It’s Time to Embrace Text-Based Marketing with Norman Happ, Ep #30
Mark: Listeners, thank you so much for joining me. You've got Mark here. This is the Content Callout. You have an amazing episode and interview today with Mr. Norman Happ. He's the CEO of a company called EZ Texting. He was previously at Evernote, where he was the senior vice president of sales and partnerships. Before that, he was a go- to market executive with Intuit, and he knows the challenges of high velocity SaaS sales. The thing I loved about this discussion is we got into some details about text- based marketing and what text- based marketing can do for organizations in very, very different ways. Very, very cool. Open rates, as we all know, and maybe you don't know, are significantly better in text marketing than they are in email marketing, but it's not necessarily a this or that conversation. You can have both. And in fact, both email and texts serve different purposes. You don't have to make a decision to choose one or the other. Thoroughly enjoyed this amazing conversation with Norm. Really great guy, really enjoyed it. Opened my eyes to things that I didn't know text marketing could do before. Really, really thrilling conversation. I think you're going to love it. If you do enjoy it, share it with your friends, colleagues, and colleagues specifically who are in marketing. If you have someone, a friend or a colleague that is in marketing, or you're in marketing, share this with your group. Give us a rating or a review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you download your podcasts, and share it on social. Tag us, let us know what you think. We'd love to hear your feedback. Thank you so much for listening as always. Enjoy. Norm. We made it. How are you?
Norman Happ: Doing very well, Mark. How about yourself?
Mark: I'm glad to hear you've got a Calgary connection, man.
Norman Happ: I am married to a Canadian and love the Great White North.
Mark: Yeah. It's an amazing place. We're blessed with amazing resources and amazing people, but this isn't about me and this isn't about Canada, so let's get into it, man. We've done your introduction. And as we do with every guest, we want to know what your three actionable strategies or tactics are to improve people's marketing prowess.
Norman Happ: Awesome. Well, I'll jump right in and I'll tell you that EZ Texting has been in the text marketing space for a good 10 years. We're about a 15 year old company and we've learned an awful lot from the 160,000 or so customers that we've served. And first and foremost, it's all about the right tool for the job. We can talk more about that. I'd love to share a little bit about that.
Norman Happ: The second is timing. The message arriving to the recipient at the right time and on the right channel is critically important. Then the third area is clear, concise and legal content crosstalk more about that.
Mark: I'm glad that you added crosstalk. I'm so glad that you added that piece in because so many people forget about that last piece. I want to dive into that a lot, but let's start at the beginning. So you say make sure you got the right tool for the right job. And so many people in marketing, when they're thinking about any kind of mass marketing efforts that they want to do, they default to email because it's just, I guess, maybe so common, but is it the right approach? Should we be considering text?
Norman Happ: The reason I say the right tool for the right job is email has been a diminishingly effective tool over, we'll say the last 20 years. And there was a surge in the effectiveness, but I think over time, if you and I probably compare inboxes, there's an awful lot in there that's unread. And only about 23% of messages actually get read that arrive via email. And so the right tool for the job entails making sure that you select something based upon what your message and your call to action is. So for example, text marketing is wonderful when you have a call to action or there's something timely about it, but you also have to be very cognizant of if you're texting your customers or your prospects or your constituents over and over and over again, they don't have that same ignore method that everybody has now in email. So it's really important when the job to be done requires some level of immediacy or urgency on a call to action, text marketing is a really, really effective tool. It actually has upwards of a 98% open rate. And for the most part, you hear from people like if I were to compare my inbox on my phone to yours, I have zero unread messages. How about you?
Mark: Yeah, zero.
Norman Happ: Yeah.
Mark: I want to stop because that stat sounds insane. What did you say the open rate was?
Norman Happ: 98%.
Mark: Good God.
Norman Happ: And that's generally in less than 30 minutes, and that's across all demographics.
Mark: Why isn't this more commonplace? Like why aren't people using this? What's the deal? Is it just because they're stuck on the old way of doing things?
Norman Happ: Well, to the third point, the and N legal part, it's a little bit of a scary space for a lot of people or a lot of businesses because it does flow over regulated airwaves. And so there's a compliance component to it, which if you just sort of jump into it solo without an experienced company like EZ Texting, you're exposing yourself to TCPA and other regulatory violations.
Mark: Yeah. And that legal piece is a scary part for a lot of people. So I'm going to segue to that legal piece because I think that's really important. Are there things that people need to really think about if they're going to venture on this journey? Because when they hear the stat, 98% open rate, they're like," All right, we're starting texting tomorrow. That's it. Forget everything else," but they may go all out right away without thinking of the legal implications of that. So what are some key things that people need to consider when they start a texting program?
Norman Happ: So the messaging format for text and email are dramatically different, and we see this with a lot of companies as they began their journey on text marketing. They try to translate the email approach over to texts. And so before you know it, you have this multi- paragraph texts that ultimately is really going to dampen the benefit. And so it's really important that first and foremost, they understand how to craft a super crisp and concise message. And then once they do that, one of the things that we've learned is a clear call to action. That's really what's critical. If it is something that is along the lines of a notification, school's closed today, new safety and protocol that everybody has to adhere to today in the workplace, we are now offering curbside pickup, that's a different sort of message of I need to inform you, but you don't necessarily need to respond. Then you have others where they're a little bit more promotional in nature where you need to provoke a call to action. And there's little nuances that we've learned over the billions of messages that we've sent about how you construct a call to action. Just something as subtle as the word click actually drives a click- through rate, and it sounds sort of ridiculous, it drives the click- through rate up almost 50% by using the word click versus just putting in a URL.
Mark: There was a point that you made earlier that I think is really interesting. People apply email marketing methodology to text marketing methodology, and that may be one of the biggest failings that people face right out of the bat when they start a text campaign or any kind of texting campaigns. Is it because email is too long form? What are the key failings there?
Norman Happ: Yeah, just the assumption that you have the same canvas.
Norman Happ: crosstalk a fundamentally different canvas when you go from email to texts. And you have to sort of appreciate the conciseness. It's like a tweet or something. When you're going through your Twitter feed and there's messages that are like message one of nine, two of nine, three of nine, you're like," I can't consume that." Text is very similar. Or it's like that email that you get, the email marketing that is 9. 5 paragraphs. That will quickly get dropped in your spam or deleted. And so it's really being thoughtful and crisp, and understanding the objective that you're trying to achieve, whether it's to notify or inform, or alternatively, drive some sort of action.
Mark: So I've seen a lot of marketing influencers lately start building out text communities to be a part of sort of their always on messaging and nurturing a lot of leads. How do you see that playing out and do you think that that's a decent way... If I was a business, should I be considering that too?
Norman Happ: A one-to- one engagement tool that we've actually built recently and rolled out that really takes that one to many marketing approach that many companies are using or more and more companies are using to reach our audiences via text, and they're trying to drive real engagement on a one- on- one basis. And this is things like my hardware store up the street. I can text their business phone number now, their standard business phone number and say," Do you have almond- colored bathroom caulk?" and they'll send me a note right back," Yeah, but what size container are you looking for? Do you need a fast dry or not?" And that is actually a wonderful way to engage an audience as a small business. Now, if you're a celebrity or a politician or someone like that and you want to start to engage at a broader scale, I think we're seeing a lot more of that sort of broad- based, we'll say theoretically one- to- one messaging. I think it might sort of pass the novelty stage, and my prediction is that's actually going to peter out a little bit because it is a bit disingenuous and it's very difficult for those who are doing that at scale to manage it at scale.
Mark: And so speaking about being able to manage that at scale, is there a cautionary note that we need to give maybe to people who are trying to build these text- based communities to think about the implication of adding bots and AI into it so that you have these automated responses that you're getting? Is that going to reduce the open rate over time? Because I feel like that's what we've seen with email is that we get these weekly churn emails or daily churn emails that are just like,"Ugh, another one in my inbox," and you kind of ignore it. Is there a risk to that happening in the text world too?
Norman Happ: Yeah, I think brands have to be very conscious of, again, is it the right tool for the job? Because if they abuse that privilege that they're getting to enter a space with a high open rate like a text inbox, if they abuse that, I think they'll start getting blocked. And the opt- out rates, there's opt out rates on a per campaign basis that we monitor very closely. And I can tell you, we have AI that will predict what the opt- out rate will be for a campaign based upon the content or the message. And what we're trying to think ahead for customers on is how do I coach them more effectively so that they don't get into that world of basically getting put in the spam box or muted. There's also a whole other area just that we have as a company, and we really know that there's a lot of players in this space and we take our job very seriously on the legal front and helping our customers stay out of trouble. And there's this whole concept of SHAFT. And it's such a crappy acronym-
Mark: Shaft.( singing)
Norman Happ: Yeah, but it's sex, hate, alcohol, firearms and tobacco. And they're all on the no- go list. And if you touch on any one of those areas, it's like all the alarm bells go off at the FTC and you start getting calls from major carriers and it's a big problem. So we really invested a lot of time in making sure that our customers understand what those barriers are, but also we're filtering their messages before they even go out and make sure that they're not stepping on something that will get them in trouble.
Mark: Okay, so you provide almost like a little screen to be able to filter out a message that they may send. You get an influencer that's had a few drinks in the middle of the night and they decide to send out a text to their texts community. And you guys get that before it goes out and you say," Uh, you hired us to protect your brand. This is something that I don't know that you should send out." You help them with that?
Norman Happ: Yeah. It's really important. And I love the way you say protect their brand. I'm sure we could take this conversation a lot of different ways about helping people protect themselves from themselves. But yeah, there's a lot of text marketing that's new to brands, new to companies, and they may not really understand some language that they're using, or with a platform like ours, a lot of small businesses, thousands of them try it every week. And these small businesses, they're in business because they're trying to work in an area that they love to work in. They didn't get into this area because they love marketing or they love accounting or they love other parts of it. That's just sort of a by- product, I've got to run a successful business, and in order to run that successful business, I have to do some marketing. So it's not like they're marketing gurus. And so we need to help them with, we have plenty of marketing gurus, but help those that are not marketing gurus really look like a marketing guru when they present themselves to their prospects and their customers.
Mark: Now, when they're presenting themselves to their prospects and customers and they're trying to create this community, timing is really, really important it appears on texts. The open rate from morning to afternoon or certain days of the week are much higher it sounds like. Can you expand on that and why timing is so important?
Norman Happ: Yeah. So we've modeled out open rates sort of down to the minute, and have a pretty deep understanding of certain times of the day that people are just in deep work or they're doing other things and they may not be, or they're less likely to engage with a potential business. And, for the most part, people are clearing out their inbox before 10: 00 AM. Then there's this time of the day that they're probably doing deep work. They're doing other things throughout their days. And then as you get into the later afternoon, the open rates really pop back up. So we really want to help our customers understand those nuances and so they're then able to make sure that their message gets through at the right time. Now, all that to say there's certain messages like notifications that just needs to go out irregardless of the time, but also what we want to prevent is that individual that's trying to reach a wide array of constituents, and some of those are on the East coast and some are on the West coast. And if you were to send that message at 8: 00 PM Pacific, well, that's not very kind to that person dead asleep in New York.
Mark: And do you have the ability then... Like in email, we create segmented email lists to be able to focus on specific demographics, positions, whatever it might be, geographies. Do you have the same ability to do it on your end as well?
Norman Happ: Yeah. So we have distribution list capabilities. And so we're able to help them break their contact list down into different distribution lists or sub- lists. As well, we have a lot of customers that will invite their prospects and customers to opt in to different lists. Like on a website, you might see a box like," Hey, to understand the latest product releases, put your phone number in here and click," and that will actually say," Put them on the product release distribution," or it might be something along the lines of loyalty clubs." Hey, I'd like to know about this type of product versus that." And so, yeah, we really helped them segment, but we also try to push as much of that work to the end customer so they're customizing their messaging themselves.
Mark: Okay. So very, very similar to email in that respect, that we can create this different segmentation to make sure that we're getting the right message out to the right people, because we may have one target market that really likes a product or service that we provide, and a totally different target market that likes another product or service that we provide. And like email, we can segment those out to make sure that we're sending the right message to the right people.
Norman Happ: Absolutely. Absolutely.
Mark: Amazing. So when I'm thinking about the volume of texts that someone receives, the fact that the open rate is so high always strikes me as... Like when you said 98%, I was blown away. I still receive a lot of texts during the day as well. Is there going to be a point where you think that that might end up decreasing or is that a function, as you said earlier, of people abusing the privilege?
Norman Happ: Yeah, I do think that there are many different companies that enable businesses. So there's service providers that enable businesses that are in the text marketing space to basically send unlimited volumes of messages. One of the things that we have introduced is this concept of long code messaging, where it's not just the five or six digit number that is generally referenced as a short code, which is a little bit less brand- specific than actually a 10 digit number, like your typical phone number, but on top of that, Mark, one of the things that we've done is we've enabled businesses to use their own business phone number.
Norman Happ: And so what happens with that is a hair salon, they might actually say," Hey, we're back open for business." And if that comes from 313131, their customers may not open it as frequently or as likely to open it as if that comes from their full 10 digit number which half of their customers already have stored in their address book. So when that text comes and the address name is matched to the phone number in the address book, then you will look at that and say," Oh, that's somebody I know. That's a brand I'm familiar with. I have intimacy with that brand. So absolutely I'm going to open that." And so we're trying to apply these tools to more and more businesses so a brand is transferred through this communication channel.
Mark: Do you see one type of business being over- represented more in text- based marketing than others?
Norman Happ: For our customer base, aside from e- tail and retail, we don't have any segment that's more than 10% of our overall business. So think about that. That is everything from consulting to medical offices, to grocery stores, to Girl Scout, Boy Scout troops. It is a very, very wide array of businesses. Those that we find to be most successful with the platform, certainly e- tail and retail. And It's such a large space and there's a lot of timeliness to their messages, whether it's specials or other timely information. That's been very, very successful and we find that that's really been a great way for us to add value to our customers. The other one though is when there's appointment setting, when there's key information that somebody wants to engage their customer and they want to do it asynchronously. So let me just unpack that a little bit. Right now, if I'm my doctor's office, it's super expensive if somebody doesn't show up and so most doctors, dentists, those types of offices, they have people that do outbound calling, and there's somebody that's just dialing all day long." Mark, I want to remind you your appointment is tomorrow at 9: 30. Are you going to be there?" And then half the time they're getting a voicemail box, so they leave a message." Hi, Mark. It's so- and- so. Want to make sure you're there for your appointment." And then you say," Oh shoot, I need to tell them I'm going to be there," so you call, and then somebody in that office has to answer. And it's this super inefficient model. And so more and more, we're seeing those offices sending out that text message, and it says," Hey, Mark, your appointment's tomorrow at 9: 00. We look forward to seeing you. Text us back if there's any issues with arriving," or," Hey, reminder, bring your insurance card because we don't have it on file." Those are the things that are really engaging customers in a whole different way and enabling business to be far more efficient than that game of telephone tag, everybody digging through their voicemail box. And it's actually exciting to see the business benefits that people are having with text messaging. I'll give you one example. We had a client that signed on last week and they were really excited to get going. And it was a small e- tail business. On their first campaign, they sent out just sort of a promotion to their customer list. And in 24 hours, they drove$ 20,000 of incremental revenue on that campaign.
Norman Happ: And we were blown away. They were over the moon for a business. And these are small businesses. To drive$ 20,000 worth of incremental sales-
Norman Happ: Off a campaign that they built in less than 15 minutes, they just, they couldn't believe that that was possible.
Mark: Is there a business that's grossly underrepresented that could be making a killing in the text marketing space if they implemented it? Like e- tail and retail, biggest adopters, get it, they're making tons of money. What about something that's grossly underrepresented where if they had to do it, that'd be making money?
Norman Happ: This may not be as prevalent in the Great White North, but in the US, there's a lot of medical that is non- insurance medical. So say cosmetics, spa, salon, other things like that that people might do that's cash out of pocket versus built in insurance. That's an area that, again, as they're trying to drive additional capacity into their business, it's a very, very effective way. And especially now as a lot of those things that people do that might be a little bit less mandatory, they need to get those procedures and that work back online. And so we think that that's really an area that people will get great benefit from. We already have thousands of customers that are getting that benefit, but we see it as just a massive, massive opportunity to help those businesses re- engage with their customers and drive to success.
Mark: What about B2B customers? How would a B2B customer use texts for marketing purposes?
Norman Happ: I'll give you an example, but it's not as much of a marketing example, and that is invoice payment.
Norman Happ: In the B2B space, you continually see a lot of cycles around trying to get that invoice paid. And obviously-
Mark: Got to get paid.
Norman Happ: Everybody is looking to get paid. I'm sure billions of dollars are lost in that cycle of people waiting to the 30 day point, the 45 day point, whatever the... Every additional day is very expensive. And so it's sort of that invoice nudge that really, I think, will play a big role in the B2B space. And again, we've seen a lot of really great use cases there. And frankly, I can tell you in my own world, I'll get an email from somebody that does like a home service, and it's totally lost. They text me and I get back to them in minutes. And what's even better is when they text with a link," Oh, hey, here's the link to pay our invoice."
Mark: Yeah," By the way, you owe me money."
Norman Happ: Yeah. Yeah. So it's exact same thing whether it's B2B or B2C when it comes to-
Mark: That's very clever.
Norman Happ: Payments and collections.
Mark: I wonder how would that would be able to tie in to, like if I was in the AP department for a large company, I wonder how we could tie in, and I'm just totally thinking out... I'm sure you've already thought of this, but how we could tie into the AP of an SAP or an Oracle or whatever it might be to pop that up to someone's inbox or something like that to make sure that they were aware of that.
Norman Happ: In the SMB space, more of the accounting systems are accepting payments directly. So I'm not as familiar with a mechanism that you would do this with SAP or Oracle because generally those are offline payments, but when you go to online payments that you might make through a Zero, a NetSuite, crosstalk, they all have a direct payment solution that you can literally cut/ paste in the URL into that text and say, " Hey, Mark, as a reminder, this invoice is unpaid. Click here for simple payment."
Mark: I love this idea. I think that's a brilliant idea. This has been a fascinating conversation, man. Given that this is still new for a lot of companies, what's the easiest way if I wanted to just broach the conversation to say, okay, I'm in the space of now trying to figure out whether or not text is going to work for me, how do I even start the conversation with someone? Where do I go?
Norman Happ: Well, obviously you'll go to eztexting.com.
Mark: Ding ding.
Norman Happ: But in all seriousness, it's a fairly busy space, and I would always begin with a company that has been in business for a while, a company that has a really strong support organization, that there is, at any point, a live expert you can speak with to hold your hand through this process. And I would make sure that they are guiding you, whether it's systematically or through an interaction, guiding you to make sure that you do it effectively. Because through our system, you can literally create an account and send your first message in less than five minutes. So anybody can be a text marketer or communicate via text on a one to many basis in minutes, but to do it effectively, you probably wants somebody who's going to be there to coach you and guide you and has that experience to keep you safe.
Mark: If I'm filtering through all of the different providers that are available today, are there a couple of key questions that I should be asking these providers to know whether or not they're going to be a right fit for me? Like what would I ask someone in that space as like an interview question to say," This is how I'm going to determine whether or not we're going to be a good fit to work together."
Norman Happ: I would begin with their ability to filter content. And it might sound trivial because you'd say," Hey, I'm not going to send anything bad," but what often happens is there's this concept of a shared short code where you're sending a message from a phone number shared by a number of different businesses. And if one of those businesses does something nefarious, all those companies would get shut down. So first and foremost, crosstalk have the procedures-
Mark: Oh. Isn't that interesting.
Norman Happ: And the discipline to help protect not just your company, but all those that might be sharing your short.
Mark: Is the short code that is shared by a bunch of different businesses, is that owned by the provider or who owns that short code?
Norman Happ: Yeah, so a provider like EZ Texting might actually provision a short code, a five or six days or short code, and then enable many companies to use that short code.
Mark: Ah, I see.
Norman Happ: And there's a whole series of different parameters that must be met around the type of messaging, the type of business, all these different things so they get placed onto-
Mark: That's fascinating.
Norman Happ: Common short codes, but based upon a theme. Because to provision a short code is very expensive from a carrier, from sort of the powers that be that own these short codes. And so a small business wouldn't have access or the spend level to have what's called a dedicated short code. If you're a big company, and we have a number of very big companies that we work with that have a dedicated short code and their spend level will underwrite or offset the cost of having that dedicated short code. But as I mentioned before, more and more companies are just going to these 10 digit numbers. And then you and only you are sending messages on that number. But the other thing, like I mentioned before, that's so impactful is why not just use your own business phone number that your customers are already familiar with, that you have already printed on all of your marketing collateral and it's on your front window or on your website or on your business card. That is really a great question to ask is," Hey, can you just use my existing phone number?" And there's only a few of us out there that are able to do that.
Mark: Amazing. This has been very, very cool, man. You've definitely piqued my interest on a lot of different things. Now I have to go and do a bunch of different research over the weekend to see how I'm going to be applying this to my business. To be honest, it is something that I've really considered for a very long time, especially within, there's a few different businesses that I own, especially within the coaching and the training space. The application I think could be massive. So very, very cool. How do people find you online, Norm?
Norman Happ: Yeah, so we founded eztexting. com, and that's the letter E, the letter Z, and then texting. com. And there's a phone number right there if you want to speak with one of our team members and they'll help you get going. Otherwise, you get going on your own and it's just a matter of minutes.
Mark: Amazing. Thank you so much for being on, man. Really, really cool conversation. I think we should have a round two. You've opened up a bunch of different questions for me that I did not anticipate that I would want to ask, especially when it comes into like the B2B application of it and how that could be used. I think that's super cool. So if you're open to it, let's get on for a round two soon, but thank you so much for being on today and thank you for sharing your wisdom, man.
Norman Happ: Absolutely. My pleasure, Mark. It was a real joy speaking with you and I'd love to continue the conversation.
Mark: Wow, a really great conversation with Norm Happ, CEO of EZ Texting. Really interesting to talk about best practices when it comes to text marketing, talking about call to actions, message quality. The time of day that we are thinking about sending those text messages, what the future of texting looks like, the one- to- one engagement versus the one to many engagement, and really things that I never thought about when it came to texting and about how to improve invoicing, and really, operations, and how to make sure that important messages get read from the organization. I really enjoyed this discussion with Norm. It was great fun. If you enjoyed it, please share it with anyone that you have in the marketing field that is closely related to you, whether they're a colleague, a family, or friend, and thank you so much for being here with me on the show. Give us a rating or review on Apple Podcasts or wherever you download podcasts. Talk about us on social. If you can, tag us. We'd love to hear from you. Let us know what you think. Thank you so much for listening as always. Looking forward to chatting with you next week. Have a great day.
What can text-based marketing do for businesses? How are open rates different in text-based marketing versus email marketing? What purpose do they serve? This conversation with Norman Happ—the CEO of EZ Texting—opened my eyes to things I never thought text marketing could accomplish. Don’t miss this episode!
Norman Happ was a marketing executive at Intuit and was previously the SVP of Sales and Partnerships at Evernote. Norman is now the CEO of EZ Texting. EZ Texting has been in the text marketing space for 10+ years and has served over 160,000 customers over the years.
Outline of This Episode
- [2:03] 3 Actionable Tactics + Strategies
- [2:58] The right tool for the right job
- [5:44] Clear, concise, and legal content
- [8:17] Engage with your customers in a new way
- [9:48] How automation works with texting
- [13:24] The timing of your message is important
- [16:32] Short-code or long-code messaging?
- [18:10] Who needs text-based marketing?
- [22:14] Text marketing for B2B
- [24:25] How do you get started?
- [28:39] How to connect with Norman Happ
Resources & People Mentioned
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