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Ep. 62 - SMS: The Marketing Channel for 2020 with Mike Stoychev

Mihail Stoychev is the founder and CEO of SMSBump - Shopify's most loved texting marketing platform. He has 8+ years worth of eCommerce experience and has worked with brands such as Facebook, MasterCard, Amazon Pay, Google, Square and many more.

In This Conversation We Discuss:

  • [1:18] Mike’s background before founding SMSBump
  • [2:34] Overview of one of the guidelines for SMS, TCPA
  • [3:32] Chase getting a text message in the night and Mike explains how it’s improper
  • [3:46] “Quiet hours” and the proper opt-in message
  • [5:11] The 3 ways to text without a brand name and having opt-outs on every text
  • [7:17] If I have existing phone numbers, can I just text them marketing messages?
  • [8:18] How to properly build an SMS marketing list
  • [10:54] Sponsor: Gorgias gorgias.grsm.io/honest
  • [11:42] How are other businesses using SMS lists to grow their businesses?
  • [12:56] SMS flows and automation
  • [14:41] Mike’s recommended strategy for SMS
  • [16:05] Even if you have automation, don’t forget about campaigns - Chase
  • [16:37] Be patient. Don’t follow black hat practices. - Mike
  • [18:05] As a new, small store owner, will SMS benefit me?
  • [18:53] How to reach out to Mike
  • [0:00] Timestamp information


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Mike Stoychev  

SMS and Email are different. Both of them are marketing channels and we believe that each and every [channel] need to be approached with a certain type of strategy


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 am your host, Chase Clymer. This intro is 10 times better than the one I did last week with Kelly. 


But now, we have a new guest this week. Today, we're welcoming to the show. Mike from SMSBump. Mike, welcome to the show. 


Mike Stoychev  

Thanks, Chase. Thanks for having me. 


Chase Clymer  

Oh, I'm glad to have you on. SMS, it seems like one of the most buzzing channels this year, so I'm excited to get your insights.


Mike Stoychev  

I'm 100% with you on this. Hopefully, it is the channel of 2020 and 2021, but let's see how it goes.


Chase Clymer  

Awesome. Awesome. So, before SMSBump you had a pretty cool career thus far, so let's get a quick history of what you're up to before founding this company.


Mike Stoychev  

Yes, sure. So, for more than 9 years now I worked in Ecommerce. We found[ed] a company --me and my partner-- 9 years ago which was developing software for open source Ecommerce. 


Nothing fancy. [We made it without] Shopify [support] because they weren't around back in the day. But we did Magento, we did OpenCart, we were doing some BigCommerce and started [with] basic bootstraps. [We] grew our way for, maybe, 5 years. 


From there on, we started working with some pretty good and big names with projects for companies such as Amazon Pay, for MasterCard, for Square, Stripe, some are under NDA as well as... 


I think we did a project for Facebook and Google as well. So it was pretty good. And part of the software that we built was [some of] our ideas and SMSBump came out of this one of our ideas. 


Chase Clymer  

And that's amazing. So SMSBump, as it sounds, it's pretty obvious. It's a texting platform. So, before we get into the capabilities of what these platforms can do for your store, there are a lot more regulations around SMS than there is with email.


Mike Stoychev  

Yes, that will be correct. SMS [has] guidelines by the TCPA, which is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act


You can only text message people in the United States and Canada that have given the[ir] explicit written consent, which means that they have voluntarily opted-in. And there is a way for you as a store owner to prove this opt-in. 


And of course, we can go into the details a little bit later. But pretty much, no matter where you are around the world, if you're thinking about texting anyone, you should have prior written consent from them.


Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. It's getting pretty wild out there now. Literally last night, I got a text message from a random number trying to sell me CBD.


Mike Stoychev  



Chase Clymer  

It was definitely automated, but I was like, "How the heck did I end up on this list?"


Mike Stoychev  

(laughs) Well, if they text messaged you... Since you started the topic for us, it's super not cool to get a text message in the night. 


So there is this thing called “quiet hours”. So essentially, you shouldn't be messaging anyone from 9 pm to 9 am, based on the local time with the person. 


Then in order for you to subscribe as a consumer... There are a number of ways for you to subscribe. But what does a proper opt-in look like? 


First, you need to get the so-called "welcome message," which is something like "Hey Chase, thanks for signing up for the CBD [SMS list] that's not going to text you at after 9 pm. Text messages [are] up to 5 messages a week --Or let's say-- [for] recurring text messages. Message and data rates apply. [Text] STOP for stop [or] HELP for help." 


So this is the very first message which actually proves that you have gotten into this program. 


It informs you about all the rights, regulations, and then it gives you an option to opt-out instantaneously before having them send you another text message. And this is how an op-in needs look like on the user side.


Chase Clymer  

Awesome. So these guys pretty much broke a bunch of rules.


Mike Stoychev  

(laughs) Yeah. Let's not mention the brand name that texted you so we don't demonize them.


Chase Clymer  

I don't even think there was a brand name. This was extra sketchy.


Mike Stoychev  

Oh wow, well that's another problem. So whenever they're texting you, best practices say that you always need to start with the brand name. 


So, there are a number of ways around this. I would assume that the majority of the listeners are based in North America. 


So, in North America in order for you to text someone, you can do that either via a short code, which is a five or a six-digit phone number, TFN which stands for a toll-free number, --they're 10 digits and they're 1-800 numbers-- or last but not least, are LVNs


LVNs are regular phone numbers that look like yours and mine. And essentially, since you're getting texted from a phone number and you cannot put your brand name there, it's very important for every business doing marketing or any type of text messages, to always represent themselves. 


Any text message needs to start with your brand name. 


So let's say Electric Eye, then dash or colon and then say, "Hey, first name, thanks for being a loyal customer. We're doing a flash sale, get 15% off in the next 30 minutes, use code XYZ." And then give a call to action "Shop at yada yada." And now best practices say that each and every message has to get also [a] stop to opt-out link. 


There is a lot of controversy around whether it's mandatory to do it every time because this might push more people to opt-out. 


But based on our experience, in a case where someone says, "Alright, this person broke rules." if you can show them that you actually followed the welcome message, that this person opted in, you should give them a record from your database, and then you show that each and every message follows the CTIA guidelines, which is the agency which gives what are best practices for text messages, then you're good to go. 


You're all set and you shouldn't be having any type of problems.


Chase Clymer  

Awesome. So you're saying if I have existing phone numbers, [I] probably can't just dump those into a list and start firing away? Do I need to go about it in a different way?


Mike Stoychev  

Absolutely. Yes, there are some hefty fines that range from $500 to $1,500 for text message, so texting people out of the blue or assuming that email subscribers are also SMS subscribers is definitely not something that we recommend.


Chase Clymer  

I think some people probably need those fines to stop them from texting their exes.


Mike Stoychev  

(laughs) To be honest, I think we will be seeing more and more with text messaging becoming more prominent in 2020. 


Chase Clymer  



Mike Stoychev  

Every time you get something nice and obviously some hype around it, it always attracts the bad actors which spoil it for a number of people.


Chase Clymer  

Yeah, it's fun. This ecosystem is really fun because when someone has a good idea, you see it everywhere.


Mike Stoychev  

Exactly, exactly.


Chase Clymer  

Alright, so we know not to just dump our emails or --sorry-- our phone numbers into [a] list and start firing off text [messages]. That's bad. So how do I start building up my list? I've got a brand, we're selling stuff. I want to get on SMS. What do I do?


Mike Stoychev  

Right. So there are a number of very cool ways that you can actually start collecting subscribers. 


When you install any type of SMS app on your Shopify App Store, the first thing you need to make sure is [to] change some things in the terms and conditions, in the privacy policy, and also on the checkout, which guarantees that you're actually compliant. And from here on, there are a number of ways that you can do it. 


The easiest one by far is by emailing all of your existing mail subscribers and sending them to a specific page on your website that is designated only for collecting phone numbers. So this is just utilizing everyone that's already on your mailing list. This is number one. 


Number two, you can utilize a mobile pop-up. Those are very easy to use, because you don't even have to enter your phone number. So they're double-click pop-ups. We show you the pop-up, "Hey, do you want to get 15% off?" or "Do you want to be part of this giveaway?" and you tap on the mobile version and then we would open Imessage or Android message with a predefined text. 


You just hit send and then voila, you become a subscriber. So this is pretty neat, pretty easy. 


Number three, we already touched base upon it. So that will be by using any type of additional page that you can direct people to. 


And of course, there are a number of different options such as keywords. So, "Text ELECTRIC to whatever --shortcode or a TFN, or a 10 DLC number, whatever the brand is using for the texting program-- and get 10% off." So that works really, really good as well. 


There are a number of other ways that you can actually gather opt-ins as well. So, you can use QR codes. You can utilize it... Let's say, on a mobile site, in the footer, you can say, "Hey, do you have any questions? Text us." 


So once you text someone, you can also offer [to] them to become your subscriber because essentially, they started the conversation first. 


So not only you can collect phone numbers for marketing purposes, but you can also use this channel for conversational commerce and actually providing pretty good customer support with it. 


Chase Clymer  

That's amazing.


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Chase Clymer  

So beyond gathering these opt-ins and stuff, what are people using once they have got an established list? What are some of the stuff people are... How are people utilizing these lists and using text messages to grow their business? 


Mike Stoychev  

Sure. So, based on our experience, the majority of the people go the marketing way. So, basically anything you can do on email marketing, just being a lot more brief and sent. 


Again, here, it's very important to mention that MMS has another big brother which is called MMS where essentially you can text images, GIFs, so you can make content a little bit more fun. 


So marketing on one end, then transactional [messages]. Whenever you buy a product, then you can inform the person that their order has been confirmed/processed/shipped with UPS or whatever provider. 


You can also use it to collect feedback. So after someone purchases a product, 14 days afterward, you can just trigger a review request. 


And of course, customer care as I mentioned. 


But I would say the most exciting thing is that inside SMS, you can do different types of flows. So similar to automations, you can pretty much take care of different processes; 


Asking for reviews, starting conversations saying "Hey, you purchase this product and I believe this one is something that you're interested in. Reply with... Just respond back to this text message and we'll be happy to show you all the newest products which we believe are in your area of interest."


Chase Clymer  

Yeah. That's amazing. The whole automation element of it is super cool. Once you build up these flows, it just makes you money in the long run.


Mike Stoychev  

Yes. Yes, absolutely. And the best thing about flows is that you set and forget about them. 


And at the end of the month, you're just seeing reports of which ones are working well, which ones need improvements, and which ones are actually not doing anything for your business. 


So we always recommend people to work with an agency or if they have a marketing team to get trained or to ask us to share best practices with them. 


The most important takeaway is that SMS and email are different. Both of them are marketing channels and we believe that each and every [channel] needs to be approached with a certain type of strategy.


Chase Clymer  

Absolutely. That's a great transition right there to the differences between the platforms. I know some brands that are emailing almost daily. And my personal opinion is if you do that with text, that channel is not going to exist for you in a couple of weeks.


Mike Stoychev  

You're 100% right. What we noticed is that, very rarely, brands that have an extremely loyal audience will get away texting literally every day or once or twice a week. 


The majority of the cases we see, the more scarce those text messages are, the better the results. So our recommendation ranges from 1 to a maximum of 2 text messages a month. 


And with the additional information that we always recommend people to text out only when they have a unique and relevant promotion. 


So don't always default to texting all of your customers/segments. Make sure that you target unique audiences. And really, really, really target them only when you have relevant content that they can make use of.


Chase Clymer  

That's a great suggestion. And I would just want to go in here and talk about using text messages in tandem with email. 


We have a few clients and we run their marketing for them. And we have had the automations running for this client over the last 6 months. 


We took it in-house and now we're doing their texting for them as well. And their text message campaigns are doing 1 a month and it's performing on par with their email campaigns. 


Mike Stoychev  



Chase Clymer  

Yeah, it's amazing. Once you build out that system internally or you hired people to help you with running that system, it does work. 


And the reason I bring that up is I see a lot of people will implement these automations through email marketing platforms and through SMS platforms and they won't do the campaign element of it. 


And campaigns are still doing the heavy lifting. Even though the automations are way more targeted and segmented in directly talking to the customer about their journey [and] where they're at, the campaigns are still outperforming.


Mike Stoychev  

100% yes. I'm a huge believer that whatever you do, you need to either talk to someone who's a specialist or you need to invest [a] certain amount of time in order to educate yourself.


Because back in the days, people were lured and they're still lured into the (Ecommerce) sector thinking that they're going to make a ton of money overnight. Well, they potentially can. But they're risking not only their loyal audience, they're also risking litigation, they're risking pissing off people that have been with them for quite some time. 


So again, just always make sure to follow best practices; implement it, strategize around it, make sure that your whole marketing makes sense as a whole. 


And always have this notion that if someone is your email subscriber, this doesn't necessarily mean that they want to get text messages from you. 


Conversely, they don't want to be a Facebook Messenger subscriber, but they prefer push [notifications]. So each and every person has their preferences, so we always need to communicate with them, knowing what the best practices for a designated channel [are].


Chase Clymer  

That's amazing advice. And now, if somebody is really curious about this stuff and they haven't set it up for themselves, how do they get ahold of you, how do they get ahold of SMSBump, How do they learn more about your business?


Mike Stoychev  

Sure. So maybe just a few words. We work with direct-to-consumer brands and growing Shopify stores. 


Of course, the main question that people ask is, "Is there any benefit [for] me using SMS if I'm just starting or if I'm a pretty young business?" The answer is yes. So as long as you start collecting subscribers, --which costs close to nothing-- then you can utilize those subscribers as you grow. 


So you're getting people's phone numbers, you're offering them an incentive to join, then most of the time when they join, they instantaneously make a purchase. So there is enough roof around the sky for everyone. 


And just to answer your question, people can reach out and find us at smsbump.com Also if you search for SMS under Shopify [app store], the app is SMSBump. You can reach out to me. I would be at mike@smsbump.com [or] chris@smsbump.com. We also have a live chat option, so...


Chase Clymer  

That's amazing. And is there anything that you want to share with the audience before I let you go today?


Mike Stoychev  

If you guys are not doing SMS today, definitely plunge into this channel. It's, I believe, the big thing of 2020 for everyone that wants to join. 


And as an avid Honest Ecommerce listener, just reach out to me or Chris --[Our] emails are mentioned before-- mention that you have listened to the podcast, and we'll be happy to give you 1 month free on the platform, as well as $20 [worth] of free credits. So just mention that you're an Honest Ecommerce listener and we'll be happy to give you the white glove onboarding as well.


Chase Clymer  

Hey, thanks for sharing that. And thank you so much for coming on the show. 


Mike Stoychev  

Thanks a lot, Chase. [It was my] pleasure. 


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!