Jon Hall was the founder and creator of Grade.us, a review management platform for agencies. He’s now on a brand new project as the founder of Switchbird. Switchbird agencies the power to offer powerful SMS marketing solutions to local businesses.
Today he joins us on Agency Ahead to talk a little about local marketing. He offers us a little more insight into Switchbird and the reason why SMS marketing is a good move. Towards the end, he talks a little bit about what marketing agencies should be considering when they choose to partner with any MarTech SaaS provider who might help them grow and scale their business.
- [2:01] Local marketing in 2020.
- [6:11] How Google My Business is handling messaging.
- [8:08] The future of text message marketing.
- [11:28] The right way to use text marketing.
- [14:40] How agencies can position a text message service offering.
- [19:47] Choosing the right SaaS vendors for your agency.
- [25:12] Why should agencies white label their software?
- [30:59] Jon’s Causes
Local marketing in 2020
Jon thinks optimizing the GMB profile will remain front and center on most local business-people’s radar.
“The GMB listing has cannibalized the local business website.
The approach that drives value is to optimize the GMB listing, complete the description, add the photos, make posts, ask and answer Google Q&As, generate Google reviews because they’re the most important, and then generate reviews on other sites.
So you do all this work to optimize. And now, all of a sudden, there’s really no reason to visit your website for the customer.”
Jon notes this is a trend in search in general.
“Less than half of Google searches result in a click. Google users are staying on Google and getting what they need without ever visiting your site.”
He also talks about the wider roll-out of Google messaging, and why it was a big trigger for them to launch Switchbird.
“There’s Facebook Messenger and there’s Google Messaging. Rand Fishkin refers to them as the duopoly. These big companies that want to own messaging.”
He implies this is dangerous for small businesses.
“Google, owning your customer conversations.”
Realize that Google watches people who use the service, and if you don’t respond fast enough they turn it off.
What he’s trying to do with Switchbird is to create a direct line of communication back through to the customer.
“I’d much prefer, as a business owner, whether I’m a home remodeler or a medical practice or whoever to have more control over how this works, and that’s what we’re looking to provide.”
The future of text message marketing
“Text messaging has been around forever.
It seems to be a slow and spotty adoption, with a lot of confusion about how do we use it and why to use it in a local business context.
As marketers, I think we’re sold early on the quote-unquote power of text: these eye-popping stats about the channel we use to compare it to things like email. Texts have nearly 100% open rates. 90% of messages are read within three minutes of receipt.”
Do consumers want it?
“There’s been a lot of research on this. Depending on the study, 60% to 80% of consumers say they want to be texting with brands and businesses.”
He cautions marketers to be careful about how they use the channel.
“The disconnect comes when we just think of it as another marketing channel and don’t respect what gives it power in the first place. The message you put out on social media and email should never be put out on text.”
He gives an example of how it’s perfectly acceptable to push blog posts on social media, but that’s not what people want to see in their SMS.
“You’re going to piss people off. They’re going to see you as noise. You’re going to very quickly erode that power in the channel. It’s always got to be providing value to the customer.”
This is one reason why he’s very big on giving business the power to do two-way texts.
“For years marketers have done these one-way bulk messages. But when replies go to those messages go unseen and unresponded to, the next blast is not going to be read in 90 seconds, because it’s just not what people are looking for from that kind of interaction.”
The right way to use text marketing
So what are they looking for?
“They want convenience. They’re not consuming your marketing messages because they love marketing messages. It’s because they want to get stuff done.”
Jon brought up examples like businesses that use their text messages to send appointment reminders or businesses that have used them to facilitate curbside delivery, contactless delivery, that sort of thing.
How agencies can position a text message service offering
Switchbird aims its offering at agencies who want to provide this service to their clients.
“Some of the areas where agencies add their marketing secret sauce to the core toolset we provide is around campaigns and automation.”
He says it works very well for when you have a path or can design a lead nurture campaign that you know that works well for a particular industry or client.
“A lot of agencies aren’t going to want to take on the role of managing messaging for their clients, but they should take on the role of crafting some reusable messaging.
Lead nurturing and sales offer the immediate value you get from embracing text.
You’re ensuring you’re capturing every lead, you’re able to follow up with them, you’re able to create repeatable processes you know to nudge them along for sale.”
He says over time you get a relationship.
“Maybe they’ve even done a transaction with you through text. One of the things we do with Switchbird is payments via text, being able to request and collect payments from the customer.”
“Over time you can generate more value from that list, whether it’s asking for referrals or driving them to your Grade.us review funnel or whatever it might be.
We’ve got a whole authoring suite for that automation so doing things like collecting survey data via text that then gets plugged into your reports [is a feature that’s available.].”
He really stresses how these sorts of things can help you get more value out of the SMS asset over time.
“It certainly beats what you can do with Google messaging or Facebook messenger.”
Choosing the right SaaS vendors for your agency
Jon encourages marketing agencies to be choosey when looking at SaaS vendors.
“Especially for any kind of mission-critical type application for either you as an agency or for your client.”
He suggests looking for two things.
“Are they agency friendly? And that means not only are they offering agency pricing or things like white labeling that caters to agencies, but they’re not positioned to steal your clients from you.
They don’t have channel conflict that undercuts what you’d charge for the service.”
The second thing is to choose a vendor that’s limited in scope.
She gives another example.
“As an agency, you tend to grow by adding new clients but also by capturing more share-of-wallet of existing clients by adding services over time.
Ideally, you’re choosing best-in-class products for each of these services. You’re not locking yourself into any one vendor for everything who may or may not perform or may or may not keep up with the times or may take another direction.”
Why white label software as an agency?
“There are specific reasons an agency would choose white labeling products. The general reason is to always be reinforcing the perception of value that you deliver to the client.”He notes he is a tool-builder, but he really respects the work agencies do.
“Now everyone wants to build a tool. Nobody wants to do the work. The general reason for white labeling is the agency should be given credit with their client for what they’re doing. Even sourcing the solution in the first place is an innovation unto itself. Or doing those other touches to set the client up to succeed.”He also points out that any agency that finds a product or a service they can really lead a sales pitch with,
“you probably want to white label it. You probably want it to be branded as your own in some way.”
What's your right now cause?
Jon’s right now cause is animal welfare.
“We’re actually fostering kittens to adoptions which has been a bit tied to things going on with the pandemic. Adoptions are way up. That’s been good. We’ve been able to move a lot of otherwise homeless animals that would have been euthanized into homes where they’re benefitting the humans because these are stressful times.”