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Mihail Stoychev of iSenseLabs on Using SMS for Marketing

February 17, 2017 8:37 am by

Mihail Stoychev, co-founder of iSenseLabs, SMSBump and Fwopy, is passionate about working with small and mid-sized businesses and helping them dream big and grow. He loves the kaizen methodology and believes that every process, product and service can be improved and he also believes in hands-on experiences rather than general advice.

We recently checked in with Mihail to get his insight on how SMS marketing can help small businesses. Here’s what he shared:

Can you tell us about your professional background? How did you become passionate about helping businesses?

I graduated with an Economics major and Information Technologies minor at American University in Bulgaria and later went to specialize in Harvard Extension School. After that, I got kind of recruited by my investors (my parents) who were running a small business. There I had to put a lot of the things I studied to the test and we managed to grow the business from four to nearly 30 employees when I left the company.

I believe the big advantage of small businesses is that they are extremely flexible and fast, kind of like the small dots in the recently popular game Agar. Decisions are turned into actions in a snap and clients see outcomes quickly. We worked primarily with corporate clients back then, so developing the small-mid client sector was really fun experience.

What are the most common frustrations or challenges your customers come to you with? How do you help them?

Fast forward to one of our businesses today – SMSBump – the biggest frustration comes from clients not knowing how to start, how to run and be successful in running their text-messaging campaigns. Also, with every country having their own regulations, it’s a bit challenging to make sure that all the information is consistent and reachable. The way we tackle these issues is by creating a series of step-by-step blogposts. Right now we are also starting to work on videos and also having one-on-one trainings over any screen-sharing software. This is a big resource for us but we would like to build our company around exceptional service.

What advice do you find yourself repeating to clients over and over?

If you are sending bulk campaigns to the U.S. and Canada, always make sure you get a dedicated number and check whether your numbers come with the country code (+1). We did a few surveys which show that despite the best of our efforts clients are still getting confused about all rules and regulations. So what we did there is we worked closely to some of our bigger customers and redesigned the app from scratch. Right now we are working on releasing SMSBump 2.0 which we are very excited about.

What would you love to see more of your clients doing to build their audiences and improve customer experience on their sites?

I believe one of the most effective ways to build audience is to give expertise and share your experience for free. I have read so many books, which are only generalizations and have no story behind them. Every entrepreneur and a business owner has a great story – this is their business and how they have built it. Why they have chosen A. instead of B. They can share this in an elegant way that would help educate their clients about their products and services. I also find client stories extremely inspirational. Say you are selling makeup, so a great story might be how Nancy from Florida used your makeup product to meet her future husband.

To sum up, store owners should not only be blasting about their products, but also go beyond that and delve deep into how their products are really used and then get these stories out.

What are the benefits to brands of incorporating SMS into their marketing strategies?

Text messages have a record high open rate and this is not a secret to anyone. With the development of all chats, bots, payment gateways stepping in texts, it comes down to being creative. There is a great use of creative text used by stefanshead.com, where you subscribe to texts and each week you are sent exclusive, limited-edition clothing that you can order and pay for without exiting the messaging app.

Outside of the creative texts you can do surveys, promotions, exclusive offers, etc. Last but not least, I find transactional messages extremely elegant. Transactional messages are automated confirmations. Say, you booked an awesome villa in San Jose for the weekend via Airbnb and right after you paid you get a text confirming all the details. Another example would be scheduling a doctors appointment via phone and then getting a reminder the day before about the upcoming event.

What approach should brands make when using SMS for marketing?

Brands should always make sure that clients subscribed for texting. If they can segment by gender, age, state, country and preferences that would definitely increase their conversion rate. Also, don’t forget the unsubscribe link. Be short, succinct and honest. Make sure you track clients’ replies and see how well they are responding to your campaigns. If you get a negative reply, make sure to follow up with the client and ask what went wrong and what they didn’t like.

What considerations do brands need to make from a development/design standpoint before using SMS marketing?

First, they need to make sure they put in an opt-in form on their website, preferably where clients are able to chose which sector (provided that the company sells a lot of things) the client is interested in (if I am a man I probably would not be interested in the latest high heels trends).

Once the form is in place you would need to put a newsletter or a social media campaign that shouts out about the new communications channel. For text marketing to work we would recommend the brand have special promotions that apply only for text customers and not distribute the same content all around. Make sure that texts align with your company voice and again be short and clear. Last but not least, have in mind that not all operators would support MMS so you need to be creative on how you send these beautiful images.

What trends or innovations are you following in your world today? Why do they interest you?

We are currently interested in expanding on AI bots just because they can gradually get so smart and take care of most of the clients requests around the clock. Also, allowing for payments and subscriptions via texts is another big area of interest. We are also following how services like Whatsapp, Viber and Telegram are slowly developing their affinity to sponsored messages, company following, message blasts and information distribution.

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