What is SMS Marketing and How Can it Work For Your Small Business?

Cindy Apt
As more consumers get comfortable engaging with small businesses on their smartphones, SMS (Short Message Service) marketing opens another channel to connect with customers. Today on the Atlanta Small Business Show, we’re pleased to welcome back Victoria Wilson, CEO of The Taproom Agency, who shares her insight and best practices for exceptionally effective SMS marketing.

Transcription:

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Thank you so much Victoria, for joining us on the show.

Victoria Wilson:
Of course. Happy to be here. Good to see you.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. Good to see you. It’s great that we can be in person. Right.

Victoria Wilson:
I love it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And everybody just wants to get back together again and be face to face. And, but we’re so grateful that you came in because there’s not a business owner out there that isn’t, when you say email marketing, they’re like, am I doing it right? Should I do more of it, less of it? Everybody tells me that’s the way to go. It’s kind of like social media too. You got to be in social media. But at the same time and really what started, not started it, but one of the first things for businesses was email marketing. Right. That was a big, big element.

Victoria Wilson:
Huge.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And everybody’s kind of challenged with it, right?

Victoria Wilson:
Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Myself included. And we’ve got a team of people here, but when you say, or you ask a question about email marketing, oftentimes you’ll get that deer in the headlights, like, well, I don’t know. They just changed the algorithm and I don’t know what’s good and what’s bad. So let’s kind of start with the basics. What is email and what is SMS marketing and how do they differ from traditional marketing?

Victoria Wilson:
Absolutely. So email marketing is effectively when you go onto a website and you click the button that says subscribe to learn about new offers and things happening with the brand. And then once you’re signed up for that, you’re funneled into a platform, an email marketing platform, and you receive consistent email marketing messages from that brand, letting you know of like different deals,

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Victoria Wilson:
Offers, brand stories, things like that.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure.

Victoria Wilson:
So something we’re all very familiar with.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Victoria Wilson:
SMS marketing is something that is a little newer to the frontier, but gaining a lot of traction in popularity and SMS is an acronym for short message service. So basically text messaging.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Text message.

Victoria Wilson:
Yes.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
And so with consumer behavior moving more and more towards mobile and people shopping so much from their phone, there was an obvious need for, okay, folks aren’t necessarily checking their emails all the time, but they are always on their phones.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Victoria Wilson:
They are always texting people. So SMS is a really strong way to also, like another avenue of connecting with your consumers as well.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And should that be, or is that currently an option on many websites to say, do you want to sign up for our email newsletter and then next to it SMS? Or how does that work?

Victoria Wilson:
Yeah. So there are multiple points. So usually when you enter into a website on their homepage, you’ll usually see a popup come up.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
And within that popup, the language can vary. There are some brands that will still target solely email marketing and signing up for newsletters.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
And some will join both together, like, Hey, sign up for email marketing and SMS services as well.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
And then also another point is once you’ve reached checkout,

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
Brands will often have an opt-in box.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
During the checkout experience as well.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Because they would need your phone number, right?

Victoria Wilson:
Yes they would.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. So you got to give that.

Victoria Wilson:
Yes. And you should never auto check that box.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
That is a very important thing because that can be a trust breaker. If you have that auto checked, you should just make sure that consumers are aware and voluntarily signing up for those services.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay. The trust breaker that you speak of would be that if I got one I’m like now mad, if I didn’t realize, Hey, what?

Victoria Wilson:
I had no idea.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
What’s going on?

Victoria Wilson:
Exactly.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
How did they get my number?

Victoria Wilson:
Exactly.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And yeah. Okay. Gotcha. So do you recommend to your clients currently to have both options across the board? Or is it,

Victoria Wilson:
Yes.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
If you have a website you should have both?

Victoria Wilson:
I think you should. The focus should still primarily be on email marketing for sure in terms of frequency. You don’t want to bombard people with text messages all the time.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Victoria Wilson:
Because then it becomes like this very weird and,

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Victoria Wilson:
It’s like your ex texting you all the time and you’re like, I don’t like, no, thank you, so.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
You’d rather he emails you.

Victoria Wilson:
I’d rather,

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Just email me.

Victoria Wilson:
Please email me.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right.

Victoria Wilson:
And so I do think it is a very complimentary thing to have SMS marketing,

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
But buy and large, you should always, always, always have email marketing.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
But SMS is a great avenue as well.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay. Okay. Should you tie it in as an incentive to get that information like, Hey, if you want updated coupons for future purchases, we can send them right to your phone or something like that.

Victoria Wilson:
Yeah. Absolutely. So I think SMS is really great. One, when you make sure that you have very concise and targeted messaging.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Victoria Wilson:
I found SMS to be really helpful when, if you have a business model where you do a lot of flash sales.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
And you have people who are very engaged and things like that.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Victoria Wilson:
Flash sale, SMS and texting that out, perfect combination.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
Because it lights up that like sense of urgency,

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. Sure.

Victoria Wilson:
For folks to like go to your site and purchase and buy and interact with you.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure. Sure.

Victoria Wilson:
It’s also great for abandoned cart, for example.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
If someone’s shopping on your site, they’ve opted into SMS and you see they shop, but they left something in their cart, SMS is a great way to like grab their attention again and say, Hey, you left this in your cart. Here’s a link. Even if you can integrate that, that’ll take them right back to the cart that they left with the product [crosstalk 00:05:43].

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right. So many times that’s happened to me. And I’m like,

Victoria Wilson:
Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Oh, that’s right. I meant to, I got a call and they wanted my credit card and I stopped, but I still want the product. And it’s actually pretty helpful.

Victoria Wilson:
Yeah. Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So what about the platform that gathers all that information, that data, and then handles it. So your sending these out. I’m not sitting there on my cell phone, right, going okay, Bob wanted me to text him this message obviously. Right. So talk to us about the platforms that are out there.

Victoria Wilson:
Absolutely. So we highly recommend a platform called Klaviyo.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
That’s K-L-A-V-I-Y-O.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
It’s a really impressive and robust email marketing platform.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
It allows you to segment your audience.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
So anyone who’s subscribing, you can observe their behavior and just kind of start segmenting people into, okay, these are the folks who have participated in seasonal sales. These are the folks who bought from like this specific collection and we’re introducing a new product,

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
And they may care about this. So I think making your communication very intentional, and targeted, and I’ve observed that you’ve had this behavior, this is what you like. This is what we would recommend to you. And also just sharing information around like your brand story and helping to foster that level of connection with people as well is really important.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
What if I’m a business owner and I’ve got this data on all of my customers and I’ve got 1000 customers and I’ve got all of their cell phone numbers, right, because that’s how I call them and set up appointments and what have you, can I take all those phone numbers and dump them into the SMS platform and say, here you go, go send them a message?

Victoria Wilson:
Yeah. So actually your email. So a service again, like Klaviyo, the SMS is already tied into that.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
So you can handle the segmentation across the board between SMS and email marketing.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
But you don’t need their permission to send them a text message, much like you-

Victoria Wilson:
If they’ve opted in.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
If they’ve only, if they’ve opted in.

Victoria Wilson:
If they’ve opted in and you have that information from them, you are,

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So if I have-

Victoria Wilson:
Clear to send it.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
But if I have the data and I have their phone numbers and they haven’t opted in per se, how do I get them to opt in on all of these 1000 customers that I have that I want to send text messages to?

Victoria Wilson:
So with that, I would say if those folks have not necessarily opted into SMS, but say they did opt into email marketing, this is an opportunity when I was mentioning like their complimentary services, you can leverage your email marketing and if you’re going to do fun things with SMS or offer special discounts,

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Victoria Wilson:
You can always do an email blast as well. Like, Hey, consider signing up for our text messaging services,

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay. Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
To get a first stab of like X, Y, Z and.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay. But don’t send that through a text message if they haven’t opted in.

Victoria Wilson:
Correct.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
What are the penalties? Because I know some business owners that go, oh, what are the penalties for that? But what are the penalties for that? I mean, what happens if….

Victoria Wilson:
You run the risk of folks reporting you as spam,

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
Which can really hurt like your SEO rankings and things of that nature.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
It can really just hurt people, being able to find you and also just hurt your brand reputation as well.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right. To your point, we mentioned that trust factor, you don’t want to hurt that relationship that you’ve got with the client.

Victoria Wilson:
Exactly.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Hey, wait a minute. I didn’t allow you to send me coupons through my text messaging. Right.

Victoria Wilson:
Exactly. And then even on top of that word of mouth, even with everything happening digitally and things of that nature, word of mouth is still a very strong vehicle of communication.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Victoria Wilson:
The strongest vehicle of communication.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. Sure. Sure.

Victoria Wilson:
So if break trust with a customer by sending out SMS text messages, things like that can also just get around and you don’t want that to be the reputation for your brand.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right. Right. Because yeah, don’t go in there. They’re going to take-

Victoria Wilson:
They’re like, they’re going to spam you with all these text messages so.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right. Right. And then also, I might walk away thinking, well, if they did that, maybe they also sold my information,

Victoria Wilson:
Exactly.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
To other vendors or what have you. Right. So, definitely you recommend email marketing and SMS to all of your clients and say, this is an area that you need to be in. Right. I think a lot of people, small business owners, it’s kind of one of those I’ll get to it one day, especially if you’re a one man band or one woman band or whatever, and you’re trying to do all of these different things. But at the end of the day, email marketing is just a click and bingo, you can send out any message you want. Right. It really costs you nothing. Or maybe it costs you pennies to send out an email.

Victoria Wilson:
It’s a very low cost method.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Victoria Wilson:
I do think so. And granted, especially if you’re a smaller business,

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Victoria Wilson:
Like there are a lot of different and pricing tiers. So there are easy entry levels for a lot of people, depending on what stage you are at in your business’ growth.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Sure.

Victoria Wilson:
But I do think that email marketing and the platforms that have been created, do make it a lot easier to manage things like that.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
Like you can set campaigns up like months in advance and get ahead of these things.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Victoria Wilson:
And as folks are funneling in and you set up different like rules,

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Victoria Wilson:
For how things are segmented,

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
It really can help speed up and automate the process while giving you the time back to go focus on other things in the business.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Now what you just went through there about 10% of the people go, oh, I could do that. The other 90% like me going no, no, no, no, no. I’m going to need a Victoria Wilson and her staff to handle that. Is that something you guys do,

Victoria Wilson:
Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
At The Taproom Agency?

Victoria Wilson:
We absolutely do.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
We offer primarily two different services.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
So one is just your initial setup,

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
With email marketing and getting you set up on a platform to get that going for you and your business. And so it’ll be like everything from account creation to, we will set up all of your initial flows.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow.

Victoria Wilson:
Like a welcome series and abandoned cart series.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow.

Victoria Wilson:
All of the key flows and key communication channels for like engaging customers.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
And trying to get them to come back and retaining them. And then beyond that, we also have an email marketing retainer.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
So with that, we’ll strategize with you, we’ll review the data, we’ll come up with campaigns for you.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
And just kind of find those ways to keep talking to people and fostering that loyalty and that community.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Does your agency also handle the creative? So if in the event somebody says, well, I want to sell this little widget right here, but I didn’t take a picture of it. I didn’t do the artwork around it. Do you guys do all of that?

Victoria Wilson:
So in terms of taking pictures, we do have amazing photographers that we work with. One of our former designers, she actually does photography. So we will outsource to her,

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
But in terms of like layout and email composition, we can absolutely help with that.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay. That’s great. So you’re like one stop shopping at your agency.

Victoria Wilson:
Do it all.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And how long have you guys been around?

Victoria Wilson:
We have been around for a little over four years.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Wow.

Victoria Wilson:
Yeah.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s fantastic.

Victoria Wilson:
It’ll be five years this year.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah. But your core business and we brought you in here today to obviously to talk about email marketing and text messaging also known as SMS marketing, but your core business at the agency is really helping companies with their websites. Right.

Victoria Wilson:
Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And then this kind of probably drifted off and they’re like, all right, we have a great website. How do we market it?

Victoria Wilson:
Yes.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
And you’re like, okay, well we can help you in that area too. Right.

Victoria Wilson:
For sure.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Yeah.

Victoria Wilson:
One stop shop. So anything that is involved in the customer journey,

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
We have services to do that. So our core is definitely web development.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right.

Victoria Wilson:
So that’s like web design, web development. We handle copywriting.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Everything.

Victoria Wilson:
We can handle optimization for your website, if you already have an established site and you just want to improve it and better reach customers and better engage with customers.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Okay.

Victoria Wilson:
And then partnered with that, we can also focus on like strategy around your email marketing and making sure you’re set up and optimized for that as well.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
For small business owners that are listening to us have this conversation, I can’t tell you how important it is to have a great web presence. It makes you basically an international company and you have the opportunity to look and feel to the consumer like you’re a national brand out there. And that’s what I think what’s so exciting about internet and websites and such that it levels the playing field for all retailers so long as you pay attention to this. Not all websites are created equally. You got to make sure that you really have your web presence in order. It’s more important in my estimation, in my humble opinion than the very store or office you do business in. People are going to go online first and that experience better be world class.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
So I tell you this, and this is my sermon on this because you’ve got to listen, if you don’t get it with The Taproom Agency, get with someone, okay, that is professional in this area that can help you grow your business on the internet. The reason that we wanted to bring Victoria in here, they’ve got a great reputation. They’ve got a ton of clients. They do a phenomenal job. You can check their website out. We’ll show the information here on the screen, but I’m mean this folks. If this is a business you’re about to get into and you have not set money and time aside to put together a good website, don’t go into business. That’s how strong I feel about it. So Victoria Wilson, CEO of The Taproom Agency. Thank you so much for stopping by. We really appreciate it. Love to do a follow up with you.

Victoria Wilson:
Would love that.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Talk about websites, talk about some of the other key things that small business owners really need to focus on because this is something that I think a lot of people make a mistake on.

Victoria Wilson:
Absolutely.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
They do kind of hurry up, let me get into business, let me open up my office or let me start calling clients. And then when you call that first client and the person says, oh great, what’s your web address? And you think, oh man, I hope they don’t go to my website. It’s terrible. Don’t ever let that be the case. Right. Don’t ever, if you’re a business owner, don’t let that be the case. Make sure your website is in order, that it looks fantastic. That it’s something you’re impressed with and not one of these well, I got to get back to this, I got to fill in that, I got to do this. That’s not going to cut it today.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
People want that web experience to be listen, they’re selling cars on the web, they’re selling houses on the web, they’re selling boats, RVs, major appliances. You can buy everything as you know, on the web. So if you think you’re going to be out there and compete with the big boys and the big girls out there in business, you got to have a strong web presence and a world class website. And in our opinion, that can start here at The Taproom, so The Taproom Agency. And you guys are right here in Atlanta, right?

Victoria Wilson:
We sure are.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Fantastic. So why would you not want to keep your dollars in Atlanta.

Victoria Wilson:
Please.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Right. Yeah, exactly.

Victoria Wilson:
Support local businesses.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
That’s right. We need those dollars. Well, Victoria, thank you so much for joining us on the show. Really appreciate it.

Victoria Wilson:
Thank you so much. It’s been a pleasure.

Jim Fitzpatrick:
Great.


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What is SMS Marketing and How Can it Work For Your Small Business?

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