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Ep. 96 - Getting People Educated on SMS Marketing with Alicia Thomas

Alicia is a veteran of the marketing analytics space, and her award-winning work has been featured on sites like A Better Lemonade Stand, TechCrunch, Performance Marketer, and Shopify Plus. 

Previously, she was an early employee at the profitable high-velocity marketing platform, Klaviyo, where she helped to make more than 10X for the company. 

Alicia was also a team member at Lattice Engines (acquired by Dun & Bradstreet) and has worked with brands across the globe to help scale their marketing through content and community building. 

In This Conversation We Discuss: (50 Characters)

  • [00:00] Intro
  • [01:30] COVID change the focus of Ecom
  • [02:08] Alicia’s journey before Postscript
  • [03:03] The Shopify and Ecom community
  • [04:41] Sponsor: Postscript postscript.io/install
  • [05:11] Alicia’s mission in the community
  • [06:26] Wrong practices in SMS
  • [08:22] Sponsor: Klaviyo klaviyo.com
  • [08:52] World's first SMS marketing certification
  • [09:55] The certification is not Postscript exclusive
  • [12:47] Sponsor: Gorgias gorgias.link/honest
  • [14:34] Email vs SMS practices
  • [16:37] When to get started on SMS
  • [17:40] Where to find Alicia

Resources:

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Transcript:

Alicia Thomas  

You can really own your own destiny, you can do your own thing, you don't have to work for a big company. You can really choose the life that you want and... there's just so much possibility in Ecommerce.

Chase Clymer  

Welcome to Honest Ecommerce, where we're dedicated to cutting through the BS and finding actionable advice for online store owners. 

I'm your host Chase Clymer, and I believe running an online business does not have to be complicated or a guessing game. 

If you're struggling with scaling your sales, Electric Eye is here to help. To apply to work with us visit electriceye.io/connect to learn more. Now let's get on with the show.

Hey, everybody, welcome back to another episode of Honest Ecommerce. I'm your host, Chase Clymer. And today, welcoming to the show from Postscript which by the way, is one of our favorite apps out there for everyone that's listening. 

And I believe there's an ad at some point in this podcast about it to join our text messaging lists that is powered by PostScript. So you get a double ad today, because I remembered. 

Anyways, today we're welcoming to the show, Alicia Thomas from PostScript. How are you doing today?

Alicia Thomas  

I'm great, Chase. Thanks so much for having me on the show.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. It's been a fun partnership with you guys, watching your business grow alongside ours. I believe I just bumped into Alex at a meetup in Denver once and that's how I became aware of the product.

Alicia Thomas  

Very cool. Yeah. It is an exciting time to be in any part of Ecommerce right now. Things are definitely just on fire across the board. So yeah, happy we can connect.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, it's insane. Everyone... I believe Q2 is about to start when COVID hit. It's high in America. And I believe everyone's marketing strategy shifted to how can we do more with Ecommerce?

Alicia Thomas  

Yeah. If you hadn't thought about Ecommerce before, man, you had to get up and running fast just to survive. 

It has been so interesting to watch so many brick and mortar businesses decide to pivot and to try Ecommerce. And some of them have been doing a great job. So yeah, it's been wild just to see the adoption rates that have just skyrocketed in the last 6 months.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. And then before you were at Postscript, I guess, let's get a little bit of background. Let people know why [they should] listen to you, I guess.

Alicia Thomas  

Yeah. So before PostScript, I was an early employee at Klaviyo, which I'm sure many of your viewers are very familiar with. Email marketing platform. I joined and built out the content marketing engine over at Klaviyo. 

And then after a few years there running content, decided to move into a role that was community based. So really telling the stories of our customers and teaching the world just about great Ecommerce marketing through brands who are doing it the right way.

So I've had a lot of experience working directly with brands and helping them figure out the strategies to grow and telling their stories. I found out about PostScript, and I said "Oh man, it's such an amazing opportunity to join a company that I really think is going to be the next big owned channel for marketers.” 

And I get to work with Ecommerce folks again, who I just... I love the community. There's just such great energy and wonderful people in Ecommerce. So that's how I found my way to PostScript. I've been in the Ecommerce space for some time now and I just love it.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. I can second that the Ecommerce ecosystem and specifically the world that I play in with the agency and the podcasts, this Shopify ecosystem… It is so awesome.

That's why we are specifically in Ecom. That's why we specifically kind of handle Shopify over the agency. It's just like, it is so amazing to meet these people at the Shopify events when those happen and we have people at Shopify we can actually talk to. 

And I never felt that way, in any other industry or vertical in the digital marketing space when you'd have questions about the product or stuff like that. It wasn't as much of a community as I feel like. Shopify did a great job building out their partner ecosystem early on and really building a community.

Alicia Thomas  

Yeah. And I think previous to being in Ecommerce, I have worked in an enterprise market space and really felt like the connections and the community weren't there. 

And the ability that I can help someone figure out how to grow their brand and live a better life and be able to own their own business. I think that in terms of career stuff it is just so fulfilling to be able to help individual people achieve their goals and I really love that. 

It's about... You can really own your own destiny. You can do your own thing. You don't have to work for a big company. You can really choose the life that you want. And there's just so much possibility in Ecommerce.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely.

Postscript Ad  

Want to get each newest episode of Honest Ecommerce sent straight to your phone? Join our VIP texting list for updates on new episodes and exclusive deals from our partners. Text HONESTVIP. That's H-O-N-E-S-T-V-I-P to 72599 to join. 

By the way, we're powering our text messages with PostScript, the #1 text message marketing app for Shopify stores. Check out the show notes for a link to install PostScript for free today. 

Chase Clymer  

So nowadays you are leading Director of Community at Postscript. And it's a great transition. We're talking about the community that is in the Ecommerce ecosystem.

Right now, you are running the community at PostScript. And you guys are on a mission over there. Do you want to give a little bit of insight on what your mission is?

Alicia Thomas  

Yes. So we are on a mission to teach the world how to use SMS marketing the right way. So we realized that there is a ton of interest in SMS but it's also early days. 

And there's not a ton of education or resources about how to do it in a way that is empathetic and customer-centric, as opposed to just batch and blast campaigns that are really just pounding the inbox.

So we want to help people really understand this new channel and build it out in a way that's intentional, as opposed to... There's so many ways that this could just go wrong as marketers and we really want to be there to help make sure that we preserve this channel and really respect that super personal inbox. Someone's text messages. 

We talk about open rates all the time in SMS and I think the vanity metric for sure. But the fact that we're going directly into someone's personal inbox, I think, definitely, it's something we need to think about, and how do we do that in a way that is helpful and not spammy?

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, it's so personal. And you glossed over it there. But I'm gonna ask a specific question. It's like, okay, your mission is how do we do things. And we'll talk about some of the tools that you're offering to help people do that. Free tools, by the way, everybody. 

But let's talk about what are some of the ways people are using SMS wrong, more specifically?

Alicia Thomas  

Yeah. I think we see a number of vendors who are like, "Oh, great open rates, I'm just going to --similar to email-- I'm just gonna batch and blast and hit the list that I built every day." And you're gonna get list fatigue and high unsubscribe rates, and you're gonna just tick people off. 

I think, when you're thinking about sending campaigns [you should ask yourself], "Is this worthy of getting someone's attention right now?" And "Should I even be sending 1 to 2 campaigns a week?" That might even be a lot. So I think [they're] leading with sending too much. 

And then I think, the default is like, "I'm just going to send promotions all the time." So I'm going to send "20% off" or "5%" or "Flash sale." And really, it was a channel that's personal. 

We're big believers that you want to continue to build that relationship and use the power of things like themes to really segment and figure out what's the right message to send a certain group of people based on past behavior. 

So things like conversational texts, I think, like Empathy Wines, which is a brand that... Gary Vee has launched a new wine brand and they send things like, "Hey guys, it's Friday. We hope you're doing well and what are you doing because  that's the weekend." Or "Crack open that bottle of wine." So it's more like somebody would text you as a friend. 

It really feels like a personal message. So I think that's a big part of the education here. It's like, it doesn't need to just be promotion promotion.It can really be about community building, in an intentional way. And that's a big part of the education that we're really passionate about.

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Yeah, so let's talk more about that education. You guys actually created a --which I believe might be the first in the ecosystem-- an SMS Marketing Certification Program.

Alicia Thomas  

Yeah. So [it's] the world's first SMS marketing certification. It is not PostScript training. 

We wanted to create a resource that anyone who's interested in SMS or already ascending and go to and learn the fundamentals of you know how to send compliantly, what best practices look like, and be able to execute that in any way that they want to. 

Because we, again, really believe that education is going to be so important to protecting the channel. And so yeah. We launched it just this past week. And folks have been really excited because there hasn't been a resource like this. 

You can sit down and block off 2 hours, start to finish [and be able to] say, "Okay, I get it. I understand how to get up and running, I understand how to get opt-ins, I understand how to grow my list." 

As opposed to patching things together, reading a blog post here or there, or watching a video. You can really sit down and feel like "Okay, I got the crash course. I know how to do SMS when I'm ready to do it." or "I know how to improve."

Chase Clymer  

So I just want to clarify here for the listeners. I could be on a competitor's product but still find value in this?

Alicia Thomas  

Oh, absolutely. I think, early days, it's hard to build a lot of education. And that's something where... We'd love for you to use Postscript but if we can get people just sending better texts and working on that positive end-consumer experience, then by all means, please go and take the certification. We want everyone to be doing this at a higher level.

Chase Clymer  

That's amazing. And then okay, I'm interested. Where do I go? What do I do?

Alicia Thomas  

Yeah, so it's super easy. All you have to do is go to postscript.io and then the end is just sms-marketing-hyphen-certification, or you can just google SMS Marketing Certification, I believe we're a result #1 or #2. So super easy to find. 

And like I mentioned before, it's about 2 hours to finish. But if you want to break it up and take a video or a video module here or there and bounce in and out, you can totally do that, too. We built it really to be flexible for your schedule. 

We know, especially right now, when things are on fire and everyone's really busy that the flexibility to be able to take the course at your leisure was super important.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah, I will say that we are certified now. Our project manager, Andy took it and took a lot of notes and we built that into some of the things that we tried to communicate with our clients over there. It was a fun little course. 

So I would highly recommend doing it if it's something that you're looking to do. And so let's say that I take the course and I've got the foundation started for my brand. And I'm curious to see what other brands are doing... 

Man, I'm asking so many leading questions in this podcast today because I know the answers. Where should I go if I want to see some awesome examples of cool texts? 

Alicia Thomas  

Yeah, so that was another --when I joined--- another big struggle. People were like, "Man, you're talking about great SMS. But what does it look like?" I wish there was a resource that just had tons of examples. 

So about a month and a half ago, we launched a website called ReallyGoodTexts.com, which you can check out, and it just has hundreds and hundreds of different, really good examples of SMS and MMS text message marketing for you to go and learn and absorb and see how other leading brands are doing it.

You can even break it down by industry. So if you're a beauty brand, and you want to see what other beauty brands are doing, you can click in and just see by vertical, what folks are doing. We have it by campaigns and automation. 

So if you want to look at just someone's abandoned carts, you can look at that. So really, it's a resource that we're updating almost daily. They're just adding really great examples, just so people can feel like, you don't have to sit there twiddling your thumbs and go, "Man, I have no ideas." You can get inspired by people who are already doing it in action.

Chase Clymer  

Yeah. It's an awesome resource. And it's something that we share with people as we're helping them build these things all the time. They're like, "Man, I just can't think of it. "

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Chase Clymer  

I believe there's another there's another website out there for those of you that are curious about what people are doing on email. That's pretty much... I think it's reallygoodemails.com, as well as the other one that exists for people that are curious about what some good looking email campaigns are. 

But yeah, I find that it's like, anytime we're helping a brand, [we] instill some of these automation systems within their business and try to educate them on how to do the non-automated stuff.

The first question is like," Well, do you have any examples?" So thanks for producing such an awesome resource for everybody.

Alicia Thomas  

Yeah. I know. Definitely. Having worked in the email marketing space previously at Klaviyo, that was something that I constantly [hear[ when I was talking to merchants just like, "Do you know someone else who's sending a great --who else-- abandoned email sequence?" 

And reallygoodemails was always a great place to send people to get inspiration so we're big fans of them. And we know many folks who use email marketing are going to be the ones for using SMS at their company. So it really just made sense to create a resource inspired by that.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. And then so before we go today, I do want to talk about something that is a little more specific to text messaging and just the... Not text messaging in general, but like it's... 

The difference between how to view your text messaging campaigns versus your email marketing campaigns. I feel like some people think they're the same thing and I want to just get an expert's opinion on it. What is the truth there? What should they be thinking about it?

Alicia Thomas  

Yeah. They definitely should be sending both. But I think it's about thinking about that customer journey and experience. And it goes back to what really warrants an SMS campaign. I think you can get away with sending more frequent email campaigns just because that's what consumers are used to. 

But with SMS, I think it really comes down to the segments. And so I think about... Like VIP buyers [are] a great example. 

So if you already know you've got a segment of customers that either have purchased a certain amount of time or spent a certain amount of money with you, that might justify sending them more messages because you know they're more likely to buy or they're really your big brand superfans, and they would be excited to get more messages. 

So I think it's really about thinking about who [you are] sending that message to and are they going to find a lot of value from it. So I definitely think in SMS, you can send a full-list send every once in a while, but it's not something that I would evangelize to do on the regular, if unless it made sense. 

So like a product release, it's something [that] would be worthy of sending a big campaign out. Or if you had a complementary product, maybe segmenting by someone who's bought in something else and sending just those folks. So really, the power is in the data. 

That's for almost all ecommerce technology. How can we make this message really resonate with you? And the same goes for SMS: Meeting people where they are and based on their past behavior.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. Now, is there anything that I forgot to ask you that you feel is worthwhile sharing with the audience today?

Alicia Thomas  

Yeah. I think a lot of folks say to me "When is it time for me to get started with SMS? I don't know if we're ready for it yet." And the message I have for all these folks is just get started collecting compliant phone numbers. 

Even if you're not ready to start sending messages yet, if you can start building that list, and start collecting those number,s and figure out maybe what you want to do, that's a great place to start so that when you're ready, you've got people queued up, who have compliantly opted in. So compliant subscribing is really important. 

And something that I think is a big reason that we did the SMS certification courses is because it's unknown and really, it's important. So I would say if you're on the fence, just start collecting phone numbers. And that's a great way to get started and meet you and you're ready.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely, I can second that. It is the same with email. If you're not there yet, just start collecting the emails. And it's the same with data. Start collecting the data before you need it. Make sure everything's set up the right way. It's like...

Alicia Thomas  

Yeah. (laughs)

Chase Clymer  

...you're gonna thank yourself having the foundations in place before you can get to that part of the business. So I would definitely agree with you there. If people are interested in reaching out to you, how do they get hold of you?

Alicia Thomas  

Yeah. So they can reach me... I'm very active on Twitter so if they want to reach me on Twitter, it's just @thealiciathomas. They can also reach me via email. Hey, why not? My inbox is open. So they just send an email to alicia@postscript.io. Happy to answer any SMS questions you have and excited to help Ecommerce brands really ramp up on this new channel.

Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. And so in the show notes, I will post links to their awesome SMS marketing certification. And also to ReallyGoodTexts, even though that one should be pretty easy to get to. But there'll be in the show notes for everybody. Alicia, thank you so much for coming on the show today.

Alicia Thomas  

Yeah. Thanks so much, Chase. This was a blast.

Chase Clymer  

I cannot thank our guests enough for coming on the show and sharing their journey and knowledge with us today. We've got a lot to think about and potentially add to our businesses. Links and more information will be available in the show notes as well. 

If anything in this podcast resonated with you and your business, feel free to reach out and learn more at electriceye.io/connect. Also, make sure you subscribe and leave an amazing review. Thank you!