Don’t bring the consumers to your place, instead go visit the channels where your consumers are. That’s where the power of marketing comes in. Conversational marketing is a way of how you initiate those conversations and create a rapport with your audience.
Our guest this week is Stephen Carl, Founder of Needle Movement.
Show Links and References
Hi, you’re listening to driven e-commerce at work. The podcast where we bring in conversations with the e-commerce experts. We also put together some interesting content from different places, including our monthly sessions, Speaker Series, and anything that’s related to e-commerce for manufacturing and distribution. If you’re here for the first time, I would highly encourage you to go and subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, Spotify.
Hey, what’s going on everybody? Welcome back to another episode of driven e-commerce at work. I’m your host, Shiva Kumaar. Today, we’ve got an interesting guest in the conversational commerce space. It’s Stephen Carl Founder of Needle Movement, a digital strategy company that helps e-commerce brands nail their marketing. Welcome to the show, Stephen, how you doing?
I’m great. Shiva. It’s great to be here.
Cool. So how’s your morning so far? How is the situation? And how have you been going through all these six to eight-month phase?
Good question. I think um, well, you know, with, with the pandemic, I actually today, I learned a slang word for the quarantine and COVID that the kids are using may call it corn teen, or corn and teen. So if you hear that phrase, you might recognize it. But let’s see. Um, you know, I think with, with e-commerce, we’re very, I think we’re well trained for what has happened in 2020. Because we’re, you know, we’re taught not to get too comfortable in our seat. And we’re taught that we’re, there’s disruption in a business, there’s opportunity. You know, so we, and many situations were put in, you know, many companies were put in the same situation, you know, for this. So, just with that mentality, you don’t get stuck on, why isn’t my life completely the same?
You get more focued on, okay, this is a different, you know, place I’m in right now, how can I take advantage of that? How can I do things? So for? You know, I was one thing I was really excited about. So I mean, like, you know, I’m, I’m trying not to b**** and moan about 2020 and regret the things that I couldn’t do. I’m just trying to find a couple of wins out there. So, fortunately, for me, I was I was fortunate to have in laws that are in Colorado, you know, so I had access to, you know, to say, so in a normal year, when I would visit my in laws, it would be like six days, tops, I’d spend two days traveling, by the time I was even comfortable being in a place, I’d have to schlep back home and go back to New York, but this year, got to spend 10 weeks in Colorado, which would have never happened in a normal year. You know. So, I think for everybody, and for your audience. I think there’s great opportunities for online learning right now. Because there’s, there’s free classes, there’s whenever you want to learn. I mean, I think we’re going to talk about conversation marketing. And I’ll confess, a lot of this was something that I learned in a course. You know, I do have 20 years of e-commerce experience, but I’m always learning new things. And I see the need for it. But a lot of it I’ve just I’ve learned online through various places.
Yeah, right, exactly. So this is definitely the right time for all of us to experiment. And I think you know, every other businesses will understand the situation. And even if we make mistakes, I think they’re good to, you know, kind of like live with it.
So, before we get into the topic, I actually want to understand this one thing, what is conversational commerce? And since this is what you’ve been doing, it’s always good to hear from you know, the person who’s doing that for a decade.
Yeah, it’s a good question. And there’s a few names for it that I think your audience might recognize. Some people call a conversation, commerce, conversation, marketing, or even chat Commerce has been used. It goes into what marketing is and how it’s changing. So I think many of us are used to people, people throw around a lot of buzzwords with marketing. Back in 2015, I remember everybody saying marketing is about storytelling, telling, you know, telling your story, and so that people can consume that information and understand it. And now, I think we’ve done a really good job in marketing of trying to humanize brands
So, with social media, it did that where now we see our brands as people. And I think that’s one reason why Generation Z has such high expectations for brands because they see them as people, and they want them to be good corporate citizens. So we call our companies human names, you know, and there’s like, there’s a company called Casper for bedding, there’s a company called Andy that does swimwear. So it. So it’s a natural extension of this for us to want to chat and get to know these people are these these companies to have a more intimate and deeper relationship. So conversation marketing is enabling a two way conversation between the buyer and seller.
That can scale because it has a high degree of automation. And think it also resembles the flea market, or the open market where we would buy things and sell things, through conversations and through having a nice relationship with the person that was selling. Another advantage of conversation, commerce, I mean, I think we’re going to talk about I think it’s four channels that really get into conversation marketing right now, it’s email. But everybody here knows, everyone knows email, it’s been around for a long time, live chat on websites, SMS, and Facebook Messenger. Like those are the ones that primarily gets involved with, I think the advantage of having this two way conversation between the buyer and seller is it shortens the sales cycle, because there’s this saying that you need 15 touch points to take to take a potential customer from not knowing anything to purchase a from your company. So those touch points now could be a conversational chat, where you know, the buyer, they can discuss what they’re most concerned about their objections, and the seller can give persuasive information to convert them. Mm hmm.
Yep. So how has you know, SMS marketing evolved over the last 10 years? And how consumers are actually looking at it? Especially? I would say, in the b2b space?
Yeah, it seems. I you know, I just want to say one thing, I one thing about conversation marketing that’s huge, is that it covers what’s called owned media. And the great thing about owned media is when a company owns the list, then you’re not paying a middle person, like an advertiser. So, that’s why I think the other cool thing about conversational marketing is the return on investment tends to be higher, because you’re not paying a bounty for each site visit, which is what Pay Per Click essentially is, I mean, there’s totally a use for that. But you know, but that is a critical advantage. So, going into SMS, I just look at the past year.
And see, in the past two years, I’ve seen incredible growth in the adoption of SMS marketing, because I remember how it was in 2018. And, you know, even last year, and now, there’s more providers that are out there, but I’m hearing about SMS marketing providers that have thousands of clients on a particular e-commerce platform. So, this past year has definitely been a transition year where more and more people where it’s not just the really early adopters, we’re in the early adopter phase, most people aren’t doing it, there is still a huge advantage to going in right now.
You know, it’s it’s actually a nice point right now with SMS marketing, because there’s enough companies that are doing it, that your company would not be the first one to do it. And there is also a playbook of tactics so you’re not flying blind, like there’s you can look out there and there are plenty of SMS marketing playbooks and and early best practices that are set up. You know, so I think, you know, and I just, I just had a conversation with a provider called PostScript that does some work in Shopify. And they’re just saying, you know, the quote, that I heard was, in 12 months, SMS is going to be so popular that even my mom is gonna know what I’m doing now. So, so that’s the that’s the prognostication, but it’s growing a lot, especially in the past 12 months.
Mm hmm. So, how does it actually, you know, compare with the traditional email marketing. I mean, are consumers ready to opt in using their mobile number instead of the email? Does that even works?
Yeah, I’m really glad you asked that because um, SMS is just known for the big advantage is that you don’t have an inbox, it’s a more personal channel. And because you don’t have that inbox, that means the open rates and the click through rates are much higher. So, people on SMS, talk about 80%, open rates, and click through rates of 30%, and up. Just because you don’t, a lot of emails don’t even reach you or they’re in, they’re in a different tab on Gmail. So that is an advantage to it. It’s also more personal. And I think that that’s, you know, some people, it means you have to be more careful with your message a, it means that, if you’re not, I think it keeps companies honest. Because if you get a message, an SMS message that you don’t like, you react stronger to it.
You know, you really hate it, where I don’t think you really care about all the best, you don’t get mad about all the messages that are in your spam folder. But you know, you get a message from someone you didn’t sign up with. And you don’t know you’re like, W**, like, get me off this list immediately.
Hmm. So, one, I mean, I’ve been seeing this in, especially in the B2B space. They, I mean, they’re ready. And they’re very good to handle the email list. And they are okay to do the email marketing stuff. It’s been there for like 20 years, right. And they’ve been trying to go to the social media, even they’re okay to start with the Messenger. It has still been there in the B2B space. It’s very good. But one thing, I’m still not sure why people in the B2B space are not ready to go for the SMS marketing. So, why do you think that companies in the B2B space? If you really look at it, so like you said, for the abandoned cart, they are seeing like 90 percentage conversion if they go for the SMS instead of email marketing, but in B2B, I still see that gap, you know, okay, so does it really work? Things like that?
Yeah. What’s, you know, it’s okay, so I guess I would,
I think it’s important for businesses to become to have an early adopter mentality right now. Because you just look at that, like, I look at things like social media of advertising. And I remember 2014. And it’s a very comparable time to where conversation marketing is now. And then I remember 2014, when businesses had this test of, am I gonna do this new scary marketing called Facebook advertising? look alike audiences I’ve never seen this before. Should I do this? Or should I just wait.
And I think right now, we’re seeing so many changes in digital marketing, that it’s important for brands to, if you’re the owner, I think I understand, I understand where people are hesitant. But it’s good to have an early adopter vibe in your community, because like these people in 2014, who were so hesitant to go onto Facebook advertising, they all came three to four years later. And they did it for less of an ROI. So, when you’re in that early adopter wave, you get the higher ROI. Like there are companies like movement watches. And there’s one called Pura Vida bracelets, but there are a lot of companies in the, you know, in the early 2000 10s, that just really embraced social media, they weren’t afraid of it. Because they saw the potential to communicate with their customers. So, you really have you know, so with SMS
You know, if you’re not, you wouldn’t be the first one to do it. So, I think you’re, it’s very good idea to I think everyone, you know, like, you know, the person that PostScript said, I think everyone is going to be doing this in two years. And the earlier that you get on to it, the more you can learn the platform, like, you know, I think with competition, and this mainstream early adopter wave is what is what is more fun than watching your competitors asleep at the wheel, not doing something that you’re doing. Marketing is always about. If you’re, if you’re doing the same marketing as your competitor, then you’re bidding for the same person. You know, but you want to get around that you want to find new things that your competitors aren’t doing. So, I think if not as many people are on SMS, great, like that’s a channel that you can have that that gives you a strategic advantage.
Mm hmm. Good. So let’s get on to the core, you know, so how to build an SMS list, you know, where to begin, or what is the trick to ask for your first time visitor to provide his mobile number.
The good news about so the bad news about SMS is that you start from zero. You know, I shouldn’t say the good news is that there are more ways to grow your list on SMS than there ever have been. The number one way to get your SMS list pretty quickly is to ask people on your email list and give them incentive to sign up for SMS. This is something that you could do a dedicated email blast on and just say, you know, hey, we’re you know, we’re we do we just went on to SMS want to sign up for this incentive.
So, that is a very you know, and that so you can send a dedicated blast, you can also put a banner at the top or bottom persistently where you offer that, you know, where you mentioned SMS and that you’re growing your list. And a lot of email service providers have this feature where you can put a block of task of text or put a block inside of an email devoted to SMS signup. Now I can make it easy.
That’s one way to get a quick your website. The same thing with pop ups, there are companies now that are doing SMS and email signups through a pop up, you know, so you can either do SMS only as an incentive or combine the two. The third thing is to, um, for a lot of companies, our let’s see, our our community overall is very spread out among all the different marketing channels. So it’s like a diaspora where there are people on LinkedIn, Instagram, Facebook, you have your email list, you have the people that visit the website, you can find ways to cross pollinate those followings.
You know, where you can, like on on your Instagram, there are ways in SMS to do like, there’s a tool called keywords, where you can give someone in, you know, tell someone on on your Instagram channel, hey, we’re, we’re saying, if you if you, you know, type in the you know, type in these words to this number, and we’ll sign you up. And the advantage of that approach is, you know, what’s interesting is with SMS now, you just see it everywhere, like I was watching the Video Music Awards on MTV recently, even watching the two political parties, and they’re all telling, you know, and they’re spreading this text message, because I remember back in the day, when it used to be, oh, go to our website.
But with SMS, you can get someone to a targeted location and have them sign up. So it’s, it’s much better than just saying go to my website and do this. But those are, those are the ways that you can grow, they’ll grow the list, and a lot of it is just telling everyone the SMS offering and going around your channels and collecting and some people might say, well, they’re on email, why do they need to be on SMS? The thing is that some people are email people, some people are SMS people, and they will naturally go to the channel that they want to talk to you on. That’s the advantage of having people on both.
Yeah, right, exactly. So, just don’t go for channels that works for your company, instead, go for the channels that works for the consumer, the customer, sometimes, you know, they’re in like five or six different channels. But if you’re in Facebook, sometimes you know that actually works if you’re on Facebook, and then if you’re targeting over there, it could convert instead of focusing on email, or SMS or things like that. So, if there is a positive, I’m sure there is a negative as well. We talked about the conversion, first time visitor conversion. So let’s say what kind of content Do they really like? I mean, what kind of content pushes them for you know, like more on subscriptions? Okay,
So, for SMS?
All right. So SMS is a sensitive channel, you can you can get away with murder on email. Okay, let’s, let’s let’s, you know, let’s acknowledge that companies send a lot of stuff that’s interesting to them, but not really interesting to the person. And you can get away without an email. Like with email, you can send 15 times a month, but with SMS you send less times because you don’t want to tick off the person and you want to send it has to be content that is going to be useful. So, you know, the way to create unsubscription is to email to SMS people a lot. And to send a message that’s not that interesting to them. You know, that they, you know, that they you know, if someone hasn’t visited your website in six months, and you send them an SMS about new arrivals, they might not be as interested because they haven’t visited your website 6 months. So it’s, you know, there? If they’re not, I think it has to because it’s such a personal channel, like you’re, you know, you have a shortcut to that customer, but the trade off is you got to send them good stuff.
Exactly. So, does that mean that we can be a little upfront about, you know, selling through the SMS compared to what we’ve been doing in the email marketing space? Let’s say, hey, there’s a new product that’s going to come in next week? Do you want to, you know, take a look at it, things like that. Can we do that on SMS? Like, yeah, typical, straightforward. Selling?
Yes, product launches can work very well, I think with SMS people also segment the list. Because, you know, that sort of message is about a product launch, the first people that should get it are the people that have bought repeat times? You know, are, you know, that that top 20% of your list. Because they’re gonna buy. You know, and I think, you know, with with people that are not as engaged you experiment more with the, the attack, you know, with the, with the message to see what’s going to get them through?
Yeah, good. So, I think we talked about SMS a little bit. I think it’s good. So, let’s get onto the internet world, you know, most of the younger generations are on social media, and are using Facebook, Messenger, WhatsApp in other part of the country. So, how do we, you know, treat the Messenger, while SMS and email marketing are already there? Right? So, how do we treat the Messenger now?
Right? The so for, for those three channels. With most people, they’re not going to be on all three of them. You know, Facebook, you know, Facebook Messenger is just another way to reach more people that you haven’t reached through email, or you haven’t reached through SMS. You know, and that’s, that’s how it should be treated. Um, you know, and you’re just playing into the, they’re not, it’s not going to be the, it’s about layering messages, it’s not going to be the same message. Like, it’s not going to be the same exact marketing creative. That’s put in email that’s put an SMS that put on Facebook, I think the same message can happen, it just needs to be tweaked to the advantages of those channels. But the you know, the answer is just to, you know, to layer to layer things like you wouldn’t send to all three channels at the same time.
Yeah, yeah. So, how does the opt in process work in the Messenger? Like you said, I think, you know, let’s say, when someone visit the website, not everyone is going to visit the Messenger, right? So either they go for email, opt in, or like said, I think they still go for the SMS opt in. So what is the point where, you know, they visit a Facebook Messenger? Or how do we actually make them you know, okay, so just go ahead and follow us on Facebook or opt in for the Messenger and things like that.
Yeah. So the, the advantage of messenger is, again, there’s no inbox. So, there’s less friction than email. And like, SMS there are. It’s not just one way to grow the list there are, you know, there are additional ways, yeah, but people can improve their messenger list by creating interaction, and a lot of times, Messenger content, I mean, it’s of all the platforms that we’re talking about. It’s the most interactive one.
You know, so you can I think with Messenger when we talk about automated conversations, and chat bots, it sounds like we’re all gonna become robots, but it’s actually very much the opposite. Because you can make Messenger content very entertaining one of the and you just ask people, I think the key to the messenger content is you get signups by getting interactivity, if you send a message and people don’t respond, then you’re limited in the messages that you can actually send to them. You know, and there’s, you know, so the key is that with all your messaging there, you’re trying, like, you know, that’s why people will mention sales or mentioned giving people you know, do you want to become a member so that we can give you this discount and then people will respond to it. And they you know, getting listed, you know, into the you know, into Messenger on it, but there are also the rules are changing a lot as well.
So, and they pretty much change every six months. So, you have to really you have to keep track of it on it and that’s why with messenger like I I do feel sometimes that email for many companies has been an in house channel. It’s a do it yourself channel and more and more that is changing. But I think something like messenger is really, it’s good to find outside hands, because it’s just like SEO that, with all the things that people are doing inside their company, I doubt that they’re really keeping up on what Facebook announced that its developer conference or the changes that inevitably happened. You know, but, you know, so there’s so I mean, that’s, I think the opt in process is, there’s a lot of, it’s not so much as an opt in screen, as it is with email. But it’s really based on once you get someone to engage with a messenger bot, then you you’re able to send in a certain capacity messages to them. And there’s also you can do paid paid marketing on the messenger channel as well.
So I’ve seen companies using, you know, messenger instead of chat bot, also touched upon that. So how does you know, how does it actually work? From the consumer perspective? Do they really like, you know, having a messenger? Or do they really like having a chat bot, where you have this sort of like, pre built conversations through the chat bot, and you don’t really need a human being behind that, right. And sometimes, you know, let’s say, if they are in a product page, or if they are, and they were somewhere else, they got stuck. So this can pretty much you know, help them to navigate to a different page, which may not work through the Messenger. So, how do you compare Messenger and chat bot? What actually helps an e commerce store to push for a sale? Or to build that conversation?
Right? Yeah. Great question.
People. In January of this year, I was very surprised when I was doing some research. What opened my eyes about chatbots is hearing a poll about how most people did not mind the chat bots. You know, they didn’t mind talking to them. And the reason is, because they were sick of waiting, they didn’t want to talk to a real human being, if that meant they had to wait 70 minutes on the line to talk to them. So, the chat bot could do it in five minutes. You know, so. So, it’s that, you know, it’s that convenience that governs the reception that people have, like on I mean, for chat bots now on. I know that there’s recently been a feature on some chat platforms where you don’t have to be there’s a guest mode on the chat bot. So you don’t have to be signed up into Facebook Messenger. There’s another way through to do it. But to go into Actually, I should get back to the automations part that a chat bot is only going to answer a certain percentage, your frequently asked questions, there are going to be things that the chat bot cannot answer. And that is good too, because then the chat bot can hand off to a human.
And all most platforms have this functionality where if there is a detailed product question or merchant question that the chat bot can’t answer, then, you know, then it goes to the customer success team. And now they’re getting targeted questions. They’re not just answering the same dumb FAQ is 100 times that a canned response could handle so it it’s definitely not a you know, it’s not 100% or nothing. I think the the chat bots are trying to handle, you know, some of the the top funnel type of questions.
Good. Yeah, I think as long as you know, we’re straightforward. And we’re being honest, I think that helps sometime. So, like you said, I think consumer doesn’t mind, you know, chatting with the chat bot, or at least if they have some sort of like answer instead of waiting for 10 minutes to talk to a customer representative. Right. So that’s the hardest part, I can’t wait for 10 minutes and then order a product or things like that, just for clarifications. I don’t want to wait, then think about how the after sale support is gonna work. Right? So, there’s definitely going to be a little harder. So, coming back to the email marketing. For someone who’s just, you know, trying to get started after hearing this episode, let’s say they already have a list, right? So, how to clean up the email list and find you know, who the real audience interested in your content.
So we’re cleaning up the email list.
We have to change the way that we look at email, in many cases, because it is not about I think in a lot of companies, we think I have a 20,000 person email list. If I send the 10,000 people that I’m I’m only sending to half my people, I’m going to get half the sales. But you always have to remember the 80 20 rule of business that 80% of your business is coming from 20% of your customers and keep it even more. So, with that, that’s where segmentation becomes very important. Now, with email, you know, like, the total number of email subscribers you have, is a vanity metric. Because I, just from my experiences with my clients, they’re just a lot of people that haven’t opened an email in one year, or six months. So, you know, the, the way you clean up that list is, take out the deadbeats, they’re deadbeats, because these are people that are hurting your email deliverability.
You know, there’s there once in a while you can if you have a huge announcement, you can send it. You know, but but you know, you got to think about the logic. I mean, think about the math of it, where, let’s just say you have a customer that you’ve sent 30 emails, and they haven’t opened, clicked or bought from any of them. If you send the 31st email, what are the chances that are the that’s going to do anything, you’re over 30. So, you can be smart with that. But you know, so to clean up your list to create engagement lists, like creating a VIP list, those people will, will respond, creating people that have opened or clicked on emails in the last three months in the last six months. Like that’s how you clean it up. You know, there’s there’s other tactics that people use to clean up lists, like sunsetting names. So, let’s just see someone hasn’t opened your email up in like, I don’t know, 18 months, you know, you can send them an email that says, you know, we’re cleaning up our list, would you like to still receive this? Because it does, if you keep them on the list. And let’s just say they reported as spam or they don’t open.
The open rates are, are sent to the ISP, as you know, so Gmail is looking at the open rate of your sender. And saying, you know, should I should I open this up to everybody who received it, because, you know, if you only have a, you know, I think the things to watch out for is you should really have an open rate over 20%. If you don’t have an open rate of over 20%, then it could be hurting, it could mean that some people aren’t getting those messages. And I tell you something, when I look at my spam folder, it’s not just crazy companies or fly by night companies. I see big companies sometimes that show up in the spam folder. So, you got to watch out for that.
Mm hmm. Cool. Perfect. Stephen. So, before we wrap up the episode, one last final question. So, how to create a strategy for all these channels that actually work together? I mean, talking about the whole conversation, commerce, SMS, email, and messenger and chatbot. So, without making, you know, consumers feel like it’s Oracle,
I think they, you know, with marketing, everything works together. So, it’s, you know, I think with conversation marketing, you know, if digital marketing, we’re a volleyball team, you know, email, email, conversation, marketing SMS would be like, they would be setting things up. They’re not spiking the ball. They’re setting things up, because they’re opening lines of communication. You know, really, it’s the content outside of the conversation marketing, that’s gonna convert people. Because all you’re doing with email, SMS messenger is, you’re, you’re announcing, you know, you’re, you’re reminding people, you’re there. And you’re striking a likeable conversation with them.
You know, but I think with um, I mean, right now, with, we’re familiar with email automations. I think like, you know, where you set up certain flows, where someone signs up to a list, they get sent a series of welcome emails, or things like abandoned cart. The key here is just to layer your communications, you know that, you know, you because you want to find out where you know what that person’s favorite channel is, you know, so the way that we don’t bombard people is you monitor what I mean, you monitor what content they’re looking for. I think that the friction always happens when we try to send things that people aren’t interested in. You know, but then it’s also sending a different times and with, you know, because we know the flow of email marketing, it’s a similar flow that happens with Facebook Messenger, or SMS, we’re layering campaigns, and we’re customizing them to the channel.
Perfect, Stephen. So, where do you want the listeners to go give them some links and tell us a little bit about your company so they can just go on and check them out.
I appreciate that. So, let’s see. So the, the first place to go would be you know, the name of my company is needlemovement.com Needle Movement as in move the needle and needle movement provides done for you services in email marketing, SMS, and Facebook Messenger and really that what this came out of, I mean, actually, we were originally in digital strategy. And then we just found that own media and conversation marketing buzz converting so well, that we really wanted to focus our efforts in that location, you know, so you can go to needlemovement.com and, you know, for all your listeners, I’m happy to do to have a conversation to do you know, a free you know, a free growth audit to identify where the opportunities could be for you. A way to reach me personally, you can find me on social media. You can also find me over email send a message to firstname.lastname@example.org I look at every meet every email and I will answer them for you.
Cool, yeah. Thank you so much. Stephen and thanks for doing this. I hope you will have a great upcoming Q4.
I wish you a wonderful Q4 as well as you It is great to be on the show. I had a blast.
Cool. Take care and you have a good day. Bye? Thank you so much for watching and listening to this episode of driven e-commerce at work podcast. This show is brought to you by DCKAP. The company well known for its e-commerce product, so it’s for B2B distributors. Make sure you subscribe to our show on Apple podcasts or Spotify. Catch you guys very soon, but another interesting episode. Until next time, see you.
Sign up to receive email updates
Enter your name and email address below and I'll send you periodic updates about the podcast.