Part 2: Hillary for America, SMS Campaign Manager Lloyd Cotler

We’re back with Part 2. Be sure to listen to the first half before listening to the second. 

If you’re not already, please subscribe to The Chat Bubble Podcast on iTunes or wherever you listen to podcasts. 

I’ve launched a Playbook for Messaging. It highlights the top 4 marketing use cases for Facebook Messenger, and lays everything out in a step by step guide so that marketers can launch messaging campaigns and stay focused on their existing KPIs. You can get the guide by messaging in to our facebook Page.

Lloyd Cotler, SMS Campaign Manager for Hillary For America

I’ve been in to a lot of the guests that have come on The Chat Bubble podcast, but I think this episode is the best story we’ve heard so far. On today’s show we are speaking with Lloyd Cotler. He was the SMS Campaign Manager for the Hillary Clinton campaign, sometimes referred to as HFA. As we’ll discuss in the episode, the Hillary campaign did things that no other mobile campaign had ever done. They did it at a scale that most mobile campaigns never reach and they did all of this on a timeline that’s almost impossible.

The campaign had some amazing talent. Specifically Lloyd with his understanding of how to launch, grow and execute on messaging initiatives. The other thing that the HFA messaging campaign had was buy-in at the highest levels. We talk about how that worked and the type of results that the campaign saw which caused them to double down on mobile messaging efforts.

Also, the campaign had a really good platform called Mobile Commons. I want to mention that company. Full disclosure, I used to work there and I own some stock. Not sure if I have to mention that, but everyone seems to do that on podcasts.

Anyway, there is so much in this conversation I’ve listened to it multiple times. I was obviously at the recording, I listened to it during the edit, and this is the first episode that I listened to a third time. Some of Lloyd’s casual remarks are absolutely golden and approaches that I had never thought about.

Finally, we are breaking this up into 2 parts. So if you’re not already subscribed, do that now on itunes or wherever you listen to podcasts.

And a little promotion before we start. I’ve launched a Playbook for Messaging. It highlights the top 4 marketing use cases for Facebook Messenger, and lays everything out in a step by step guide so that marketers can launch messaging campaigns and stay focused on their existing KPIs. You can get the guide by clicking here and messaging in to our facebook Page.

The Playbook Overview: The 4 top marketing use cases for Facebook Messenger

We’re releasing a Playbook for Messaging. The focus is making messaging a marketing channel. It highlights the top 4 marketing use cases for Facebook Messenger and lays everything out in a step by step guide. 

The hope is to share an approach that digital marketers haven’t heard before. Instead of leaving Messenger to the customer service bots or operations teams, the marketing department is actually in the best position to capitalize on messaging immediately. 

The best way to get the playbook is to message in to The Chat Bubble – click here, and then the Get Started button. 

Sandi Fox, Founder of Smart as a Fox shares the organization’s perspective on SMS

On today’s show we have Sandi Fox. She is the founder and principle at Smart as a Fox, which is a Digital Strategy agency.

Recently on the show, I’ve been talking to people that really know the messaging space, but they’ve all been vendors. On this episode we have someone that really knows about messaging, but she’s coming from the client side and the consultant angle. Sandi worked for a non-profit where she took control over the text messaging campaigns and oversaw tremendous growth and success. After that, in the last 6 months or so, Sandi has launched Smart as a Fox, which is an agency that helps organizations with mobile campaigns and of course can help with all kinds of digital and communications needs.

So we talk about all of the SMS stuff that we’ve been discussing recently, but from the organizations perspective rather than the vendors. It’s going to be a really good compliment to the last 5 or 6 episodes.

Alright, a little housekeeping before we start the conversation. To all the new listeners, Welcome. There has been a spike over the last few weeks. People have also been messaging in to the Facebook Page. It’s really interesting to hear what everyone is up to so thanks for connecting. I’ve checked out a few demos and had some excellent conversations about messaging. If you have thoughts, feedback, questions for me or questions that you’d like me to ask guests, message in. The way to do this is send me a message on Facebook.

Click here to open The Chat Bubble Messenger Page

Please subscribe on iTunes:

Max Kamin-Cross from Hustle discusses Peer to Peer SMS

On today’s show we have Max Kamin-Cross from Hustle. Officially, his title is Director of Product Partnerships, but he was the first DC employee at Hustle, and has been a big part of building everything they’re doing in Washington DC.

If you haven’t heard of Hustle, they’re a pretty big deal. They are definitely a darling of the messaging space, and have done particularly well with Peer to Peer SMS campaigns for non profit and political campaigns. They are one of the few companies that are venture backed and also doing a lot of business with campaigns and non-profits.

We talk at length about how P2P SMS works, the type of results that an organization can expect, and where the space is heading.

To check out hustle, visit their website – it’s simply

As always, message us on Facebook with questions, comments or feedback.

Derek Johnson, CEO of Tatango discusses a decade of SMS campaigns

This episode shares some great information about text messaging campaigns. Derek Johnson, Founder and CEO of Tatango is the guest.

We’ll let Derek tell us more about Tatango, but it’s safe to say that his company Tatango is one of the best known text messaging companies out there today. And a big reason why Tatango is well known is Derek’s blogging and conent marketing. He’s an absolute thought leader in the space and he’s very respected by people in the industry.

I can’t say enough about the content that Derek is putting out there. Right now he’s focused on video, so be sure to check out their Youtube channel. Just go to youtube and search for Tatango.

If you prefer to read, go to the Tatango blog. It’s possible they’ve written about every single topic in text messaging.

Facebook Messenger vs. SMS – FBM’s 3 biggest advantages

I’ve been sick, busy with work and expecting a baby. So I missed the podcast last week and this one is short. Actually have some very interesting guests coming up, so stay tuned. Today I’m doing a short overview of the top advantages that Facebook Messenger has over SMS. These are the simple simple basics.

For the last few episodes we’ve been talking through SMS- how it works, FAQs etc. We’re going to make a shift in the solo series and talk about Facebook Messenger. We already discussed a little bit about how messaging apps came into being. I just thought of a new analogy that is applicable.

If you’re old enough, you remember AOL in the late 90s. It basically was the internet or at least indistinguishable from the idea of the internet. At some point the walled garden broke down, people figured out how to use URLs and we all realized wow, there’s a whole lot more here than just aol. Messaging is sort of the same. SMS was all there was for a while – like a decade. Now we’re seeing this shift where there is an entirely new space called messaging and SMS is simply a part of that — but it’s a big big world of messaging.

OK so Facebook messenger. There are downsides and we’ll get into them, but let’s talk about 3 positives first.

Number 1: It’s Free. Yes, you heard that right. Sending a message over Facebook Messenger does not have a cost. You might need a platform to send the message or a developer to build some technology or you need to hire someone to respond manually within Facebook, but… Facebook does not charge for messages the way that carriers do via SMS.

Cost can play a big deal for organizations that are scaled up. Having a million people on an email list is not rare. The fact that sending an email is virtually free has lead to its ubiquity as a marketing channel. 1 Million person SMS lists are rarer, but it can be expensive. If you’re paying 1 penny per text sending 1 million messages to that list will cost at least $10k. It’s just a factor that comes into play.

Number 2: Facebook Messenger is worldwide. We talked about SMS having this amazing ubiquity because it’s installed on every single phone. That’s great, but the market is fragmented. The suppliers of SMS are different in every country. Costs are different and more importantly the setup is different and needs to happen in every country where SMS campaigns are launching.

If you’re a brand that wants to message people in US, Canada, Mexico and the UK. That means 4 different SMS setups, 4 different cost structures and potentially more than 1 aggregator (remember them). If you launch on FB Messengers, it’s one launch and of course 1 cost structure, free, and the build is to a single API.

Combining worldwide and free is a multiplier. One perfect example of these two benefits is messaging for podcasts – go figure. I launched SMS campaigns with podcasts and it went great. The only two problems were – if enough people messaged in to the podcast to actually make a difference, it became too expensive. We could see tens of thousands of people messaging in over the course of a month or so. It’s great response, but podcasts don’t have huge budgets and it’s tough to experiment when the costs are rising a little bit with each message. Also, a penny per text is low…. At high volumes. Almost all campaigns doing thousands of messages, not millions are paying more per text.

Also, podcasts can be worldwide. When a podcast tells listeners to text in, it’s great but the call to action will only work for one country. Doing multiple calls to action isn’t realistic.

So FBM being free and worldwide takes care of these issues and aligns really nicely for podcasts.

Number 3: This is the biggest advantage. Facebook Messenger is connected to Facebook!!

This is probably a 10 hour conversation, but high-level, this connection is a multiplier. Anything that an organization might want to do via messaging can be multiplied by Facebook. One example is a the Facebook Share action. So if my company wants people to take a survey for some type of incentive, at the end of the survey I can ask the person to share on FB and the social aspect means that some of their friends might see it and then click and take the survey.

This isn’t a groundbreaking process – it’s what socials all about. But the multiplying idea comes into play if we can make it easier to share via Messenger (than through the web) then Messenger is multiplying all of the social aspects.

It also works the other way. The first example is Facebook amplifying what the brand does via messaging. The opposite way is that Messenger amplifies what the brand is doing on social. The idea here is that the brand is buying Facebook Ads, can we increase the conversion rates, and value we are getting from the ad by sending the clicker into Messenger rather than a landing page.

This is where I get really excited. With SMS it was always tricky. People wanted to use the channel, but in order to get started they needed marketing to make a TV commercial to drive opt ins. With FB Messenger, marketing can actually get excited about messaging – hey, this will increase ad conversions AND build the messaging channel at the same time.  

This is a big deal and it’s just getting started. We’ll be talking a lot more about all of this soon. So if you haven’t subscribed yet, please do so at itunes or wherever you get your podcasts. You can search for us – just type in The Chat Bubble.

Of course if you have questions or feedback, message us on Facebook – eh – we are The Chat Bubble there as well.

We’ll be back soon with more, thanks for listening.

SMS+Messaging FAQs

We’re talking FAQs for messaging – mostly SMS.

SMS, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp or iMessage?
This answer is evolving. It’s now October of 2017 and I think this answer might be different in the future. The short answer is SMS is the dominant channel right now, but in the future one of the messaging apps might be a better choice.

The question really boils down to SMS broadcast vs. Messenger Apps, and right now it’s only really Facebook. Let’s go through the SMS positives.
First, it’s ubiquitous. It’s installed on every phone.
The other big positive for SMS is there is a well established ecosystem of vendors and case studies and use cases. It’s possible to copy what other people are doing… and start to do it for your organization.

It’s sort of the place to start in messaging.

The list of cons for SMS is growing. A few years ago there might not have been any cons at all and now there are cons… Although a few years ago I worked for an SMS company so maybe that’s why I didn’t see any cons.

First, SMS is expensive. There is just no way of getting around the per message cost. Even on the super low end we’re talking a penny or two per message. It doesn’t seem like much, but sending 10k messages costs $200-$300. All this means is that you have to have a plan to make each text worth more than a few pennies. It’s not hard, but it does rule out some use cases.

Second, SMS might have different limitations in different countries. If you’re doing international campaigns, SMS is tough. If you’re working in a single country that isn’t America it’s good to understand if people use SMS in that country.

My bigger worry for SMS is that there are very capable companies encroaching on the messaging territory. Specifically Facebook, iMessage and potentially Google. SMS will always be on the phone, but I’m worried that the channel will seem old soon. It’s the default, but the best companies in the world are trying to displace it.

The iMessage move is incredibly deft. They step in front of the text message and almost consume it, without the user knowing. I guess the takeaway on this point is that SMS is no longer a sure thing. In the past it was the only/best option, now the door has been opened to competition.

There is an interesting advantage for Facebook Messenger. It’s the only messaging app that’s connected to an ad network. With SMS a brand needs to find a way to build a list. Maybe that’s the web, maybe that’s a TV commercial or live event. But the brand needs some type of campaign to drive the list building. With Facebook Messenger, it’s obvious, you can drive messages from the ad network.

Of course Facebook has it’s own disadvantages, most notably that you don’t own your list and cannot do certain types of marketing messages. We’ll get into all of this soon. Facebook is the next messaging channel that we’ll be digging in to.

OK next FAQ.

SMS – broadcast or peer to peer?
This is not a tough decision. Broadcast messaging and peer 2 peer are completely different things and they are not mutually exclusive, so this isn’t really an either or situation.

Peer to is sort of like advertising on steroids and broadcast SMS is like email on steroids. I say that peer to peer is like advertising because it’s not permission based and it’s interruptive. Peer to peer is like an advertisement that happens via SMS and then is followed with a personal conversation. The best analogy is telemarketing – the consumer’s phone rings and then someone wants to talk with them.

First let’s talk about the benefits of P2P. It can be highly targetable. The organization launching the P2P campaign brings their own list of numbers, so they can use any data vendor or their own lists to target and reach the right people.

P2P is also really engaging. SMS is a very personal and powerful channel and the campaign is powered with a real person talking to the target users. I guess a one on one conversation would be more engaging, but this is as close as you can get – and texting scales much better than calls, because one operator can be talking to more than one target person at a time.

The other advantage of P2P is that an organization will see results really quickly. As soon as P2P texting starts, we’d expect to see results coming in.

Now the downside of P2P. First, it can be very expensive. You’ll have the vendor costs, but then there is also a cost for a person to do the P2P texting. This concept of P2P launched during the presidential campaign where there are plenty of volunteers, but the dynamics change when those volunteers need to be compensated.

The other downside of P2P is that the organization is not necessarily building an asset. So maybe a political campaign can pay $1,000 and do P2P texting and find 100 volunteers for the event. But if the same organization wants to do another event, they’ll need to do P2P again and find more volunteers. There is no inherent opt-in or list building built in.

Less quantifiable, I think there is a real concern about texting people that haven’t opted in. It’s ok when it’s a presidential election and almost everyone in the country is paying attention. But it is ok , when it’s a non profit asking for a donation? What happen when it’s a business letting you know about their new car insurance options? It’s always a little risky when an organization is intruding in people’s lives.
Onto broadcast messaging and let’s talk about the pluses.

An SMS list is the strongest list that an organization can build. These are people that are interested enough to give the brand or organization their phone number. And then the organization can communicate with the person over SMS on an ongoing basis. The organization is building a list which is an asset – just like an email list.

With broadcast SMS if you incorporate calls to action from media, the SMS call to action can increase all of your results from the media campaigns.

The other big plus is that the SMS list will route people to other assets – SMS is a great way to collect other data and information. So the first best practice of broadcast SMS is that you should ask for the user to reply with their email address.

The big downside of broadcast SMS is that when a company launches, they are starting with a list of 0. For broadcast SMS the brand is building out this channel, given that people need to opt in, there is just no short cut – the organization needs to spend time and effort to build the list. It’s obvious, but this can be a hurdle.

I sold SMS technologies for a long time and there was a lot of selling this dream of the channel. We would eventually get to this point where the buyer would ask, OK where do we get the list? The answer is… well you need to find a way to get people to opt in, here are our ideas. It forces the buyer, who might be in the communications department to now go talk to marketing, because they need to find a way to promote an SMS call to action.

So overall with this question of peer to peer vs. broadcast messaging. It’s not a valid question. It’s kind of like saying, should we do Twitter or should we build our email list? Other than both being on the SMS channel, they are basically unrelated. I wouldn’t consider them substitutes in any respect.

Broadcast messaging is definitely a bigger, more long term initiative. The longer you do it, the bigger the asset and more valuable the initiative. P2P can show results faster, but campaigns are not cumulative. They don’t build towards anything necessarily.

Short code or long code? Unique short code or shared? Vanity or random Short code?
Finally a simple one.
Peer to Peer messaging forces a long code. Mobile Donations force a short code.

If you’re a small business doing reminder type messaging, it’s fine to use a long code from the local area code.

Anyone that has calls to action in media – text JOIN to join the list should be using a short code. It looks really shitty when text calls to action are based on a long code.
For anyone doing any type of volume – 1 or 2 thousand messages per day, I would recommend a short code.

So I guess all of this breaks down to broadcast messaging means short code and P2P and reminder messaging means long code.

For the question of shared or unique. First off, if you’re getting your own short code, get a vanity code and make it something easy to remember. It doesn’t matter what the code spells because it’s never promoted that way. PEPSI if they have a short code, it’s probably 73785 because that spells pepsi on the keypad. But they would never advertise text CONTEST to P-E-P-S-I. They would spell out the number. And it’s an ugly number. It’s better to get 222333 or something that’s just easy.

Along the same lines, if you’re going through the process of getting a number, it’s best to get a vanity short code. It’s worth it to get a number that you like, vs a randomly assigned number that won’t be as easy to recognize or remember.

But back to the question, should you get a shared short code or get your own number? It all comes down to cost and timeline. If you’re a bigger organization and can afford the $15k per year for the short code, it’s worth it.

All organizations should start with a shared short code. Even if you are getting your own short code, I recommend starting early with the shared short code during the three month setup period. It’s always best to get going with the promotional aspects especially on this new channel where it’s going to take a little time to understand how to promote SMS and generate optins.

How do I pick a vendor?
There are a lot of SMS vendors out there. If you are going to build the technology yourself or integrate into an existing system that you’ve built – like uber would, then just start with Twilio. They are by far the most reliable, fastest and most flexible way to start if you’re looking for an API. It’s possible that you might have special needs and go to a different aggregator, but Twilio is far ahead of the game, basically everywhere I can think of.

More people will have questions about how to choose an ASP, and this is tougher. Like choosing any system, it’s probably best to start by finding a vendor that focuses on the space. The biggest advantage to having a vendor that works in the space is integrations with the other systems that work in the space. Just like email and the website really need to work together, SMS is in the same mix. It needs to work with other systems especially scheduling and CRM.

Any ASP vendor should be able to answer tough questions about short codes and know some of the terms that we’ve used on previous podcast episodes. It’s not that hard to build a platform that sends a text message. The harder part is knowing how to run mobile campaigns effectively.

On that note, I think that vendors that provide strong account management or customer success services are essential. Text messaging is a new channel. It’s different than email, different than web, apps etc. It’s really worth it to get experience and help along with the platform. The cheapest ASPs out there are going to start in the $30-50 range. They are going to be hard to set up, they won’t have a lot of features and the charges will increase with every addition – like adding a keyword will cost money. Or for a few hundred dollars a month you can find a system that’s solid, has a lot of features, and when you need to talk over a campaign, there is someone you can call.

How do I make money with messaging?
As far as I’ve seen, SMS needs to support a business model. SMS hasn’t been successful as the business model. If you’re an oil change business, messaging can help you make money, by reminding people to get their oil changed at the 3 month mark, upselling people etc. It’s not really possible to make money charging people to receive text messages or with sponsorship of messages.

I’ve recently noticed some attempts at trying to do this – so there is a monthly charge to get messages on a topic. It’s interesting and I hope someone figures it out. Generally in 2017, we think about media being free – music, TV, newspaper articles etc. Messaging would be hard to share and not worth it. I think this will get figured out.

Sponsorship of SMS campaigns will be harder. I have worked with media companies doing SMS and the idea of “this text is brought to you by a sponsor” just never worked. Messaging is just not an eyeball business. If the sponsor is extremely integrated, there are options, but it doesn’t make sense to just append a sponsor name at the end of a message.

How much does a text cost?
I haven’t checked recently, but I believe that Twilio charges one penny per message. If you’re using an ASP the cost per text will probably be higher than that. Most ASPs will have a monthly fee that includes a certain amount of texts.

If the cost per month is low, the ASP may charge for every text and it could be sizable – that’s how they get you. As the monthly cost is more for the software, it will usually also include more messages. As requirements get really high – like into the millions of messages per month, the cost per message can come down under a penny, depending on the negotiating power.

Also, as you’re investigating price it’s important to understand if the vendor is charging for incoming messages, outgoing messages or both

Should we do messaging?
Yes, absolutely. Messaging works today and there’s a strong chance that messaging becomes a more dominant channel in the future. Launching messaging today is like launching email 15 years ago or social 10 years ago.

We’re going to talk a lot more about how to start, and some exciting stuff about Facebook Messenger. If you’re listening to this podcast, and aren’t already doing messaging – it’s something to get on the list for 2018.

Jason Brenier, Director of Strategy at Georgian Partners Impact discusses conversation, NLP and AI

Jason is a linguist that works at Georgian Partners, a growth-stage investment firm.  Georgian Partners focuses on conversational business as an investment thesis. They’ve written a great deal of best practices and think pieces on where the space is heading. 

As part of the Impact team, Jason helps Georgian Partners companies use NLP and advanced linguistic tactics to improve products and customer outcomes. Jason has more than 15 years of experience applying advanced analytics, computational linguistics and machine learning to business problems in the financial services, pharmaceutical and legal domains.

Our conversation covered many topics with a focus on how language, linguistics and NLP work for technology companies. 

You can read more about Georgian Partners, their investment thesis and any of their whitepapers at

The benefits of SMS as a marketing & communications channel

Why companies and organizations should do SMS.

The solo series has been about explaining messaging channels. We’ve been concentrating on SMS and there is a lot of background information and terms that we’ve discussed over the last two episodes. It’s been a lot of detail, this episode is the payoff.

We’re going to talk through from an organization or marketers point of view, what SMS is good for and how an organization should use the channel. These are not the only answers, but they are pretty comprehensive and we’re talking at a high level, so it covers a lot.

I’d love to discuss all of this or answer questions. So if you disagree, or are thinking about a use case that I don’t mention, please connect on Messenger so we can discuss. CTA.

Let’s talk about the cold hard facts. First and foremost, SMS is the most ubiquitous channel of communication on the planet. I’d imagine there are more phones on the planet than any other type of device and every single phone has SMS. Like every one. Almost everyone on the planet has one.

I’ve helped to launch campaigns that were focused on homeless populations and SMS was the obvious and only channel. You might be thinking that you’re a marketer and the homeless is not in your target demographic, but young people it’s their only channel in a different way. They just don’t use email even if they do have to have an email address for some reason. I don’t think anyone really uses email until they have a job that requires it.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. First factor is the ubiquity of SMS – absolutely everywhere.

The second factor is the importance of the channel. Text messaging is the way that people talk to their parents, children, best friend and significant other. It’s simply the most important channel out there.

Now this is still true, but I feel it’s slipping a bit. I have some friends that moved out of the country and we use Facebook Messenger. I have one friend in the UK and we use Whatsapp. Most things that are group messages we’re doing on Messenger. And of course I have friends that work in the messaging space, so we use Allo ironically. Although I do like it a lot.

For now, SMS is still king. When anyone here’s that sound they automatically & instinctively look at their phone. It simply can’t be helped. In fact I’d argue that the messaging ping, SMS or your messenger of choice, is the number #1 trigger in the world. If you’re a marketer and want to get someone’s attention there is nothing that grabs attention like the message ping.

What the ubiquity and importance of the SMS channel means is that when an organization sends a message, it’s going to be read and it will be read quickly. That’s something easy to say and easy to hear, but the numbers that are floating around are that messages have a 99 percent open rate and the average test is read in 90 seconds. This is just simply insanity. I bet for the average link on the internet, 99% of the people that click, don’t actually make it to the page. That’s how crazy a 99% open rate is.

NOW, there is a chance these numbers aren’t exactly true. It’s really hard to tell. It’s just way too much of an echo chamber out there. If you google for it, there are a million hits, all the numbers are impressive, but they are all companies sell or promote SMS campaigns or news stories talking about SMS campaigns. It’s unclear what the source for this data is and/or who a credible source would actually be.

BUT even with that uncertainty, SMS is ubiquitous and an important channel for almost everyone. Because of those facts open rates are very high and opens happen very quickly.

What is SMS good for from a marketing/communication channel view? First, let’s review what it’s NOT good for. Remember, SMS requires an opt in, so it’s not an advertising channel. By advertising channel I mean that a brand can use the channel to find new people. They can pay to get their message in front of people. This is not possible with SMS. You cannot just send a user a text, they would have had to message in first. And if they messaged in first, that means the brand reached them somewhere else and asked them to message in.

This is actually a common question. It’s not possible to buy a list of numbers and send them a text. That’s a big reason why you, as a text message user do not get spam texts often.

SMS is not an advertising channel, but it’s great as a response channel to advertising. This is actually the first big super-power of SMS. If you do a tv commercial and the call to action is to join, call 1800 or go to or text join to 12345, the text message call to action will beat the 800 number and website. From a call to action someone is more likely to text in rather than call in or visit a site.

Let’s even take this a step further. Once someone texts in they are more likely to provide their email address over SMS compared to the phone or URL response channel. The first superpower of SMS is as a response channel (response to a brands ads and media) and that means that the brand gets more people, more leads from all of their advertising efforts.

Here’s a theoretical example. We’ve all seen heard and read a one hundred Geico commercials. Whether it’s cavemen or the lizard, they all basically say that I can save 15% or more on car insurance by getting a quote from From what I’ve seen with clients if Geico added or text the word GEICO to 12345 each commercial would drive more people to get a quote.

I’ve seen many different tests and they usually work something like this. Let’s stick with the Geico example. In order to give a quote, Geico needs to understand zip code, make & model of the car, age of the driver and miles driven each year in order to give a quote. So sending the user to the website is just the first step of this process. Same with the user texting in, it’s just the first step of the data collection process.
With test I’ve run in the past the SMS channel will drive about 3 times more leads than the URL call to action from a TV commercial. That’s huge. This ratio will change depending on the advertising medium. For a TV commercial, viewers will probably be near a computer or they’ll have a phone with a browser. If someone were to stand up at an event and do the same call to action… a person would be much more likely to text in rather than go to a URL.

Basically, the further away a viewer/listener is from a computer, the bigger the ratio will be.

Think about a scenario where Bruce Springsteen wants to help a charity…

Another big advantage for SMS as a response channel is that it’s an instant subscription. If a user messages in, but doesn’t provide the information asked for, the organization can follow up. If a user goes to the URL and just leaves, that user is gone.

Again, the best way to describe this value is that SMS works as a response channel and will drive MORE PEOPLE – whether that means leads, donors, customers etc.

Super power number 2 for SMS has to do with activation. When a message is sent, it’s going to be seen and it’s going to be seen quickly. The best use for messages is to drive action from the recipients.

In the Geico scenario, it would be better to send an activation message such as “remember that you need to add a credit card to the account before you’re covered” rather than an information message like, “Geico was rated #1 by JD Power and Associates.”

Texts are great at getting people to do things. Sometimes that means replying with data, sometimes it means a real world action and sometimes it can lead to long term behavior change. The one thing that I’ve seen over and over again is that the mobile list will take more action compared to any other list a marketer can access. Most of the time we’re comparing the mobile list to email.

I’ve seen campaigns where people on the mobile list are more likely to vote, donate or even quit smoking. This activation idea is a big deal for brands – Geico wants people to buy their insurance, Amazon wants people to sign up for Prime and a presidential campaign wants people to donate and vote. Everything comes down to activation at some level.

Here’s where it gets interesting. People will probably not finalize their insurance on the phone most of the time. They probably don’t sign up for Prime on the phone and they definitely can’t vote on the phone. But the people on the mobile list that receive a text will be more likely to take the action even if the action isn’t on text or even the phone.

An example that I used all the time. It’s a trick, but just think through it with me. Let’s say that you are the marketer for a CRM company like Salesforce. People come to a webinar and give their email address to attend the webinar. After the webinar there are automated follow ups over email. The whole point is that we want to nurture the leads that attended the webinar and get them to signup for salesforce give a credit card etc. So let’s say 100 people attend the webinar and Salesforce has email addresses for all of them. How many people signup for Salesforce through that email???

It’s a trick question. Zero people sign up through the email. It’s actually impossible to do that. People signup on a webpage. The email will link people to the webpage or simply remind them to go to the page and signup. SMS works the same way.

It’s slight of hand because email is definitely a direct route the signup page. With SMS it’s tough to link out and get the person to signup on their phone. With SMS it’s also probably that people get the text, but then signup on the desktop computer. And it’s also common that the text would actually capture the person’s attention, increase the chances that they open the email and then convert.

Whatever the route, the data is pretty solid. We would regularly see the mobile list convert 3-5x better than the non-mobile list. Just to get really specific, the text campaigns are usually working in the same department as the email campaigns or CRM. So the cohorts that are being compared are the email + SMS list vs the email – only list. In that scenario, the mobile+email list will usually do 3 times better.

It’s not surprising, right. The mobile phone number is a sign of interest. I mean when you’re single, you’re more likely to go out with someone if you get their number. This is a little like the business equivalent.

There’s one more thing to talk about quickly. I sold SMS capabilities for almost 8 years. When an organization would reach out they would always have one of these benefits in mind. So I’d get a call saying something like – we have this opportunity to partner with a rock back. We think it makes sense for the band to tell their fans to text in.

Or they would be thinking about the second superpower – we want to text people and get them to do X.

In order the campaign and organization to be successful both benefits, both superpowers need to be used. If you’re thinking of a great way to use SMS as a response to media, you still need a long term plan to activate the people that respond to the media.

If you have a great idea to text people and get them to purchase, or show up for an event, you also need an idea of how the person will join the list in the first place. That opt in is a requirement.

It’s really similar to the approach of email – an organization needs a way to grow their list and something to say to the list they’ve grown.

Lastly, I boil down the benefits of SMS to More People and More Action. In terms of direct marketing, not brand marketing, these two benefits are about all there is.