MarketBeat has created seven-figure revenue streams with email and web push notifications, now we’re going to try it with SMS. I believe SMS could be the next big marketing channel for our business, and maybe yours as well.
Here’s a rough script if you prefer to read instead of watch:
MarketBeat has built a fantastic business model that involves building an audience on a specific communications medium, whether that’s email or web push or a Facebook group or something else. The idea is that you create a consistent stream of valuable content and then invite people to receive that content regularly. You can than leverage that audience’s attention and use it to sell products and services your company offers or promote the products of your advertisers. MarketBeat’s done this very well with email. We have 810,000 email subscribers as of the day that I’m recording this. We’ve also done it with web push notifications and we have more than 300,000 push notification subscribers. We tried it with a Facebook messenger bot, but it didn’t work because our audience is primarily older men and that audience largely does’nt spend a lot of time on Facebook. In 2019, we’re looking for our next communications medium to build an audience on and I think that’s going to be SMS.
In the past, we haven’t seriously tried SMS because I wasn’t really sure how to attract SMS subscribers. You can’t really run advertisements to promote an SMS distribution list. If you add an SMS field to an email opt-in, your opt-in rates will dramatically decrease as well. We don’t want to torpedo our very profitable email sign-up rates, so we haven’t done that either. I think I’ve finally found a couple of good ways to get SMS subscribers, so SMS is now a real opportunity for MarketBeat. I plan on growing our SMS list primarily by asking our existing email subscribers and web push subscribers to sign-up for SMS alerts through including an SMS Opt-in in our co-registration funnel and also simply by emailing our subscribers and asking them to sign-up for SMS alerts. Our goal for MarketBeat is to grow to 100,000 SMS subscribers by the end of the year. I don’t know if we’ll make it, but that’s what we’re targeting.
As I’ve thought through SMS, I’ve discovered that SMS is a different animal than email and web push for a few different reasons. First, there are specific regulations about SMS messaging than email. SMS in the United States is governed by Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the CAN-SPAM Act as well. There are specific disclaimers you need to provide in your opt-in form. For example you have to people how often to expect messages from you and that standard text message rates will apply. You can only send messages during certain times of day. You have to include certain wording in your welcome message. You also have to track consent and be able to prove how someone signed-up for your list if someone ever accuses you of spamming them, so that’s an issue as well.
SMS is also a bit of a technical challenge. We always build out own management systems for message delivery and work with relay services like Twilio, OneSignal or SendGrid to do the actual delivery of our messages. This has been unique for SMS, because you can send out SMS messages through an email gateway that a provider gives you and that’s free. Or, you can use a service like Twilio that has much better delivery and a better API, but .75 cents for each message that you send out. That might not seem like a big cost, but if you’re going to try to send a message to 100,000 people, that’s $750.00 for every message you send out. So when possible, we’re going to use the SMS-to-email gateways that carriers provide and use Twilio as a backstop if those aren’t available. With SMS, you also have to be able to handle incoming messages as well. The standard way to unsubscribe is to type “STOP” or “Unsubscribe” in reply to a text, so you have to accommodate Twilio’s API as well as handle that as an email reply if you are going to use an email gateway. I think we’ve worked through all of these issues, but it was definitely a learning experience.
Now, let’s talk about the opportunity that SMS provides. SMS is a very personal communication method, because everyone opens every text message they get. This means you can’t send as often as you would with email or web push, but the engagement rates are very high. You really probably only want to send one or two text messages per week, so it’s critical that you get your messaging right. In our tests, we’re seeing click through rates as high as 10%, so if we were to send out 100,000 messages, that would be 10,000 clicks from a single message. So, if we believe that each click on a text is worth $1.00 which it is to us because that’s what advertisers are willing to pay, we could make $10,000 each time we send out a text message. I don’t care who you are, that’s real money.
I’m certainly not an expert at SMS marketing, but I think it’s a real opportunity for anyone that has a consumer-oriented business. Lots of major retail stores use SMS and ask people to opt-in to text messaging at checkout, and they know what they’re doing. My wife is constantly getting texts from stores like JoAnn and Kohls to try to get her to come into their stores and buy something. What your SMS program will look like will vary a bit depending on what type of business you have, but I’d strongly encourage you to think about how you can integrate SMS marketing into your business in 2019.