categories soared from tablet transactions: iPad accessories and pillows. Hmm, that’s interesting. People are in their bed, at night, on their iPad, buying iPad accessories, because they’re like, “Oh, I might drop this thing. Maybe I need a new case.” They buy the case from their iPad. And, “My pillow stinks. I’m not sleeping well. I’m going to order a new awesome smartphone pillow from Brookstone.”
So on the tablet site of Brookstone, there’s a whole section right underneath the navigation that promotes iPad accessories and pillows.
Greg: Not… doesn’t do that on the smartphone site, doesn’t do that on full desktop. Because…
Rob: Just the tablet version.
Greg: Just the tablet. They saw behaviors change from an iPad at a certain time of day, and certain products being purchased, so they… they made it easy for people to do those things, because that’s what they were doing from that. So it’s like, that example… just, like, every business can start looking at their own business in that way. Like, what types of things are people buying, and when are they buying them?
Rob: You know, it’s funny, because it becomes this self-referentiating, you know, prophecy, where basically is that you are in bed at that point, that’s where everybody’s looking, and then those are the first two words you see, right?
Greg: Yeah. Yeah.
Rob: And so, you know, it might put it… that is fascinating. I love that kind of stuff.
Greg: So once we understand that, how do you then create content that is fit for those chan-… those modes, right? One example would be, like, if you use content marketing or what have you, that the… pay attention to the content that you read from your phone. I will bet you that the stuff that you actually engage with… and when I say “engage,” I’m counting, like, skimming.
Greg: The stuff that you actually digest are the ones that are using huge bold subheads, numbers and bullets, and bucketing the sections of content… they’re breaking down the whole article. That’s why, like, “Five Reasons to…” dadadada, like, “Six Things That,” you know, “All Mobile Marketers Should Know.”
Greg: Like, that sort of stuff, it’s readable, it’s consumable, it’s snackable.
Greg: In these sorts of modes of consumption. So if you’re presenting this long-form content for your business, whether it’s a white paper or whatever, you’ve got to make it chunk, you know, chunks, so it’s, like, people can read it and skim it. And I don’t need to read everything in between number one and number two, but if I can get the gist by just reading the headline of the first thing, I don’t need… I shouldn’t be doing, got it. Are these things that I’m doing? And if there’s something I see that I’ve never seen before, then I go back and I dive into that piece of content. So how can you create content that, you know, is scannable, if you will.
And a really interesting example that kind of leads into this concept of audio. And this is more towards, like, content marketing people, especially… like, you know, I find it fascinating because I’m a podcaster. There’s a blog that I know of called Internet Business Mastery.
Greg: And they teach people how to build their own online business. And they were one of the first podcasts to ever talk about Internet business. So, they have a lot of editorial content on the blog. They have the podcast and iTunes. They’ve got written content. They started releasing audio blogs, so they write something, they record themselves reading it, or if it’s a guest blogger, they have the guest blogger record themselves reading it. I’ve done it three times for them. And then they submit the reading of the blog to the podcast feed.
So, they’re introducing a whole new level of content into the podcast. What was fascinating is, they shared some numbers with me. And they shared three posts. They were very much similar in numbers. But the post itself, the written part, the page would have received like 27,000 unique page visits. The same content recorded audio got 28,000 unique downloads.
Rob: Come on!
Greg: Swear to God.
Rob: Like 10 times the engagement?
Greg: And what was great was, they got feedback from the audience that listens to the podcast.
Rob: Of course they do. How far they went through.
Greg: One of the emails…so, he sent me three emails that people had sent them. One was, “Oh, my God. I didn’t even know you had a blog.”
Greg: Because they came across this podcast in iTunes, in that world. They’re an audio type of person, and I guess they never registered when they said, “Go to this URL,” or anything like that. They just preferred audio. They got emails saying, “Oh, my God. Thank you for delivering content in a way that I want to engage with it.” And then another person was like, “Oh, my God. Thanks for creating so much additional value. Keep it up. We want more.”
Like, all they did was read and record what they wrote. So, depending on your business, you need to understand maybe how people choose to engage with you, because here is a tweetable for you. You as a business owner, as brands; you have no business, no business whatsoever, how, when, where and on what device your customer chooses to use to connect with you. You have no business knowing that. It’s not up to you. It’s not your choice.
Greg: It’s the customer’s choice. All you can do is try to be there in a way that’s going to give them the best possible experience. So, I think people are just starting to get that, like I have no say in how my customer wants to engage with me. If they want to listen to me on iTunes or only watch my videos on YouTube, and never, ever come to my site, ever. How can I make that person’s life better, on YouTube
So, that is what we need to start thinking about, is how do we deliver our content and connect with our customers in a way that is on their terms?
Because that’s what we have to deal with. So, content consumption, and how do we get there? You know, maybe it’s audio, email. I mean, you probably talked about email, but that’ the most…I still think, the most overlooked mobile channel. People are like, “Oh, we’re not doing mobile. We need to do mobile.” I’m like, “Are you sending email?” and they’re like, “Yeah.” I’m like, “Well, you’re already mobile.
Greg: You’re just not doing it well.” [laughs] So, I mean, retailers – you know, I know a lot of retailers that see over 50 percent of their emails being opened on a mobile phone.
Rob: Yeah, yeah.
Greg: I know there was just this stat that said, “51 percent of all email opens happen on a mobile phone.” So, I mean, what fascinates me about that is that the fact that people are even opening them is impressive, because there are so many things against you, to even get your customer to open your email first. So, tell me if you do this. When you unfortunately, I know I do it. I’ll say, me, when I wake up, the first thing I do is reach for my phone, and I check for email.
But, when I see a bunch of emails…I know I used to do this with my iPhone. I have an Android now, but you click that button on the top right, so it’s like edit. And you get all those little circles, and you highlight as many of them as you can. And then you do mass delete, and delete all of them. All because you want to eliminate some sort of overwhelm when you actually finally sit down at your desk in the morning. It’s like, “Oh, I don’t need these.”
Well, that’s fascinating. So now, the mobile device has become a filter for what email even gets read by us. Then you have the fact that the sender’s name is displayed more prominently than the subject line. And most businesses either have a really long display name, or their display name is like news at their domain, or do not reply.
Rob: That’s the best.
Greg: That’s the best.
Rob: I feel a love there, yeah.
Greg: Do not reply says, “Do not open this email.” [laughs]
Rob: Basically, “Do not reply.”
Greg: They will not see your subject line. So, there’s no technology that changes that. It’s just have a display name in your email software, period. And then the next thing is, the subject line. Then, you have five to seven words to convince me, the reader, to open your email. So, are you a good enough copywriter, and do you know your customer well enough to intrigue me in five to seven words, give or take 50 characters or so? To get me to even open your email, that might be the most beautifully designed, responsive email ever. I don’t care if you have a responsive email template. There’s no such thing as a responsive email headline.
Greg: So you can’t just change the subject line knowing it’s for mobile. So, how do you then communicate things more clearly to get people to open?
I know a lot of retailers still bucket a lot of information in their email, and their subject lines are long because they want to mention the 10 things that they have in their email. Like the sidebars and all that stuff. You know, there’s no one thing.
Then you have the pre-header, which most businesses still don’t use, which is amazing. Some email softwares actually don’t allow you to use a pre-
header, which fascinates me, but do you know what the pre-header is?
Greg: Yeah, so the pre-header is like 140 characters or 160 characters. It’s usually above the header.
Greg: Depending on if your consumer has this enabled on their phone, it’s the first thing that they’ll see below the subject line. If you don’t use a pre-header, usually it’s the first sentence of your email. So if your first sentence of your email is stupid…
Rob: Or an image.
Greg: …or fluffy…
Rob: Yeah. What I love is hey, can’t see this? Not displaying properly?
Click here and go to the website. That’s usually everybody’s first line, right?
Greg: Yeah, yeah. So that’s what people see underneath the subject line. But say the email is all about this massive sale and you use the pre-header to say, “Save up to x amount of dollars with the code inside,” that might get me to open. So, you know, those things have nothing to do with technology. It has to do with common sense testing. Look at your own damn email on your phone, please. Then you go on things like responsive email templates, making that snackable. Big photos, large tapable buttons, things like that.
Rob: So great. On email, do you think that mobile has had such a great influence on email that the contact has to be created with mobile in mind now, obviously. But the old clunky newsletter has to be something of the past. So even if you’re doing images, with mobile do you recommend one-
action emails? It’s the one thing that you want them to do. Don’t clutter them with crap. Just say, listen, if it’s a sale, get them to your website, get them to the next stage. Instead of giving them 14 links, give them one. Is that something that you look at?
Greg: Yeah, in a segmented, targeted way. It’s now at the point where you need to collect more data about your customers so you can send more relevant messages, no matter what channel we’re talking about.
Greg: If you can segment better on TV, you should do that too. You need to segment. So maybe you have five different types of emails that go out based on interest or behavior, and they’re all focused on less information and one or two simple call-to-actions. You know, you can get away with sending more emails because they’re going to be segmented and targeted, timed appropriately.
So, I don’t think email is dead either. I just think people suck at email.
Rob: 100% I’m with you. I’m guilty of all of these things as well. I’m not selling product. I’m giving you free content by email. But you’ve just got to think this through.
Rob: It’s so simple, and when people I talk to, they don’t think of email as part of a mobile strategy. Immediately, they think app. They think about responsive web. They think about spending a whole lot of money, and that pulls them back and say, “No, I don’t want to do it.”
Greg: Yeah. Mobile is everything.
Rob: It is to me.
Greg: No, it literally is.
Greg: I had this conversation internally at Cabela’s, and they’re showing the hierarchy of the team. It was like email team, mobile team, social team. I was like, “Mobile should be a layer that goes across all these teams.” Because search is mobile, paid search is mobile, SEL is mobile, email is mobile, social is mobile. Mobile is mobile. Your banner ads that you’re spending money on is mobile.
Greg: Mobile has affected every single channel that we have at our disposal. Period.
Rob: Your payments are mobile. Your in-store in-aisle is mobile. Your location, your context, everything, it is…
Greg: Your signage. All that stuff is mobile.
Greg: Mobile affects all of it.
Rob: Your digital at home. Your magazines.
Greg: Yeah. All of it.
Rob: It’s ridiculous. Okay, so we’ve talked about audio, we’ve talked about your content strategy. We’ve talked about email, the way that humans consume. Is that good considerations?
Rob: Is that enough?
Greg: Yeah. The last one I was going to say is this notion of having a contact strategy, which is how do you bring all of these things together. So I’m not saying… I wrote a book about SMS. That doesn’t mean you only need to be doing SMS. You need to be smart with email. You need to be smart with SMS. You need to be smart with push. All of these channels need to be used a different way, and to communicate a different type of content and a different type of information in different contexts.
So, like, you know, your SMS can complement your email, which complements your app notifications, which complements your push notifications, which complements your social engagement. Like, what…
Rob: But they’re not the same. They’re not the same message, right?
Greg: Yeah. Right, no. It could have the same overarching message, but the…
Rob: Yeah. Same campaign, different message.
Greg: Yeah. The call to actions are different. The incentives are different. The timing is different. Like, people are like, oh, push notifications are going to take away text messaging. No, because push notifications, people still ignore push notifications.
Greg: People can’t ignore SMS. Like, there’s no way to ignore it. You will get the text message, like, if you opt in.
Rob: And you know what? And you don’t have to… like, with SMS, the ubiquity of SMS means you don’t have to be a part of the app economy. You don’t have to… you don’t have to download the store’s application. You don’t have to commit at that level. But you only dip where you want to dip. And maybe it’s about… through SMS is the only way you want to be communicated. You don’t want any push, you don’t want any email, but SMS is the way that you prefer. Right?
Greg: Yeah. I mean, it’s just… and again, like, knowing how people use SMS and, like, the open rates, and how fast.
Greg: You know, if you have something that is urgent, that goes to SMS.
Greg: Like, if you have something that’s passive and not that… not as important or as much of a rush, maybe that’s right for email.
Greg: So, like, you need to understand the benefits from each of the channels that they give you as a marketer, and the way that the customer will interpret and receive them. If you’re sending a text message on Monday about an event on Friday, that’s not a proper use of SMS, right? Or, you know, that’s a… it’s as simple as that, right? [laughs] So…
Rob: There’s no explanation needed there. Right. Right.
Greg: So it’s, like, just understand how you should be using each of the channels and what they’re good at, and then you kind of have your overarching message filter down into those channels with the little kind of special sauce of what they’re each good at.
Rob: Right. Well, now… so you’ve got all of these things. It’s fascinating. I do a weekly podcast on location-based marketing. And, you know, there’s a lot of talk about contextualized messaging and marketing, right?
Rob: So location-based marketing is one thing, but in-aisle is another, context… you know, weather permitting, you know, time of day.
Rob: All of these kind of things. So you’ve got SMS, and you’ve got all these things we talked about. Audio, and the context strategy, and email. And so how does that all land in location? Is there… are there… what are your thought on location-based marketing? On pulling all of this into one spot where I walk in, and at the right time, at the right place, you know, in the right frame of mind. I might be happy.
Rob: The sun is shining.
Rob: And I get the message that is going to turn me around and make my day, and make me buy something. What… does that exist? Are we chasing something here that will never exist?
Greg: I mean, people are chasing it. [laughs]
Rob: Yeah. Yeah.
Greg: I mean, I think people are getting there. Is it effective? I don’t necessarily know. I mean, I can tell you why everyone’s talking about that. I’m going to be generating revenue by using simple things like SMS.
Greg: You know?
Rob: You think it’s too complicated? Like, do you think that, like, the premise is too complicated today?
Greg: No, I don’t think the premise is too complicated. I think the execution is too complicated.
Greg: And for a lot of reasons, it’s infrastructure, sys-… like, back end systems don’t talk to each other. The… the scenario you just gave of, you know, I’m in the store, I’m in the aisle, it’s the right weather, I’m standing in front of something that I have expressed interest in, but I have not yet purchased. Like, all of that data actually lives somewhere for a lot of people.
Greg: The problem is accessing it, getting it in real-time, and using it to intelligently message the right person that’s actually standing right in front of the thing that they want to buy.
Rob: At that moment.
Greg: At that moment. It’s hard. It’s not easy by any means. I mean, there’s no software company that says, like, “We have this platform that does all this stuff.” Like, it’s… it requires developers that are really good with APIs. It requires the third-party system over here to be willing to talk to the third-party system over here, but the IT company… the IT organization of the brand doesn’t want to give access to anything to them, so they can’t talk to each other. So then they start talking to each other. It’s like… it’s operations, it’s technology, it’s politics, is why it’s taking so long.
But at the same time, it’s like, I also… I haven’t really found too many studies that really show that it’s working.
Greg: And/or, like, everyone’s been saying, like, you know, people have been testing iBeacon. Like, I’ve never… I’ve not once yet seen or received a message or anything like that through iBeacon or know of anybody that has received a message through iBeacon or know of anybody that has executed a campaign using iBeacon. So I’m just wondering how, most of this stuff is being piloted, you know obviously in a couple of stores. I just, I ask the question, “Are you going too far?” If I’m standing in the aisle and I had expressed interest in something, do I really need to get a message with an offer on that thing just to get me to buy it?
Greg: I might actually, I’m different because I’m obviously in mobile, but from a consumer stand point to get a message that’s like, “Hey, look on the shelf below you,” that sort of stuff is creepy.
Rob: What, what, what, what?
Greg: Yeah, yeah exactly. Like, we’re watching you and I can see that you want this product.
Rob: Look down! Look down! Look-pick me! Pick me! Right, that’s what you’re saying?
Greg: Yeah. I just dont’ know if it’s really that effective. I got pitched so much by companies that were able to do location based SMS, constantly pitched by them. And I said, “Okay mister expert location-based SMS provider, you tell me how I should use this.” Nothing.
Greg: They don’t even know.
Greg: Because they have not, they’ve created the technology that could do this cool thing, but it might not even work.
Greg: And location, again, is more, somehow we’re wrapping context, emotions, previous transactions, purchase paper, somehow we’re wrapping all of that stuff in this location bucket when really they’re obviously all separate. Location is just the enabler, one of the enablers. So I don’t really know how I feel about it. I think I’m still skeptical that you’ll see a case study that’s like, oh, increased 200 percent. Well, you weren’t doing it before, so obviously it did something. It’s good that it did something. 200 percent of zero, great. So you had 200 subscribers engage with this thing out of the four million that come through your stores across the country.
Rob: That’s true.
Greg: I just haven’t seen anything there really has wowed me that I think warrants people focusing so much on that when they’re not even getting the basic stuff right.
Rob: And I think that that’s the challenge. We talked about this a little bit earlier, it’s like jumping to the end before you determine what it is that you’re trying to do.
Rob: So location-based marketing, it could work. We’ve seen some great examples around something like Angry Birds doing a co-marketing agreement with Starbucks so when you walked into Starbucks and launched the app, it knew you were there and then it gave you a free level, right? So to bring footfall traffic in, or, grocery stores are the ultimate thing to be able to do this on.
Not about pushing me something in aisle, which would drive me up the wall and force me to remove the application from my phone, but then give me some exclusivity. Right? So when I walk into the store and I use, we have a Loblaw’s out here that has a great little app and a loyalty program, but when I walk in the store, on my 30th time, give me a little perk, right?
Greg: Yeah, yeah.
Rob: Give me something that changes or invite me because I’m a member, when I walk in, there’s a cooking class upstairs or we want something like that, right?
Greg: Yeah, yeah.
Rob: Simplicity, I think, is the key.
Greg: Yeah, absolutely. Everyone’s trying to, when I spoke at a Mobile Marketers event, the holiday one in September in New York, and I made this comment on stage like, “All you people are out here talking about how to leverage big data,” and I was like, “But yet you guys can’t even do anything with little data.” The little amount of data we have on people, we can’t even use that. How are you going to use all of this other data that we have that you’re trying to collect?
Rob: You’re pedobytes of data and you can’t get the small things right. Formatting-
Greg: The grass is always greener. It’s like, oh well if we had a little bit more data we could do this.
Greg: Shut up.
Rob: Format the subject of your e-mails for mobile devices. Start there, right?
Greg: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Rob: There’s your big data, right?
Greg: Yeah, right.
Rob: Truncate your big data into small text. Oh man, Greg, you know, obviously we’ve known each other for quite some time and I know the depth of expertise that you bring to these conversations and I know that we always, whenever we get together, we kind of scrape the surface of the stuff that I know but I do believe in what you’re doing with the SMS marketing handbook. I love the strategy of a deep dive in something like this and clarifying SMS marketing, absolutely, 100 percent. So this is something that I highly recommend people go and download, go and buy obviously. SMSMarketingHandbook.com.
And then for the other side of it is the PodCast that Greg does is this kind of quality but deeper dives, shorter than mine, which is already good. But there are tactical, tangible things that you can do everyday. He does this thing on Tuesdays called Takedown Tuesday which he looks at mobile marketing campaigns and he basically either props them up in a good way or annihilates them and it’s so great. So there’s a huge amount of content, so I implore you, SMSMarketingHandbook.com, and then go to mobilemix.com. In iTunes you can subscribe to the PodCast. Go and do it for Christ’s sake. Just take it from me. Don’t unsubscribe from this one, but subscribe to his as well and you’ll get a good combination of the two. That’s all I should be sending people to, right? Is that enough?
Greg: Yeah, that’s perfect. Yeah.
Rob: You don’t have anything else?
Greg: That’s perfect, yeah.
Rob: Thank you for doing this, man.
Greg: Thank you. I had a blast.
Rob: Well, no, and I learned a ton. I’ve got pages of notes here.
Greg: It’s about time we did this.
Rob: Well, I know. It’s ridiculous.
Rob: Yeah, well that’s just my fault. So listen, Greg Hickman is our guest. He is the founder and the host of Mobile Mix. Go to mobilemix.com, go buy his damn book, SMSMarketingHandbook.com. You will not regret it. Subscribe to his PodCast. Greg, thank you man.
Greg: Thank you, I appreciate it.
Rob: For those of you watching, listening, whatever you are doing, my hope is that you’re in the gym, maybe you’re driving in the car, maybe you’re doing the dishes, maybe you’re sitting with your kids. My kids listen to my PodCasts. I force it on them all the time. Whatever you’re doing, whereever you are doing that, thank you for bringing this and all the other episodes into your day, into your life. It is greatly appreciated and go and subscribe to Greg’s PodCast and download his book, SMSMarketingHandbook.com. We’ll see you next time on Untether.tv. Thanks, Greg.
Greg: Thank you.